February 2011 Market Update Gradual improvement in the housing market continues at a steady pace without government support.
Six months after two consecutive years of tax incentives for buyers; starting in July 2008 with a $7,500 repayable first-time buyer tax credit, extending to a $8,000 nonrepayable first-time buyer tax credit in January 2009, and ending in June 2010 with the expanded credit to repeat buyers; the market has shown remarkable improvement from the initial drop this past July. With mortgage rates remaining near historic lows and home prices having generally stabilized, economists are expecting further strength in 2011.
Consumers are showing some signs that they’re feeling better: a significant boost in the food and services industry implies they are eating out more, vacations are back on the rise as spending on travel and tourism increased 8% in the third quarter, and household net worth has risen notably thanks to a strong stock market even as they continue to shrink their debt. As the economy improves, current stimulus efforts by the government and the Federal Reserve Board are expected to gradually wind down, which typically means rising interest rates. Meanwhile, buyers continue to benefit from historically favorable buying conditions and sellers enjoy increased stability in the market.
Home Sales in millions The uptrend in existing home sales activity continued through December, increasing by a substantial 12.3% from a month ago. This marks the fifth monthly increase in the past six months and indicates a recovery that’s gaining a firmer footing. While home sales remained 2.9% below the level seen last year, the market’s upward momentum, despite the absence of the tax credit, is a welcoming sign.
Home Price in thousands
Home prices softened in December: median home prices edged down slightly to $168,800, 1% below the year-ago level. Contributing to this is a larger share of distressed homes sales which accounted for 36% of sales in December. This is compared to 33% in November 2010 and 32% in December 2009. Prices continue to hold steady and mortgage rates remain historically low, offering favorable buying opportunities.
Inventory- Month's Supply in months The surge in home sales and a shrinking inventory pared down the month’s supply to 8.1 months. This is down 1.4 months from November but remains 0.9 months above last year at this time. While still at a relatively high level historically, months of inventory has declined steadily from its peak of 12.5 months in July and is now back to pre-tax credit expiration levels.
Source: National Association of Realtors - December housing data released Janurary 20.
Interest Rates Mortgage rates are inching up but remain historically low. This trend continues to support home buying, as it translates to significant savings for buyers. As overall economic recovery remains on track, rates are expected to rise to keep inflation in check.
30 year fixed 4.81%
15 year fixed 4.08%
5/1-year ARM 3.69%
30 year average for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage 8.9%
Source: Freddie Mac, Rates as of Feb 7 .