Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mortgage Matters....Another UPWARD Moment

Keeping you updated on the market! For the week of 
February 11, 2013


2013 is coalescing nicely to become the year of residential real estate, and this past week's data further buttresses that conclusion.

For instance, Fannie Mae polled 1,000 Americans and their responses point to a bullish outlook for housing. Waning concerns over job losses among those polled was particularly encouraging. This really shouldn't come as a surprise. Payroll growth has trended significantly higher over the past few months.

In fact, payroll growth has picked up momentum, increasing by 157,000 jobs in January, following a gain of 196,000 jobs in December (which was revised from 155,000) and an increase of 247,000 jobs in November (revised from 161,000). The upward revisions in payrolls indicate that job growth has been stronger than earlier believed.

The more jobs created, the more interest we will see in home-ownership. Forty-three percent of Fannie Mae's respondents see their financial situation improving this year, which is, no doubt, a significant reason the percentage of people, 65%, still value home-ownership.

We never bought the chatter circulating media outlets a couple years age that home-ownership was becoming blasé. In fact, Redfin, an online listing service, reports that more of us are acting on our desire to own a home. Redfin finds that th e number of customers writing offers soared 70% between December and January, while those requesting tours increased 57.9%.

Should the upward trend in demand continue (and we think it will), the market will soon switch to favoring sellers over buyers. In many markets, the switch has already occurred. Increased home-buyer demand, paired with a nationwide inventory shortage, has created an extreme seller’s market in many metropolitan areas.

That said, we expect many of the issues surrounding inventory shortages to abate; rising prices will undoubtedly draw more inventory into the market. More inventory and rising prices point to robust home sales volumes in the second half of the year.

Speaking of rising prices, the latest home-price data from CoreLogic show home prices nationally increased 8.3% year-over-year in December, which represents the biggest year-over-year increase since May 2006 and the 10th-consecutive monthly increase in home prices nationally.

Data from Trulia are also indicative of a relentless rise in home prices. Trulia reports asking prices rose 0.3% quarter-over-quarter in January, despite the fact that prices typically fall during the winter. When looking at monthly data, Trulia reports asking prices rose 0.9% for the month, which is the highest monthly gain since the price recovery began.

So things are looking up for housing. They are also looking up for the mortgage market, which has seen lending rates rise almost every weeks since the beginning of the year (and actually since late November).
The good news is that rising rates haven't taken the steam out of refinance and purchase activity – both of which continue to trend higher. We're not surprised activity hasn't slowed; the economy has supplanted low mortgage rates as the key driver in the housing recovery.

Date and Time
Mortgage Applications
Wed., Feb. 13,
7:00 am, ET
Important. Activity in purchase applications points to a strong spring selling season.
Retail Sales
Wed., Feb. 13,
8:30 am, ET
0.1% (Decrease)
Moderately Important. The long-term sales trend reflects sustained economic growth.
Import Prices
Wed., Feb. 13,
8:30 am, ET
0.8% (Increase)
Important. Rising energy prices could lead to higher producer and consumer price inflation.
Industrial Production
Fri., Feb. 15,
9:15 am, ET
0.3% (Increase)
Important. Increased manufacturing activity is another sign of sustained economic growth.

Another Consequence of Rising Lending Rates

We've written frequently on the reasons we think the market should not fear a rising lending-rate environment. The principal reason is that rising rates will likely come tethered to rising economic activity and job growth. The indicators so far this year lend credence to our hypothesis.

Rising rates also appear to be making more lenders less risk adverse. We say that because the Federal Reserve reports that more banks have eased lending standards across the major loan categories (and that includes mortgages) over the past three months. Yes, lending standards are still tight, but they are becoming less so.

Again, this shouldn't come as a surprise: Lenders need to calibrate the interest rate they charge for a loan and the risk embedded in the loan. To be sure, borrowers like very low interest rates, but when interest rates are very low, there is less incentive for lenders to extend credit because they're not being adequately compensated for risk.

Rising rates are frequently indicative of a stronger economy and more lending opportunities, which is why rising rates shouldn't be feared. On the other hand, rising rates mean rising borrowing costs, which is why clients should be fearful of remaining on the sideline.

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