Keeping you updated on the market! For the week of July 11, 2011
The past week was slow on housing news, which is understandable given the Independence Day weekend. Mortgage rates moved slightly higher, and it's possible they could start trending higher through the month.
One reason is hiring, which is on the rebound. ADP's National Employment Report showed that private sector employment rose to 157,000 new jobs in June, nearly triple May's rate and well-ahead of the consensus estimate of 68,000 from Reuters. June’s employment figures suggest the economic recovery, which slipped in the spring, has found new traction. New traction, in turn, could pressure interest rates to move higher.
Real estate research firm DataQuick reported that sales of existing homes in Phoenix reached a six-year high of 9,837 in May. This regional piece of housing news is important for the economics lesson it imparts. We've noted many times in the recent past that lower prices stimulate sales and are the most efficient, most expedient means of clearing high inventory. The Phoenix market is proving that to be true.
DataQuick also reported that 40 percent of the Phoenix sales were for homes less than $100,000, which is a 40 percent increase from year-ago sales. The median price of a home in Phoenix stayed consistent at $120,000, which is actually a good sign: increased demand is causing more distressed inventory to hit the market that needs to be cleared. With both supply and demand increasing, prices are likely to hold steady going forward. Once the excess supply is absorbed, prices can then start moving higher.
Many of the homes sold in Phoenix were investment rental property. This makes sense; many people are still shut out from the mortgage market due to either bad credit or insufficient down payment. This is producing a renaissance in rental properties. The Wall Street Journal reports that the average nationwide rate for apartments and home rentals is up 6.7 percent year-over-year. Rent increases for studio apartments and five-bedroom homes were particularly vigorous, rising 14.3 percent and 12.1 percent, respectively. Rent.com expects even more rent hikes this year.
This upward price trend in rents suggests to us that buying an owner-occupied home will become a more viable option over the next couple of years. Here, again, is another economics lesson: as investors buy rental properties because of rising rents, they also stimulate interest in more potential homebuyers who are renting. This is one reason we are bullish on the long-term outlook for housing.
Release Date and Time
Tues. July 12,8:30 am, et
$44.3 Billion (Deficit)
Moderately Important. Falling petroleum prices are shrinking the deficit.
Wed., July 13,7:00 am, et
Important. Higher purchase activity reflects a rise in home sales.
Producer Price Index(June)
Thurs., July 14,8:30 am, et
All Goods: 0.4% (Decrease)Core: 0.2% (Increase)
Important. Falling energy prices have slowed producer-price increases, but inflation remains a concern.
Thurs., July 14,8:30 am, et
Moderately Important. Sales are easing on fewer big-ticket purchases and falling gasoline prices.
Consumer Price Index(June)
Fri., July 15,8:30 am, et
All Goods: 0.1% (Decrease)Core: 0.2% (Increase)
Important. Consumer-price inflation remains elevated, so an unexpected rise could send interest rates higher.
Fri., July 15,9:15 am, et
Moderately Important. Capacity utilization continues to increase, suggesting strong business-sector growth.
Time to Remove the Monkey Wrench from the Gears
Trouble financing a home purchase is the one variable that could derail our prediction of a housing recovery. Bloomberg News recently ran a compelling article that encapsulates our most frequent lament: we need more liberal and subjective underwriting standards to get more buyers into homes. Bloomberg writes, “While a record share of Americans want to buy homes, U.S. policies [on banking and lending], often working at cross-purposes, are making it more difficult.”
We've been saying for months now that the market has gone too far in the direction of excessively high standards. Security-filings data provided by Fannie Mae show that nine of 10 mortgages it bought in the first quarter of 2011 were for borrowers with credit scores higher than 700, a 32 percent increase in the percentage of these higher-score loans. Meanwhile, the average credit score for FHA loans was 701 in April, up from 669 three years earlier.
There is a disconnect at work. People, a lot of people in fact, still want a home. In May, a record 5.5 percent of Americans said they wanted to purchase a home, according to the Conference Board, a New York research firm. This is frustrating, especially when considering we have the expertise and experience to price risk, but many people don't want to apply for a loan because they believe it is a waste of time.
It's no a waste of time; we want to speak with anyone interested in a purchase or refinance loan. However, if there was a cause that we could all get behind, it is loosening up the lending purse strings and getting more people mortgages who are worth the risk and can afford it.
Courtesy Patti Wilson, Mutual Bank of Omaha.