Pending Home Sales Edge Up in April

Pending home sales improved for the second straight month in April, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Gains in the Midwest and Northeast offset declines in the West and South.

The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, increased 0.4 percent to 97.8 in April from 97.4 in March, but is 9.2 percent below April 2013 when it was 107.7.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, expects a gradual uptrend in home sales. “Higher inventory levels are giving buyers more choices, and a slight decline in mortgage interest rates this spring is raising prospective home buyers’ confidence,” he said. “An uptrend in closed sales is expected, although some months will encounter a modest setback.”

Yun projects the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage to trend up and average 5.5 percent next year. “The extent to which higher mortgage interest rates will impact housing affordability and sales depends on income growth, ongoing improvement in the labor market and any change to mortgage underwriting conditions.”

The PHSI in the Northeast increased 0.6 percent to 79.3 in April, but is 12.0 percent below a year ago. In the Midwest the index rose 5.0 percent to 99.2 in April, but is 6.9 percent below April 2013. Pending home sales in the South slipped 0.6 percent to an index of 111.9 in April, and are 6.4 percent below a year ago. The index in the West declined 2.9 percent in April to 88.4, and is 15.0 percent below April 2013.

With sub-par activity in the first quarter, annual existing-home sales are expected to be modestly below the nearly 5.1 million in 2013, but should be close to 5.3 million in 2015. The national median existing-home price is projected to grow between 5 and 6 percent this year, and in the range of 4 to 5 percent in 2015.

The Importance of Commuting Costs, Traffic to Homebuyers

REALTORS® from across the country gathered today to discuss the effects of traffic and commuting on home buying, and the general consensus is that traffic congestion is here to stay and there isn’t anything to be done about it.

In a panel organized by the Richard J. Rosenthal Center for Real Estate Studies at REALTOR® University during the REALTOR® Party Convention & Trade Expo, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun joined other economists to discuss traffic and commuting and their impact on the decision to buy a home.

 “There is no way to solve traffic congestion,” said Anthony Downs, economist from The Brookings Institution. “There is no city in the world rich enough to build an adequate amount of roads to accommodate all of the workers and students who want to be on the road at the same time. Congestion is simply an inexorable part of the way cities grow.”

And cities keep growing. Companies looking for skilled workers and other firms to interact with and do business together are staying in the larger cities where these resources are readily available.

“Skilled workers move where they can find work, creating more traffic and driving up housing prices,” said Lawrence Yun. “It creates a positive feedback loop; the more skilled workers employed in an area, the more others want to move there.”

This means that the future of real estate development could be toward more walkable communities, with amenities such as shopping, transit and entertainment within walking distance, eliminating the need to drive.

Downs disagrees. “There are 250 million cars in the U.S. and the auto industry is booming. Also, housing prices are highest in the biggest, most walkable cities. Consumers won’t move to the city for the convenience of transit or walkability if they simply can’t afford to live there.”

This means that many of today’s consumers are focused on cutting commuting costs rather than attempting to eliminate them. “Seventy-three percent of recent home buyers said that commuting costs were an important factor when deciding whether or not to purchase a home,” said NAR economist Jessica Lautz. However, it is important to take into account the demographic and age of the buyer, she said.

Younger, single buyers place more importance on urban amenities. Marriage and parenthood are what usually inspire people to move out of big cities to more rural areas. “Of the 73 percent who said that commuting costs were a homebuying factor, the median age was 38. These are the people who are driving to work every day and dropping their kids off at school,” said Lautz.

Amount of All-Cash Transactions Reaches New High

RealtyTrac®, the nation’s leading source for comprehensive housing data, today released its Q1 2014 U.S. Institutional Investor & Cash Sales Report, which shows the share of all-cash sales has reached a new high in the first quarter of 2014, even as the share of institutional investor purchases dropped to the lowest level since the first quarter of 2012.

The report shows 42.7 percent of all U.S. residential property sales in the first quarter were all-cash purchases, up from 37.8 percent in the previous quarter and up from 19.1 percent in the first quarter of 2013 to the highest level since RealtyTrac began tracking all-cash purchases in the first quarter of 2011.

Institutional investors — entities that have purchased at least 10 properties in a calendar year — accounted for 5.6 percent of all U.S. residential sales in the first quarter, down from 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 and down from 7.0 percent in the first quarter of 2013 to the lowest level since the first quarter of 2012.

US Institutional Investor and Cash Sales Q1 2014

 

“Strict lending standards combined with low inventory continue to give the advantage to investors and other cash buyers in this housing market,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “The good news is that as institutional investors pull back their purchasing in many markets across the country, there is still strong demand from other cash buyers — including individual investors, second-home buyers and even owner-occupant buyers — to fill the vacuum of demand left by institutional investors.

“While the institutional investor purchase share declined in the first quarter in 18 of the top 20 markets for institutional investor share a year ago, home prices continued to appreciate in most of those markets, albeit at a slower pace in many cases,” Blomquist continued. “There are a couple notable exceptions that could be cause for concern: Jacksonville, Fla., where the institutional investor share of purchases was down to 13.5 percent in the first quarter compared to 18 percent a year ago and where median home prices decreased 1 percent from a year ago in March after 15 consecutive months of annual increases; and Greensboro, N.C., where the institutional investor of purchases was down to 6.4 percent in the first quarter compared to 10 percent a year ago and where median home prices decreased 8 percent from a year ago in March following 14 of 16 months were median home prices increased annually.”

Cash transactions more than 50% of all sales in some markets.

Among metropolitan statistical areas with a population of at least 500,000, those with the top five highest percentages of cash sales were all in Florida: Cape Coral-Fort Myers, (73.6 percent), Miami (67.1 percent), Sarasota, (65.1 percent), Palm Bay, (64.1 percent), and Lakeland, (61.8 percent).

Other major metro areas with more than 50 percent all-cash sales included New York (57.0 percent), Columbia, S.C., (56.1 percent), Memphis (54.9 percent), Detroit (53.5 percent), Atlanta (53.2 percent) and Las Vegas (52.2 percent).

“The cash buyer segment of the Northern Nevada housing market is very strong.  More than 50 percent of transactions in our Reno office were cash sales.  High-end home sales are strong as well, and we typically see a higher percentage of those buyers purchase with cash,” said Craig King, COO of Chase International, covering the Lake Tahoe and Reno, Nev., markets.  “As the level of inventory dwindles in the price points sought after by investors, so do the number of institutional investor sales.  We continue to see a strong interest from investors, but the inventory to support the demand just isn’t there.”

Pending Homes Sales Increase in March 2014

WASHINGTON (April 28, 2014) – After months of stagnant activity, pending home sales rose in March, marking the first gain in the past nine months, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, rose 3.4 percent to 97.4 from an upwardly revised 94.2 in February, but is 7.9 percent below March 2013 when it was 105.7.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said a gain was inevitable. “After a dismal winter, more buyers got an opportunity to look at homes last month and are beginning to make contract offers,” he said. “Sales activity is expected to steadily pick up as more inventory reaches the market, and from ongoing job creation in the economy.”

The PHSI in the Northeast increased 1.4 percent to 78.8 in March, but is 5.9 percent below a year ago. In the Midwest the index slipped 0.8 percent to 94.5 in March, and is 10.1 percent below March 2013. Pending home sales in the South rose 5.6 percent to an index of 112.7 in March, but are 5.3 percent below a year ago. The index in the West increased 5.7 percent in March to 91.0, but is 11.1 percent below March 2013.

Although home sales are expected to trend up over the course of the year and into 2015, this year began on a weak note and total sales are unlikely to match the 2013 level.

Existing-home sales are expected to total just over 4.9 million this year, below the nearly 5.1 million in 2013. However, with ongoing inventory shortages in much of the U.S., the national median existing-home price is expected to grow between 6 and 7 percent in 2014.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Existing-Home Sales Rise Again in January

The uptrend in existing-home sales continues, with January sales rising for the third consecutive month with a pace that is now above year-ago levels, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 2.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.36 million in January from a downwardly revised 5.22 million in December, and are 5.3 percent above the 5.09 million level in January 2010. This is the first time in seven months that sales activity was higher than a year earlier.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the improvement is good but could be better. “The uptrend in home sales is consistent with improvements in the economy and jobs, which are helping boost consumer confidence,” Yun said. “The extremely favorable housing affordability conditions are a big factor, but buyers have been constrained by unnecessarily tight credit. As a result, there are abnormally high levels of all-cash purchases, along with rising investor activity.”

A parallel NAR practitioner survey2 shows first-time buyers purchased 29 percent of homes in January, down from 33 percent in December and 40 percent in January 2010 when an extended tax credit was in place.

Investors accounted for 23 percent of purchases in January, up from 20 percent in December and 17 percent in January 2010; the balance of sales were to repeat buyers. All-cash sales rose to 32 percent in January from 29 percent in December and 26 percent in January 2010.

“Increases in all-cash transactions, the investor market share and distressed home sales all go hand-in-hand. With tight credit standards, it’s not surprising to see so much activity where cash is king and investors are taking advantage of conditions to purchase undervalued homes,” Yun said.

All-cash purchases are at the highest level since NAR started measuring these purchases monthly in October 2008, when they accounted for 15 percent of the market. The average of all-cash deals was 20 percent in 2009, rising to 28 percent last year.

The national median existing-home price3 for all housing types was $158,800 in January, down 3.7 percent from January 2010. Distressed homes edged up to a 37 percent market share in January from 36 percent in December; it was 38 percent in January 2010.

NAR President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I., said the median price is being dampened by unusual market factors. “Unprecedented levels of all-cash purchases, primarily of distressed homes sold at deep discounts, undoubtedly pulls the median price downward,” Phipps said. “Given the levels of inventory we see today, we believe that traditional homes in good condition have held their value.”

Total housing inventory at the end of January fell 5.1 percent to 3.38 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 7.6-month supply4 at the current sales pace, down from an 8.2-month supply in December. The inventory supply is at the lowest level since December 2009 when there was a 7.3-month supply.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.76 percent in January from 4.71 percent in December; the rate was 5.03 percent in January 2010.

Single-family home sales rose 2.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.69 million in January from 4.58 million in December, and are 4.9 percent higher than the 4.47 million level in January 2010. The median existing single-family home price was $159,400 in January, down 2.7 percent from a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 4.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 670,000 in January from 640,000 in December, and are 7.9 percent above the 621,000-unit pace one year ago. The median existing condo price5 was $154,900 in January, which is 10.2 percent below January 2010.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 4.6 percent to an annual pace of 830,000 in January from a spike in December and are 1.2 percent below January 2010. The median price in the Northeast was $236,500, which is 4.0 percent below a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 1.8 percent in January to a level of 1.14 million and are 3.6 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $126,300, which is 3.2 percent below January 2010.

In the South, existing-home sales increased 3.6 percent to an annual pace of 2.02 million in January and are 8.0 percent higher than January 2010. The median price in the South was $136,600, down 2.1 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West rose 7.9 percent to an annual level of 1.37 million in January and are 7.0 percent above January 2010. The median price in the West was $193,200, down 5.7 percent from a year ago.

The National Association of REALTORS®, The Voice for Real Estate, is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Home Price Stabilization Seen in Most Metro Areas during Fourth Quarter, Sales Up

Home sales rebounded in 49 states during the fourth quarter with 78 markets – just over half of the available metropolitan areas – experiencing price gains from a year ago, while most of the rest saw price weakness, according to the latest survey by the National Association of REALTORS®.

Total state existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, jumped 15.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate1 of 4.80 million in the fourth quarter from 4.16 million in the third quarter, but were 19.5 percent below a surge to an unsustainable cyclical peak of 5.97 million in the fourth quarter of 2009, which was driven by the initial deadline for the first-time buyer tax credit.

In the fourth quarter, the median existing single-family home price rose in 78 out of 152 metropolitan statistical areas2 (MSAs) from the fourth quarter of 2009, including 10 with double-digit increases; three were unchanged and 71 areas had price declines. In the fourth quarter of 2009 a total of 67 MSAs experienced annual price gains.

The national median existing single-family price was $170,600 in the fourth quarter, up 0.2 percent from $170,300 in the fourth quarter of 2009. The median is where half sold for more and half sold for less. Distressed homes, typically sold at a discount of 10 to 15 percent, accounted for 34 percent of fourth quarter sales, little changed from 32 percent a year earlier.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, is encouraged by the trend. “Home sales clearly recovered in the latter part of 2010 and are helping to absorb the inventory, including many distressed properties. Even with foreclosures continuing to enter the inventory pipeline, they’ve been selling well and housing supplies have trended down,” he said. “A recovery to normalcy requires steady trimming of the inventories.”

Yun added, “An improving housing market and job growth will go hand in hand. The housing recovery will mean faster job growth.” He projects about 150,000 to 200,000 jobs will be added to the economy this year from an anticipated 300,000 additional home sales in 2011.

Yun further noted, “Better than expected sales and/or strengthening in home values can have an even bigger job impact as consumer spending would naturally rise from a housing wealth recovery affecting a vast number of American families.”

NAR President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I., said a very favorable affordability environment is a huge factor in the recovery. “Although job growth has been relatively modest and credit is tight, you can’t underestimate the impact of historically high housing affordability conditions,” he said.

“Mortgage interest rates recently hit record lows, median family income has edged up and prices in most areas have been stable following the correction from the housing boom. For people with good credit and long term plans, it’s hard to imagine a better opportunity than what we see today,” Phipps said. “Unfortunately the flow of credit is unnecessarily tight and is constraining the pace of the housing and job growth recoveries.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage was a record low 4.41 percent in the fourth quarter, down from 4.45 percent in the third quarter; it was 4.92 percent in the third quarter of 2009.

“The healthier local housing markets are also experiencing favorable local employment conditions,” Yun said. Job growth is a major factor in price appreciation in metro areas such as the Washington, D.C., region, where the median existing single-family home price of $331,100 in the fourth quarter is 8.1 percent higher than a year ago; the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy area, at $346,300, up 4.2 percent; and Austin-Round Rock, Texas, at $190,300, up 4.1 percent.

Smaller metro areas sometimes see larger swings in price measurement depending on the types of properties that are sold in a given period. In such markets, full year price data can provide additional context.

In the condo sector, metro area condominium and cooperative prices – covering changes in 57 metro areas – showed the national median existing-condo price was $164,200 in the fourth quarter, which is 6.4 percent below the fourth quarter of 2009. Twenty-two metros showed increases in the median condo price from a year ago and 35 areas had declines; only 11 metros saw annual price gains in fourth quarter of 2009.

“Consumers in the hard hit regions of Nevada, Arizona and Florida were able to scoop up condos at absolute bargain basement prices,” Yun said. Median condo/co-op prices in affected metro areas include Las Vegas-Paradise at $60,700, Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale with a fourth quarter median of $68,900, and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach at $81,900.

Regionally, the median existing single-family home price in the Northeast increased 2.3 percent to $240,400 in the fourth quarter from a year earlier. Existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 15.0 percent in the fourth quarter to a level of 797,000 but are 22.8 percent below the surge in the fourth quarter of 2009.

In the Midwest, the median existing single-family home price rose 0.5 percent to $139,200 in the fourth quarter from the same period in 2009. Existing-home sales in the Midwest jumped 18.3 percent in the fourth quarter to a pace of 1.02 million but are 25.4 percent below the cyclical peak one year ago.

In the South, the median existing single-family home price edged up 0.3 percent to $152,400 in the fourth quarter from the fourth quarter of 2009. Existing-home sales in the region rose 11.4 percent in the fourth quarter to an annual rate of 1.82 million but remain 17.8 percent below the surge in the fourth quarter of last year.

The median existing single-family home price in the West declined 2.9 percent to $214,400 in the fourth quarter from a year ago. Existing-home sales in the West jumped 19.9 percent in the fourth quarter to a level of 1.17 million but are 14.2 percent below the cyclical peak in the fourth quarter of 2009.

“A good portion of the sales activity in the West has been driven by investors taking advantage of discounted foreclosures, with high levels of all-cash transactions,” Yun explained.

The National Association of REALTORS®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.