Archive for June, 2010

Case-Shiller Shows Home Price Improvement In 90% Of Cities

June 30, 2010

Case-Shiller Change In Home Values Mar-Apr 2010

Standard & Poors released its Case-Shiller Index Tuesday.  The index is a monthly home valuation report from select cities and among the private sector’s most popular home pricing models.

In reviewing the April Case-Shiller Index and its accompanying analysis, it appears that the housing market’s rebound is gathering momentum.

In the index’s 20 tracked cities:

  • 18 of 20 improved from March to April 2010
  • Versus April 2009, home prices are up nearly 4 percent
  • The two “down” cities from April — Miami and New York — are off just 0.5% and 1.0% annually, respectively

Furthermore, as another sign of strength, San Diego, a city in which homeowners have lost a lot of equity since 2007, has now shown 12 straight months of home price improvement.

However, the Case-Shiller Index must be kept in context. It’s far from perfect.

For one, the index reports on a 60-day delay; it’s only now showing data from the end of April, when the federal homebuyer tax credit was expiring. Home sales have been weak since then it’s been reported.

And second, the Case-Shiller Index is limited to just 20 cities nationwide. Therefore, the index doesn’t consider every home sale in every American city — it only considers a select few. Many more U.S. homes are excluded from the Case-Shiller Index than are included.

But, despite its flaws, the Case-Shiller Index remains important with respect to economic analysis. Much like the government’s Home Price Index, Case-Shiller helps to identify broader trends in housing that shape government and monetary policy.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : June 28, 2010

June 28, 2010

Non-Farm Payrolls June 2008-May 2010Mortgage markets improved last week in response to mostly negative data about the U.S. economy, and the Federal Reserve’s acknowledgement that Eurozone financial ills could cross the Atlantic.

Conforming and FHA mortgage rates fell last week, extending a rate rally that dates to early-April.  Mortgage rates have fallen to several, new, all-time lows during this period and last week was no different.

The best rates of last week hit Thursday morning.

This week, mortgage rates should be volatile, and may rise, too.  There’s a bevy of data due for release, and market volume will be light with the long weekend looming.

Monday, the Personal Consumptions Expenditures Price Index is published. More commonly known as “PCE”, the index is the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge. When inflation is running higher than expected, mortgage rates tend to rise.

Conversely, when inflation is running lower than expected, mortgage rates tend to fall.

Tuesday, the Case-Shiller Index will be released for April’s home prices, along with two consumer confidence reports.  As with PCE, strength tends to lead mortgage rates higher and weakness draws them lower.

Thursday, the National Association of REALTORS® releases its Pending Home Sales Index for May and the Department of Labor releases initial and continuing jobless claims number.

Then, Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes June’s jobs report, including the Unemployment Rate.  This number is always a market-mover, but with the long vacation weekend looming, it’s expected that Friday’s volume will be light on Wall Street, creating extra volatility. 

Mortgage rates may be erratic, in other words.

If you’ve been shopping for mortgages, you’ve been rewarded with falling rates. However, will rates cutting new lows almost weekly and expected to reverse soon, it may be a good time to lock up your savings.

Talk to your loan officer ASAP about locking in your rate.

Buyers Take The May 2010 New Home Sales Data All The Way To The Bank

June 25, 2010

New Home Supply May 2009 - May 2010

One month after the federal homebuyer tax credit’s official expiration, the New Home Sales report turned in its worst showing ever.

In May 2010, for the first time in 11 months, the inventory of unsold new homes crossed the 8-month marker, posting an 8.5 month supply overall.

Additionally, new homes sales volume fell to 300,000 units nationwide — a drop of 32% and its lowest level since the Commerce Department started tracking data in 1963.

Now, universally, the press is referring to the May New Home Sales report as “poor“.  A closer look, however, shows that may not be the case.

For one, we have to keep New Home Sales in perspective as a percentage of overall home sales. Yes, there were just 300,000 new homes sold in May, but there were also 5.66 million “existing” homes sold.

New Home Sales, therefore, accounted for just 5 percent of the total housing market — a very small percentage.

Another reason why the weak New Home Sales data isn’t so awful is that, when New Home Sales stall, it actually benefits home buyers.  Excess supply puts a strain on sellers which, in turn, gives buyers a tremendous amount of leverage in negotiation.

When home inventories are high, builders are more apt to appease their customers in hopes of making a sale.  For home buyers, this can result in buying a better product at a lower price.

Especially with builder confidence plummeting.

Since February 2009, housing has shown steady gains. There’s been both peaks and valleys across units, inventories, and prices, but overall, the market is improving.  May’s New Home Sales data shows how now may an opportune time to “buy new”.

A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (June 23, 2010 Edition)

June 23, 2010

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishToday, in its first meeting in 5 weeks, the Federal Open Market Committee voted 9-to-1 to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged. 

The Fed Fund Rate remains within its target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

In its press release, the FOMC said that, since April, “the economic recovery is proceeding” and that the jobs market “is improving gradually”. Business spending “has risen significantly”, too, with the exception of commercial real estate.

Today’s statement is the 8th straight press release in which the Fed shows optimism for the U.S. economy, dating back to June 2009.  Since that time, the Fed has terminated all of the programs it created to support the economy through the economic crisis.

The recession is widely believed to be over.

And, although the Fed’s statement acknowledged economic growth, it did highlight lingering threats, too.

  1. Employers are still reluctant to hire new workers
  2. European debt concerns could spill-over to the U.S.
  3. Bank lending is contracting

Also, as expected, the Fed re-affirmed its plan to hold the Fed Funds Rate near zero percent “for an extended period”, citing that “inflation has trended lower” recently.

Mortgage market reaction has been positive thus far. Mortgage rates in Utah are slightly improved post-FOMC.

The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is August 10, 2010.

A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (June 23, 2010 Edition)

June 23, 2010

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishToday, in its first meeting in 5 weeks, the Federal Open Market Committee voted 9-to-1 to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged. 

The Fed Fund Rate remains within its target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

In its press release, the FOMC said that, since April, “the economic recovery is proceeding” and that the jobs market “is improving gradually”. Business spending “has risen significantly”, too, with the exception of commercial real estate.

Today’s statement is the 8th straight press release in which the Fed shows optimism for the U.S. economy, dating back to June 2009.  Since that time, the Fed has terminated all of the programs it created to support the economy through the economic crisis.

The recession is widely believed to be over.

And, although the Fed’s statement acknowledged economic growth, it did highlight lingering threats, too.

  1. Employers are still reluctant to hire new workers
  2. European debt concerns could spill-over to the U.S.
  3. Bank lending is contracting

Also, as expected, the Fed re-affirmed its plan to hold the Fed Funds Rate near zero percent “for an extended period”, citing that “inflation has trended lower” recently.

Mortgage market reaction has been positive thus far. Mortgage rates in Utah are slightly improved post-FOMC.

The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is August 10, 2010.

May 2010 Existing Home Sales Is Better Than The Headline Data Suggests

June 23, 2010

Existing Home Sales May 2009-May 2010Existing Home Sales dropped in May for the first time in 3 months but still managed to post its second-highest since November 2009, buoyed by the expiring federal tax credit program.

An “existing home” is a home that cannot be considered new construction; a resale of an existing home.  Existing Home Sales fell 2.2 percent in May.

The press is calling the drop in sales “unexpected” and disappointing, but a deeper look at the data shows the news isn’t as bad as it first appears.

First, on a regional basis, sales were mostly solid. Only the Northeast region posted a loss. The West even managed a gain.

  • Northeast : -18.3 percent
  • Midwest : 0.0 percent
  • South : +0.5 percent
  • West : +4.9 percent

Second, the supply of homes for sale dropped to 8.3 in May and, because home prices are based on supply and demand, this is a positive for pricing.

By comparison, in 2008, the average existing home inventory was 10.4 months.

And, lastly, in May, first-time home buyers represented 46 percent of all buyers. The number was likely buoyed by the tax credit program but that doesn’t damper the fact that first-time buyers provide a support floor for the housing market. 

First-time buyers enable “existing owners” to move-up to bigger homes, which, in turn, trickles up to the mid-size and jumbo markets.

Analysts expected more from May’s numbers and that may explain why the reaction to the data is generally negative.  However, in many cities, home resales did just fine.

Making A Mortgage Rate Strategy Ahead Of The Fed’s Meeting This Week

June 22, 2010

Fed Funds Rate June 2007-June 2010The Federal Open Market Committee begins a 2-day meeting today, its fourth scheduled meeting of the year, and fifth overall.

The FOMC is the monetary policy-setting part of the government and its primary tool for that purpose is the Fed Funds Rate

The Fed Funds Rate is the dictated rate at which banks borrow money from each other and, since December 16, 2008, the Federal Reserve has voted to keep the benchmark rate within a target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

This is the lowest Fed Funds Rate in history. A rate near zero-point-zero percent renders borrowing by business and consumers cheap which, in turn, promotes investment and growth.

There’s no expectation for the Fed to change the Fed Funds Rate after it adjourns tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean consumers should expect mortgage rates to remain unchanged, too.

To the contrary, mortgage rates tend to be volatile when the FOMC is meeting.  This is because the FOMC issues a press release after each meeting and in that press release, it comments on the economy’s unique threats, strengths and weaknesses.

When the FOMC speaks, Wall Street listens. 

The words of the Chairman Ben Bernanke’s press release will be dissected and analyzed.  A single mention of higher-than-expected inflation levels, or better-than-expected growth, and traders will rush to dump their bond positions in favor of equities. 

This has a negative effect on mortgage rates.

Conversely, if the Fed is dour on the economy, mortgage rates may fall.

We can’t know for sure what the Fed will say or do tomorrow afternoon so if you’re floating a mortgage rate and wondering whether to lock, the safe choice is to lock prior to 2:15 PM ET Wednesday.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : June 21, 2010

June 21, 2010

FOMC meets this weekMortgage markets improved last week on weaker-than-expected jobless figures, ongoing troubles in Europe, and a tame reading on domestic inflation.

As a result, conforming mortgage rates for Utah fell last week, drawing loads of new refinance applications.

For a brief moment Thursday afternoon, mortgage bond prices pierced a key support level, dropping rates to their best levels of the year. 

It didn’t last long, however. By Friday morning, pricing was worsening on profit-taking and in preparation for this week — a week that promises to be heavy on both data and rhetoric.

To mortgage markets, this can be a dangerous combination.

The biggest news of the week is the Federal Reserve’s 2-day meeting, scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington D.C. 

The Fed is expected to hold the Fed Funds Rate in its target range near 0.000-0.250 percent. It won’t be what the Fed does at its meeting that will matter to rates, though. It will be what the Fed says — about jobs, about growth, about inflation — in its post-meeting press release.

Remarks that reflect well upon the economy should lead mortgage rates higher. Remarks viewed as negative should lead mortgage rates down.

There’s key data due for release next week, too:

  • Tuesday : Existing Home Sales and Home Price Index
  • Wednesday : New Home Sales
  • Thursday : Continuing Jobless Claims
  • Friday : GDP and Consumer Sentiment

Mortgage rates remained relatively tame last week.  This week, volatility should return.

If you’re shopping for a mortgage, rates remain very low but could reverse quickly. Your biggest risk is tied to the Fed’s adjournment Wednesday afternoon.

The Home Buyer Tax Credit Extension Has Not Been Passed Into Law (Yet)

June 18, 2010

Tax credit was not extended -- yetAs its June 30, 2010 closing deadline approaches, the federal home buyer tax credit is back in the news.

Unfortunately, the headlines are misleading.

Contrary to what you may have read (or heard), the federal home buyer tax credit has not been extended past June 30, 2010. At least not yet. And here’s why there’s confusion.

Look at these headlines from earlier this week:

  • Senate Extends Date On Home-Buying Tax Credit (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • U.S. Senate Approves Extension Of Home Buyer Tax Credit (NASDAQ)
  • Senate Approves Home Tax Credit Extension (Reuters)

Now, nothing above is factually incorrect, but each neglects a key piece of the country’s law-making process — it takes more than the Senate to pass a law. For a bill to become a law, it must pass the Senate and the House of Representatives and then it must be ratified by the President.

To date, we’ve only cleared just one of those 3 steps.

This means that the federal home buyer tax credit has not been formally extended. As of now, it’s still in discussion.  Ultimately, though, if the extension does pass, it’s expected to extend the closing date deadline for home buyers beyond the original June 30, 2010 date into September 2010.

Homeowners must still have been in contract as of April 30, 2010 to claim up to $8,000 in federal tax credits.

Good News For Sellers : Housing Starts Fall To 1-Year Low In May 2010

June 17, 2010

Housing starts June 2008 - May 2010Single-family housing starts plummeted to a one-year low in May, just 30 days after soaring to a 20-month high.  It’s no wonder home builders are confused.

Against a revised April figure, Housing Starts fell 97,000 units in May, a figure representing almost one-fifth of the total market size.

It’s the worst showing for Housing Starts since May 2009, a surprise to builders and economists alike.

Furthermore, single-family Building Permits plunged in May, too — down 10 percent from April. A permit is a certification from local government that authorizes home construction.

Housing permits are a precursor to Housing Starts with 82% of homes starting construction within 60 days of permit-issuance. Fewer permits, therefore, directly reduces the number of new homes coming to market in the coming months.

For home buyers , this should create a sense of urgency.

Home prices are based on supply and demand and supply appears to be falling about the same time that economists predict a surge in home demand.  It could spell rising home prices and a complete loss of negotiation power with home sellers.

For now, though, home affordability remains high with properties cheap and mortgage rates near all-time lows. If you plan to buy a home later this year, the May 2010 Housing Starts data may be a reason to move up your timeframe a bit.