Archive June 30, 2020

Pending Home Sales Notch Record-Setting 44.3% Monthly Increase in May

 Pending home sales mounted a record comeback in May, seeing encouraging contract activity after two previous months of declines brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Every major region recorded an increase in month-over-month pending home sales transactions, while the South also experienced a year-over-year increase in pending transactions.

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI),* www.nar.realtor/pending-home-sales, a forward-looking indicator of home sales based on contract signings, rose 44.3% to 99.6 in May, chronicling the highest month-over-month gain in the index since NAR started this series in January 2001. Year-over-year, contract signings fell 5.1%. An index of 100 is equal to the level of contract activity in 2001.

“This has been a spectacular recovery for contract signings, and goes to show the resiliency of American consumers and their evergreen desire for homeownership,†said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “This bounce back also speaks to how the housing sector could lead the way for a broader economic recovery.â€

“More listings are continuously appearing as the economy reopens, helping with inventory choices,†Yun said. “Still, more home construction is needed to counter the persistent underproduction of homes over the past decade.â€

According to data from realtor.com®, among the largest metro areas, active listings were up by more than 10% in May compared to April in several metro areas, including Urban Honolulu, Hawaii; San Francisco, Calif.; San Jose, Calif.; Denver, Colo.; and Colorado Springs, Colo.

“The outlook has significantly improved, as new home sales are expected to be higher this year than last, and annual existing-home sales are now projected to be down by less than 10% – even after missing the spring buying season due to the pandemic lockdown,†Yun said.

NAR now expects existing-home sales to reach 4.93 million units in 2020 and new home sales to hit 690,000. “All figures light up in 2021 with positive GDP, employment, housing starts and home sales.†Yun noted that in 2021, sales are forecast to rise to 5.35 million units for existing homes and 800,000 for new homes.

May Pending Home Sales Regional Breakdown

The month of May saw each of the four regional indices rise on a month-over-month basis after all were down in April 2020.

The Northeast PHSI grew 44.4% to 61.5 in May, although it was still down 33.2% from a year ago. In the Midwest, the index rose 37.2% to 98.8 last month, down 1.4% from May 2019.

Pending home sales in the South increased 43.3% to an index of 125.5 in May, up 1.9% from May 2019. The index in the West jumped 56.2% in May to 89.2, down 2.5% from a year ago.

The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.4 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

*The Pending Home Sales Index is a leading indicator for the housing sector, based on pending sales of existing homes. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed but the transaction has not closed, though the sale usually is finalized within one or two months of signing. The index is based on a large national sample, typically representing about 20% of transactions for existing-home sales. In developing the model for the index, it was demonstrated that the level of monthly sales contract activity parallels the level of closed existing-home sales in the following two months.

An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year to be examined. By coincidence, the volume of existing-home sales in 2001 fell within the range of 5.0 to 5.5 million, which is considered normal for the current U.S. population.

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Key Housing Indicators Begin to Turn Around in May

  • National inventory declined by 19.9 percent year-over-year, and inventory in large markets decreased by 21.9 percent.
  • The inventory of newly listed properties declined by 29.4 percent over the past year, and 28.6 percent in large markets
  • The May national median listing price was $330,000, up 1.6 percent year-over-year.
  • Nationally, homes sold in 71 days in May, 15 days more slowly than last year

Realtor.com®’s May housing data release reveals that the U.S. housing market likely reached its low point during mid-April, with constrained new listings and minimal price growth. Signs of recovery emerged, as yearly declines in newly listed inventory slowed and listing prices recovered. However, despite many positive trends, COVID-related challenges linger, as homes were on the market more than two weeks longer than this time last year. 

For-Sale Homes Still in Short Supply, but New Listings Trend Improves

The total number of homes available for sale continued to be constrained in May. Nationally, inventory decreased 19.9 percent year-over-year, a faster rate of decline compared to the 15.3 percent year-over-year drop in April. This amounted to a loss of 255,000 listings compared to May of last year. The volume of newly listed properties in May decreased by 29.4 percent since last year. While still well below last year’s levels, the rate of decline in newly listed properties has improved from a decline of 44.1 percent year-over-year in April, signaling that sellers are starting to return to the marketplace, which is needed to restore inventory levels to healthy market conditions 

Housing inventory in the 50 largest U.S. metros declined by 21.9 percent year-over-year in May. This is an acceleration compared to the 16.0 percent year-over-year decline in April. The metros which saw the biggest declines in inventory were typically those hardest hit by COVID-19, such as Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD (-38.6 percent); Providence-Warwick, RI-MA (-35.8%); and Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD (-34.5%). This month, none of the largest 50 metros saw an inventory increase on a year-over-year basis and 43 out of 50 saw greater inventory declines than last month. However, 45 out of the 50 markets saw the yearly decline in newly listed properties improve somewhat since last month.

COVID-19 Extends Days on Market

Homes continue to sell more slowly than last year due to stay at home orders and modified behavior resulting from COVID-19. Nationally, the typical home sold in 71 days in May, 15 days more slowly than May of last year. In the 50 largest U.S. metros, the typical home spent 58 days on the market, and homes sold 13 days more slowly, on average, compared to last May. Last month, the increase in time spent on market was more apparent in the 50 largest metros. This month, it appears that the nation’s largest metros have improved relative to the national rate. Among the larger metropolitan areas, homes saw the greatest increase in time spent on the market in Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY (+34 days); Pittsburgh, PA (+33 days); and Detroit-Warren-Dearborn-MI (+32 days); among other areas that have been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19.

Listing Prices Hit New Highs Despite COVID-19

The median national home listing price grew by 1.6 percent year-over-year, to a new high of $330,000 in May. This is a re-acceleration from the 0.6 percent year-over-year growth seen in April. Movements in the median listing price continue to be partly driven by a change in the mix of inventory. This month, the share of more expensive properties on the market recovered and increased compared to last month. Moreover, our weekly data shows the year-over-year change in the median listing price growing by as much as 3.1 percent year-over-year in the week ending May 30th. The nation’s median listing price per square foot grew by 5.4 percent year-over-year, an acceleration from the 4.0 percent growth seen last month.  

Within the nation’s largest metros, median listing price growth also accelerated compared to last month. Listing prices in the largest metros grew by an average of 3.3 percent last year, an acceleration from the 1.6 percent year-over-year gain seen last month. Of the largest 50 metros, now 35 saw year-over-year gains in median listing prices, up from 30 last month. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA (+14.9%), Pittsburgh, PA (+14.0 percent); and Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN (+12.1%); posted the highest year-over-year median list price growth in May. The steepest price declines were seen in Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI (-3.4 percent); San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX (-3.2 percent); and Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA (-3.1 percent). 

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Mortgage Rates hit another all-time LOW

The average U.S. rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage dropped to 3.15% last week. It is the lowest ever recorded in a Freddie Mac data series that goes back almost five decades.

The rate fell from 3.24% last week, setting a new record low for the third time in three months, according to the report.

Mortgage rates have fallen after the Federal Reserve began buying mortgage-backed securities to stimulate demand, said Chris Low, chief economist of FHN Financial in New York. The Fed has purchased more than half a trillion dollars of MBS after restarting in March a bond-buying program it used during the financial crisis more than a decade ago.

When the initial plan of buying $200 billion of MBS didn’t lower financing costs, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said on March 23 the central bank would buy whatever was needed to move rates. It worked.

“The Fed is by far the biggest player in the mortgage markets right now, the biggest buyer of mortgages, and because of that, they have almost complete control over the interest rate,” Low said.

That means the central bank has the ability to stimulate home sales by driving rates to lows that most people wouldn’t have thought possible a few years ago, said Low.

“Every economist had doubts about how housing would fare during COVID-19, but what we’ve seen has been absolutely remarkable,” Low said. “Home sales are holding up extraordinarily well, and that’s in large part because of the mortgage rates.”

Last week, applications for mortgages to purchase homes gained for the sixth consecutive week to a level that was 6.7% higher than a year ago, when the U.S. was having a normal “spring homebuying season”.

A seasonally adjusted index measuring purchase applications jumped 9%, the Mortgage Bankers Association said in a report on Wednesday. The so-called purchase apps were up 54% from early April when most U.S. states were under lockdown orders to keep people at home in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.

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