New Home Sales Hold Steady In October

The sales pace of new homes sold in October was virtually unchanged from the month before, according to estimates jointly released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Sales were down 0.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 368,000, but remain 17.2 percent above last year’s estimate of 314,000. The month’s totals were affected by a significant drop in activity in the Northeast, which was hit by Hurricane Sandy. The median sales price of new houses sold in October was $237,700; the average sales price was $278,900. Also, there was a 4.8 month supply of new homes available for sale at the end of the month. More here and here.

Purchase Loan Demand Up Despite Holiday Week

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, the seasonally adjusted Purchase Index rose 3.0 percent last week after an adjustment for the Thanksgiving holiday. Despite the increase, the Market Composite Index, which measures both refinance and purchase loan volume, was relatively flat, falling 0.9 percent due to a 2.0 percent drop in the Refinance Index. Average mortgage rates were virtually unchanged. The average interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances fell to 3.53 percent from 3.54 percent the week before. The refinance share of total mortgage activity also held steady from the previous week at 81 percent of total applications. More here and here.

Economy Posts Third Quarter Gain, Housing Improves

Economic activity accelerated in the third quarter after a sluggish second quarter, according to Fannie Mae’s Economic and Strategic Research Group. Their November outlook expresses encouragement based on recent increases in consumer spending and confidence but suggest looming economic uncertainty continues to create obstacles for the pace of the recovery. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist, said recent economic data has been modestly favorable and increases in consumer spending are encouraging due to their positive effect on housing. In the third quarter,the housing market saw improvement in both new and existing home sales and prices spiked 5.0 percent from last year, the largest gain since 2006. Also, the housing market is expected to contribute to GDP growth next year, reversing the trend of the past six years. More here.

Home Prices Rise For Twelfth Straight Month

According to Zillow’s Real Estate Market Report, home prices rose 1.1 percent in October, the twelfth consecutive month of increases and the largest gain since August 2005. Year-over-year, home values were up 4.7 percent, which is the biggest annual improvement since 2006. Dr. Stan Humphries, Zillow’s chief economist, said the bottom line is homes are more affordable now than at any time in recent memory and buyers are seizing the opportunity regardless of the factors cited by those that are still skeptical about the durability of the housing recovery. Only one of the 30 largest metro areas covered by the report saw declining values in October and 26 metropolitan areas saw increases over last year. The cities that saw the biggest annual improvement included Phoenix, San Jose, Denver, San Francisco, and Miami. More here.

Increased Demand Boosts Builder Confidence in November

The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index measures builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes on a scale where any number below 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as poor than good. In November, the index rose five points to 46. It was the seventh consecutive monthly gain and a significant improvement over last year’s reading of 19. Builder confidence is now at its highest level since May 2006. Barry Rutenberg, NAHB’s chairman, said builders are reporting increasing demand for new homes as inventories of foreclosed and distressed properties begin to shrink across the country. Components measuring current sales conditions and expectations for the next six months both experienced gains, as did all four regions of the country. More here.

Purchase Index Up Despite Dip In Overall Mortgage Demand

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, mortgage application volume dipped last week despite an adjustment for the Veteran’s Day holiday. The Market Composite Index, which measures total mortgage application volume, fell 2.2 percent due to a 3.0 percent decrease in the Refinance Index. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index, however, experienced a 3.0 percent increase from the week before. Mortgage rates were up slightly, with the average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rising from 3.52 percent to 3.54 percent. The refinance share of all mortgage activity remained unchanged from the previous week at 81 percent. More here and here.

Housing Starts Hit Four Year High In October

Figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development show privately owned housing starts up 3.6 percent in October, which puts them 41.9 percent above last year’s rate. The improvement beat economists’ expectations and helped new residential construction hit its highest rate in more than four years. Building permits, on the other hand, slipped from September, falling 2.7 percent. Despite the dip, they are still up nearly 30 percent above last year’s rate. Also, single-family authorizations posted a 2.2 percent improvement in October. More here and here.

Existing Home Sales, Prices Rise In October

According to the National Association of Realtors, sales of existing homes increased 2.1 percent in October. The improvement put sales 10.9 percent above where they were a year ago. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said home sales continue to trend upward and, due to limited inventory and increasing demand, prices are also on the rise. The national median existing-home price was $178,000 in October, which is 11.1 percent above last year’s level. The price improvement marks eight straight months of year-over-year increases. Also, total housing inventory at the end of the month was down 1.4 percent. At the current sales pace, there is only a 5.4-month supply of available homes for sale, that is the lowest level since February 2006. More here and here.

Foreclosure Filings Fall Nearly 20 Percent From 2011

RealtyTrac’s U.S. Foreclosure Market Report for October 2012 shows foreclosure filings, including default notices, scheduled auctions, and bank repossessions, are down 19 percent from October 2011, though they rose 3.0 percent from the month before. Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac, said foreclosure trends vary widely across the country primarily depending on how well each state was able to handle the high volume of delinquent loans during the worst of the foreclosure crisis. According to the report, foreclosure starts were filed on 89,209 properties in October, which represents a 19 percent drop from last year and the third consecutive month with an annual decrease. Also, the report shows one in every 706 housing units with a foreclosure filing during the month. More here.

Housing Outlook Sets Expectations For A Healthy Market

Freddie Mac’s November U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook defines what a healthy housing market will look like over the next five years. Using recent trends, key indicators, and shifting demographic patterns, Freddie Mac’s forecast sets expectations for a healthy market at a more realistic level, below the peaks of the housing bubble. Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s vice president and chief economist, said the long-term prognosis is promising but a healthy housing market should not be compared to what it was during its peak years. According to the report, housing starts should increase to 1.8 million units per year compared to 2.1 million in 2005. Also, home sales should rise to about 5.0 percent of the housing stock rather than 7.0 percent and prices should gain approximately 3.0 percent per year compared to 11 percent in 2005. More here.