Category Archives: Housing Market

Existing Home Sales Drop For 7th Straight Month As Homebuilders Stocks Collapse

With US home builder stocks having their worst year since 2007, hope is high that September will show the long-awaited rebound in home sales (despite a soaring mortgage rate).

After ‘stabilizing’ unchanged in August, existing home sales were expected to drop 0.9% MoM in September, but instead August’s data was revised notably lower and September plunged… down 3.4% MoM – the biggest drop since Feb 2016.

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With SAAR at its lowest since Nov 2015…

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This is the seventh month in a row of annual declines in existing home sales…

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Sales fell across all price ranges (not just the low-end as we have seen recently).

Median home price rose 4.2% from last year to $258,100

And you can’t blame supply as it rose notably – 4.4 months supply in Sept. vs. 4.3 in Aug.

As NAR notes:

“This is the lowest existing home sales level since November 2015,” he said.

A decade’s high mortgage rates are preventing consumers from making quick decisions on home purchases. All the while, affordable home listings remain low, continuing to spur underperforming sales activity across the country.”

“There is a clear shift in the market with another month of rising inventory on a year over year basis, though seasonal factors are leading to a third straight month of declining inventory,” said Yun.

“Homes will take a bit longer to sell compared to the super-heated fast pace seen earlier this year.”

Home builder stocks are collapsing…

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This is the worst year for home builder stocks since 2007…

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Probably nothing. Just keep hiking rates.

Source: ZeroHedge

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Mortgage Applications Collapse To 18-Year Lows

After sliding 2.1% the prior week, mortgage applications collapsed 7.1% last week as mortgage rates topped 5.00%

Ignoring the collapses during the Xmas week of 12/29/00 and 12/26/14, this is the lowest level of mortgage applications since September 2000…

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The Refinance Index decreased 9 percent from the previous week

The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 6 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 6 percent compared with the previous week and was 2 percent higher than the same week one year ago.

Perhaps this is why…

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($453,100 or less) increased to its highest level since February 2011, 5.10 percent, from 5.05 percent, with points increasing to 0.55 from 0.51 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans.

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Still, The Fed should keep on hiking, right? Because – “greatest economy ever..” and so on…

As we noted previously, the refinance boom that rescued so many in the post-2008 ‘recovery’ is now over. If rates hit 5%, the pool of homeowners who would qualify for and benefit from a refinance will shrink to 1.55 million, according to mortgage-data and technology firm Black Knight Inc. That would be down about 64% since the start of the year, and the smallest pool since 2008.

Naturally, hardest hit by the rising rates will be young and first-time buyers who tend to make smaller down payments than older buyers who have built up equity in their previous homes, and middle-income buyers, who can least afford the extra cost. Khater said that about 45% of the loans that Freddie Mac is backing are to first-time buyers, up from about 30% normally, which also means that rising rates could have an even bigger impact on the market than usual.

Younger buyers are also more likely to be shocked by higher rates because they don’t remember when rates were more than 18% in the early 1980s, or more recently, the first decade of the 2000s, when rates hovered around 5% to 7%.

“There’s almost a generation that has been used to seeing 3% or 4% rates that’s now seeing 5% rates,” said Vishal Garg, founder and chief executive of Better Mortgage.

Source: ZeroHedge

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Mortgage Refinancing Applications Remain In Death Valley (Hurricanes Michael And Jerome)

Between Hurricanes Michael and Hurricane Jerome (Powell), mortgage refinancing applcations are taking a big hit.

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) refinancing applications index fell 9% from the previous week as 30-year mortgage rate continued to rise.

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Mortgage purchase applications fell 5.52% WoW, but it is in the “mean season” for mortgage purchase applications and there was a hurricane (Michael). And then you have hurricane Jerome (Powell) battering the mortgage markets.

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In addition to Hurricane (weather and Federal government), there is also the decline in Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) since the financial crisis.

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Violence, Public Anger Erupts In China As Home Prices Slide

(ZeroHedge) Last March, we discussed why few things are as important for China’s wealth effect and economy, as its housing bubble market. Specifically, as Deutsche Bank calculated at the time, “in 2016 the rise of property prices boosted household wealth in 37 tier 1 and tier 2 cities by RMB24 trillion, almost twice their total disposable income of RMB12.9 trillion.” The German lender added that this (rather fleeting) wealth effect “may be helping to sustain consumption in China despite slowing income growth” warning that “a decline of property price would obviously have a large negative impact.”

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Naturally, as long as the housing bubble keeps inflating and prices keep rising, there is nothing to worry about as the population will keep spending money buoyed by illusory wealth appreciation. It is when housing starts to drop that Beijing begins to panic.

Fast forward to today, when Beijing may be starting to sweat because whereas Chinese property developers usually count on September and October to be their “gold and silver” months for sales, this year has turned out to be different. As the SCMP reports, not only were sales figures grim for September, but the seven-day national holiday last week also brought at least two “fangnao” incidents – when angry, and often violent, homeowners protest against price cuts offered by developers to new buyers.

These protests are often directed at sales offices, with varying levels of intensity – from throwing rocks to holding banners and putting up funeral wreaths. The risk, of course, is that as what has gone up (wealth effect) will come down, and as home ownership has remained the most important channel of investment for urban households in China in the past decade, price cuts have become increasingly unacceptable and a cause for social unrest.

Just last week, angry homeowners who paid full price for units at the Xinzhou Mansion residential project in Shangrao attacked the Country Garden sales office in eastern Jiangxi province last week, after finding out it had offered discounts to new buyers of up to 30%.

A similar incident took place in suburban Shanghai, where the same developer slashed prices at another project called One Mansion by a quarter.

While the protests have been isolated so far, the risk is that the greater the slide in property prices, the more widespread popular anger will become:

“Property accounts for roughly 70 per cent of urban Chinese families’ total assets – a home is both wealth and status. People don’t want prices to increase too fast, but they don’t want them to fall too quickly either,” said Shao Yu, chief economist at Oriental Securities.

Or fall at all, for that matter.

While China’s stock market has had its ups and down, along the way accompanied by various “rolling” bubbles affecting assored Chinese assets, China’s property market has soared since the 2000s making home ownership the quickest way to gain wealth. In Beijing, homes that went for an average of around 4,000 yuan (US$580) per square metre in 2003 are now above 60,000 yuan (US$8,600) a square metre, according to property price data provider creprice.cn.

And, in a page right out of Ben Bernanke’s playbook, who in 2005 claimed that “we’ve never had a decline in housing prices on a nationwide basis” and as a result never would, what is now taking place in China is nothing short of a shock to the general population: “People are so used to rising prices that it never occurred to them that they can fall too. We shouldn’t add to this illusion,” Shao said.

Meanwhile, dreading that this moment would eventually come, the government has been working on measures to cool property prices for years, calling residential real estate not only an economic issue but also “an important issue for people’s livelihoods that influences social stability”, in a directive back in 2010.

And while the industry remained strong in the first eight months of the year it started slowing last month, according to data provider China Real Estate Information Corp. Official statistics showed that in Shangrao, where the violent protest occurred, transactions of homes last month fell by 22% from August and 18% from the same month last year. In Shanghai, sales in the past five weeks have risen slightly from the same period last year, but average prices dropped in September by over 3% from August and 1.4% from the same period last year.

Quoted by SCMP, Zhang Dawei, chief analyst at Centaline Property, warned that not only were the overall sales dropping, but poor construction quality could also be a cause for more violence. “Try not to buy homes built in 2018, because while the developers were short of money, the same is the case with contractors,” he said, and had an even more ominous warning about what’s coming: “The fourth quarter would be a peak time for residential project completion. Issues which used to be papered over by rising prices could erupt in this period… so we should look out for a sudden surge [public violence] in the coming months.”

Ultimately, it’s all a question of public expectations: expectations that have been number following years of government bailouts and bubble reflating, making sure that every single drop in housing was promptly offset.  Hu Xingdou, a Beijing-based economist, said despite China’s market-oriented reforms 40 years ago, investors still lacked respect for market and social rules.

“They don’t have the spirit of contract, and they always think they can fight against the rules,” he said. “As a commodity, the value of homes can both rise and fall. Investors should obey this fundamental rule.”

But why should they if until recently, policymakers did everything in their power to avoid them this simplest of lessons.

To be sure, public anger at falling prices is hardly new. Rampaging against price cuts was first seen in 2011, when homebuyers of a residential project named Oriental Rose in Beijing’s Tongzhou district mobbed a Huaye sales office after the firm cut prices by a tenth.

Similar incidents have erupted whenever investors have found their property value depreciating. And, in a country where there are relatively fewer investment channels and an unpredictable stock market, such protests are always couched as a struggle to protect individual rights. In many such cases, protesters demand compensation or cancellation of their purchase, and in order to prevent further social disorder, developers often accept their demands.

In other words, moral hazard in China is so pervasive, it threatens the very fabric of society.

Wang Cailiang, director of the Beijing Cailiang Law Firm, said although fangnao was against the law, the government had tolerated such protests because it was ultimately responsible for the surging prices; and it is better to punt to the real estate company than being forced to directly bailout consumers.

“It was the government that pushed up the prices by profiting from selling land to developers in the past two decades,” he said. “Now public anger over home prices has become a major social issue.

At a meeting of the Communist Party’s Politburo in late July, top officials reiterated that “containing home price gains” would be a priority in the second half of the year. Of course, if home price losses accelerate to the downside, Beijing will have no choice but to scramble and reflate another bubble, even as the Trump administration scrutinizes every monetary and fiscal decision by Beijing with a fine toothed comb.

Meanwhile, anger is only set to grow, the only question is whether it will be a slow boil or a violent eruption. Economist Shao expected average home prices to drop slightly in the coming months as the government continued efforts to control them.  In the first two weeks of September, growth was close to stagnating in 40 major cities across the mainland with the total number of new home sales up by just 1% from the previous month, according to China Real Estate Information Corp data.

Should this slowdown accelerate significantly to the downside, then the “working class insurrection” that China has been preparing for since 2014…

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… will finally materialize with dire consequences for the entire world.

Source: ZeroHedge

Mortgage Rates Surge The Most Since Trump’s Election, Hit New Seven Year High

With US consumers suddenly dreading to see the bottom line on their next 401(k) statement, they now have the housing market to worry about.

As interest rates spiked in the past month, one direct consequence is that U.S. mortgage rates, already at a seven-year high, surged by the most since the Trump elections.

According to the latest weekly Freddie Mac statement, the average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage jumped to 4.9%, up from 4.71% last week and the highest since mid-April 2011. It was the biggest weekly increase since Nov. 17, 2016, when the 30-year average surged 37 basis points.

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With this week’s jump, the monthly payment on a $300,000, 30-year loan has climbed to $1,592, up from $1,424 in the beginning of the year, when the average rate was 3.95%.

Even before this week’s spike, the rise in mortgage rates had cut into affordability for buyers, especially in markets where home prices have been climbing faster than incomes, which as we discussed earlier this week, is virtually all. That’s led to a sharp slowdown in sales of both new and existing homes: last month the NAR reported that contracts to buy previously owned properties declined in August by the most in seven months, as purchasing a new home becomes increasingly unaffordable.

“With the escalation of prices, it could be that borrowers are running out of breath,” said Sam Khater, chief economist at Freddie Mac.

“Rising rates paired with high and escalating home prices is putting downward pressure on purchase demand,” Khater told Bloomberg, adding that while rates are still historically low, “the primary hurdle for many borrowers today is the down payment, and that is the reason home sales have decreased in many high-priced markets.”

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Meanwhile, lenders and real-estate agents say that, even now, all but the most qualified buyers making large down payments face borrowing rates of 5%. And while rates have been edging higher in recent months, “the last week we’ve seen an explosion higher in mortgage rates,” said Rodney Anderson, a mortgage lender in the Dallas area quoted by the WSJ.

Meanwhile, the WSJ reports that once-hot markets are showing signs of cooling down. Bill Nelson, president of Your Home Free, a Dallas-based real-estate brokerage, said that in the neighborhoods where he works, the number of homes experiencing price cuts is more than double the number that are going into contract.

The rise in rates could have far-reaching effects for the mortgage industry. Some lenders—particularly non-banks that don’t have other lines of business —could take on riskier customers to keep up their level of loan volume, or be forced to sell themselves. Many U.S. mortgage lenders, including some of the biggest players, didn’t exist a decade ago and only know a low-rate environment, and many younger buyers can’t remember a time when rates were higher.

Meanwhile, in more bad news for the banks, higher rates will kill off any lingering possibility of a refinancing boom, which bailed out the mortgage industry in the years right after the 2008 financial crisis. If rates hit 5%, the pool of homeowners who would qualify for and benefit from a refinance will shrink to 1.55 million, according to mortgage-data and technology firm Black Knight Inc. That would be down about 64% since the start of the year, and the smallest pool since 2008.

Naturally, hardest hit by the rising rates will be young and first-time buyers who tend to make smaller down payments than older buyers who have built up equity in their previous homes, and middle-income buyers, who can least afford the extra cost. Khater said that about 45% of the loans that Freddie Mac is backing are to first-time buyers, up from about 30% normally, which also means that rising rates could have an even bigger impact on the market than usual.

Younger buyers are also more likely to be shocked by higher rates because they don’t remember when rates were more than 18% in the early 1980s, or more recently, the first decade of the 2000s, when rates hovered around 5% to 7%.

“There’s almost a generation that has been used to seeing 3% or 4% rates that’s now seeing 5% rates,” said Vishal Garg, founder and chief executive of Better Mortgage.

Source: ZeroHedge

US Home Prices Hit Peak Unaffordability ─ Prospective Buyers Are Better Off Renting

With unaffordability reaching levels not seen in decades across some of the most expensive urban markets in the US, a housing-market rout that began in the high-end of markets like New York City and San Francisco is beginning to spread. And as home sales continued to struggle in August, a phenomenon that realtors have blamed on a dearth of properties for sale, those who are choosing to sell might soon see a chasm open up between bids and asks – that is, if they haven’t already.

While home unaffordability is most egregious in urban markets, cities don’t have a monopoly on unaffordability. According to a report by ATTOM, which keeps the most comprehensive database of home prices in the US, of the 440 US counties analyzed in the report, roughly 80% of them had an unaffordability index below 100, the highest rate in ten years. Any reading below 100 is considered unaffordable, by ATTOM’s standards. Based on their analysis, one-third of Americans (roughly 220 million people) now live in counties where buying a median-priced home is considered unaffordable. And in 69 US counties, qualifying for a mortgage would require at least $100,000 in annual income (Assuming a 3% down payment and a maximum front-end debt-to-income ratio of 28%). As one might expect, prohibitively high home prices are inspiring some Americans to relocate to areas where the cost of living is lower. US Census data revealed that two-thirds of those highest-priced markets experienced negative net migration, while more than three-quarters of markets where people earning less than $100,000 a year can qualify for a mortgage experienced net positive migration.

Rising home prices have played a big part in driving home unaffordability, but they’re not the whole story. Stagnant wages are also an important factor. The median nationwide home price of $250,000 in Q3 2018 climbed 6% from a year earlier, which is nearly twice the 3% growth in wages during that time. Looking back over a longer period, median home prices have increased 76% since bottoming out in Q1 2012, while average weekly wages have increased 17% over the same period.

Instead of fighting to overpay for existing inventory, one study showed that, for now at least, most Americans would be better off renting than buying a residential property. According to the latest national index produced by Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University faculty, renting and reinvesting will “outperform owning and building equity in terms of wealth creation.”

However, with the average national rent at an all-time high, American consumers are increasingly finding that there are no good options in the modern housing market. Which could be one reason why millennials, despite having more college degrees than any preceding generation, are increasingly choosing to rent instead of buying, even after they get married and start a family.

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Source: ZeroHedge

J.P. Morgan Chase Laying Off 400 Mortgage Staff In 3 States

Chase, one of the biggest home lenders, announces cutting employees in Florida, Ohio, Arizona.

https://ei.marketwatch.com/Multimedia/2017/03/01/Photos/ZH/MW-FG893_jpm_20170301100024_ZH.jpg?uuid=ccb2443e-fe8f-11e6-b1dc-001cc448aedeJ.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Getty Images

JPMorgan Chase & Co. is laying off about 400 employees in its consumer mortgage banking division as parts of the market slow down, people familiar with the matter said.

The bank JPM, -0.56% one of the largest mortgage lenders with about 34,000 mortgage-banking employees, is in the midst of laying off employees in cities including Jacksonville, Fla.; Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix and Cleveland particularly as mortgage servicing has fallen, the people said.

Home sales have slowed as the rise in mortgage rates has been compounded by a lack of homes for sale, increasing prices and a tax bill that reduced some incentives for home ownership. Rising interest rates have also discouraged homeowners from either refinancing their current mortgage or moving and having to get a new mortgage.

JPMorgan isn’t the only bank to lay off mortgage employees. Wells Fargo & Co. WFC, -0.60% the largest U.S. mortgage lender, said in August it is laying off about 650 mortgage employees who mainly work in retail fulfillment and mortgage servicing “to better align with current volumes.”

Source: Market Watch

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More layoffs at Movement Mortgage mean about 200 jobs have been cut since opening Norfolk headquarters in 2017

Movement Mortgage CEO Casey Crawford addresses employees at the weekly Friday Morning Meeting.

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Verizon Lays Off 44,000, Transfers 2,500 More IT Jobs To Indian Outsourcer Infosys

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Realtors Warn Metro Denver Housing Market Is “Now Pulling Back In A Big Way”

Home sales in the metro Denver region collapsed in September, forcing sellers to heavily discount asking prices which boosted inventory of properties available for purchase at an unprecedented rate, according to the Denver Metro Association of Realtors (DMAR), as per The Denver Post.

“The housing inventory and home price adjustments are normal and expected,” said Steve Danyliw, chairman of the DMAR Market Trends Committee, in the report. “What’s not normal? Sales of single-family homes priced over $500,000 dropping 33% from August to September. For those sellers, that’s real turbulence.”

Earlier this summer, DMAR Market Trends Committee saw indications the housing market was cooling but was shocked when it completely froze in September:

“The number of single-family homes sold in September, across all price ranges, dropped 30.5% from August and is down 21.4% compared to September 2017. Condo sales fell a dramatic 42.9 % on the month and are down 17.3% year-over-year,” said The Denver Post.

For years, millennial buyers in metro Denver were plagued with the lack of affordability. When home sales dropped in September, the Denver Post notes that very little buyers showed up.

The inventory of condos and homes available for sale at the end of September shot up to 8,807, an increase of 7.04% from August and about 16% move y/y.

The median price of a single-family home in metro Denver declined to 3.8% from August to $428,000 but remains up 6.1% y/y. Condos, which are popular with millennials, continued to show gains, as its median price rose 1.73% to $301,625 last month and is up 12.8 YTD.

Most of the carnage hit the luxury end of the market. Sales of those homes worth more than $1 million collapsed 44.4% between August and September.

Last month, Bank of America rang the proverbial bell on the US real estate market, saying existing home sales have peaked, reflecting declining affordability, greater price reductions and deteriorating housing sentiment. The report was published by BofA chief economist Michelle Meyer, who warned: “the housing market is no longer a tailwind for the economy but rather a headwind.”

“Call your realtor,” the BofA report proclaimed: “We are calling it: existing home sales have peaked.”

Chart 1 shows there is a leading relationship between the trend in affordability and in home sales — a simple regression suggests the lead is about three months. In major cities, affordability continues to be a significant problem for many Americans amid a rising interest rate environment and elevated home prices, existing home sales should remain under pressure for the foreseeable future.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/BofA%20Real%20Estate.png?itok=nDNaGSFX

Chart 2 indicates that the share of properties with price discounts is on the rise, suggesting that sellers are unloading into weakening demand. The data from Zillow reveals that 15% of listings have price reductions, the highest since mid-2013 when home sales tumbled last.

The University of Michigan survey reveals a worsening mood in the perception of buying conditions for homes. Respondents noted that home prices have become too high while rates have become restrictive.

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While BofA makes clear the housing market is starting to stall, the Federal Reserve is conducting quantitative tightening and rapidly increasing interest rates to get ahead of the next recession. In other words, liquidity is being removed from the system and the cost of borrowing is headed higher – an environment that is not friendly to real estate and could be the key factor explaining the weakness in metro Denver housing and abroad.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/styles/inline_image_desktop/public/inline-images/BofA-Real-Estate-3.png?itok=UjxnAh_P

Source: ZeroHedge