This Week in Real Estate: July 24, 2017


The National Association of Realtors released a report This Week in Real Estate that concluded the investment in U.S. real estate by foreign buyers reached a record high of $153 billion in sales volume for the 12-month period between April 2016 and March 2017. Below are a few highlights from the third full week of July that influence our business:

* Single-Family Starts Bounce Back in June. Total housing starts bounced back in June after a weak May. Total starts increased 8.3% to a 1.215 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, according to the joint data release from the Census Bureau and HUD. Single-family starts moved forward, increasing to an 849,000 annual rate in June. Single-family starts are up 8% year-to-date compared to 2016 as limited existing inventory and solid builder confidence make for positive market conditions for additional building. Single-family permits were up 4% in June. On a year-to-date basis, single-family permits are almost 11% higher compared to this time in 2016. Multifamily starts also increased in June, after five consecutive months of decline. Multifamily starts were up 13% in June, but are down 5% on a year-to-date basis. This matches our forecast expecting a small decline in multifamily construction in 2017. With respect to housing’s economic impact, 57% of homes under construction in June were multi-family (610,000). There were 460,000 single-family units under construction, a gain of 7% from this time in 2016.
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* Foreign Investment in U.S. Real Estate Surges 49% to Record $153 Billion in Sales Volume. Foreign investment in the U.S. housing market saw an explosion of growth from last year as it surged to an all-new high. This increase was fueled by an increase in sales dollar volume from Canadian buyers, but transactions grew in all five of the top countries, according to the 2017 Profile of International Activity in U.S. Residential Real Estate report from the National Association of Realtors. Nearly half of all foreign sales were in three states: Florida, California and Texas. Between April 2016 and March 2017, foreign buyers and recent immigrants purchased $153 billion of residential property, which is a 49% jump from 2016 ($102.6 billion) and surpasses 2015 ($103.9 billion) as the new survey high. Overall, 284,455 U.S. properties were bought by foreign buyers (up 32% from 2016), and purchases accounted for 10% of the dollar volume of existing-home sales (8% in 2016). Although China maintained its top position in sales dollar volume for the fourth straight year, the significant rise in foreign investment in the survey came from a massive hike in activity from Canadian buyers. After dipping in the 2016 survey to $8.9 billion in sales ($11.2 billion in 2015), transactions from Canadians this year totaled $19 billion – a new high for Canada. Buyers from China exceeded all countries by dollar volume of sales at $31.7 billion. Chinese buyers also purchased the most housing units for the third consecutive year (40,572 units). Rounding out the top five, the sales dollar volume from buyers in Canada ($19 billion), the United Kingdom ($9.5 billion), Mexico ($9.3 billion) and India ($7.8 billion) all increased from their levels one year ago.
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* Credit Availability Hits Highest Level Since 2016. Credit availability remained historically tight in the first quarter of 2017, but increased slightly from the previous quarter to the highest level since 2016. The credit availability index from Housing Finance Policy Center shows mortgage credit availability increased 5.4 in the first quarter. This is up from 5.2 in the fourth quarter. The HCAI measures the percentage of home purchase loans that are likely to default, go unpaid for more than 90 days past their due date. A lower HCAI indicates that lenders are unwilling to tolerate defaults and are imposing tighter lending standards, making it harder to get a loan. A higher HCAI indicates that lender are willing to tolerate defaults and are taking more risks, making it easier to get a loan. Credit availability at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac remains at the highest level since its low in 2011. Earlier this summer, Fannie Mae raised its debt-to-income ratio requirement to further expand mortgage lending. The Urban Institute pointed out there is still plenty of space to expand the credit box. If the current default risk doubled across all channels, risk would remain within the standard 12.5% seen in the 2001 to 2003 mortgage market.
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Have a productive week!


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