The End of Rising Home Prices?

When recent data is vetted, the answer appears “no.” Home prices will continue to rise.

The latest data from S&P/Case-Shiller show prices increased 0.9% month over month in its 20-city index in June. Year over year, Case-Shiller shows prices are up 12%. Meanwhile, data from Lender Processing Services show home prices were up 1.2% for June, which translates to an 8.4% year-over-year gain.

We frequently refer to price data from a number of providers, and you might have noticed that the numbers are never the same. We'll use Phoenix as an example. The latest data from the major data sources show year-over-year home-price gains for Phoenix, but the numbers differ.

S&P/Case-Shiller           FHFA                CoreLogic         LPS                  FNC                  Zillow

19.8%                           21.2%               17.1%               16.6%               27.5%               22.0%

Time frame, geography measures, and data-gathering methodology are responsible for the differences: CoreLogic uses a three-month moving average. Case-Shiller's definition of a metropolitan is generally broader than the other data service providers' definition. Zillow excludes foreclosure resales, whereas LPS “reflects” price discounts for REO and short sales. FNC attempts to capture the “characteristics” of a home sale in its home price index.

The good news is that prices are up all the way around, no matter how they're measured.

That said, Case-Shiller's latest release did reveal incidences of slowing price appreciation. We're not terribly surprised; we've been saying double-digit annual price increases are unsustainable for the long haul. We wouldn't be surprised to see year-over-year home-price growth dip into the single digits by the end of the year.

That said, we don't believe home-price appreciation will be hindered by rising mortgage rates – as long as the economy improves. On that front, gross domestic product (GDP) growth was revised upward to a 2.5% annual rate for the second quarter. This is good news that points to stronger-than-expected growth for the third quarter. Strong GDP growth, in turn, frequently leads to stronger job growth.

Strong GDP growth will also lead to rising mortgage rates, which actually retreated this past week. Last week, we mentioned that the Federal Reserve is the primary driver of interest rates these day. This isn't to say that other factors don't matter. This past week, talk of a U.S. military strike against Syria was ramped up. In response, many investors scurried for the havens of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities, thus sending their yield lower.

We don't believe concerns over Syria will be long lasting. Therefore, the reduction in lending rates is likely a temporary reprieve that potential borrowers should exploit.

Courtesy of Jessica Regan.

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