It’s no secret that the limited supply of homes for sale is the biggest issue facing the housing market today. From a short-term perspective, this month’s overall pace of housing starts, 1.32 million units, may modestly alleviate the supply shortage. Housing starts increased 1.9 percent month over month and are 10.9 percent higher compared with March 2017. Housing completions, the number of net new homes added to the housing stock, increased by 1.9 percent compared with a year ago, which provides some immediate relief for the supply shortage.
It’s a popular myth – the millennial generation is destined to be a generation of renters – avocado toast, anyone? With student loan debt burdens, the scars of the Great Recession, and limited housing supply, the myth is rooted in some real challenges for millennials. However, despite these challenges, millennials are not only interested in homeownership, they are the primary reason that the homeownership rate increased over the past year.
Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the employment situation report for March. Here are the headlines. Total non-farm payroll jobs increased by 103,000 in March. Total non-farm payroll jobs have increased every month since October 2010. Since that date, the U.S. economy has added more than 17.5 million jobs. The unemployment rate remained again unchanged at 4.1 percent, a 17-year low, and average hourly earnings are up 2.4 percent over a year ago for production and non-supervisory employees. While the number of jobs created may seem disappointing, the data continues to paint a positive picture of the economy, but those are not the numbers that really matter.
It’s been a long time coming – a rising rate environment. The 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage has been below 4.5 percent since late 2013 and is now finally moving consistently higher. According to the consensus of economic forecasts, it is likely to approach 5 percent by the end of this year. This matters for defect, fraud and misrepresentation risk as rising mortgage rates reduce the benefit of refinancing and increase the share of purchase loan transactions in the market. As we have noted before, purchase loan transactions are riskier than refinance transactions.
As expected, the Federal Open Market Committee increased the Federal Funds rate last week, and signaled they expect to increase rates further later this year. It’s clear we have entered the rising interest rate environment that many have been predicting for years. With rising rates the new reality for the housing market, earlier this month we examined the possible impact of a dramatic increase in 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage rates on the market potential for sales. We found that even doubling the mortgage interest rate may only reduce the market potential for home sales by about 5 percent.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting is just around the corner, and experts agree that an increase in the Federal Funds Rate is almost certain. In fact, the expectation of future Fed rate hikes is already putting upward pressure on mortgage rates. The benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage rate jumped three basis points to 4.4 percent this past week. Since the start of the year, the benchmark rate has climbed almost half a percentage point and has increased for eight consecutive weeks. Concern is growing about the impact of the rising mortgage rates on the housing market, but it is important to keep today’s mortgage-rate environment in perspective.
While housing starts are down compared to a year ago, today’s Census Bureau report for February sends a positive message to the housing market.
The impact of the new tax code on the housing market has been heavily studied and debated in academic, policy and political circles, with most agreeing that the changes remove any significant tax differences between homeowners and renters for the majority of U.S. households. But, what do the people handling real estate transactions every day think?
As the March Federal Reserve (Fed) meeting approaches, overall positive economic conditions are troubling those who follow the Fed closely. Many might pose the question, why would positive economic conditions be troubling?