Numbers Count: Latest housing snapshot looks bright

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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.

newhomes_cluster_cropThe numbers: The housing market continued to show strength in the fourth quarter of 2015, according to the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Fourth Quarter National Housing Market Summary released April 12. Construction starts for single-family homes rose to their highest level since 2007. Purchases of new single-family homes increased, although sales of existing homes declined. The supply of homes fell for both new and existing homes. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller and the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s repeat-sales house price indices showed annual house price appreciation in the fourth quarter stabilizing in the 5-percent range. And home affordability improved as falling mortgage rates and median home prices in the quarter combined with rising median family income.

What counts: If you want a quarterly snapshot of the national housing market, this is the report for you. There’s a lot to digest in this report. While every geography is unique, there are some national data points worth noting as this spring home-buying season picks up.

  • Housing inventory: tight. The historical average for months’ supply of homes on the market is about 6 months, according to the HUD report. Tip: Look for ways to strengthen your offer, such as increasing your down payment, avoiding contingencies, writing a letter to the seller to introduce yourself.
  • Prices: moderating. The days of double-digit price appreciation seem to be behind us, which may reduce a lot of the stress that comes with house hunting. While tight inventories make it hard to find the ideal house, at least potential buyers don’t have to worry about being priced out of the market before they ever even find a home they like. Tip: Try to relax, take your time to find the right house for you. Take a look at this article, by Angela Colley describing six types of homes first-time buyers may want to skip to potentially minimize buyers’ remorse.
  • Affordability: improving. This only makes sense if price appreciation moderates and average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage interest rates remain attractive below 4%. Tip: I know I just said, “Relax, take your time,” but don’t get too relaxed. Rates do remain very attractive on mortgages, and expectations among many economists are that interest rates will rise – albeit gradually – as the U.S. economy continues to grow. No need to panic, but keep in mind that as mortgage rates rise, that translates into a higher monthly payment and more money going toward interest over the life of a loan.


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