Report Finds Continued Stabilization, Positive Home Price Trends

The National Association of Realtor’s Home Price Monitor is a monthly review of several respected measurements of house values. The monitor tracks trends and fluctuations in prices and provides an analysis of the current environment, as well as a forecast for future price performance. April’s report finds most measurements showing month-over-month growth in prices and a trend toward smaller year-over-year declines. These stabilizing trends should be supported by low inventory, declining delinquencies, and growing demand from prospective buyers. The report also cites high affordability, an improving job market, and rising rent as evidence that positive trends in home prices will continue. More here.

Pending Home Sales Reach Highest Level In Two Years

According to the National Association of Realtors, pending home sales rose 4.1 percent in March and are 12.8 percent above year-before levels. Pending sales, which reflect contract signings but not closings, are now at their highest level since April 2010. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said first-quarter sales data shows that it was the best first quarter in five years and, based on contract signings, the second quarter should be equally good. Regionally, pending sales were highest in the West and the South. The South was up 5.9 percent from February and the West rose 8.7 percent. All regions increased from last year, with the Midwest up 16.9 percent and the Northeast 21.1 percent above March 2011. According to Yun, 2012 will be a year of recovery for the housing market. More here.

Market Analysis Sees Opportunity For Home Buyers

CoreLogic’s MarketPulse report comes out monthly and provides analysis of the current and future economic climate and, in particular, the housing and mortgage markets. In their April report, CoreLogic’s chief economist Market Fleming and senior economist Sam Khater say now is a good time to buy a home due to record high housing affordability. According to Fleming, affordability is at twice the level it was in April 2006, at peak house price levels, making now the best time to buy a home in decades. The report also notes that many key indicators of the housing market’s health have held steady through the typically slow winter season. More here.

Purchase Index Gains As Rates Hit New Low

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, demand for loans to purchase homes increased 2.7 percent from the previous week. But despite the gains, total mortgage loan application volume fell 3.8 percent due to a drop in refinance activity, which slowed after surging the week before. The four-week moving average for the Market Index, which covers both refinance and purchase activity, is up 1.23 percent. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 4.04 percent from 4.05 percent the week before. It is the lowest 30-year rate recorded in the history of the Mortgage Bankers’ survey. More here.

New Home Sales Up 7.5 Percent From March 2011

The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s New Residential Sales Report for March 2012 shows that sales of new single-family homes are up 7.5 percent over the previous year’s pace. According to the report, new home sales came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 328,000, which is 7.1 percent below February’s revised rate of 353,000 but a significant improvement over last March’s estimate of 305,000. February’s estimate was revised up from an originally reported 313,000, making that month’s sales pace the fastest since November 2009. Also, the median sales price of new houses sold during the month was $234,500; the average sales price was $291,200. At the current sales pace, there was a 5.3 month supply of new homes available for sale at the end of March. More here.

Confidence In Economy Nears Four Year High

According to the most recent results of Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index, Americans’ confidence in the economy is nearing a four-year high. The index is based on a survey of 3,000 individuals and gauges Americans’ perception of the current economy and whether it is getting better or worse. Recent measurements have been among the most positive since Gallup began daily tracking of economic confidence in 2008. Among respondents, 15 percent rated economic conditions as excellent or good. And though the number that rate the economy as poor was 40 percent, the reading was the least negative since September 2008. Also, 42 percent of Americans say the economy is getting better and 54 say it’s getting worse. That is slightly down from a few weeks ago but still among the most positive responses measured in the past four years. More here.

Existing Home Sales Up 5.2 Percent From Last Year

Sales of previously owned homes were down 2.6 percent in March but gained 5.2 percent from last year’s levels. According to the National Association of Realtors, existing-home sales, which include single-family, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops, fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.48 million in March from an upwardly revised 4.60 million the month before. But despite the dip in month-over-month sales, the March report contained encouraging signs for the housing market. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said there have been nine consecutive months of year-over-year sales increases and with job growth, low mortgage rates, and affordable prices, the demand is coming to the market. Also in the report, the supply of available homes is 21.8 percent below last year’s level, after a 1.3 percent decline in inventory in March. And the median existing-home price was $163,800, which is an increase of 2.5 percent over last year. More here.

Refinance Activity Surges As Mortgage Rates Drop

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, refinance activity increased 13.5 percent last week and pushed the refinance share of all mortgage activity up to 75.2 percent. The spike in refinance activity helped the Market Composite Index, which measures total mortgage application volume, climb 6.9 percent from the week before despite a 11.2 percent drop in the Purchase Index. Jay Brinkmann, MBA’s chief economist, said a drop in rates last week led to the boom in refinance applications. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances fell to 4.05 percent from 4.10 percent the week before. The drop in rates tied a survey low reached in early February. Also in the report, the average loan size of all loans for home purchase was $233,381 in March, up from $225,463 in February. More here.

Home Price Evaluation Sees National Values Increasing

The results of Clear Capital’s most recent home price forecast calls for national values to rise slightly over the next three months and to end the year with a growth rate of 1.2 percent. According to their data, home prices were down 1.4 percent year-over-year in March, which is an improvement over February’s 1.9 percent decline. In addition to improving rates of decline, Clear Capital calls for price growth across all four regions of the country by year’s end. Regionally, only the Midwest is expected to suffer price declines over the next three months and, by the end of the year, Clear Capital’s forecast sees a 0.7 percent increase. The Northeast, South, and West are all expected to see slight increases over the next three months and end the year up between one and two percent. More here.

Building Permits Up 4.5 Percent In March

The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s New Residential Construction report for March shows permits to build privately-owned housing units rose 4.5 percent in March. Permits were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 747,000, which is 30.1 percent above last March’s estimate. But though permits were up for the month, housing starts fell 5.8 percent from February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 654,000. Still, new residential construction is 10.3 percent above last year’s level and single-family housing starts were down just 0.2 percent for the month, which indicates the decline was due largely to a drop in multifamily construction. Also in the report, housing completions rose 4.2 percent in March. More here.