With unadjusted house prices recently eclipsing their 2006 housing boom peak, housing affordability is a concern in the industry and for potential home buyers. Existing home owners, by definition, can afford one so, when we are speaking about housing affordability, it is really a conversation about first-time home buyers.
The three key drivers of the Real House Price Index (RHPI) are household income levels, the 30-year, fixed mortgage rate, and the unadjusted house price index. Changes to household income levels and the 30-year, fixed mortgage rate are considered together as consumer house-buying power. When household income rises and/or the mortgage rate falls, consumer house-buying power increases.
Yesterday’s Census Bureau report on housing construction bodes well for home buyers, as the pace of housing completions increased 2.2 percent over last year. The continued year-over-year growth in completions means more homes on the market in the short-term, offering some immediate relief in alleviating housing supply shortages.
As we reflect on our country’s recent Independence Day commemoration, we find that the desire to achieve the American dream of homeownership still exists. Because, while the U.S. homeownership rate remains close to half-century lows, demand is strong, especially among millennials. In fact, results of our Real Estate Sentiment Index survey of title agents and real estate professionals conducted in the second quarter of 2018 showed nearly 87 percent of first-time home buyers were in the prime home-buying age of 26 to 35, which corresponds with the ages of millennials.
The Real House Price Index (RHPI) views house prices in relation to consumer house-buying power, incorporating household income, mortgage rates, and an unadjusted house price index. When incomes rise, consumer house-buying power increases. When mortgage rates or house prices rise, consumer house-buying power declines.
Closing the Housing Stock Gap
Today’s Census Bureau report sends an optimistic message about the housing market. Building permits increased 8.0 percent since this time last year, while housing starts rose 20.3 percent. The year-over-year increase in housing starts tells us that an increase in new housing supply is on the way. The pace of housing completions, at a 1.29 million seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR), is particularly important as it brings new supply that can offset current housing shortages.
With the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee (FOMC) decision to increase the Federal Funds Rate last week, the prospect of higher mortgage rates remains top of mind among real estate professionals and continues to generate headlines. Yet, changes to the short-term rate matter little to the housing market.
Given the strong likelihood of rising mortgage rates in 2018, many savvy real estate market observers are curious how rising rates may impact demand, especially among millennial first-time home buyers. As part of our quarterly First American Real Estate Sentiment Index (RESI), we recently surveyed title insurance agents and real estate professionals across the nation for their perspective on how sensitive they thought first-time home buyers were to rising mortgage rates and at what rate they would withdraw from the market.
As the home-buying season continues, the inventory of homes for sale remains historically low, while demand is increasing. Not surprisingly, house prices continue to rise. In March, unadjusted house prices increased by 6.4 percent compared with a year ago and they are now 8.7 percent above the housing boom peak for unadjusted house prices reached in 2007. But, does that tell the real story?
In April, the housing market continued to underperform its potential. Existing-home sales were 6.5 percent below the market’s potential for existing-home sales, according to our Potential Home Sales Model. Lack of supply remains the primary culprit. The inventory of homes for sale in most markets remains historically low, yet demand continues to rise as millennials further age into homeownership.