Monthly Barometer Gauges Housing Health

Every month, Trulia’s Housing Barometer measures the real-estate recovery based on construction data from the U.S. Census Bureau, existing-home sales numbers from the National Association of Realtors, and foreclosure statistics from LPS First Look. The barometer compares current data to where it was at its bottom and at its pre-bubble normal to determine how much progress has been made toward recovery. According to June’s report, the housing market is 32 percent back to normal, which is a 10 percent improvement over last year but down from May. The month-over-month drop was due largely to a decline in existing-home sales. Available for-sale inventory has tightened in many housing markets across the country, which contributed to slower sales during the month. But, though falling inventory slowed sales, it is also an indicator that the market is recovering. Construction of new homes was up 7.0 percent from the previous month and 24 percent from the year before. Also, the foreclosure rate is 34 percent back to normal, after a slight increase in the number of mortgages that were either delinquent or in foreclosure. More here.

Pending Home Sales Slip But Remain Above Last Year

According to the National Association of Realtors, pending home sales were down 1.4 percent in June but remain 9.5 percent above last year’s levels. The Pending Home Sales Index came in at 99.3 in June, down from 100.7 in May. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said buyer demand is strong but fewer available homes in the lower price ranges popular with first-time buyers and investors have lead to fewer contract signing opportunities. Pending home sales reflect contract signings but not closings. Regionally, pending sales were down in the Northeast, Midwest, and South but climbed 2.6 percent in the West. According to Yun, there have been delays in the closing process due to a surge in refinancing and a higher level of home purchases. More here and here.

New Home Sales Up 15.1 Percent From June 2011

Estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development show sales of new single-family houses were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 350,000 in June, which is 15.1 percent above last year’s rate of 304,000. But, despite the year-over-year gains, June sales were 8.4 percent below an upwardly revised May rate of 382,000. So far this year, new home sales have been higher than expected and most monthly estimates have been revised upward after their initial release. The median sales price of new homes sold in June was $232,600; the average sales price was $273,900. Also, the seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of the month was 144,000, which represents a 4.9-month supply at the current sales rate. More here and here.

Refinance Activity Reaches Three Year High

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, refinance activity rose 2.0 percent last week, reaching its highest level since April 19, 2009. The increase followed a 22 percent surge the week before and pushed the refinance share of total mortgage activity up to 81 percent. But, despite the gains in refinance demand, the Market Composite Index, which measures total mortgage loan application volume, was up just 0.9 percent due to a 3.0 percent drop in the seasonally adjusted Purchase Index. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances was unchanged, resting at 3.74 percent. It is the second consecutive week that average mortgage rates were at all-time survey lows. More here and here.

Americans Optimistic About Their Local Economy

A recent Gallup poll found that Americans are more optimistic when asked about their local economy than they are when asked to assess the economic condition of the world as a whole. Nearly 50 percent of polled Americans said their local economic conditions were excellent or good, while only 25 percent said the same about the national economy and just 13 percent ranked the world’s economy as highly. The poll found that positive feelings toward local economic conditions didn’t differ significantly from region to region, though the western states were the most pessimistic about their economy. The results highlight the fact that, though economic confidence can be volatile, Americans generally rank their region and personal financial situation higher than they do the national economy. More here.

Housing Report Makes Convincing Case For Recovery

The housing recovery is real and broad based, according to a new national housing report. The report, which compiles MLS data from approximately 53 metropolitan areas across the country, found home sales have now risen for 12 consecutive months and prices have been climbing for the past five months. A combination of factors are drawing buyers and sellers back to the market, including record-low mortgage rates, attractive prices, and increasing consumer confidence. Of the 53 included metropolitan areas, 40 markets have seen higher sales compared to a year earlier and 31 report increases in both sales and prices. Also, the average number of days a home is on the market before selling is now 84, which is the lowest its been since August 2010. More here and here.

Existing Home Sales Up 4.5 Percent From June 2011

According to the National Association of Realtors, sales of previously owned homes were 4.5 percent higher in June than they were the year before, despite falling 5.4 percent month-over-month. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said buyer interest remains solid and shrinking inventory is pushing up home prices in many markets. In June, the national median existing-home price was $189,400, which is 7.9 percent above last year. The improvement was the fourth consecutive monthly price increase from the year before and the biggest gain since February 2006. Also in the report, total housing inventory fell 3.2 percent to 2.39 million homes available for sale, which represents a 6.6-month supply at the current sales pace. Listed inventory is now 24.4 percent below last year’s level. More here and here.

Housing Starts Rise To Highest Level Since 2008

Construction of new homes and apartments rose 6.9 percent in June, reaching the highest level since October 2008. The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s New Residential Construction Report shows privately-owned housing starts were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 760,000. The increase put total housing starts 23.6 percent above last year’s level. Building permits, which are an indicator of future construction, fell 3.7 percent in June but remain 19.3 percent above 2011. The drop in permits was largely due to a decrease in multifamily permits. Single-family authorizations were virtually unchanged from the month before at a rate of 493,000, 0.6 percent above May’s figure of 490,000. More here and here.

Refinance Activity Surges As Rates Drop Again

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, refinance demand surged last week as mortgage rates fell to yet another survey low. The Refinance Index rose 22 percent from the week before and is near its highest level this year. Michael Fratantoni, MBA’s vice president of research and economics, said refinance application volume increased to near peak levels as mortgage rates dropped due to growing concern about the economy. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances fell to 3.74 percent from 3.79 percent the week before. Because of the spike in refinance activity, the Market Composite Index, which measures total mortgage loan application volume, was up 16.9 percent from one week earlier. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index was virtually unchanged from the previous week. More here and here.

Americans Increasingly Optimistic About Housing Market

Fannie Mae’s National Housing Survey polls 1,001 Americans each month to assess their attitudes toward homeownership, renting, mortgage rates, foreclosures, the economy, household finances, and overall consumer confidence. The results of June’s survey show Americans are increasingly optimistic about the housing market despite concerns about the broader economy and their personal finances. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s senior vice president and chief economist, said consumers’ attitudes about the housing market continue to improve. According to Duncan, consumers are increasingly seeing the current environment as a unique opportunity to buy a home while prices are depressed, rental costs are increasing, and interest rates are near historic lows. According to the survey, Americans expect home prices to increase 2.0 percent over the next year. Among participants, 35 percent said prices would rise over the next 12 months, which is the largest percentage in the survey’s two-year history. Also, the number of respondents who said they would buy their next home if they were going to move rose 6.0 percent to 69 percent, which is the highest level ever recorded. The number of Americans who said it was a good time to buy a home increased to 73 percent. More here and here.