Numbers Count: Weekly mortgage data highlights

Wendy Cutrufelli
Posted by Wendy Cutrufelli
Mortgage Banking

Numbers count. They matter to bankers and to prospective homebuyers, sellers, and real estate professionals. Here’s my take on the key numbers on the housing market this week.

The numbers: Homebuyers are cautious

Rear view of man and woman's heads as they look on a tablet at a dream house.Concerns about the direction of the economy and household income appear to be holding back housing demand, according to Fannie Mae’s National Housing Survey for May released June 9. In other survey findings, 49% of respondents thought it would be easy for them to get a home mortgage today, rising 4% from last month. Those who say it is a good time to sell a house increased to 43%, a new all-time survey high.

What counts: Contrary to the caution expressed in Fannie Mae’s survey, our Chief Economist Scott Anderson is pretty bullish on the economy. In his U.S. Outlook last week, he wrote, “Recent economic data suggests the U.S. economy is shifting into a higher gear in the second quarter.” If he’s right — as he is frequently — that may bode well for the housing market and encourage more buying activity.

I think it is also encouraging that the percentage of respondents who say it is a good time to sell is at an all-time high, and almost half of respondents thought it would be easy to get a mortgage. That perception is consistent with data showing lenders generally are easing credit terms and increasing the availability of mortgage credit.

The numbers: Regaining equity

In the first quarter, 312,000 homes returned to positive equity, according to the latest home equity data released June 5 by CoreLogic. Residential properties with negative equity represented just under 13% of all residential properties with a mortgage in the first quarter, compared to 20% a year ago.

What counts: Equity in our homes is a very important aspect of any homeowner’s financial health. For many of us, our home is our largest asset, so we want it to appreciate over the years. Importantly, positive equity also gives you some financial flexibility that you may not have if you are underwater — owing more than you property is worth. With positive equity, you may be able to refinance your mortgage to seek a lower interest rate. You may also potentially be able to refinance to withdraw cash for home improvements, to consolidate other debts, or to pay expenses, such as a college education.

If you believe you’ve gone from negative to positive equity in your home, consider talking to a mortgage lender to see what options you might have. Just remember a refinancing will be contingent upon the property appraisal, as well as you qualifying, of course, for the new loan.

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