Numbers Count: Weekly mortgage data highlights

Karen Mayfield
Posted by Karen Mayfield
Mortgage Banking

Numbers do count to us bankers and, more importantly, to prospective home buyers, sellers, and real estate professionals. Each week, I highlight some of the key data on the housing market and give my take on what counts.

Man in wheelchair looks on as green home is being builtThe numbers: Home building still soft

According to data released April 16 from HUD and the US Census Bureau, single-family housing starts rose 6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 635,000 units in March, and multifamily starts fell 6.1 percent to 292,000 units. Regionally, combined single- and multifamily housing production rose 30.7% in the Northeast and 65.5% in the Midwest, but fell 9.1% in the South and 4.5% in the West.

Meanwhile, builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes remains weak – rising one point to 47 in April from a March reading of 46 on the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) confidence index released April 15. A reading above 50 on the housing market index indicates more builders view conditions as good rather than poor, based on current sales, sales expectations for the next six months and prospective buyer traffic.

What counts: It looks like the tight inventory that has contributed to rising prices in many markets may be with us a while longer, meaning you may go through a competitive bidding process. Talk to your real estate agent about steps to present the strongest offer possible, such as reducing or eliminating contingencies on your offer and having a written commitment to lend from a mortgage lender.

Although the home builders’ overall index remains weak, more builders in the NAHB latest survey indicated they expect sales prospects to improve over the next six months. That’s good news longer term for inventory, but probably won’t provide relief during this year’s spring and summer peak home-buying seasons.

The numbers: Mortgage applications rise again

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey released April 16, mortgage  applications rose 4% last week from the prior week and mortgage rates fell. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) decreased to 4.47% from 4.5%, according to the survey. Average rates on jumbos, 15-year mortgages and adjustable rate mortgages also declined.

What counts: When interest rates fall, mortgage applications frequently pick up as prospective buyers lock in those more attractive rates. If you’re in the market for a home, you may want to keep tabs on movements in interest rates so you can lock in a better rate if rates drop, as they did last week. You can track interest rates on line or through email. Tools and alerts are provided by many lenders, including Bank of the West.


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