The Mortgage Corner
Existing-home sales decreased for the third straight month in June, as declines in the South and West exceeded sales gains in the Northeast and Midwest, reports the National Association of Realtors. The ongoing supply and demand imbalance helped push June’s median sales price to an existing-home new all-time high.
“Total existing-home sales, https://www.nar.realtor/existing-home-sales, said the NAR, “which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, decreased 0.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.38 million in June from a downwardly revised 5.41 million in May. With last month’s decline, sales are now 2.2 percent below a year ago.”
Pending home sales that measure future sales also decreased modestly in May and have fallen on an annualized basis for the fifth straight month, according to the NAR. This seems to show a slowing of demand for housing, though the Realtor’s economist Yun believes it’s more due to lack of supply, and fewer entry-level homes available.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said closings inched backwards in June and fell on an annual basis for the fourth straight month. “There continues to be a mismatch since the spring between the growing levels of homebuyer demand in most of the country in relation to the actual pace of home sales, which are declining,” he said.
“The root cause is without a doubt the severe housing shortage that is not releasing its grip on the nation’s housing market. What is for sale in most areas is going under contract very fast and in many cases, has multiple offers. This dynamic is keeping home price growth elevated, pricing out would-be buyers and ultimately slowing sales.”
Why do we still have a housing shortage 9 years after the Great Recession? For the first half of 2018, a steady job market and a shortage of existing homes for sale has bolstered housing starts, said the Commerce Department. New home construction has climbed 7.8 per cent year-to-date.
And homebuilders are also relatively confident that the expansion will continue. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index declined slightly to a reading of 68 in June, but any reading above 50 signals growth.
So another ‘root cause’ has to be affordability, as prices continue to climb. The report was mixed good news, as prices continue to rise, up 4.5 percent for the median to $276,900, while buyers saw a 4.3 percent rise in the number of homes on the market, at 1.950 million relative to sales, a gain to 4.3 months from 4.1 months.
It was thought new-home sales would give a boost to housing, but even new- homes sales are slower in June. The Calculated Risk graph shows new-home sales lagging historically from other recoveries, when sales reached 800,000 units annually.
“Sales of new single-family houses in June 2018 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 631,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 5.3 percent below the revised May rate of 666,000, but is 2.4 percent above the June 2017 estimate of 616,000.”
The sales slowdown has to be from after-effects of the Great Recession, what was also the Great Housing Bust when so many homeowners lost their home and life-savings. It’s a combination of lenders being much more cautious and consumers earning much less these days. For instance, first-time buyers totaled just 31 percent of existing homebuyers, vs. the 40 percent long term average.
Household incomes have been stagnant since the 1980s after inflation, and both incomes and net worth have actually declined since the Great Recession, so we are seeing the results in the housing market, as the costs of home-building continue to climb with inflation.
For example, the just enacted Canadian lumber tariffs are adding $9,000 on average to building costs, according to the National Association of Home Builders. “Not only are consumers and builders concerned about the current lumber tariffs, but also the next round of proposed tariffs on a number of goods and services,” said NAHB Chair Randy Noel.
In fact, there has not been a concerted effort to boost consumers’ incomes at all since the Great Recession. Rather, the effort has been to suppress wages, with more states restricting collective bargaining rights of both union and non-union employees. There are now 28 right-to-work states that restrict the amount of dues unions can collect, and even the Supreme Court has just rescinded a 40-year old precedent that allowed public employee unions to collect dues from non-union members that enjoy the same benefits.
Do we need any more reasons to understand the slowdown in home buying?
Harlan Green © 2018
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