Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Home Price Appreciation is Slowing



Home-price appreciation is slowing, a welcome trend for potential buyers but a troubling one for homeowners still looking for relief from underwater mortgages.

Single-family housing prices rose 4.4% in the year that ended in the second quarter, the slowest annual pace since 2012, according to a report released Tuesday by National Association of Realtors.

The association found that median prices for existing single-family homes grew year-over-year in 122 of 173 metropolitan areas it tracked, while prices declined in 47 metro areas. Only 19 areas showed double-digit year-over-year price increases, a substantial drop from the 37 cities that showed such increases in the first quarter.

Economists said price appreciation is slowing in part because buyers, including investors, have become more cautious and are pulling back from the market amid the big price gains of the past year. At the same time, those higher prices persuaded more homeowners to put their homes up for sale, adding inventory and reducing the urgency to buy.

Those trends are good news for potential buyers, who have had to deal with heated competition for a relatively small number of homes on the market in many cities as well as a near percentage-point increase in 30-year mortgage rates since May 2013.

However, the trends serve as a warning to some owners who bought their homes near the peak of the market and still owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. A report from real-estate research firm  CoreLogic  CLGX -0.44%     said that at the end of the first quarter, owners of 6.3 million homes were still underwater, or owed more than their homes were worth.

"With this price deceleration, it could be another three to five years for some people to go above water," Mr. Yun said.

Stan Humphries, chief economist of real-estate-information site  Zillow Inc.,  Z +0.38%     said that home values in many markets are likely to oscillate over the next few years, as the market tries to find stable ground after years of boom, bust and recovery.

"We're definitely at an inflection point. We see moderation [in price gains] continuing," he said, based on Zillow's own data on home values.

Overall, Mr. Yun said that the second quarter showed a significant divergence in price change between metro areas and regions. While the median existing single-family home price between the second quarters of 2013 and 2014 rose 7.3% in the West to $297,400, home prices in the Northeast fell 0.9% to $255,500, the report said.

Some of the most strongly rebounding housing markets, such as Phoenix and Las Vegas, are also showing signs of cooling, Mr. Yun said. The Phoenix area, which had been experiencing double-digit year-over-year price growth, saw prices rise 8.3% in the second quarter from the previous year to $198,600, the report said.

The NAR report said that prices dropped the most sharply in Elmira, N.Y. with a near 30% decline between the second quarters of 2013 and 2014 to $87,800.

To be sure, median home prices can be skewed as the kinds of homes being sold shift between the higher and lower ends of the market, a factor that can have an especially strong influence on statistics from small metropolitan areas.

Cathy Weil, president-elect of the Elmira-Corning Regional Association of Realtors, said that the Elmira median home price was skewed by the mix of homes sold in the second quarter. She said that her area has seen sales pick up significantly and some high-price homes have been receiving multiple offers.

According to the NAR report, the most expensive housing markets in the second quarter were San Jose, Calif., where the median price was $899,500; San Francisco, $769,600; Anaheim-Santa Ana, Calif., $691,900; Honolulu, $678,500; and San Diego, $504,200.

Some home buyers say that they've noticed the market cool somewhat. Trey Denton, a 31-year-old metals broker in Newburgh, Ind., bought an investment property for about $175,000 at the end of June, which he plans to list for sale this Friday. He said that he hopes to sell the home before the winter and that he feels there is an increased sense of urgency to sell so he won't have to wait until the spring home-buying season.

"There's definitely a risk with waiting," Mr. Denton said. "With interest rates looking to creep up next year, the market could fall."

Real-estate agent Kevin Eastridge, who is president of the Indiana Association of Realtors, said that his housing market around Evansville, Ind., "stopped dead" between November and February, and was "excellent" between March and May. In June, activity dropped off a bit, but things heated up again in July, he said.

"We are running into some multiple-offer situations but those are the exception rather than the rule," he said.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

30 Year Mortgage Rates Up Slightly

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Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed mortgages rose this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 4.08 percent, up from 4.03 percent at this same time last week.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate hovered around 4.10 percent for the majority of the week, peaking at 4.17 percent on Thursday before easing back down to the current rate today.

“Mortgage rates were subdued last week as ongoing geopolitical concerns and economic softness in Europe encouraged investors to buy U.S. mortgage-backed securities as a safe haven,” said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. “This week, we expect international headlines, rather than U.S. economic data, to drive any meaningful changes to mortgage rates.”

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate this morning was 3.12 percent, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.77 percent.



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Home Appreciation Update: Moderate


table

The Case-Shiller data for May 2014 came out this morning, and based on this information and the June 2014 Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI, released July 20th), we predict that next month’s Case-Shiller data (June 2014) will show that both the non-seasonally adjusted (NSA) 20-City Composite Home Price Index and the NSA 10-City Composite Home Price Index increased by 8.1 percent on a year-over-year basis. The seasonally adjusted (SA) month-over-month change from May to June will be flat for the 20-City Composite Index and 0.1 percent for the 10-City Composite Home Price Index (SA). All forecasts are shown in the table below. Officially, the Case-Shiller Composite Home Price Indices for June will not be released until Tuesday, August 26.

This month’s Case-Shiller surprised a bit with May month-over-month home price depreciation and a downward revision to the April numbers. This is more pronounced slowing than we have been seeing in previous releases. We expect this slowdown to continue to be readily present in next month’s release both on a year-over-year basis, which we expect to be close to 8 percent for June, as well as for monthly appreciation numbers. The Zillow Home Value Index has been showing home value appreciation slowing for quite some time with June home value appreciation at 6.3 percent on a year-over-year basis.

The Case-Shiller indices are biased toward the large, coastal metros – some of which are still seeing substantial home value gains, and they include foreclosure re-sales. The inclusion of foreclosure re-sales disproportionately boosts the index when these properties sell again for much higher prices — not just because of market improvements, but also because the sales are no longer distressed. However, as the prevalence of foreclosures and foreclosure re-sales is declining, so is the impact they have on the Case-Shiller indices. Moreover, the fact that Case-Shiller uses a three-month average is strongly diluting the impact of the most recent numbers and with that the showing of a slowdown.

We expect home value appreciation to continue to moderate in 2014, rising 4.2 percent between June 2014 and June 2015, nationally. The main drivers of this moderation include rising mortgage rates, although these have been rising very slowly – and less investor participation – leading to decreased demand – and increasing for-sale inventory supply.

To forecast the Case-Shiller indices, we use the May Case-Shiller index level, as well as the June Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI), which is available more than a month in advance of the Case-Shiller index, paired with June foreclosure resale numbers, which Zillow also publishes more than a month prior to the release of the Case-Shiller index. Together, these data points enable us to reliably forecast the Case-Shiller 10-City and 20-City Composite indices.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Growing Use of Social Media in Home Searches



Reflecting the proliferating use of social media in today’s society, more home buyers are turning to social media in the home-buying process than ever, according to the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ (C.A.R.) “2014 Survey of California Home Buyers.”

More than three-fourths of home buyers used social media in their home search, up from 52 percent who used it in 2011.  Buyers said they primarily used social media to obtain buying tips and suggestions from friends (44 percent), neighborhood information (44 percent), and to view their agents’ Facebook pages (42 percent).

Mobile technology and the Internet continued to be important tools in the home-buying process, with 91 percent saying they used a mobile device to access the Internet during the course of their home purchase.  Buyers used their mobile devices to look for comparable home prices (78 percent), search for homes (45 percent), and take photos of neighborhoods, homes, and amenities (43 percent).   Conversely, with the increased use of social media, fewer buyers “Googled” their agent (50 percent in 2014, down from 68 percent in 2013), turning to agents’ Facebook pages instead.

In another sign of recent market competitiveness, more than nine in 10 buyers (91 percent) made one or more other offer, with an average of 3.6 offers in 2014, up from three offers in 2013.  Additionally, buyers viewed a median of 20 homes in 2014, up from 10 last year.  Given the limited supply of homes available for sale, fewer buyers were satisfied with their home purchase than last year.  Only about half of the buyers were satisfied with their purchase in 2014, down from two-thirds (66 percent) in 2013.  Nearly half (46 percent) of buyers felt they “settled” on their home purchase in 2014, up from 34 percent.

Additional findings from C.A.R.’s “2014 Survey of California Home Buyers” include:

• Buyers cited price decreases (54 percent), receiving a promotion or raise (34 percent), low interest rates (29 percent), and favorable prices/financing (17 percent) as the top reasons for purchasing a home.

• Echoing a recovering housing market over recent years, buyer optimism of home prices also continued to improve, with the vast majority of buyers (81 percent) believing that home prices will rise in five years and 60 percent believing that prices will rise in one year.  This is an improvement since 2009, when only 35 percent of buyers believed that prices would rise in five years, and only 8 percent who believed prices would rise in one year.

• Higher down payments are still the norm in this market, with buyers putting an average of 28 percent down on their purchases.  The average down payment has been higher than the traditional 20 percent since 2009.

• More than nine in 10 buyers (92 percent) obtained a fixed-rate loan, a 23 percent increase from 2009, when only 69 percent obtained a fixed-rate loan, reflecting low rates and the desire for certainty as the market gets back to basics.

• Nearly all surveyed buyers (88 percent) used a real estate agent in 2014, down slightly from 91 percent in 2013. Reflecting a growing use of the Internet, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of those who used an agent found their agent online, compared to only 38 percent who found their agent online in 2003.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Profits Return to California Home Owners


Rising home prices have hiked more California homes into positive equity and increased the percentage of home owners making a profit from home sales, according to California Association of Realtors' data.
The association reported 88.4% of home sellers left closing tables with money in their pockets in April. This is the highest percentage of money making sales on a monthly basis since 2007, CAR added.

The April percentage was slightly higher than the 87.4% of California real estate sales that made money in March and 13 points higher than April of last year, the association said. April was the tenth straight month that saw a rising percentage of home sales make money for sellers, CAR said.

The CAR figures put the most recent spotlight on a trend that has been percolating since the beginning of 2014.An April study conducted by economists for real estate website Trulia reported seven of the 10 fastest moving real estate markets – markets where a high percentage of homes for sale find buyers within 60 days – are located in California.

The association reported a corresponding shrinking number of foreclosed property sales by financial institutions or short sales by economically distressed homeowners. Trulia attributed the speed and rising demand in many California markets to a combination of stronger local economies that helped fuel demand, and a lack of new home construction that helped keep supply tight. For example, many of the fastest moving real estate markets have been ones where the locality has added only 10 new homes per year for every 1,000 existing homes, the organization said.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Underwater Mortgages Still Haunt US Households


Nearly 10 million U.S. households remain stuck in homes worth less than their mortgage and a similar number have so little equity they can't meet the expenses of selling a home, trends that help explain recent sluggishness in the housing recovery.
At the end of the first quarter, some 18.8% of U.S. homeowners with a mortgage—9.7 million households—were "underwater" on their mortgage, according to a report scheduled for release Tuesday by real-estate information site Zillow. While that is an improvement from 19.4% at the end of last year and a peak of 31.4% 2012, those figures understate the problem.
In addition to the homeowners who are underwater, roughly 10 million households have 20% or less equity in their homes, which makes it difficult for them to sell their homes without dipping into their savings. Most move-up homeowners typically use their home equity to cover broker fees, closing costs and a down payment for their next home. Without those funds, many homeowners can't sell.
It's a sobering appreciation that negative equity is going to be with us for a while to come," said Stan Humphries, Zillow's chief economist. "Negative equity is central to understanding a lot of the distortions in the marketplace right now."
Those distortions include the inventory of homes for sale, which, while rising, is low by historical standards. It also helps explain why first-time home buyers are having such a hard time cracking the market. Real estate is in some ways like a ladder, Mr. Humphries notes, so when underwater homeowners don't trade up it makes it harder for newcomers to get in.
At the same time, prices have risen about 11% over the past two years, and several times that in rebounding markets like Las Vegas, Phoenix and much of California. Rising prices, combined with higher mortgage rates, have given sticker shock to buyers looking for a deal. This has been particularly hard on first-time home buyers who are usually in the market for a lower-priced home.
In the report, Zillow notes that the least expensive homes—those in the lower third of the price spectrum, which first-time home buyers are most likely to be shopping for—are much more likely to be underwater than higher-priced homes. Nationwide, about 30% of homes in the bottom third of the price range were underwater in the first quarter, compared to 18% of homes in the middle third and 11% of homes in the top third. (Zillow derives its underwater data by matching its database of estimated home values with loan balances from TransUnion, the credit reporting agency.)
Regionally, underwater homes are concentrated in areas where the real-estate bust hit hardest. Among major metropolitan areas, Las Vegas had the nation's highest share of underwater mortgages, followed by Atlanta and Orlando, Fla.
Many underwater homeowners have gone into foreclosure or executed a short sale, where they sell the home for a loss. But many aren't budging. "There are people who still have their jobs and they're not late on their payment, but they can't move," said Vita Deveaux, a real-estate agent at Keller Williams Realty First Atlanta.
Take Patricia McCutcheon, 50 years old, who lives in the Clayton County area near Atlanta. Ms. McCutcheon and her husband owe $119,000 on their home, but figure it could sell for about $70,000 based on recent sales in the area. The debt hasn't kept them from moving up: In July, they are leaving their home for a new place in Paulding County. But instead of selling their underwater home, they are going to rent the place out. "It seems to be the only option that we have," she said.
Ms. McCutcheon, who is a full-time student working on a bachelor's in psychology, says she and her husband, who works in information technology, considered a short sale, but didn't want their credit rating to suffer.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

China's Real Estate Bubble Begins to Bursts



Late yesterday China released its April economic data and here’s the tale it tells of the property sector is of concern. New starts contracted 15% year on year (vs. -21.9% in March), property sales fell 14.3% year on year (vs. -7.5% in March); and land sales (by area) fell 20.5% year on year (vs. -16.9% in March). This chart is from Society Generale:



The greater risk to China lies in the pervasive consequences of any property bust. Property investment has grown to account for about 13 per cent of gross domestic product, roughly double the US share at the height of the bubble in 2007. Add related sectors, such as steel, cement and other construction materials, and the figure is closer to 16 per cent. The broadly defined property sector accounts for about a third of fixed-asset investment, which Beijing is supposed to be subordinating to the target of economic rebalancing in favour of household consumption.

…The reason things look different today is the realisation of chronic oversupply. As the property slowdown has kicked in, housing starts, completions and sales have turned markedly lower, especially outside the principal cities. Inventories of unsold homes in Beijing are reported to have risen from seven to 12 months’ supply in the year to April. But when it comes to homes under construction and total sales, the bulk is in “tier two” cities, where the overhang of unsold homes has risen to about 15 months; and in tier three and four cities, where it is about 24 months.

…If activity levels and prices weaken further, Beijing’s resolve not to respond with traditional stimulus programmes is unlikely to hold. We should expect a potpourri that might include: extra spending on infrastructure and environment programmes; faster urbanisation in inland and western provinces; some relaxation on restraints on homebuying, such as mortgage deposits; and, ultimately, new monetary easing.