Real Estate News

What a difference a month makes. In September, homebuilder mood was in the doldrums, where it has been for most of the year. In October, that mood turned noticeably positive, with the homebuilder index jumping four points to 18 – the highest posting in nearly 18 months. There is still a long way to go before homebuilders approach the heady days of a few years ago, but at least the market is progressing. Builders began work on an annual rate of 658,000 houses in September, a 15-percent increase over August's starts and the most since April 2010. Much of the increased activity was centered on multifamily homes, which surged 51.3 percent. However, work on single-family homes also increased, 1.7 percent, to an annual rate of 425,000 units. The National Association of Home Builders, which compiles data for the homebuilder index, warns that builders face pricing pressure from foreclosed properties. The good news is that foreclosures appear less onerous than they did a year ago. At the same time, homebuilders are adding to supply at a record low rate. In other words, the economics of home building are much more encouraging than they were earlier in the year. The economics of the existing-home market continue to adhere to the recent past. Total inventory declined 2 percent to 3.48 million homes at the end of September, with the sales rate declining 3 percent to 4.91 million units. This came as no surprise; August's sales were exceptionally strong and a slight drop off in the sales pace was expected. Homes that were purchased over the past two months have been financed with mortgage rates that were prevalent during the youth of the purchaser's parents. In the past couple weeks, though, rates have been trending higher and are up around a quarter percentage point from where they were a fortnight ago. That said, mortgage financing is still a very good deal. But will mortgage financing become a better deal? Many in the industry think so. We are less sure, especially when factoring in growing price inflation. Overall producer prices are up nearly 7 percent this year, while the core rate, which excludes energy and food, is up 2.5 percent. On the consumer side, overall prices are up 3.9 percent, while core prices are up 2 percent. The Federal Reserve is trying to hold mortgage rates low by buying longer-term Treasury and mortgage-agency debt. Problem is, the market has been pushing back in recent weeks, as evinced by the spike in 10-year U.S. Treasury note yields. Bottom line, the falling mortgage-rate trend is much less a sure thing than it was a month ago.


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