Report Finds Foreclosure Inventory Falling

CoreLogic’s National Foreclosure Report provides monthly data on completed foreclosures, foreclosure inventory, and delinquencies over 90 days. In their February report, CoreLogic found that there are 1.4 million homes in the foreclosure inventory, which is down from 1.5 million in February 2011. But though foreclosure inventory and the pace of completed foreclosures held fairly steady from January, expectations of further declines in the foreclosure inventory are leading to optimism for the housing market’s immediate future. Mark Fleming, CoreLogic’s chief economist, said the pace of completed foreclosures compares favorably to year-ago levels and the overall foreclosure inventory is decreasing because REO sales were up in February. Also in the report, the five states with the highest number of completed foreclosures accounted for nearly half of all completed foreclosures nationally. More here.

Spring Selling Season May Be Best In Years

A number of factors have experts and industry insiders expecting a strong spring-selling season this year. Nearly half of all home sales happen during the months of April, May, June, and July and this year, with the economy and job market showing signs of growth, the sales season is expected to be better than it has been in years. Among the main reason spring and summer are good for home sales is weather. And, this year, mild weather has enveloped much of the country earlier than usual. For instance, the Midwest, which saw warmer than usual weather so far this year, saw a 6.5 percent increase in signed contracts in February and a 19 percent jump year-over-year. Among the other factors playing a role in the optimistic outlook, inventory has been clearing from the market and is now at a five-year low, which means less competition for sellers. Also, foreclosures, which were tied up by paperwork and procedure problems, are increasingly hitting the market and, as they’re sold, will release downward pressure on prices. All of these factors, combined with historically low rates and high affordability, should mean a stronger-than-usual spring for the housing market. More here.

Demand For Purchase Loans Increases For Fifth Straight Week

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, demand for home purchase loans increased again last week. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index was up 3.3 percent from the week before and is up 2.14 percent over the past four weeks. But the growing volume of purchase loans comes at the same time as refinance activity has slowed. The Refinance Index fell last week due largely to a 12.0 percent drop in government refinance activity. Conventional refinance applications also slipped, though by just 3.4 percent. The Market Composite Index, which measures total mortgage loan application volume, was down 2.7 percent from the week before. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 4.23 percent from 4.19 percent the previous week. More here.

Real Estate Pros Express Confidence In Market Recovery

The National Association of Realtors’ Confidence Index is based on a monthly survey sent out to 50,000 real-estate professionals assessing expectations for home sales, prices, and the overall market. February’s report finds confidence and expectations on the rise amid continued evidence of a slow and steady market recovery. Though responses didn’t indicate rapid market growth, participants reported an increasing number of buyers in the market, rising rent, and expectations of higher or, at least, constant home prices. The percentage of professionals indicating they expect prices to rise increased from 62 percent in December to 73 percent in the most recent report. Also, the amount of time homes for sale stay on the market continues to decrease and rental prices continue to rise, both positive signs for the housing market. More here.

Pending Home Sales Up 9.2 Percent From 2011

According to the National Association of Realtors’ Pending Home Sales Index, contract signings were relatively flat in February, down 0.5 percent from January. But despite a slow month, pending home sales were 9.2 percent above February 2011. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said the spring home buying season looks bright due to elevated contract offers so far this year. According to Yun, if the level of current activity is sustained throughout the year, existing-home sales would reach their highest level in nearly five years. Regionally, the Midwest spiked 6.5 percent and is up nearly 20 percent over last year, though all other regions suffered decreases. Pending home sales are a forward-looking indicator that reflect contract signings but not closings. More here.

New Home Sales Slip, Prices Hit Eight Month High

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Department of Commerce’s New Residential Sales Report for February shows sales of new homes fell 1.6 percent from January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 313,000. But though sales slipped from the month before, year-over-year sales were up 11.4 percent. Also in the report, the median price of new houses sold in February was $233,700. That’s 8.3 percent above January and the highest it’s been since last June. Compared to February 2011, the median price was up 6.2 percent. The estimated number of new homes for sale at the end of the month was 150,000, which represents a 5.8-month supply at the current sales pace. More here.

Existing Home Sales Up 8.8 Percent From Last Year

Sales of previously owned homes fell 0.9 percent in February but remain 8.8 percent above a year ago. According to data from the National Association of Realtors, existing-home sales, which include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops, were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million down from the upwardly revised January number of 4.63 million. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said the market is trending up with record high consumer buying power and sustained job gains giving buyers the confidence to get into the market. The national median existing-home price was $156,600 in February, up 0.3 percent from a year ago. Also, unsold listed inventory is down 19.3 percent from February 2011 and, at the current sales pace, there is a 6.4-month supply of existing homes on the market. A six month supply is considered healthy for the housing market. More here.

Survey Says Purchase Index Up 3.25 Percent

Mortgage rates increased last week but remain historically low, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose to 4.19 percent last week from 4.06 percent the week before. The average rate for a jumbo loan increased to 4.49 percent. Rising rates led to a drop in overall mortgage application demand. The Market Composite Index, which measures total application volume, was down 7.4 percent. But despite a 9.3 percent drop in the Refinance Index, the Purchase Index fell just 1.0 percent and remains up 3.25 percent over the past month. The average size of a loan to purchase a home was $225,463 in February, up from $216,888 the previous month. More here.

Housing Starts Dip, Building Permits Surge In February

The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s new residential construction statistics for February show housing starts down 1.1 percent from January but still nearly 35 percent above the year before. Despite the slight dip in new construction, building permits for future construction rose to their highest level since October 2008. Permits to build privately-owned housing units jumped 5.1 percent over January’s revised rate and are 34.3 percent above the February 2011 estimate. Single-family authorizations climbed 4.9 percent to a rate if 472,000, up from January’s figure of 450,000. More here.

Builder Confidence At Highest Level Since 2007

Builder confidence in the market for new single-family homes is twice as strong as it was six months ago and at its highest level since 2007. The latest National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, which measures builders’ expectations and perceptions, was unchanged from last month. Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the NAHB, said builders are still cautious but there’s a sense that many local housing markets have started to move in the right direction and that prospects for future sales are improving. The component gauging builders expectations for sales over the next six months was up for the six consecutive month, rising two points from the month before. Regionally, the Index was up in the Northeast, South, and Midwest but down in the West. More here.