Monday, January 9, 2017

Real Estate In 2017—Good Time To Buy?

 The Mortgage Corner

Surging mortgage rates, dwindling inventory, and soaring home prices are taking a toll on Americans’ attitudes toward ownership, according to a home purchase sentiment survey released Monday. But that may be misleading, as mortgage rates have barely budged from post-WWII lows. And the construction industry and homebuilders’ sentiments are soaring, which means many more new homes will be coming into the housing market.

December 2016 Index
Change since last month Change since last year
Good time to buy 32 +2 -3
Good time to sell 13 0 +5
Home prices will go up 35 0 -5
Mortgage rates will go down -55 -4 -3
Confidence about not losing job 68 +4 -4
Household income is significantly higher 10 -5 -5
Overall index 80.7 -0.5 -2.5

The home purchase sentiment index compiled by mortgage finance provider Fannie Mae fell in December, its fifth straight monthly decline. Fannie’s index has six components. In December, two were lower compared to November, two were unchanged, and two increased. The increases were because respondents were more confident about not losing their jobs, and thought it a better time to buy. The biggest negative was their belief interest rates would rise this year. But it may be a small rise due to market uncertainties. Stocks are already oversold and interest rates still at historic lows, as I’ve said.

Construction had been lagging through most of 2016 but, like the factory sector (i.e, auto sales ended 2016 at record high of 18.5 million sold vehicles), appears to have picked up steam going into year-end, says Econoday. Spending rose 0.9 percent in November and is now up 4.1 percent annually. And non-residential construction’s boost is particularly heartening with its emphasis on infrastructure projects, up 0.9 percent with most categories showing gains led by office construction and transportation construction. Public spending was also solid including a 3.1 percent monthly jump in Federal spending (which boosts public infrastructure spending).

Residential spending rose 1.0 percent in the month on top of October's 1.6 percent gain. The gain here is concentrated in single-family homes which offset a monthly dip for multi-family units which otherwise have been leading the residential sector. Home improvements added to the spending in November.

The 30-year fixed conforming mortgage rate quoted by Fannie Mae is back down to 3.75 percent for one origination point. And what with the future uncertainty of the stock market (with indexes already at historic highs), much of the excess savings will remain in bonds, the major determinate of mortgage rates.

That is, unless worldwide growth picks up. But that won’t happen if Trump carries out his promise of trade wars to promote American workers first. That promise may be difficult to carry out, however, since his Republican colleagues have historically been free-traders.

Harlan Green © 2016

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