Builder Confidence Rises To Highest Level Since 2007

Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes rose five points to 29 in May, according to the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index. The improvement brought the index to its highest level since May 2007. Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the NAHB, said builders are reporting a pickup in sales and traffic after a pause in April. According to Rutenberg, it’s a sign that the upward trend in confidence that began earlier this year has resumed and that stabilizing prices and excellent affordability are encouraging people to purchase homes. Each of the component indexes measuring current sales, traffic, and expectations for the next six months rose in May after declining in April. More here.

Majority of Surveyed Consumers Say Now's The Time To Buy

Fannie Mae’s April 2012 National Housing Survey finds Americans’ attitudes toward homeownership, the economy, personal finances, and home prices continuing to improve. A large majority of respondents say now is a good time to buy a house and an increasing number say it’s a good time to sell. Doug Duncan, vice president and chief economist of Fannie Mae, said after flat lining at depressed levels for more than a year, the growing number of consumers who feel it’s a good time to sell suggests rising optimism for the housing market. Among the other highlights of the survey, the number of respondents who expressed confidence in the economy’s direction hit a two-year high in April and Americans expect home prices to rise by 1.3 percent over the next year. Also, 23 percent of Americans say they’ve seen an increase in their personal income over the past 12 months, which is the highest level recorded in a year. More here 

Americans View Of Economic Conditions Continues To Improve

According to a Gallup poll tracking daily economic confidence, Americans’ view of the economy is increasingly positive and is now within one point of the highest level recorded since Gallup began daily tracking of economic confidence in 2008. Nearly half of respondents to the survey, which polled 3,426 adults across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, said they feel the economy is headed in the right direction and the percentage who feel things are getting worse has fallen more than 30 percent since October 2008, at the height of the financial crisis. But, despite reaching levels equal to the highest ratings of last year, Americans’ economic confidence is still historically low when compared, for example, to levels seen in the late 1990s. More here.

Refinancing Homeowners Maintain Or Reduce Mortgage Debt In 1st Quarter

New data from Freddie Mac finds 79 percent of homeowners who refinanced their mortgage during the first quarter of 2012 reduced or maintained their principal balance. The number of borrowers who were able to maintain about the same loan amount after refinancing was the highest in the 26 years Freddie Mac has been tracking the data. Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s vice president and chief economist, said the typical borrower reduced their mortgage rate by 1.5 percent which, on a $200,000 loan, would save them nearly $3,000 over 12 months. Also, HARP loans accounted for 20 percent of Freddie Mac’s refinance fundings during the first quarter. According to Nothaft, it was the highest share of HARP loans since the inception of the government program and was largely due to recently adopted enhancements. More here.

Mortgage Application Demand Rises As Rates Fall To New Low

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, the Market Composite Index, which measures both refinance and purchase loan activity, rose 1.7 percent last week from the week before. The increase was due to growing demand for conventional rather than government loans. Demand in the government market was down last week but, despite the dip, the Purchase Index rose 3.4 percent and the Refinance Index increased 1.3 percent. The refinance share of all mortgage activity was 72.1 percent. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages fell to 4.01 percent from 4.05 percent the week before. It was the lowest 30-year rate recorded in the history of the survey. More here.

Improving Markets List Holds Steady In May

The National Association of Home Builders’ Improving Markets Index held steady at 100 in May, down from 101 in April. The number of represented states was also virtually unchanged from the month before at 35. The index determines improving housing markets based on metropolitan areas that have had at least six consecutive months of improved housing permits, employment, and home prices. In May, 17 new metros were added to the list, while 83 cities carried over from April. Barry Rutenberg, NAHB’s Chairman, said the fact that there are 100 markets across 35 states that are improving illustrates that the health of the housing market is determined by individual metropolitan areas more than national data. More here.

Industry Insiders Say Housing Market Has Turned A Corner

Speaking at an economic conference in Washington, Shaun Donovan, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said the housing market has turned a corner. Donovan cited sales statistics, the number of signed contracts, and the decreasing number of households falling into foreclosure as evidence that the market has made progress over the past few years. Donovan’s remarks echo the increasingly positive forecasts being released by industry insiders and market analysts. For example, Fitch Ratings’ most recent outlook says housing starts should see a 10 percent increase in 2012, with new home sales up 8.0 percent. And Capital Economics’ Paul Diggle expects housing to become a boost to economic growth in the near future. More here, here, and here.

Government Scorecard Finds Progress In Recent Housing Data

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s monthly Housing Scorecard collects key market data and tracks the administration’s recovery efforts. The April report cites progress made in home sales and mortgage delinquencies but says there is continued fragility in the housing market. Mortgage delinquencies have declined for four straight months and existing-home sales are up more than five percent from last year’s level. Home prices, while still fragile, are beginning to show signs of stabilization and, in some markets, improvement. Also, inventory is at its lowest level in years, having fallen to levels typically associated with a healthy, balanced market. More here and here.

Job Creation Index Approaching Four-Year High

Gallup’s Job Creation Index rose another two points in April, increasing to 20 from 18 in March. The index, which began tracking job growth in January 2008, is at its highest level since July of that year and is approaching the highest score ever recorded by the index. Regionally, the Midwest and South led in job creation, with the West and East close behind. The West led all regions in year-over-year improvement, rising nine points from a year ago. Gallup’s survey also found that private-sector job growth continues to perform better than government employment. The Job Creation Index for the private sector was at 25 in April, while government job growth has been in negative territory since late last year. More here.

Foreclosure Levels Continue To Improve In March

The March Mortgage Monitor report from Lender Processing Services shows foreclosure starts down more than 31 percent from last year, despite a month-over-month increase. But even with the increase from February, the total number of foreclosure starts in March was much lower than the monthly totals from much of last year and the three years previous. The monthly increase was due, in part, to an acceleration in states where paperwork and procedural problems stalled the number of foreclosures being processed. According to the report, foreclosure inventory is nearly 2.5 times higher in judicial states, as opposed to non-judicial states where inventory is at 2.45 percent. Also, delinquencies are slowing, reaching their lowest level since August 2008. More here.