For August, 2013

Is the Housing Recovery Still On Track?


New housing data released Tuesday could give prospective home buyers the motivation to make a bid on that home or condo they’ve been eyeing. Home prices in the 20 cities tracked by the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index rose 12.1% in June versus the same month in 2012. In May prices jumped 12.2%, the biggest increase since March 2006.

Prices in Denver and Dallas reached new all-time highs in June but property values for all of the 20 cities included in the index posted monthly and annual gains.

Home buyers in particular are feeling a “sense of immediacy” to purchase homes before prices and mortgage rates rise even more. Mortgage rates are still hovering near record lows but have been steadily climbing higher. Last week the average rate on a 30-year mortgage touched a two-year high of 4.58%, up from 3.35% in early May according to Freddie Mac ( Rates History ).

The housing market’s momentum will continue despite rising prices and a decline in new home sales.

The Commerce Department announced this week that new home sales in July fell 13.4% — the lowest level in nine months.

If Home Sales Can Handle Higher Rates, So Can the Fed


“Existing Home Sales Spike in July,” blares the headline from the National Association of Realtors. The organization’s enthusiasm is understandable as the latest data shows the pace of home buying in July not only came in better than expected and at the best level since November 2009, but more importantly rose in the face of sharply higher borrowing costs.

Beyond the 17% annual gain in sales, the NAR also reports that the median price for used homes rose nearly 14% to to $213,500, marking the 17th consecutive month of annualized gains, and leaves the benchmark just 7% shy of its all-time high set in July 2006.

In the wake of this evidence, and the certainty that the Fed will soon began to reel in its $1 trillion annual asset purchase program (perhaps as early as next month), a huge obstacle in the way of higher interest rates has just been moved.

To be fair, as strong as the July housing data was, even the NAR says the unexpected jump may have been partly due to people who were finally motivated to jump off the sidelines and act.

US homebuilder confidence nears 8-year high


Confidence among U.S. homebuilders is at its highest level in nearly 8 years, fueled by optimism that demand for new homes will drive sales growth into next year.

The brighter sales outlook is the latest sign pointing to a sustained pickup in construction in coming months and comes as applications for permits to build single-family houses are at a 5 year high.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Thursday jumped to 59 this month from 56 in July. It was the fourth consecutive monthly gain.

Steady hiring, rising home prices and still-low mortgage rates are encouraging more people to buy homes. New-home sales jumped 8.3% in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 497,000, the fastest pace in 5 years.

Applications for permits to build single-family homes rose for the third straight month in June to 624,000, the highest since May 2008. That suggests home construction should rebound in the coming months.

Many of the large, publicly traded homebuilders have been reporting sharp growth in completed sales and new-home orders this year. And sales for privately held U.S. homebuilders are up 18% over the past year, according to data provider Sageworks Inc.

On a regional basis, confidence grew in the West, Midwest and South, but was unchanged among builders in the Northeast.

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