Posts filed under ‘Census Bureau’

New Home Sales Revised Higher In February; Slip 7% In March

New Home Sales 2011-2012Sales of new homes ticked lower in March, unexpectedly.

Based on Census Bureau data, the number of new, single-family homes sold in March slipped 7 percent from February — the largest one-month drop in more than a year. 

On a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, buyers in Michigan and nationwide purchased 328,000 newly-built homes last month. The decrease in sales from February to March can be attributed, in part, though, to a massive upward revision in February’s figures.

Last month, the Census Bureau had reported 313,000 new home sales in February on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. This month, those sales were re-measured to be 353,000 — an increase of 13 percent.

January’s sales were revised higher, too.

The long-term trend in the market for new homes remains “up”. This is no more apparent than when we look at the available new home inventory.

At the close of March, just 144,000 new homes were available for purchase, down 2,000 from the month prior and representing the most sparse new home housing supply since at least 1993, the year that the Census Bureau starting tracking such data. 

At the current pace of sales, the new home housing stock would be sold out in 5.3 months. A six-month supply is believed to represent a market in balance.

For new home buyers in Lansing , March’s New Home Sales report does not represent a housing market pull-back. It may represent opportunity, however.

From October 2011 to February 2012, housing data was uniformly strong. Home sales were higher, home supplies were lower, and confidence was rising. In March, it was the reverse. This is normal because growth is rarely linear. 

In any market, it’s a few steps forward and a single step back, and housing is likely showing a similar pattern. With mortgage rates still low and builder confidence down, it’s a terrific time to shop new construction.

There are deals to be found for buyers who seek them out. 

April 25, 2012 at 8:50 am Leave a comment

Single-Family Housing Starts Slip 0.2% In March

Housing Starts Tuesday, the government released its March 2012 New Residential Construction report. 

The report is made up of three sections, each related to a phase of the “new home” market. The report’s first part is Building Permits; the second is Housing Starts; the third is Housing Completions.

Of the three sections, it’s Housing Starts that gets the most attention from the press — mostly because, of the triad, it’s the simplest for a layperson to understand. However, the manner in which Housing Starts data is reported can be misleading.

Today’s newspapers offer up an excellent example.

According to the Census Bureau, total Housing Starts fell by 6% in March as compared to the month prior. 654,000 units were started on a seasonally-adjusted annualized basis.

For Housing Starts, it’s the lowest reading in 5 months, a statistic suggesting that the housing market may have lost some momentum. Much of the press covered the story from a “housing is slowing” angle.

A few published headlines include : 

Although these headlines are accurate, they tell just half of the story.

Housing Starts did drop in March, but if we remove a subset of the data — structures with “5 or more units”; a grouping that includes condominiums and apartment buildings — we’re left with Housing Starts for single-family residences only. It’s this data that matters most to buyers in Lansing and nationwide. 

Few home buyers buy entire apartment buildings. Most buy single-family homes. 

In March, single-family Housing Starts were down 0.2% from the month prior, or just 1,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis.

That’s hardly a drop at all.

April 18, 2012 at 8:49 am Leave a comment

New Home Sales Slip In February

New Home SalesSales of “new homes” fell to the lowest levels in four months last month.

According to the Census Bureau’s monthly New Home Sales report, 313,000 new homes were sold in February 2012 on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, representing a 1.6% drop from the month prior.

A “new home” is a home for which there has been no prior owner nor tenant.

At first glance, the data looks negative for the housing market; a suggestion that the well-publicized housing market recovery may be slowed. However, within February’s New Home Sales report are three important counter-statistics worth mentioning.

First, although annualized home sales volume slipped 5,000 units in February, this occurred as the number of homes for sale nationwide remained constant at 150,000. This is the fewest number of new homes for sale since at least 1993 — the first year that the Census Bureau tracked such data.

A small home supply promotes rising home values when buyer demand is rising and, in February, buyer demand held firm.

A second reason to remain optimistic on housing is that New Home Supply was 5.8 months in February. This means that, at the current pace of sales, the entire new home inventory will be “sold out” in 5.8 months.

Housing experts say that when home supplies fall below 6.0 months, it’s bullish for housing.

And, as a third reason to look past the New Home Sales headline figure, last month’s reporting Margin of Error was huge.

According to the government, the February New Home Sales data was published with a ±23.9% margin of error. This means that the actual New Home Sales sales volume may have dropped as much as -25.5%, or may have climbed by as much as +22.3%. 

Because the range of possible values includes both positive and negative numbers, the Census Bureau assigned its February data the “zero confidence” label.

It will be several months before February’s New Home Sales data is revised. Until then, buyers in East Lansing would do well to take cues from the real estate market-at-large which shows steady, gradual improvement. 

If your 2012 housing plans call for buying new construction, consider using February’s results as a window to “make a deal”. As the year progresses, great values in housing may be gone for good.

March 27, 2012 at 8:49 am Leave a comment

Building Permits On The Rise

Building PermitsThe new construction housing market appears primed for growth this season.

According to the Census Bureau, the number of single-family building permits issued in February rose to 472,000 on a seasonally-adjusted, annual basis, marking the highest building permit tally since April 2010 — the last month of that year’s federal home buyer tax credit program.

Building permits are a pre-cursor to new home construction.

In 2011, from the date of permit-issuance to the date of “ground-breaking”, an average of 27 calendar days passed. February’s data, therefore, is a signal that the market for newly-built homes should be strong this year, an idea supported by the most recent homebuilder confidence survey.

As buyer foot traffic soars, homebuilders expect to make more sales in the next 6 months than at any time since the housing market’s collapse. Builder confidence is at a 5-year high.

Last month, however, single-family housing starts slipped.

As compared to January, February’s single-family housing starts fell by 50,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. The 10% drop represents the largest one-month drop since February 2011. It’s a statistic that may suggest that this year’s results are simply seasonal.

For buyers of new construction, the news is mixed.

Rising permits and builder confidence may mean that Lansing homebuilders will be less willing to negotiate with today’s buyer on upgrades and/or home prices. However, as more new home supply is set to come online, excess housing stock could help keep home prices low. 

If you’re planning to buy new construction in Michigan this year, be sure to ask your real estate agent about the local home supply, and how the market is currently trending. With mortgage rates low and the summer buying season approaching, you may find some of your best deals of the year available in just the next few weeks.

March 23, 2012 at 8:53 am Leave a comment

Mortgage Rates Climb Sharply After Retail Sales Report

Retail Sales 2010-2012The U.S. economy is expanding, fueled by a renewed consumer optimism and increased consumer spending.

As reported by the Census Bureau, Retail Sales in February, excluding cars and auto parts, rose 1 percent to $335 billion as 11 of 13 retail sectors showed improvement last month.

February markets the 19th time in twenty months that U.S. Retail Sales increased on a month-over-month basis.

Unfortunately, what’s good for the economy may be bad for East Lansing home buyers and mortgage rate shoppers. Home affordability is expected to worsen as the U.S. economy improves.

The connection between Retail Sales and home affordability is indirect, but noteworthy — especially given today’s broader market conditions.

First, let’s talk about affordability.

Last week, the National Association of REALTORS® released its monthly Housing Affordability Index, showing that homes are more affordable to everyday home buyers than at any time in recorded history. For buyers with median earnings buying median-priced homes, monthly payments now comprise just 12.1% of the monthly household income.

The real estate trade group considers 25% to be the benchmark for home affordability. Today’s payment levels are less than half of that.

The reasons why today’s homes are so affordable are three-fold :

  1. Home prices remain relatively low as compared to peak pricing
  2. Fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgage rates remain near all-time lows
  3. Average earnings are increasing nationwide

Rising Retail Sales, however, can derail the trend. This is because Retail Sales measures consumer spending and consumer spending accounts for roughly 70 percent of the U.S. economy. As the economy expands, the forces that combined to raise home affordability so high begin to wane. 

First, in a recovering economy, mortgage rates tend to rise and, throughout 2012 and 2013, home prices are expected do the same. Second, as average earnings increase, it can spur inflation which is bad for mortgage rates, too. 

Home affordability is at all-time highs today. But, in part because of February’s Retail Sales data, we should not expect these levels to last. Mortgage rates are higher by 1/4 percent since the Retail Sales data was released — roughly $16 per $100,000 borrowed — and are expected to rise more throughout the spring home purchase season.

Retail Sales are up 6 percent from a year ago.

March 15, 2012 at 8:47 am Leave a comment

New Home Supply Falls To 5.6 Months

New Home Supply 2010-2012

The new construction market rolls on.

As foreshadowed by February’s Homebuilder Confidence survey, which rose to a 4-year high, the Census Bureau reports new homes are selling more quickly than builders have built them, lowering the national “home supply” to levels not seen since 2006.

A “new home” is a home that is considered new construction and, at the current pace of sales, the nation’s entire new home inventory of 151,000 homes would be sold in 5.6 months.

Anything less than 6.0-month supply is thought to connote a “sellers’ market”.

321,000 new homes were sold last month on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. 7 of 10 new homes sold for less than $300,000. 

The South Region continues to account for the majority of new construction sales, posting a 59% market share in January. South Region sales were up 9 percent as compared to December. The other 3 regions turned in mixed results. 

  • Northeast Region : +11.1% from December 2011 
  • Midwest Region : -24.5% from December 2011 
  • West Region : -10.6% from December 2011 

Unfortunately, the Census Bureau’s New Home Sales data could be wrong.

Although New Home Sales were said to fall by about one percent nationally from December to January, the government’s monthly report was footnoted with a ±16.6% margin of error. This means that the actual New Home Sales reading may have been as high as +15%, or as low as -18%. 

Because the range of values includes positive and negative values, the January New Home Sales data is of “zero confidence”. However, that’s not to say that it should be ignored. The aforementioned homebuilder confidence survey shows builders optimistic for the future, and a bevy of home sale data since October 2011 suggests a market in recovery.

If you’re in the market for new construction in East Lansing , therefore, consider going into contract sooner rather than later. Home prices remain low and mortgage rates do, too — a terrific combination for today’s buyers.

In a few months, the landscape may look different.

February 28, 2012 at 9:49 am Leave a comment

Housing Starts Stay Strong; Building Permits Rise.

Single-family housing starts

The housing market has carried forward its year-end momentum. 

According to the Census Bureau, on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, January’s Single-Family Housing Starts crossed the half-million unit marker for the second straight month.

This hasn’t happened in close to 2 years and is the latest in a series of strong data that suggests the beleaguered housing market has turned a corner — both nationally and locally in Lansing.  

Although single-family starts slipped 1 percent from December, January’s annualized 508,000 figure represents a 16% spike from January 2011 and is the second-highest reading since April 2010 — the last month of 2010’s federal home buyer tax credit program.

A “housing start” is a new home on which construction has started.

The strength of January’s Housing Starts data surprised Wall Street analysts and is partially responsible for Thursday’s unexpected mortgage rate spike. 

In hindsight, though, we should have seen this coming.

Earlier in the week, the National Association of Homebuilders announced that homebuilder confidence had climbed to its highest point since 2007 amid builder reports of rising sales volume and the most foot traffic from buyers in more than 4 years.

In addition, builders expect to sell more homes in 2012 than in 2011.

Builders are building and buyers are buying.

Meanwhile, as another sign of housing market strength, the Census Bureau reports that, in January, Building Permits moved to a multi-year high as well. Permits issued for single-family homes in January rose 1 percent from December, a statistic that suggests housing will continue its run through the spring season, at least.

86 percent of homes break ground within one month of permit issuance.

It’s a good time to be a home buyer. Mortgage rates and home prices are low. Housing market momentum, however, is building. If you’re on the fence about whether to buy a home in Michigan State University , ask your real estate agent for additional market information.

The cost of home-ownership may never be as low as it is today.

February 17, 2012 at 9:49 am Leave a comment

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