Home Sales Disappoint

The Mortgage Corner

Existing-home sales were at a 5.52 million seasonally adjusted annual rate in June, the National Association of Realtors said Monday. That was 0.7 percent above the year-ago rate, but 1.8 percent lower than in May and marked the second-lowest monthly total of 2017.

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Graph: Econoday

Why? There’s a severe housing shortage with inventories down to a 4.3-month supply at the current sales rate. It is so bad that Zillow Chief Economist Svenja Gudell in a Marketwatch interview said, “There are about as many homes for sale now as there were in 1994 (1.96m), except there are about 63 million more people in this country now than there were then.”

The supply imbalance continues to push prices higher. The median sales price was $263,800 nationally, a 6.5 percent increase compared with the year-earlier period. The median price in California is now $500,000. That sets a fresh record and marks the 64th consecutive month of yearly price gains, with housing prices growing at roughly double the rate of wage gains.

It’s hard to understand why builders aren’t answering the call with demand so high and interest rates still at record lows. Part of the problem is there are so few entry-level homes being built.

“Closings were down in most of the country last month because interested buyers are being tripped up by supply that remains stuck at a meager level and price growth that’s straining their budget,” said NAR economist Lawrence Yun. “The demand for buying a home is as strong as it has been since before the Great Recession. Listings in the affordable price range continue to be scooped up rapidly, but the severe housing shortages inflicting many markets are keeping a large segment of would-be buyers on the sidelines.”

First-time buyers were 32 percent of sales in June, which is down from 33 percent both in May and a year ago. The longer-term average is 40 percent for first-timers as a percentage of all buyers, which are mainly younger buyers.

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Graph: Apartment List

CNBC reports new data from Apartment List that shows although 80 percent of millennials would like to purchase real estate, very few are in a good position to buy, largely because they have nothing saved. According to the report, “68 percent of millennials said they have saved less than $1,000 for a down payment. Almost half, or 44 percent, of millennials said they have not saved anything for a down payment.”

That is probably why mortgage lenders are now offering more exotic products, such as a 1 percent down payment for the conforming 30-year fixed rate with the lender chipping in another 2 percent, so that it satisfies the minimum 3 percent minimum down payment requirement for conforming loans.

Lenders are also offering high end buyers a 40-year fixed rate program for super jumbo loan amounts with the first 10 years at interest only payments. Payments then become standard 30 year principal and interest payments for the rest of the 30-year term.

Meanwhile the standard 30-year conforming fixed rate remains at 3.50 percent for 1 origination point in California, as it has been for months. There are still many buyers out there, in other words, but the most important population segment is the millennial generation who marry later and have those student debt problems.

Harlan Green © 2017

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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