Foreclosure Rates Fall In Nation's Largest Metro Areas

RealtyTrac’s Q3 2012 Metropolitan Foreclosure Market Report tracks foreclosure activity in cities with populations of 200,000 or more. In the third quarter of this year, foreclosure activity fell from a year ago in 131 of the 212 metropolitan areas included in the report. Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac, said two-thirds of the nation’s largest metros posted decreases in foreclosure activity in the third quarter, indicating that most of the nation’s housing markets are past the worst of the foreclosure problem. Foreclosure activity fell from the previous quarter in 63 percent of included metros. More here.

Pick Up In Housing Activity Accelerates Economic Recovery

Freddie Mac’s recently released Economic and Housing Market Outlook for October shows housing contributed 0.3 percentage points to GDP growth in the first half of 2012 after being a net drag from 2006 through 2010. The housing sector is also expected to contribute to growth during the second half of the year. Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s vice president and chief economist, said the recovery has been unlike any other over the past 65 years but we are now seeing housing resume its traditional role of leading the charge. Also in the report, Freddie Mac projects 7 million borrowers will refinance their loans in 2012, resulting in $15 billion in mortgage-payment savings over the first year. That savings will help further boost the economy by strengthening homeowners’ financial situations and overall consumer confidence. More here.

Pending Home Sales Up In September

The National Association of Realtor’s Pending Home Sales Index measures contract signings and is an indicator of future existing-home sales. In September, the index was up 0.3 percent over August and 14.5 percent above last year’s level. It was the 17th consecutive month of year-over-year improvement. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said home contract activity remains at an elevated level when compared to recent years and should continue its upward trend in 2013. Pending home sales were up in every region of the country and are showing double-digit increases over last year in the Northeast, South, and Midwest. According to the NAR, existing-home sales should close 2012 at 4.6 million, which is an increase of 9.0 percent over 2011. More here and here.

New Homes Sales Reach Fastest Pace Since April 2010

In September, new home sales reached their highest level since April 2010, when they were boosted by the homebuyer tax credit. According to estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, sales of new single-family homes were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 389,000, which is up 5.7 percent from August and 27.1 percent from last year’s estimate of 306,000. The median sales price of new houses sold in September was $242,400; the average price was $292,400. Median price is now 11.7 percent above year before levels. At the current sales pace, there was a 4.5-month supply of new homes for sale at the end of the month. More here and here.

Mortgage Demand Slips Following Holiday Adjustment

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, mortgage application demand slowed last week, though the results may reflect the previous week’s upward adjustment for the Columbus Day holiday. The Market Composite Index, which measures total mortgage application volume, fell 12.0 percent, due to a 13.0 percent drop in the Refinance Index and an 8.0 percent slide in purchase activity. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances increased to 3.63 percent from 3.57 percent the week before. Despite the decline in demand, the refinance share of total mortgage activity was 81 percent and purchase loan demand was 7.0 percent higher than the same week one year ago. More here.

Report Forecasts Continued Gains For Housing Market

A recent report from Fitch Ratings forecasts continued gains for the housing market through the end of the year. According to the report, modest growth in the economy, combined with fewer distressed sales and higher rental costs, will lead to continued improvement in both housing starts and home sales. Fitch predicts housing starts will end the year up 19 percent, new home sales will increase 19.5 percent, and existing-home sales will post a 8.5 percent gain. They also expect home prices to continue to increase with additional gains in 2013. Despite their optimistic outlook, they caution that, though recent data suggests the housing recovery has taken hold, there are still a number of looming challenges that could threaten the progress and curb current forecasts. More here.

Home Price Trends Point To Further Increases

If the current year-to-date price trend continues, 2012 will be the first year that home prices have increased since 2006. Trulia’s Price Monitor, which is among the earliest leading indicators of price trends, shows September asking prices were up 2.5 percent year-over-year and increased 3.5 percent when excluding foreclosures. Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist, said prices are recovering across the country with the strongest gains seen where job growth has boosted demand and declining inventory has lead to tighter supply. States where prices saw significant gains include Nevada, Florida, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, and Virginia. More here.

Existing Home Sales Rise 11 Percent From Last Year

Sales of previously owned homes slipped 1.7 percent in September but remain 11.0 percent above year-before levels, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. Total existing-home sales, which include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops, fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.75 million from an upwardly revised 4.83 million in August. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said the overall trend is upward and, despite month-to-month setbacks, we’re experiencing a genuine recovery. According to Yun, more people are attempting to buy homes and recent price increases are not deterring buyer interest. The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $183,900, up 11.3 percent from a year ago. At the current sales pace, there was a 5.9-month supply of homes available for sale at the end of the month. More here.

Housing Starts Up 15 Percent In September

Estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development show housing starts and building permits both surged in September. Privately-owned housing starts jumped 15 percent above the revised August estimate of 758,000 to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 872,000. The improvement puts new residential construction 34.8 percent above last year’s level. Additionally, single-family housing starts were up 11 percent for the month. Building permits, which are an indicator of future activity, also saw large gains in September. Permits were up 11.6 percent for the month and are now 45.1 percent above last September’s estimate. Single-family authorizations rose 6.7 percent. More here and here.

Mortgage Purchase Activity Hits Four Month High

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, the seasonally adjusted Purchase Index rose 1.0 percent last week, reaching its highest level since June. But despite the gains in purchase activity, the Market Composite Index, which measures both refinance and purchase loan volume, fell 4.2 percent due to a 5.0 percent slide in the Refinance Index. Still, the refinance share of all mortgage activity was 82 percent. Mortgage rates also rose slightly last week. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances increased to 3.57 percent from 3.56 percent the previous week. The week’s results include an adjustment for the Columbus Day holiday. More here and here.