New-Home Sales, Case Shiller Index On the Rise

The Mortgage Corner–II

As if to confirm U.S. housing starts and building permits’ jump to their highest levels in nearly 7-1/2 years, the sales rate of new single-family houses in April 2015 rose even higher at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 517,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. “This is 6.8 percent above the revised March rate of 484,000 and is 26.1 percent above the April 2014 estimate of 410,000,” per the Census Bureau.

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Graph: Calculated Risk

It means home construction is returning to pre-recession levels, as is the demand for more housing, which will spur more housing construction. The sales rate is rising fast enough to drop housing inventories to 4.6 months, at the low end of inventories.

The south was the biggest gainer, with construction up 5.8 percent. Also, the median price rose to $297,300 for a strong 8.3 percent year-on-year gain. So sales have finally reached the long term trend line, which should signal a longer term recovery as buyer’s enthusiasm tends to feed on itself, according to Behavioral Economist and Nobelist Dr. Robert Shiller.

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Graph: Calculated Risk

As if to confirm the rising enthusiasm of buyers, the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index continued its climb to post-recession highs, with San Francisco now up 10.31 percent year over year, Denver and Dallas up 10 percent and 9.3 percent, respectively. Denver and Dallas housing prices have almost doubled since the Great Recession, per the above graph. San Francisco’s prices are just now approaching their bubble high.

“Home prices have enjoyed year-over-year gains for 35 consecutive months,” says David M. Blitzer, Managing Director & Chairman of the Index Committee for S&P Dow Jones Indices. “The pattern of consistent gains is national and seen across all 20 cities covered by the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices…”

Of course lower interest rates were also a factor, as I’ve said, with housing affordability increasing this year, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI).

In all, 66.5 percent of new and existing homes sold between the beginning of January and end of March were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $65,800, said the report. “This is up from the 62.8 percent of homes sold that were affordable to median-income earners in the fourth quarter.”

What is another catalyst? Housing formation is recovering, which is largely due to Millennials moving out of their parents’ homes, or higher education venues. Based on unusually low household formation numbers of past several years, “there’s a ton of people living in basements,” Fundstrat Global Advisors’ Tom Lee said in a recent interview with CNBC’s “Trading Nation.” “Two quarters of pretty decent household formation isn’t getting everybody out of the basement. I think this means we have multiple years where household formations are well over 1.3 million, 1.4 million.”

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Graph: CNBC

That’s why household formation will be the key to future housing growth.  The millennials’ population size has now reached that of the baby boomers, their parents. And many have yet to reach home-buying age. Household formation had dipped as low as 360,000 per annum in recent years, due to the housing bust. So this is yet another sign of a growing pool of potential homebuyers.

Harlan Green © 2015

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen

About populareconomicsblog

Harlan Green is editor/publisher of PopularEconomics.com, and content provider of 3 weekly columns to various blogs--Popular Economics Weekly and The Huffington Post
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