Monday, January 29, 2018 / by Sean Zanganeh
by Kenneth R. Harney
The big economic news for housing this week is all about sales.
Housing sales and pending sales contracts are up, dramatically in some markets, and a rebounding real estate sector could soon start stimulating the broader economy.
Even Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress last week that essentially the worst is over, the housing market is stabilizing, and we're heading out of recession in the second half of the year.
Pending home sales jumped by 6.7 percent in April. That was the third straight month of significant increases, and the highest pending sale total for any month in the past seven years.
In the Northeast, pending sales were up last month by an extraordinary 33 percent. In the Midwest, they rose by just under 10 percent, and the West by two percent. They only declined in the southern region -- and that was by just two tenths of one percent.
In a handful of major markets, closed sales also are moving up sharply. In Las Vegas, sales jumped by 36 percent during April - the highest in two years, according to MDA DataQuick researchers.
The flip side of that, of course, is that most of these sales were distressed -- foreclosures or sales of bank-owned properties. Fully three quarters of all Las Vegas area sales fit into that category in April.
The median price in Vegas sunk to about $141,000, the lowest since 2001, and that's 55 percent below the $312,00 cyclical peak hit in June of 2006.
Meanwhile, low prices nationwide, combined with mortgage rates at near-record lows, have pushed the National Association of Realtors' Affordability Index into record territory.
In April the index hit its second highest market ever, based median household income and the monthly payments needed to buy the median cost home.
On the mortgage front, applications to purchase homes continued to rise last week -- up by 4.3 percent -- according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
But here's a little sobering news: It's becoming increasingly clear that low mortgage rates are not going to be around forever. Average thirty year fixed rates took their biggest jump in half a year last week on bond market jitters.
The average rate for 30 year fixed topped five and a quarter percent, up from 4.8 percent the week before. And 15 year rates went to 4.8 percent from 4.4 percent.
So, if you are seriously considering getting off the sidelines - now that prices are back to pre-boom levels in some markets and sales are on the upswing, jump in sooner rather than later, if you want the lowest mortgage rates.
Published: June 9, 2009