Category Archives: Economy

DofN: Real Home Prices and Real Borrowing Costs Since the Bottom

Real Home Prices and Real Borrowing Costs Since the Bottom

POSTED TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 04 2014

previously showed that continuously declining interest rates since 1980 have been a boon to the buying power of homeowners despite stagnant incomes. After the bursting of the housing bubble last decade and subsequent fall in home prices, the historically low interest rates that followed led to remarkably low payments for borrowers who could still qualify for mortgages these past few years. But we’ve long since put in a bottom for home prices. According to Case-Shiller’s 20 city aggregate that bottom came in February of 2012.

The chart above shows the change in real home prices (blue line) since the bottom. After February 2012 home prices began to rise while mortgage rates continued to fall. They fell enough in fact that their declines offset the rise in real home prices for another 8 months. That is, a borrower could obtain a lower mortgage payment via falling borrowing costs despite rising home prices. The bottom in terms of a monthly mortage payment didn’t come till October of 2012. The red line shows how mortgage payments have changed since then.

In short, real home prices have risen about 17% since the February 2012 bottom, but the real price in terms of borrowing costs have risen just over 26%. I don’t expect rates to leap in the near future, but if rates continue to rise with Fed tapering (they’re up about one percentage point from the bottom) it could have a notable impact on affordability for first-time buyers. On the other hand, low existing home inventory suggests there hasn’t been a significant falloff in demand yet and mortgage rates have been trending down again recently as well.

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CR: The Two Bottoms for Housing

Update: The Two Bottoms for Housing

by Bill McBride on 5/24/2013  

By request, I’ve updated the graphs in this post with the most recent data. Last year when I wrote The Housing Bottom is Here and Housing: The Two Bottoms, I pointed out there are usually two bottoms for housing: the first for new home sales, housing starts and residential investment, and the second bottom is for house prices.

For the bottom in activity, I presented a graph of Single family housing starts, New Home Sales, and Residential Investment (RI) as a percent of GDP.

When I posted that graph, the bottom wasn’t obvious to everyone. Now it is, and here is another update to that graph.

Starts, new home sales, residential Investment Click on graph for larger image.

The arrows point to some of the earlier peaks and troughs for these three measures.

The purpose of this graph is to show that these three indicators generally reach peaks and troughs together. Note that Residential Investment is quarterly and single-family starts and new home sales are monthly.

For the recent housing bust, the bottom was spread over a few years from 2009 into 2011. This was a long flat bottom – something a number of us predicted given the overhang of existing vacant housing units.

We could use any of these three measures to determine the first bottom, and then use the other two to confirm the bottom. These measure are very important and are probably the best leading indicators for the economy. But this says nothing about house prices.

Residential Investment and House prices The second graph compares RI as a percent of GDP with the real (adjusted for inflation) CoreLogic house price index through February.

Although the CoreLogic data only goes back to 1976, look at what happened following the early ’90s housing bust. RI as a percent of GDP bottomed in Q1 1991, but real house prices didn’t bottom until Q4 1996 (real prices were mostly flat for several years). Something similar happened in the early 1980s – first activity bottomed, and then real prices – although the two bottoms were closer in the ’80s.

Now it appears activity bottomed in 2009 through 2011 (depending on the measure) and real house prices bottomed in early 2012.

Read more at http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2013/05/update-two-bottoms-for-housing.html#Xos7EeY1TxJ1aVPg.99

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CR: A few comments on New Home Sales

A few comments on New Home Sales

by Bill McBride on 5/23/2013 

Obviously the new home sales report this morning was solid with sales above expectations and significant upward revisions to prior months. I try not to react too much to the month to month ups and downs; the key points right now are that sales are increasing and will probably continue to increase for some time.

Now that we have four months of data for 2013, one way to look at the growth rate is to use the “not seasonally adjusted” (NSA) year-to-date data.

According to the Census Bureau, there were 153 thousand new homes sold in 2013 through April, up about 26.4% from the 121 thousand sold during the same period in 2012. That is a very solid increase in sales, and this was the highest sales for these months since 2008.

Note: For 2013, estimates are sales will increase to around 450 to 460 thousand, or an increase of around 22% to 25% on an annual basis from the 369 thousand in 2012.

Although there has been a large increase in the sales rate, sales are just above the lows for previous recessions. This suggests significant upside over the next few years.  Based on estimates of household formation and demographics, I expect sales to increase to 750 to 800 thousand over the next several years – substantially higher than the current sales rate.

And an important point worth repeating: Housing is historically the best leading indicator for the economy, and this is one of the reasons I think The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.

And here is another update to the “distressing gap” graph that I first started posting over four years ago to show the emerging gap caused by distressed sales.  Now I’m looking for the gap to start to close over the next few years.

Distressing GapClick on graph for larger image.

The “distressing gap” graph shows existing home sales (left axis) and new home sales (right axis) through April 2013. This graph starts in 1994, but the relationship has been fairly steady back to the ’60s.

Following the housing bubble and bust, the “distressing gap” appeared mostly because of distressed sales. The flood of distressed sales kept existing home sales elevated, and depressed new home sales since builders weren’t able to compete with the low prices of all the foreclosed properties.

I don’t expect much of an increase in existing home sales (distressed sales will slowly decline and be offset by more conventional sales). But I do expect this gap to continue to close – mostly from an increase in new home sales.

Distressing GapAnother way to look at this is a ratio of existing to new home sales.

This ratio was fairly stable from 1994 through 2006, and then the flood of distressed sales kept the number of existing home sales elevated and depressed new home sales. (Note: This ratio was fairly stable back to the early ’70s, but I only have annual data for the earlier years).

In general the ratio has been trending down, and I expect this ratio to trend down over the next several years as the number of distressed sales declines and new home sales increase.

Note: Existing home sales are counted when transactions are closed, and new home sales are counted when contracts are signed. So the timing of sales is different.

Read more at http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2013/05/a-few-comments-on-new-home-sales.html#ajG83ZzszQ2EqyVZ.99

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DeptofNumbers: Growth in Mortgage Purchasing Power

Growth in Mortgage Purchasing Power

POSTED WEDNESDAY, APRIL 03 2013

Above is a chart of real median household income and the real purchasing power of the same median household income when utilizing a 30-year mortgage. Said another way, if you kept the fraction of real median household income going towards a mortgage payment the same (say 30%), the red line shows the growth in what you could buy with your payment.

The chart highlights the dramatic rise in purchasing power of the median income household despitethe lack of growth of the median household’s real income. Growth in the capacity to borrow has replaced income growth over the last 30 years. Of course this is possible because interest rates have been falling continuously since the early 1980s making it feasible to borrow more and more with less income.

If we wanted to increase purchasing power in an environment where interest rates were not in decline, we’d need to see a substantial increase in real median income. For instance, say 30-year mortgage rates were at 6.5% instead of their recent level of roughly 3.5%. All else being equal, to get the same purchasing power as a 3.5% mortgage rate with a mortgage rate of 6.5% would require a 41% increase in real income! 1 Clearly (and by design in recent years), record low mortgage rates are a huge stimulus for home prices.

What happens when the 30+ year secular decline in interest rates ends? Even if rates stay low, the stimulus of declining rates on asset prices (homes in particular) will disappear. While incomes will likely increase over the next few years, we’ve already seen how much they would need to increase to match the purchasing power effects of falling interest rates. And if interest rates rise even modestly, purchasing power will be significantly curtailed. How home prices, under the additional influences of inertia and psychology, actually respond is another matter.

1. Assuming again that a borrower would want to spend the same fraction of their income on a mortgage payment regardless of the interest rate environment. 

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BLS Data Revision: Home Building Employment Up

The post BLS Data Revision: Home Building Employment Up appeared first on Eye on Housing.

 

New Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data indicate that employment in the home building industry was stronger over the last two years than initial estimates suggested.

We reported on the preliminary benchmark adjustment back in September. Due to the adjustment, the BLS estimates an additional 422,000 jobs were added to the economy as of March 2012. The revision occurs as the BLS annually supplements its estimates with more complete unemployment tax data.

Per the revised data, total employment in the home building sector (builders plus specialty trade contractors) was higher by 20,100 as of December 2012.

BLS benchmark adj

Under the older, unrevised data, home building employment increased by 62,600 from the beginning of 2011 until the end of 2012. Under the revised BLS data, home building employment increased by 92,600 over the same period.

The net growth (20,100) from the revision differs from the 30,000 difference above because the revised data has total home building employment falling by 9,900 more lost jobs in 2010.

Under the new tally, home building employment is up 4.7% from the cycle low. Despite the uptick in the jobs estimate, an open question remains regarding the mismatch between the increase in housing construction and the relatively small increase in employment. Possible explanations include an increase in hours worked of existing workers, possible future upward employment revisions, or measurement error.

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What constitutes a healthy housing market? — Dr. Housing Bubble

What constitutes a healthy housing market? 7 charts Examining where we are today in the housing market. Will the current housing rebound continue into 2013?

Perceptions are guided by recent events.  History is easily forgotten and our hardwiring makes us prone to trend following.  The housing boom that started in 2012 is still the story today.  In 2012 I noticed on various forums that new housing related shows were on the uptick.  The headlines were largely positive.  It is hard to see how the pace of appreciation can continue without a similar underlying real growth in household wages or a continued flood of investor money.  Yet in markets were investors dominate, local families are outbid by global money and big funds.  What makes up a healthy housing market?  Today we’ll examine seven charts and try to put this current housing market into a longer-term perspective.

Normal housing market

There are many factors to examine when it comes to a normal housing market.  I would argue that it is more important to focus on having a healthy economy and allowing housing to follow instead of focusing on housing and expecting the economy to follow.  For over a decade the focus has been on housing and the Fed with QE3 is not disrupting that trend.  Trulia has an interesting barometer on a few key housing metrics:

normal housng market

Source:  Trulia

According to the above barometer, a normal market would have 1.5 million construction starts.  We are at 861k.  We’re making progress here but still a good distance from 1.5 million.  The next item is existing home sales.  We’re at 5.04 million whereas a more normal market would be at 5.5 million.  On this metric we are inching closer to a more normal market.  The number of mortgages in some sort of distress is up to 10.63 percent.  This is still very high compared to the normal rate of 5.25 percent.

Low inventory

The number of homes for sales is extremely low:

national housing inventory

While existing home sales are still short from a more normal level (not by much) housing inventory on the other hand is down by record levels.  At a certain point you would expect this to carry over into housing starts and we are seeing this occur.

Housing starts

Housing starts are definitely on their way up.  This should be expected given the very low inventory.  Yet as we have discussed in previous articles, many younger Americans are saddled with high levels of college debt and are looking for lower priced housing options.  In 2012 31 percent of housing starts were for multi-unit properties.  Stronger rental demand but also, the new clientele base is likely pushing this trend.

30 year fixed rate mortgage

The drop in interest rates is truly historical:

30 year mortgage rate

People calmly talk about this as if we have a historical reference point for this.  We do not.  The Fed now has a balance sheet that is well over $3 trillion.  This is not normal either:

Fed total balance sheet

Fed’s balance sheet as of 1/16/13 (source: FRB)

Prior to the recession, the Fed balance sheet was well under $1 trillion.  We are a very long way from that and the Fed with QE3 is basically eating up MBS from the market.  It is interesting that some would like to discount this activity yet the Fed is dictating interest rates and is the major player in the mortgage market.  In other words, the Fed is the housing market.

Construction jobs

Now this is a trend that I found interesting.  While housing starts are up, construction jobs are still lagging:

construction jobs

What is going on here?  Is it because multi-unit properties require less labor?  I doubt it.  Are construction crews making due with less?  That could be one reason.  This is probably one of the more interesting trends here.  In this category we are also very far away from a normal market.

China wages

In a global system inflation can be exported.  While US wage growth is anemic and inflation adjusted household income is now back to levels last seen in the 1990s, wage growth in China is definitely occurring:

china and us wages

It should come as no surprise then that money is rushing back into places like California and Canadapropping up prices in select areas.  Foreign demand is incredibly strong as the wealthy class rises abroad.  In an open market, money can travel as it sees fit.  Inflationary pressure is charging back in.

Part-time workers

Another trend we are facing is the growth of a permanent part-time workforce.  Many workers now work under contracts or projects.  This is another reason why we have seen the U6 unemployment figure remain high:

us part-time and U6

This is unlikely to be positive for wage growth but does help companies earn more as they slash costs.  It also makes a tougher case for sustained home value growth.  The last few years have seen a large amount of buying come from investors.  Nearly one third of all sales were investor based.  This is incredibly high.  It is hard to find historical data on a normal figure here but I would venture to guess that it is around the 10 percent range for the nation.  In California, foreign demand makes up this portion alone:

“(OC Register) The National Association of Realtors estimated that foreign buyers accounted for 11 percent of California home sales.

The California Association of Realtors, however, pegged foreign sales at 5.8 percent of the state’s transactions. Of those, 39 percent of the buyers come from China, followed by buyers from Canada (13 percent), and from India and Mexico (8.7 percent each), CAR reported.”

Last month over 33 percent of buyers in Southern California paid all cash for their purchases, tying a previous historical record set a few months ago.  The monthly average since 2000 is closer to 17 percent so we are nearly double that.

The above trends show that we really are in a different housing market today.  Will these trends continue into 2013

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JOLTS: Construction Job Openings Up in Recent Months

JOLTS: Construction Job Openings Up in Recent Months

from Eye on Housing by Robert Dietz

November data from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey(JOLTS) indicate that despite a downward revision for October, the number of open positions in the construction sector remains elevated. With continuing growth in housing starts predicted for 2013, these data suggest increased employment levels for the construction sector in the months ahead.

For the economy as a whole, the November JOLTS data indicate that the hiring rate (blue line below) was unchanged at 3.2% of total employment. The hiring rate has been in the 3.1% to 3.4% range since January 2011. The job openings rate (red line below) was also unchanged at a rate of 2.7% in November. The openings rate has now been in the 2.5% to 2.7% range for one year.

Labor mkt Nov

From 2009 to the end of 2011, the openings rate for the overall economy moved roughly along an increasing trend. However, this growth in open positions slowed in 2012. Moreover, the hiring rate trended down in 2012. All told, these conditions reflect an economy having trouble expanding employment.

The ongoing weakness in hiring has several potential explanations. One, challenges in housing markets are preventing workers from relocating to labor markets with open positions. However, this “house lock” effect was recently challenged by a paper from economists at the New York Federal Reserve. A second possible explanation is a skills mismatch between available workers and open positions. This explanation is also hotly debated among various proponents of structural or cyclical explanations of post-Great Recession unemployment. Another explanation is that government policy uncertainty is holding back employers from adding workers.

For the construction sector, the JOLTS data indicate that hiring levels picked up in November after a slight slowing during the Fall of 2012. November hiring for the construction sector totaled 351,000, marking the seventh month in a row of hiring in the construction sector above a 300,000 level. The significant month-over-month gain in hiring was consistent with the October JOLTS data, which showed an increase in job openings for the sector.

Job openings in construction remain elevated despite a downward revision for October’s spike in openings. The number of open positions  for October (99,000) and November (93,000) marks the highest two-month total in a year and a half. These data lend evidence of increased demand for construction workers and future growth in construction sector employment.

Res Constr Employment

The monthly BLS net employment count for December (the employment count data from the BLS establishment survey are published one month ahead of the JOLTS data) indicates that total employment in home building stands at 2.056 million, broken down as 565,000 builders and 1.491 million residential specialty trade contractors.

According to the BLS data, over the last 12 months, the home building sector has added 67,000 jobs. While an improvement over recent months, this is still below the levels of net employment many believe should have been gained given the significant pickup in home building in 2012. However, it may be the case that for many builders, increases in construction in 2012 resulted in more hours for workers rather than in significant gains in the number of workers hired.

Nonetheless, the elevated October and November numbers of  job openings rate bodes well for future construction employment reports.

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