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Numbers Count: Weekly mortgage data highlights

Stew Larsen
Posted by Stew Larsen
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: Home building gains

Construction worker hammering into the wood frame of a new house with blue sky and clouds in the background.Residential construction spending rose in October, according to Census data on private residential construction spending analyzed by the National Association of Home Builders. Single-family construction spending increased 1.8% in October, multifamily spending rose 1%, and home improvement spending increased 0.6% from revised September estimates. The association reported Dec. 2 that on a 3-month moving average basis, from October 2013, the annualized pace of total private residential construction spending (all three components combined) increased 1.3%. The association said growth in private residential construction spending matches market sentiment, which has been solidly positive.

What counts: A lack of inventory plagued many markets last spring and summer, so any increase in construction spending is welcome news for potential homebuyers. New home construction may give move-up buyers houses to move into, opening up existing homes for other buyers, including first-time homebuyers. Buyers who were discouraged by a lack of inventory last house hunting season may be surprised in coming months. My suggestions for those ready to buy: start looking at neighborhoods now, try to find a reputable real estate agent, and get your finances in order. That last suggestion should help improve your chances to get preapproved for a mortgage loan sooner rather than later.

The numbers: Slowing home appreciation

National home prices increased by 6.1% year-over-year in October, and by 0.5% month-over-month, according to CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index Report released Dec. 2. Including distressed sales, prices were still 12.4% below the peak in April 2006, and excluding distressed sales, prices were down 8.9% from peak levels.

“Home price growth is moderating as we head into the late fall and is currently running at half the pace it was in the spring of 2014,” said Sam Khater, deputy chief economist for CoreLogic. CoreLogic forecasts national home prices, including distressed sales, will rise 5.1% in the next 12 months.

What counts: Relatively stable home prices should be welcome news for prospective homebuyers. Slower appreciation may make real estate investing less appealing for speculators and investors, meaning potentially fewer bidders on homes that are on the market.

As I mentioned in a recent post, we are in an unusual period during which home prices have cooled, and mortgage rates have remained relatively low. Lower rates translate to lower monthly payments, which can help borrowers more readily qualify for a mortgage. For potential buyers who held off shopping because of rapid price appreciation, now may be the ideal time to start looking and get preapproved for a mortgage so you know how much you can comfortably afford.

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