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Housing Permits and Starts Drift Lower
Thu, 20 Jun 2024 15:45:03 GMT

The rate of both construction permitting and residential construction starts fell in May, with permitting losing ground for the third straight month. The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development report that residential authorizations were issued at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.386 million. This is a decline of 3.8 percent from the 1.440 million units estimated for April and 9.5 percent off the pace of the prior May. Permits for single-family construction were issued at the annual rate of 949,000 and multifamily approvals came in at 382,000. These were decreases of 2.9 percent and 6.1 percent, respectively. Thus, single-family permits increased year-over-year by 3.5 percent, but multifamily permits were 31.4 percent lower. [housingpermitschart] Housing starts fell from 1.352 million in April to 1,277 million, a loss of 5.5 percent . Starts declined 19.3 percent compared to the prior May. Single-family starts fell below 1 million for the first time since October at 982,000. This was a 5.2 percent decline from April and 1.7 percent lower than a year earlier. Multifamily starts, at a rate of 278,000 were down 10.3 and 51.7 percent from the two earlier periods. [housingchartall] Analysts polled by Econoday had expected both permits and starts to rise slightly above their April levels. The consensus forecast for permits was 1.450 million and.1.373 million for starts.

Purchase Activity Rises, MBA Forecasts More of Same
Thu, 20 Jun 2024 12:31:52 GMT

There was a slight increase in mortgage application volume during the week ended June 14. For a change, it was accounted for by the home purchasing component.   The Mortgage Bankers Association says its Market Composite Index, a measure of loan application volume, increased 0.9 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis although it lost 0.1 percent before adjustment compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index decreased 0.4 percent from the prior week and was 30 percent higher than the same week one year ago. The refinance share of mortgage activity remained unchanged at 35.2 percent of total applications. [refiappschart] Purchase loan applications rose 2.0 percent from one week earlier, its second straight positive performance. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 0.1 percent compared with the previous week and was 12 percent lower than the same week one year ago. [purchaseappschart] “Mortgage rates dropped last week following the latest inflation data and the FOMC meeting, with the 30year conforming rate dropping to 6.94 percent and reaching its lowest level since the end of March,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s SVP and Chief Economist. “Purchase applications increased a small amount for the week, led by applications for conventional loans. Refinance application volume was also down slightly for the week but remains about 30 percent higher than this time last year.” 

Mortgage Application Volume Bouncing Back as Rates Fall
Wed, 12 Jun 2024 12:14:15 GMT

Mortgage application activity recovered nicely last week from a downturn during the previous holiday-shortened week, helped by a temporary drop in interest rates. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) said its Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage application volume, increased 15.6 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis and was 26.0 percent higher on an unadjusted basis. The Refinance Index jumped 28.0 percent from the previous week and was also 28 percent above its level the same week one year ago. The refinance share of applications increased to 35.2 percent from 31.1 percent the previous week. [refiappschart] Applications for home purchases rose for the first time since May 3. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 9.0 percent and was 19.0 percent higher before adjustment. The index is still 12.0 percent lower than during the same week in 2023. [purchaseappschart] “Mortgage rates were trending lower over the course of last week until a stronger than anticipated employment report resulted in a bounce back, with the weekly average for the 30-year fixed mortgage rate decreasing to 7.02 percent,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s SVP and Chief Economist. “ Lower rates earlier in the week meant a strong increase in refinance activity , particularly for VA borrowers, who jumped on the chance to lower their rates.  Overall refinance activity was more than 27 percent above one year ago.”  

First-Time Homebuyers are Shoring up Market
Wed, 05 Jun 2024 11:00:00 GMT

Interest rates, along with the distraction of a three-day weekend, further slowed the mortgage market last week. Tho Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reports that its Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, decreased 5.2 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier and 16.0 percent compared with the previous week. The results include an adjustment for the Memorial Day holiday. The Refinance Index decreased 7.0 percent and was 5.0 percent higher than the same week one year ago. The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 31.1 percent of total applications from 31.3 percent the previous week. [refiappschart] The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 4.0 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index was also down 16.0 percent compared with the previous week and 13.0 percent lower than the same week one year ago.+ [purchaseappschart] “Mortgage rates moved slightly higher last week, with the 30-year conforming rate reaching 7.07 percent – its highest level since early May – despite incoming data indicating somewhat slower economic growth,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s SVP and Chief Economist. “After adjusting for the Memorial Day holiday, both purchase and refinance application volumes were down, with purchase activity specifically 13 percent below last year’s level.” Added Fratantoni, “Government purchase volume was down less, helped by growth in VA applications. The market is relying on first-time homebuyer demand, and many first-time buyers do use government lending programs.”

Pending Home Sales Post a 7.7 Percent Drop
Thu, 30 May 2024 16:30:00 GMT

Pending home sales fell another 7.7 percent in April according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) for the month was 72.3 compared to 78.3 in March. Based on purchase contracts for previously owned single-family homes, townhouses, condominiums, and cooperative apartments, the Index was also down 7.4 percent from its level in April 2023. [pendinghomesdata] “The impact of escalating interest rates throughout April dampened home buying, even with more inventory in the market,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “But the Federal Reserve’s anticipated rate cut later this year should lead to better conditions, with improved affordability and more supply.” The slowdown in the home sale market is clear when looking at the national PHSI since the Federal Reserve started raising interest rates. The index averaged 115.2 in 2022 and 91.9 in 2023. It has not exceeded 78.5 at any point in 2024. All four major regions lost ground for the month and year-over-year. In the Northeast , the PHSI level of 62.9 was down 3.5 percent from March and 3.1 percent on an annual basis. The Midwest index dropped 9.5 percent to 70.7 percent, a decline of 8.7 percent from one year ago. The South lost 7.6 percent and 8.2 percent compared to the two earlier periods to a reading of 88.6. The West’s Index was at 55.9, a decline of 8.5 percent from March and 7.3 percent from the previous April.

Rates Push Application Volume Back to March Levels
Wed, 29 May 2024 12:07:17 GMT

Higher interest rates helped to wipe out three weeks of gains in mortgage application activity. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) said its Market Composite Index, a measure of that activity, decreased 5.7 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis and 6.3 percent before adjustment during the week ended May 24. The Refinance Index plummeted by 14.0 percent from the previous week’s level but stayed 12.0 percent higher than during the same week one year ago. The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 31.3 percent from 34.0 percent. [refiappschart] The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index declined for the third straight week, slipping 1.0 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis and 3.0 percent on an unadjusted basis. Purchase loan applications were down 10.0 percent compared to the same period in 2023.   [purchaseappschart] “Mortgage rates increased for the first time in four weeks, with the 30-year fixed rate up to 7.05 percent and all other loan types also seeing increases. The uptick in rates led to a decline in mortgage applications heading into Memorial Day weekend,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Vice President and Deputy Chief Economist.  “Both purchase and refinance applications fell, pushing overall activity to the lowest level since early March. Borrowers remain sensitive to small increases in rates, impacting the refinance market and keeping purchase applications below last year’s levels. There continues to be limited levels of existing homes for sale and many buyers are struggling to find listings in their price range that meet their needs.”

Existing Home Inventories Inching Higher
Wed, 22 May 2024 19:17:00 GMT

The inventory of existing homes for sale increased from March to April, but the increased availability didn’t bolster sales. The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) said pre-owned single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and cooperative apartments sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.14 million. This was a decline of 1.9 percent from sales in both March of this year and April 2024. At the end of April, there were 121 million units of housing available for sale, an increase of 9 percent from March and 16.3 percent year-over-year. This equates to a 3.5-month supply at the current rate of sales compared to 3.2 percent and 3.0 percent at the two earlier points in time. NAR says a six-month supply is typically necessary for a balanced real estate market. There was a big increase in higher-priced homes. The inventory of available homes listed at $1 million or more was 34 percent larger than a year earlier and sales in that tier increased 40 percent. Properties typically remained on the market for 26 days in April, down from 33 days in March but up from 22 days in April 2023. NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yan said overall home sales changed little, but the upper end of the market is benefiting from the increase supply of homes. Single-family home sales fell 2.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.74 million, down from 3.82 million in March. Sales were 1.3 percent lower year-over-year.  Condo and co-op sales remained at their March level of 400,000 units, 30,000 fewer than the previous April.

Mini-boom in Refi Apps Continues
Wed, 22 May 2024 12:54:57 GMT

Interest rates hit a seven-week low last week, boosting the level of refinancing applications for the third straight week, but those for home purchases continued to recede. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) said its Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage application volume, increased 1.9 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis during the week ended May 17. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 1.1 percent. The Refinance Index jumped by 7.0 percent compared to the previous week and was 21.0 percent higher than the same week one year ago. The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 34.0 percent of total applications from 32.0 percent week-over-week.  The Refinance Index has gained an aggregate of 17 points since April 25. [refiappschart] Purchasing activity declined for the second week, this time by 1.0 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis and 2.0 percent before adjustment. The index was 11.0 percent lower than the same week in 2024. [purchaseappschart] “The 30-year fixed mortgage rate declined for the third straight week, dropping to 7.01 percent – the lowest level in seven weeks,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Vice President and Deputy Chief Economist. “ Rates coming down from recent highs spurred some borrowers to act, with increases across both conventional and government refinance applications . VA refinances had a double-digit increase for the third consecutive week, although the current level of refinancing is still well below its historical average. Purchase activity continues to lag despite this recent decline in rates, down 11 percent from a year ago, as potential buyers still face limited for-sale inventory and high list prices. ”

Builders Are Finishing More and More Homes, But Permits Have Been Flat
Thu, 16 May 2024 18:55:00 GMT

The latest data on new residential construction from the U.S. Census Bureau paints a somewhat mixed picture of the housing market. While housing completions surged in April, Housing starts only increased modestly and building permits declined both building permits slipped to the lowest level since last summer. The following bullet points break down the numbers in seasonally adjusted annual rates for the 3 phases of construction: Building Permits  1.44 million versus 1.48 million forecast and 1.467 last month Of that, 976k were single family permits and 408k were 5+ units Housing Starts (breaking ground phase) 1.36 million versus 1.42 million forecast and 1.29 million last month last month revised down from 1.32 million Of that, 1.031 million were single family  and 322k were 5+ Housing Completions 1.62 million versus 1.495 million last month, a 10.3 percent increase Of that, 1.092 were single family and 516k were 5+ We could attempt to over-analyze the month to month changes in this notoriously noisy data series, but in the bigger picture, permits and starts have been flat for more than a year while completions continue to improve. Zooming out a bit more, the takeaway isn't much different, but it adds context from the previous highs and also shows starts and permits remaining near pre-covid highs.

Persistently High Rates Quash Builder Confidence
Wed, 15 May 2024 17:54:38 GMT

Builders’ confidence in the new home market retreated this month , the first decline since last November. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports that the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) lost 6 points from its April level, falling to 45. Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for more than 35 years, the HMI gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair” or “poor” and asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “high to very high,” “average” or “low to very low.” A score above 50 for the HMI or any of its components indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor. All three HMI component indices declined decisively in May. The HMI index charting current sales conditions in May fell 6 points to 51, the component measuring sales expectations in the next six months fell 9 points to 51 and the gauge charting traffic of prospective buyers declined 4 points to 30. NAHB economist Robert Dietz stated that the reason for the decline is the persistently high mortgage interest rates which have remained above 7 percent for the last four weeks. Dietz said, “The market has slowed since mortgage rates increased and this has pushed many potential buyers back to the sidelines. A lack of progress on reducing inflation pushed long-term interest rates higher in the first quarter and this is acting as a drag on builder sentiment. The last leg in the inflation fight is to reduce shelter inflation, and this can only occur if builders are able to construct more attainable, affordable housing.”

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