Pending Home Sales Rise To 22-Month High

Pending Home Sales Index 2011-2012The housing market appears headed for a strong spring season.

After a brief setback in December, the Pending Home Sales Index resumed its climb in January, posting a 2 percent gain over the month prior.

The data puts pressure on Winter Park home buyers. This is because a “pending home” is a home that’s under contract to sell, but has not yet sold. It’s tracked by the National Association of REALTORS® and, among all housing statistics, it’s the only one that’s “forward-looking”.

The Pending Home Sales Index is important to home buyers throughout FL because 80% of homes under contract to sell close within 60 days of contract. In this way, the Pending Home Sales Index forecasts the housing market 1-2 months into the future.

This is very different from how NAR’s Existing Home Sales report works; or, how the Census Bureau’s New Home Sales report works. These two metrics tell us what’s already happened in housing.

By contrast, the Pending Home Sales Index tells us what’s coming next.

January’s Pending Home Sales Index reading lifts the monthly metric to its highest level since April 2010 — the month during which the 2010 federal home buyer tax credit expired — foreshadowing a strong housing market through March and April 2012, at least.

This should not be news, of course. The nation’s home builders have said “foot traffic” is rising and home supplies are scarce nationwide. The only wild-card for housing is the high contract cancellation rate.

As compared to last January when just 9 percent of home purchase contracts “failed”, this January saw 33 percent of contracts fail. High failure rates undermine the Pending Home Sales Index’s viability as a forward-looking housing market indicator.

Despite contract failures, though, the combination of low mortgage rates and low home prices is enticing to today’s home buyers. Expect home sales to climb in the coming weeks which will lead to a strong spring season for housing. 

New Home Supply Falls To 5.6 Months

New Home Supply 2010-2012

The new construction market rolls on.

As foreshadowed by February’s Homebuilder Confidence survey, which rose to a 4-year high, the Census Bureau reports new homes are selling more quickly than builders have built them, lowering the national “home supply” to levels not seen since 2006.

A “new home” is a home that is considered new construction and, at the current pace of sales, the nation’s entire new home inventory of 151,000 homes would be sold in 5.6 months.

Anything less than 6.0-month supply is thought to connote a “sellers’ market”.

321,000 new homes were sold last month on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. 7 of 10 new homes sold for less than $300,000. 

The South Region continues to account for the majority of new construction sales, posting a 59% market share in January. South Region sales were up 9 percent as compared to December. The other 3 regions turned in mixed results. 

  • Northeast Region : +11.1% from December 2011 
  • Midwest Region : -24.5% from December 2011 
  • West Region : -10.6% from December 2011 

Unfortunately, the Census Bureau’s New Home Sales data could be wrong.

Although New Home Sales were said to fall by about one percent nationally from December to January, the government’s monthly report was footnoted with a ±16.6% margin of error. This means that the actual New Home Sales reading may have been as high as +15%, or as low as -18%. 

Because the range of values includes positive and negative values, the January New Home Sales data is of “zero confidence”. However, that’s not to say that it should be ignored. The aforementioned homebuilder confidence survey shows builders optimistic for the future, and a bevy of home sale data since October 2011 suggests a market in recovery.

If you’re in the market for new construction in Orlando , therefore, consider going into contract sooner rather than later. Home prices remain low and mortgage rates do, too — a terrific combination for today’s buyers.

In a few months, the landscape may look different.

Existing Home Sales Climb To A 20-Month Record

Existing home supplyJanuary’s home resales moved to a 20-month high — additional evidence that the nation’s housing recovery is underway.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, the January 2012 Existing Home Sales showed 4.57 million units sold last month on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis — a 4 percent increase as compared to December’s revised figures.

An “existing home” is one that’s been previously occupied and cannot be categorized as new construction.

Beyond the headline numbers, though, there was plenty about which for today’s Winter Park home sellers to get excited. Demand for homes remains strong, foreshadowing higher home prices through 2012.

First, the national housing stock is at a 5-year low.

In January, the number of homes for sale nationwide slipped to 2.31 million, the smallest home inventory since February 2007, and a 21% decrease from just one year ago.

Falling home supply amid constant home demand leads home prices higher. At the current pace of sales, today’s complete home inventory would “sell out” in 6.1 months. 

Analysts say that a 6-month supply is a market in balance. Anything less is Bull Market territory.

Second, the National Association of REALTORS® says that one-third of all homes under contract “failed” last month. This means that many more buyers tried to buy, but couldn’t for a number of reasons including mortgage denials; or, insurmountable home inspections issues; or, homes appraising for less than the contract price.

As contract failures subside, Existing Home Sales are expected to rise even faster.

And, lastly, first-time buyers continue to power the home resale market. In January, 33% of all sales were made to first-time buyers, up four points from last year. This statistic suggests that renters are moving into homeownership, an important component in a sustained housing market recovery.  

Given high demand and shrinking supply, we should expect for home prices to rise in the coming months, if they haven’t already. Thankfully, mortgage rates remain near all-time lows.

Low mortgage rates make homes more affordable.

Foreclosure Filings Down 19 Percent In One Year

Foreclosures Per Capita January 2012 

Foreclosure filings fell 19 percent last month versus one year ago, says foreclosure-tracking firm RealtyTrac. It’s yet one more signal that the U.S. housing market may have already climbed off its bottom.

According to RealtyTrac, a “foreclosure filing” is any one of the following foreclosure-related events : (1) A default notice on a home; (2) A scheduled auction for a home; or, (3) A bank repossession of a home.

In looking at the January 2012 figures :

  • Default Notices were down 22% from January 2011
  • Scheduled Auctions were down 19% from January 2011
  • Bank Repossessions were down 15% from January 2011

On a monthly basis, however, the numbers weren’t so promising.

Default notices and scheduled auctions were mostly unchanged, but bank repossessions rose 8 percent. The rise in bank repossessions is likely because 2010’s robo-signing controversy has been rectified at the state and lender level.

This trend toward more bank-owned homes is expected to continue through 2012.

As in most months, January’s foreclosure activity was geographically concentrated. Nevada led the nation in Foreclosures Per Capita, followed closely by California. 13 states fared worse than the national average of 1 foreclosure per 624 households. 37 fared better.

The difference in foreclosure frequency among the two groupings was stark :

  • Top 13 Foreclosure States : 1 foreclosure per 435 households, on average
  • Bottom 37 Foreclosure States : 1 foreclosure per 5,101 households, on average

North Dakota had January’s lowest foreclosure rate nationwide. Just 1 in 63,500 homes was in some form of foreclosure in North Dakota last month.

As a first-time or seasoned buyer in Winter Park , foreclosed homes can be enticing. They’re plentiful and cheap. However, just because a foreclosed home can be bought for a “steal”, that doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. The process of buying a foreclosed homes is different from the process of buying a non-foreclosed home.

The contract-and-negotiation process may be different with a foreclosed property, and foreclosed homes are often sold “as-is”. This means the home you buy at auction could be run-down and defective to the point where it’s uninhabitable.

If you plan to buy a foreclosed home, therefore, have a real estate professional on your side. The internet can teach you much about how the Florida housing market works, but when it comes to writing contracts, you’ll want an experienced agent on your side.

Housing Starts Stay Strong; Building Permits Rise.

Single-family housing starts

The housing market has carried forward its year-end momentum. 

According to the Census Bureau, on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, January’s Single-Family Housing Starts crossed the half-million unit marker for the second straight month.

This hasn’t happened in close to 2 years and is the latest in a series of strong data that suggests the beleaguered housing market has turned a corner — both nationally and locally in Winter Park.  

Although single-family starts slipped 1 percent from December, January’s annualized 508,000 figure represents a 16% spike from January 2011 and is the second-highest reading since April 2010 — the last month of 2010’s federal home buyer tax credit program.

A “housing start” is a new home on which construction has started.

The strength of January’s Housing Starts data surprised Wall Street analysts and is partially responsible for Thursday’s unexpected mortgage rate spike. 

In hindsight, though, we should have seen this coming.

Earlier in the week, the National Association of Homebuilders announced that homebuilder confidence had climbed to its highest point since 2007 amid builder reports of rising sales volume and the most foot traffic from buyers in more than 4 years.

In addition, builders expect to sell more homes in 2012 than in 2011.

Builders are building and buyers are buying.

Meanwhile, as another sign of housing market strength, the Census Bureau reports that, in January, Building Permits moved to a multi-year high as well. Permits issued for single-family homes in January rose 1 percent from December, a statistic that suggests housing will continue its run through the spring season, at least.

86 percent of homes break ground within one month of permit issuance.

It’s a good time to be a home buyer. Mortgage rates and home prices are low. Housing market momentum, however, is building. If you’re on the fence about whether to buy a home , ask your real estate agent for additional market information.

The cost of home-ownership may never be as low as it is today.

Homebuilder Confidence Returns To Pre-Recession Levels

NAHB HMI index 2010-2012

New construction buyers in Winter Park , look out. The nation’s home builders are predicting a strong 2012 for new home sales. It may mean higher home prices as the spring buying season approaches.

For the sixth straight month, the National Association of Homebuilders reports that homebuilder confidence is on the rise. The Housing Market Index climbed four points to 29 in February, the index’s highest reading since May 2007.

The Housing Market Index is now up 8 points in 8 weeks. The last time that happened was June 2003, a month during which the U.S. economy was regaining its footing, much like this month. It’s noteworthy that June 2003 marked the start of a 4-year bull run in the stock market that took equities up 54%.

The NAHB’s Housing Market Index itself is actually a composite reading. It’s the end-result of three separate surveys sent to home builders monthly.

The association’s questions are basic :

  1. How are market conditions for the sale of new homes today?
  2. How are market conditions for the sale of new homes in 6 months?
  3. How is prospective buyer foot traffic?

In February, builders reported marked improvement across all three areas. Builders report that current home sales climbed 5 points; that sales expectations for the next 6 months climbed 5 points; and that buyer foot traffic climbed 1 point.

Most notable of all of the statistics, though, is that the nation’s home builders report that there are now twice as many buyers setting foot inside model units as compared to just 6 months ago.

This data is supported by the monthly New Home Sales report which shows rising sales and a shrinking new home inventory.

Because of this, today’s new home buyers throughout Florida  should expect fewer concessions from builders at the time of contract including fewer price breaks on a home and fewer free upgrades. Builders are optimistic for the future and, therefore, may be less willing to “make a deal”.  

This spring may mark the best time of year to buy a new home. 60 days forward, it may be too late.

Case-Shiller Index Says Detroit And Washington DC Lead The Market

Case-Shiller Annual Change November 2011

Standard & Poors released its November 2011 Case-Shiller Index this week. The index measures the change in home prices from month-to-month, and year-to-year, in select U.S. cities.

According to the data, for the second straight month, home values fell in 19 of the Case-Shiller Index’s 20 tracked markets. In addition, also for the second straight month, Phoenix, Arizona was the lone Case-Shiller-tracked city in which home values rose.

Overall, November’s Case-Shiller Index showed a 1 percent decrease in home values between October and November 2011, and a near-4 percent decrease between November 2010 and 2011, putting home values at roughly the same levels as 8 years ago. Don’t read too far into it, however.

The Case-Shiller Index, though widely-cited, remains widely-flawed.

As a buyer or seller , relying on the Case-Shiller Index for market research can lead you to improper conclusions. To understand the Case Shiller Index’s methodology is to understand why.

First, the Case-Shiller Index draws its data from a very limited geography.

There are more than 3,100 municipalities nationwide. The Case-Shiller Index tracks just 20 of them. And they’re not the 20 largest, either. Four of the Top 10 Most Populous U.S. Cities are excluded (Houston, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Jose) whereas Minneapolis and Tampa are not.

Minneapolis is the 48th largest city in the United States. Tampa is #55.

Next, when Case-Shiller Index gathers its data from its 20 cities, it only includes the home sale data of single-family, detached homes. This means that sales of condominiums and multi-unit homes are specifically excluded from the index. There are some cities — Chicago and New York, for example — where condominium sales represent a large percentage of the overall market.

The Case-Shiller Index ignores that.

And, lastly, when the Case-Shiller Index is published, it’s published on a 60-day delay. Its data is not “current”, therefore, and does little to tell buyers and sellers of Orlando and the country what’s happening in their home markets right this minute. Instead, the Case-Shiller Index tells us how the housing market looked two months ago.

If you’re active in the real estate market, either as a buyer or a seller, the Case-Shiller Index does you little good. For real-time data that actionable, speak to a real estate professional instead. It’s where you’ll find your best, most reliable and relevant information.

Supply Of New Homes At 6.1 Months Nationwide

New Home Supply 2010-2011

New Home Sales slowed into the New Year but the market for newly-built homes remains strong. For home buyers in FL and nationwide, December’s New Home Sales report is yet one more signal that the housing market recovery may be underway.

According to the Census Bureau, the number of new homes sold in December 2011 slipped 2 percent to 307,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis nationwide.

A “new home” is a home that is considered new construction; a home for which the buyer will be the first owner and tenant.

As compared to December 2010, last months’ sales volume fell seven percent. It’s a statistic that suggests housing market weakness. However, in looking at a different component of the New Home Sales report — the supply of homes for sale — we’re forced to reconsider.

At the current pace of sales, every new home for sale nationwide would be “sold” in a matter of 6.1 months. 

Economists believe that a 6.0-month supply defines a market in balance — anything quicker is termed a “seller’s market”. Statistics like that are enough to create urgency among today’s Winter Park home buyers. 

Unfortunately, the Census Bureau’s data may be wrong.

Although December’s New Home Sales report shows sales down 2 percent, the government’s data was published with a ±13.2% margin of error. This means that the actual New Home Sales figure may have been as low as -15.2 percent, or as high as +11.2 percent. And, because the range of possible values includes both positive and negative numbers, the Census Bureau had no choice but to assign its December data “Zero Confidence”.

It will be a few months before final revisions are made to December New Home Sales data. Until then, therefore, buyers should take cues from the market-at-large and the market-at-large hints at recovery. One example of this is homebuilders showing more confidence in their product than at any time in the last 5 years.

If your plans for 2012 call for buying new construction, therefore, consider using this lull to “make a deal”. As the year progresses, the great values in housing may be gone.

Pending Home Sales Index Posts Second Best Month Since April 2010

Pending Home Sales 2011

After 3 consecutive months of growth, the housing market appears to have eased a bit in December.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, December’s Pending Home Sales Index slipped 4 percent from the month prior. The index measures the number of homes under contract to sell nationwide, but not yet sold.

Despite falling below its benchmark “100 value”, December’s Pending Home Sales Index is the reading’s second-highest value since April 2010 — the last month of last year’s home buyer tax credit program.

In other words, the housing market continues to show signs of improvement, propelled by low home prices and the cheapest mortgage rates of all-time.

Freddie Mac’s mortgage rate survey put the 30-year fixed rate mortgage at an average of 3.96% in December — a 75-basis point improvement from December 2010. This helps to make homes more affordable nationwide.

On a regional basis, December’s Pending Home Sales Index varied :

  • Northeast Region: -3.1 percent from November 2011
  • Midwest Region : +4.0 percent from November 2011 
  • South Region : -2.6 percent from November 2011
  • West Region : -11.0 percent from November 2011

But even regional data is only so helpful. Like everything in real estate, data must be local to be relevant.

Throughout the West Region, for example, the U.S. region in which pending home sales fell the most, several states must have performed better than the regional average. And, undoubtedly, there were cities, towns, and neighborhoods that experienced marked market growth.

Unfortunately, the Pending Home Sales Index can’t capture that data. Nor can it identify the markets in which home sales suffered.

For today’s Winter Park home buyers and sellers, therefore, it’s important to understand your local market and the drivers of local activity. Reports like the Pending Home Sales Index can paint a broad picture U.S. housing but for data that matters to you, you’ll want to look local.

For local real estate data, talk to an experienced real estate professional.

Existing Home Sales Approach Bull Market Territory

Existing Home Supply 2011The housing market finished 2011 with strength, and is carrying measurable momentum into 2012. 

According to data from the National Association of REALTORS®, on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, December’s Existing Home Sales climbed by 120,00 units overall from the month prior on its way to an 11-month high.

An “existing home” is a home that’s been previously occupied; that cannot be considered new construction.

After 4.61 million existing homes were sold in December, there are now just 2.38 million homes for sale nationwide. The last time the national home supply was this sparse was March 2005.

At today’s sales pace, the complete, national home inventory would be exhausted in 6.2 months — the fastest pace since before the recession. A 6.0-month supply is believed to represent a market in balance. 

The December Existing Home Sales report contained noteworthy foreclosure and short sale statistics, too :

  • Foreclosures sold at an average discount of 22% to market value
  • Short sales sold at an average discount of 13% to market value
  • Together, foreclosures and short sales accounted for 32% of all home sales

Clearly, “distressed homes” remain a large part of the U.S. housing market.

Furthermore, in its report, the real estate trade group also noted that one-third of homes under contract to sell nationwide succumbed to contract failure last month. That’s up from 9% one year ago.

Contract failure occurs for a multitude of reasons, most notably homes appraising for less than the purchase price; the buyer’s failure to achieve a mortgage approval; and, insurmountable home inspection issues. December’s high failure rate underscores the importance of getting pre-approved as a buyer, and of buying homes in “good condition”.

For today’s home buyer in Orlando , December’s Existing Home Sales figures may be construed as a “buy signal”. Home supplies are dropping and buyer demand is rising. This is the basic recipe for higher home prices ahead.

If your 2012 plans call for buying a home, consider that home values throughout FL are expected to rise as the year progresses. The best values of the year may be the ones secured this winter.

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