Easing Into 2015

We like where home price are headed. That is, they are easing. They have assumed a more steady and sustainable rate of growth.

Recent price data from Black Knight supports our contention. Black Knight follows completed transactions in more than 18,500 U.S. ZIP codes. For October, prices were up 0.1%, on average. Year over year, they were up 4.5%. This is much closer to historical growth rates.

Mortgage lending rates are also easing into 2015. The 30-year fixed-rate loan is still regularly quoted below 4%, which is no surprise. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note hovers around 2.2%. This is nearly 100 basis points less than where it was a year ago. The 10-year note is showing no inclination to move higher. Mortgage rates are also showing no inclination to move higher.

Unfortunately, homes sales are easing into 2015 at too languid a pace.

In November, existing homes sales sank 6.1% to 4.93 million units at an annualized rate. The number of units sold on a monthly basis has yet to pick up pace. We are still at the same annualized rate we were at this time last year.

As for new home sales, they too, are easing into 2015. November new home sales were down 1.6% in November, to an annualized rate of 428,000 units. As with existing home sales, the sales pace is on par with where we were a year ago. 

Home sales had been showing some life going into the fourth quarter, but the readings on November have been a disappointment. We were expecting better.

That said, we still like the longer-term outlook on both housing and mortgage financing. Yes, sales are flat, but the continued gains in economic growth and employment will prove salutary. (This is a theme we've pounded on frequently over the past six months.) Gears will eventually mesh and sales will move higher.

Financing available to a wider swath of the population will help. Lending – mortgage and consumer – is heading in the right direction. Lenders are more willing to make loans, and consumers are more willing to take them. That's a sign of growing confidence in the economy.

We were one of the few voices promoting housing and mortgage lending in the dire days of 2009. We were proven correct: Housing indeed recovered.

These aren't dire days by any stretch of the imagination, though sometimes they are frustrating days. The good news is that housing is as poised as it has been in years to lead the economy forward. The funk will be broken.

Information provided by Jessica Regan.

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