A Tale Of Two Markets!

Actually, we refer to one market – the new-home market. But we say two, because we refer to the new-home market now and the new-home market in the future.

housesAs for the here and now, the market appears somewhat languid. New-home starts come in at 893,000 units on an annualized rate in June. This is 9.3% lower than the revised 985,000 units posted in May. As for the important single-family segment, starts come in at 575,000 units on an annualized rate, which is 9% lower than the number of units in May.

The good news is that the future new-home market appears more robust – at least that's our take from the latest Home Builder Sentiment Index .

Builder confidence for new single-family homes surpassed an important milestone in July, rising four points to a reading of 53. Anything above 50 indicates that builders are more positive than negative on the outlook for new-home activity. This is the first time since January that the index has crested above 50. This suggests we should look forward to more new-home construction and more new-home sales in coming months. Let's hope that's the case.

We say “hope” because we'd be more optimistic on a pick up in both new- and existing-home activity if we saw a pick up in purchase-mortgage activity. Unfortunately, weekly activity across the country is down, and not by an insignificant percentage. The Mortgage Bankers Association reports its purchase index fell 8% for the July 11 week, more than reversing a 4% gain in the prior week.

Of course, we offer our usual caveat: all markets are local. So, what occurs in any local market doesn't necessarily jibe with a national number. (For instance, a large slice of fewer housing starts in June was centered on the South.) Still, we would like to see more purchase activity, especially purchase activity driven by the owner-occupied buyer.

Fortunately, rates are still very favorable for anyone seeking financing. Bankrate.com's national survey has the 30-year fixed-rate conforming loan pegged at 4.3%, about where it has been for the past month. Freddie Mac's survey has the 30-year loan at 4.13%.

To be sure, mortgage rates have shown little inclination to go anywhere, but another month or two of 200,000+ monthly job gains could easily (and quickly) set rates on a path to higher ground.

Information provided by Jessica Regan.

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