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Browsing Posts tagged Home Affordability

Retail Sales (2009-2010)Consumers keep spending, the economy keeps growing.

Mortgage rates are easing lower this morning on just-released, slightly worse-than-expected Retail Sales data from December 2010.

Excluding motor vehicles and auto parts, December’s sales receipts were $1.5 billion higher from November. Analysts had expected a number north of $2 billion.

Despite falling short of estimates, however, December’s reading is the highest in Retail Sales history, surpassing the previous record set in July 2008, set during the recession. In addition, December’s strong numbers helped 2010’s year-over-year numbers go positive for the first time in 3 years.

Although the data is a mixed bag for Wall Street, home affordability is improving today.

The link between Retail Sales and home affordability may not be up-front obvious, but in a post-recession economy like ours, it’s often tight. Retail Sales is another name for “consumer spending” and consumer spending makes up more that 70% of the U.S. economy.

As spending grows, the economy tends to, too.

Investors recognize this and start chasing “risk”. It becomes a boost for the stock market, but those gains are made at the expense of “safe” asset classes which include mortgage-backed bonds. Mortgage-backed bonds are the basis for conforming and FHA mortgage rates so, as bond markets sell off, asset prices fall and rates move up.

Thankfully, rate shoppers will avoid that scenario today — at least for today. December’s Retail Sales results are a factor in the bond market’s early-day improvement. Conforming and FHA mortgage rates across the state of Massachusetts should be lower today.

Pending Home Sales (Apr 2009 - Oct 2010)The Pending Home Sales Index surged 10 percent in October as low mortgage rates and low home prices spurred buyers into action.

A “pending home sale” is an existing home under contract to sell, but not yet closed. The Pending Home Sales Index is at its highest level since April 2010 — the contract deadline date for this year’s federal home buyer tax credit program.

The jump may also explain why home builder confidence is rising even as the number of new homes sold fades. Builders are seeing buyers’ renewed interest in housing first-hand and expect the next 6 months to be dramatically better.

On a regional basis, gains in October’s Pending Home Sales Index varied as compared to September. The Midwest led the charge, and the West was the laggard.

  • Northeast Region: +19.6%
  • Midwest Region : +27.3%
  • South Region : +7.1%
  • West Region : -0.4%

Home buyers should take last month’s Pending Home Sales Index to heart. According to the National Association of Realtors®, 80 percent of homes under contract close within 60 days, so we can reasonably expect November’s and December’s existing homes sales data to be similarly strong.

In other words, the housing market is heating up and may have already shifting toward sellers. Changes like that lower buyer leverage, and increase the cost of homeownership. Coupled with rising mortgage rates, the shift is even more defined.

The best time to buy a home this year may have already passed. The next best time may be right now.

Talk to your real estate agent if you’re planning to buy a home in 2011. It may be smart to move up your time frame.

Net Job Gains Oct 2008 - Sept 2010Go figure – the jobs report is worse than expected, so the stock market climbs.  That one has me scratching my head.

On the first Friday of each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its Non-Farm Payrolls report from the month prior.  This month, though, because the first Friday of the month was also the first day of the month, the report was delayed one week.

The report hit the wires at 8:30 AM ET this morning.

More commonly called “the jobs report”, the government’s non-farm payrolls data influences stock and bond markets, and, in the process, swings a big stick with home affordability figures nationwide.

Especially in today’s economic climate.

Although the recession has been deemed over, Wall Street remains unconvinced. Data fails to show the economy moving strongly in one direction or the other and, absent job creation, economists believe growth to be illusionary.

Consider:

  1. With job creation comes more income, and more spending.
  2. With more spending comes growth in business
  3. With growth in business comes more job creation

And the cycle continues.

The prevailing thought is that, without jobs, consumer spending can’t sustain and consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the economy. No job growth, no economy recovery.

But there’s another angle to the jobs report, too; one that connects to the housing market. As the jobs market recovers, today’s renters are more likely to become tomorrow’s homeowners, and today’s homeowners are more likely to “move-up” to bigger homes. This means more competition for homes at all price points and, therefore, higher home values.

And that brings us to today’s jobs data.

According to the government, 95,000 jobs were lost in September. Economists expected a net loss of 5,000.  However, if public sector jobs are excluded from the final figures, jobs grew by 64,000.  This is a positive for the private-sector, but still trailed expectations.

Wall Street is voting with its dollars right now and mortgage bonds are gaining, improving mortgage pricing.

So, although the September 2010 jobs report doesn’t reflect well on the economy overall, home affordability in Massachusetts and around the country should improve as a result.

Retail Sales (September 2008 - August 2010)If rates stay low, two things can happen.  One, you give your end buyers more opportunity to purchase a home.  Two, it takes away the urgency to buy now, because there is less fear of rising rates.  Buyers know we are headed toward winter, and that they are in the driver’s seat,  so price the home properly.  Properly doesn’t mean – “I might get this for it, so I’ll try for a few weeks.”  Properly means the lowest price compared to  similar homes, or the best home compared to similarly priced houses.

Here is what happened to slow the rise in interest rates for homeowners:

The recent rise in mortgage rates was slowed this week after the government released its Retail Sales report for August.

Prior to Tuesday, mortgage rates had been spiking across New Hampshire on the resurgent hope for U.S. economic recovery. The sentiment shift was rooted in reports including the Pending Home Sales Index and Initial Jobless Claims, both of which showed surprising strength last week.

August’s Retail Sales, though, after removing motor vehicles, auto parts and gasoline sales, failed to maintain the momentum. Its figures were actually in-line with expectations — it’s just that expectations weren’t all that high.

Wall Street now wonders whether the weak Back-to-School shopping season will trend forward into the holidays.

The doubt spells good news for mortgage rates and home affordability.

Because Retail Sales is tied to consumer spending and consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the economy, a weak reading tends to drag down stock markets and pump up bonds, and when bonds are in demand, mortgage rates fall.

This is exactly what happened Tuesday. The soft Retail Sales data eased stock markets down, and generated new demand for mortgage bonds. This demand caused bond prices to rise, which, in turn, caused mortgage rates to fall.

Mortgage rates did not cut new lows this week, but they’re very, very close.

With mortgage rates at historical lows, it’s an excellent time to look at a refinance, or gauge what financing a new home would cost. Low rates like this can’t last forever.