Tuesday, November 27, 2012

National Home Prices (Finally) Recovering

The Mortgage Corner

Is the end of the housing bust in sight?  The Case-Shiller Home Price Index reported the fourth consecutive year-over-year (YoY) gain in their house price indexes since 2010 - and the increase back in 2010 was related to the housing tax credit. Excluding the tax credit, the previous YoY increase was back in 2006. The YoY increase in September suggests that house prices probably bottomed earlier this year.

And this is the slow time of year when families that have already moved to put their children in new school districts. It really means that those at the bottom of the housing bubble—Las Vegas (up 1.4 percent, 3.8 percent YoY), Phoenix (up 1.1 percent, 20.4 percent YoY), San Diego (up 1.4 percent, 4.1 percent YoY)—are finally seeing some relief from the worst economic slump since the Great Depression.


Graph: Calculated Risk

“Home prices rose in the third quarter, marking the sixth consecutive month of increasing prices,” says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “In September’s report all three headline composites and 17 of the 20 cities gained over their levels of a year ago. Month-over-month, 13 cities and both Composites posted positive monthly gains.”

The Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA) house price index posted also another monthly increase in September. This measure is up 4.4 percent YOY, a bigger YOY gain than the 3 percent rise in the Case-Shiller index. Also, the FHFA index is down just 16 percent from its peak, about half the cumulative decline in the Case-Shiller gauge. Most of the discrepancy reflects the fact that the FHFA index is much less affected by distress sales, since it covers only properties financed with conventional GSE mortgages (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), which have more stringent qualification guidelines.

This may be because of the continuing rise in consumer confidence. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence survey rose again with buying plans for homes a special positive, said the report. The consumer confidence index rose to a new recovery high of 73.7 in November from an upwardly revised 73.1 in October. Strength is centered in the expectations component which is up 1.1 points to 85.1. The present situation component is down one tenth to 56.6.


Graph: Econoday

A major reason for the increased confidence is a jump in those who expect to buy a house in the next six months. This is the latest indication of building momentum for the housing sector. Inflation expectations are another plus in the report, down two tenths for the 12-month outlook to 5.6 percent in what is a reflection of falling gas prices.

California is also doing well. I reported last week that Southern California home sales also rose sharply in October as move-up buyers joined investors, according to San Diego-based DataQuick, shifting the mix of homes selling upward as foreclosure resales hit a five-year low. Southern California's real estate market bucked the typical fall slowdown last month, with buyers snapping up pricier homes and sales roaring up 18 percent over the prior month.

Sales hit a three-year high for an October, rising 25 percent from the same month last year. The median sale price for a Southland house last month was $315,000, equal to September and up 17 percent from October 2011.

Harlan Green © 2012

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