Some industry pundits are saying that the housing market may be heading for a slowdown. One of the data points they use is the falling numbers of the Housing Affordability Index, as reported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
Here is how NAR defines the index:
“The Housing Affordability Index measures whether or not a typical family earns enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a typical home at the national level based on the most recent price and income data.”
Basically, a value of 100 means a family earning the median income earns enough to qualify for a mortgage on a median priced home, based on the price and mortgage interest rates at the time. Anything above 100 means the family has more than enough to qualify.
The higher the index the easier it is to afford a home.
Why the concern?
The index has been declining over the last several years as home values increased. Some are concerned that too many buyers could be priced out of the market. Here is a snapshot of the index since 2009:
But, wait a minute…
Though the index has decreased over the last four years, we must realize that at that time there was an overabundance of housing inventory and as many as one out of three listings was a distressed property (foreclosure or short sale). All prices dropped dramatically and distressed properties sold at major discounts. Then, mortgage rates fell like a rock.
The market is recovering and values are coming back nicely. That has caused the index to fall.
However, let’s remove the crisis years and look at the current index as compared to the index from 1990 – 2008. We can see that, even though prices have increased, historically low mortgage rates have put the index in a better position than every year for the nineteen years prior to the crash.
The Housing Affordability Index is in great shape and should not be seen as a challenge to the real estate market’s continued recovery.
Many experts have been calling upon home builders to ramp up construction to help with the lack of existing inventory for sale. For the past two months, new home sales have surged, with July’s total coming in at the highest since October 2007.
The latest estimates from the US Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development show that sales in July were 31.3% higher than this time last year, and 12.4% higher than last month, at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 654,000.
Zillow’s Chief Economist, Svenja Gudell, echoed the reaction of some as she commented:
“July(‘s) new home sales data was a surprise, but a welcome one. For years, the market has been practically begging builders to both ramp up their efforts overall and to put more focus on serving the less expensive end of the market. Today's data confirms both are happening in earnest.”
“This rise in new home sales is consistent with our builders’ reports that market conditions have been improving. As existing home inventory remains flat, we should see more consumers turning to new construction.”
NAHB’s Chief Economist, Robert Dietz, believes this is just the start for new home sales if market conditions continue:
“July’s positive report shows there is a need for new single-family homes, buoyed by increased household formation, job gains and attractive mortgage rates. This uptick in demand should translate into increased housing production throughout 2016 and into next year.”
The existing home sales numbers for July will be released today and will shed more light on the overall health of the housing market.
New home sales hit their highest mark in over 9 years. Buyers are out in force to find a home that fits their needs. Many are turning to new construction, as the inventory of existing homes has not been able to keep up with demand.
In a recent post, CoreLogic looked at the correlation between stocks and the sales of upper-end properties ($1 Million+ sales price). The report revealed:
“The powerful ‘wealth effects’ generated by the rapid rise in equities between 2009 and 2015 drove a large rise in the sales of homes that sold for $1 million or more.
Historically, sales of homes priced $1 million or more averaged 1.2 percent of all home sales. The spread between high-end sales and equities widened during the housing bubble but then moved more closely in unison. By the time the equity markets had peaked in May 2015, the $1 million or more share of the market had nearly doubled, averaging 2.2 percent for the remainder of the year.”
This makes sense. As people see their wealth increasing, they feel more confident in their purchasing power. And, of course, that would also impact their decisions regarding real estate. The stock market dipped earlier this year and there was quite a bit of anecdotal evidence that the upper-end market was beginning to soften.
As we can see in the chart below, the market is again flourishing. That may rejuvenate the luxury market as we move through the rest of the year.
As we proceed through 2016 and enter 2017, the strength of the stock market will be a key factor in the strength of the luxury market. If the stock market falters, look for high-end sales to slow. If the market advances, as it has shown signs of doing most recently, the high-end market will advance.
The National Association of Realtors’ most recent Existing Home Sales Report revealed that home sales were up rather dramatically over last year in five of the six price ranges they measure.
Homes priced between $100-250K showed a modest increase at 3.4%. This not only points to the lower inventory of homes available for sale in this price range but also speaks to the overall strength of the housing market.
Sales of homes over $250,000 increased by double digit percentages with sales in the $750,000- $1 million range showing the largest increase, up 16.7%!
As prices in many markets continue to accelerate, it is no surprise to see the percentage of homes in the higher price ranges increasing.
Here is the breakdown:
What does that mean to you if you are selling?
Houses are definitely selling. If your house has been on the market for any length of time and has not yet sold, perhaps it is time to sit with your agent and see if it is priced appropriately to compete in today’s market.
No matter what shape or size your living space is, the concept and feeling of home can mean different things to different people. Whether it’s a certain scent or a favorite chair, the emotional reasons why we choose to buy our own home are, more often than not, the more powerful or compelling ones.
Every year, The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University conducts a survey to find driving factors behind why Americans decide to buy a home.
The top 4 reasons to own a home cited by participants of the survey were not financial.
1. It means having a good place to raise children & provide them with a good education
From the best neighborhoods to the best school districts, even those without children at the time of purchase may have this in the back of their mind as a major reason for choosing the location of the home that they purchase.
2. You have a physical structure where you & your family feel safe
It is no surprise that having a place to call home with the means for comfort and security is the number two reason.
3. It allows you to have more space for your family
Whether your family is expanding, or an older family member is moving in, having a home that fits your needs is a close third on the list.
4. It gives you control over what you do with your living space, like renovations and updates
Looking to actually try one of those complicated wall treatments that you saw on Pinterest? Tired of paying an additional pet deposit for your apartment building, or do you want to finally adopt that puppy or kitten you’ve seen online 100 times? Who’s to say that you can’t in your own home?
The 5th reason on the list, is the #1 financial reason to buy a home as seen by respondents:
5. Owning a home is a good way to build up wealth that can be passed along to my family
Either way you are paying a mortgage. Why not lock in your housing expense now with an investment that will build equity that you can borrow against in the future?
Whether you are a first time homebuyer or a move-up buyer who wants to start a new chapter in your life, now is a great time to reflect on the intangible factors that make a house a home.