The ‘REAL’ News about Housing Affordability

The 'REAL' News about Housing Affordability | MyKCM

Some industry experts are claiming that the housing market may be headed for a slowdown as we proceed through 2017, based on rising home prices and a potential jump in mortgage interest rates. One of the data points they use is the Housing Affordability Index, as reported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Here is how NAR defines the index:

“The Housing Affordability Index measures whether or not a typical family earns enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a typical home at the national level based on the most recent price and income data.”

Basically, a value of 100 means a family earning the median income earns enough to qualify for a mortgage on a median-priced home, based on the price and mortgage interest rates at the time. Anything above 100 means the family has more than enough to qualify.

The higher the index, the easier it is to afford a home.

Why the concern?

The index has been declining over the last several years as home values increased. Some are concerned that too many buyers could be priced out of the market.

But, wait a minute…

Though the index skyrocketed from 2009 through 2013, we must realize that during that time, the housing crisis left the market with an overabundance of distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales). All prices dropped dramatically and distressed properties sold at major discounts. Then, mortgage rates fell like a rock.

The market is recovering, and values are coming back nicely. That has caused the index to fall.

However, let’s remove the crisis years (shaded in gray) and look at the current index as compared to the index from 1990 – 2008:

The 'REAL' News about Housing Affordability | MyKCM

Though prices and rates appear to be increasing, we must realize that affordability is composed of three ingredients: home prices, interest rates, and income. And, incomes are finally rising.

ATTOM Data Solutions recently released their Q1 2017 U.S. Home Affordability Index. The report explained:

“Stronger wage growth is the silver lining in this report, outpacing home price growth in more than half of the markets for the first time since Q1 2012, when median home prices were still falling nationwide. If that pattern continues, it will help turn the tide in the eroding home affordability trend.”

Bottom Line

Compared to historic norms, it is still a great time to buy from an affordability standpoint.

Housing Market Slowing Down? Don’t Tell Builders!

Housing Market Slowing Down? Don’t Tell Builders! | MyKCM

Many experts have been calling upon home builders to ramp up construction to help with the lack of existing inventory for sale. For the past two months, new home sales have surged, with July’s total coming in at the highest since October 2007.

The latest estimates from the US Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development show that sales in July were 31.3% higher than this time last year, and 12.4% higher than last month, at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 654,000. 

Zillow’s Chief Economist, Svenja Gudell, echoed the reaction of some as she commented:

“July(‘s) new home sales data was a surprise, but a welcome one. For years, the market has been practically begging builders to both ramp up their efforts overall and to put more focus on serving the less expensive end of the market. Today’s data confirms both are happening in earnest.”

The National Association of Home Builder’s (NAHB) Chairman, Ed Brady, didn’t seem as surprised:

“This rise in new home sales is consistent with our builders’ reports that market conditions have been improving. As existing home inventory remains flat, we should see more consumers turning to new construction.”

NAHB’s Chief Economist, Robert Dietz, believes this is just the start for new home sales if market conditions continue:

“July’s positive report shows there is a need for new single-family homes, buoyed by increased household formation, job gains and attractive mortgage rates. This uptick in demand should translate into increased housing production throughout 2016 and into next year.”

The existing home sales numbers for July will be released today and will shed more light on the overall health of the housing market.

Bottom Line

New home sales hit their highest mark in over 9 years. Buyers are out in force to find a home that fits their needs. Many are turning to new construction, as the inventory of existing homes has not been able to keep up with demand.

How Scary is the Housing Affordability Index?

How Scary is the Housing Affordability Index? | MyKCM

Some industry pundits are saying that the housing market may be heading for a slowdown. One of the data points they use is the falling numbers of the Housing Affordability Index, as reported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Here is how NAR defines the index:

“The Housing Affordability Index measures whether or not a typical family earns enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a typical home at the national level based on the most recent price and income data.”

Basically, a value of 100 means a family earning the median income earns enough to qualify for a mortgage on a median priced home, based on the price and mortgage interest rates at the time. Anything above 100 means the family has more than enough to qualify.

The higher the index the easier it is to afford a home.

Why the concern?

The index has been declining over the last several years as home values increased. Some are concerned that too many buyers could be priced out of the market. Here is a snapshot of the index since 2009:

How Scary is the Housing Affordability Index? | MyKCM

But, wait a minute…

Though the index has decreased over the last four years, we must realize that at that time there was an overabundance of housing inventory and as many as one out of three listings was a distressed property (foreclosure or short sale). All prices dropped dramatically and distressed properties sold at major discounts. Then, mortgage rates fell like a rock.

The market is recovering and values are coming back nicely. That has caused the index to fall.

However, let’s remove the crisis years and look at the current index as compared to the index from 1990 – 2008. We can see that, even though prices have increased, historically low mortgage rates have put the index in a better position than every year for the nineteen years prior to the crash.

How Scary is the Housing Affordability Index? | MyKCM

Bottom Line

The Housing Affordability Index is in great shape and should not be seen as a challenge to the real estate market’s continued recovery.

The Housing Market is Doing Just Fine

The Housing Market is Doing Just Fine | MyKCM

There are some that think that housing affordability is a challenge. Historically, that’s not true. Others think that home prices are approaching bubble values. If we look back over the last sixteen years, that is also not the case. As a matter of fact, the numbers show that the U.S. residential real estate market is doing just fine.

Here are two articles and excerpts that make this point:

The Housing Market Is Finally Starting to Look HealthyThe NY Times

It has been an excruciatingly long time coming, but the housing sector in the United States is finally getting healthy. Thank millennials and thank homebuilders who are starting to produce more of the starter houses young people demand.”

Why the U.S. Housing Market Is Good and Getting Even BetterThe Street

“Interest rates are so low now that a family can buy the median-priced U.S. home on income of less than $45,000 a year — about $11,000 less than the median household income. And half of America’s houses are cheaper than that.” 

There are those worried that all this positive talk resembles what was being said in 2004 and 2005. Jonathan Smoke, Chief Economist at realtor.com, explains the difference very simply but effectively:

“The havoc during the last cycle was the result of building too many homes and of speculation fueled by loose credit. That’s the exact opposite of what we have today.” (emphasis added)

The Presidential Election and Its Impact on Housing

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Every four years people question what effect the Presidential election might have on the national housing market. Let’s take a look at what is currently taking place. The New York Times ran an articleearlier this week where they explained:

“A growing body of research shows that during presidential election years — particularly ones like this when there is such uncertainty about the nation’s future — industry becomes almost paralyzed. A look at the last several dozen election cycles shows that during the final year of a presidential term, big corporate investments are routinely postponed, and big deals are put on the back burner.

The research is even more persuasive on the final year of an eight-year presidential term, when a new candidate inevitably will become president.”

We are seeing this take form in the latest economic numbers. However, will this lead to a slowdown in the housing market? Not according to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or the National Association of Realtors.

The Impact on Housing Throughout 2016

Let’s look at what has happened and what is projected to happen by these three major entities.

National Association of Realtors

“In spite of deficient supply levels, stock market volatility and the paltry economic growth seen so far this year, the housing market did show resilience and had its best first quarter of existing-sales since 2007.”

Freddie Mac

“Recent data darkened the growth outlook for the first quarter of 2016. However, despite the disappointing economic reports, we still forecast housing to maintain its momentum in 2016.”

Fannie Mae

“Consumers and businesses showed caution at the end of the first quarter…(but) Home sales are expected to pick up heading into the spring season amid the backdrop of declining mortgage rates, rising pending home sales and purchase mortgage applications, and continued easing of lending standards on residential mortgage loans.”

Bottom Line

Even during this election year, the desire to achieve the American Dream is greater than the fear of uncertainty of the next presidency.

Housing Market Snapshot [INFOGRAPHIC]

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Some Highlights:

  • Home sales are up 1.5% year-over-year and 5.1% month-over-month.
  • Demand is still much higher than the available housing inventory which declined 2.2% from March 2015.
  • This is the 49th consecutive month with year-0ver-year price gains.

Where is Housing Headed for the Rest of 2016?

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With the overall economy just inching along, some experts are questioning whether the housing market can continue its momentum throughout the rest of the year. People are beginning to ask questions such as:

  • Will disappointing economic news adversely impact housing?
  • Is affordability a major concern in today’s real estate market?
  • Are we approaching a new housing bubble?
  • Are mortgage standards too tight? Or have they loosened too much?

Freddie Mac, in their April Economic Outlook, addresses the disappointing economic news and what impact they think it will have on housing:

“Recent data darkened the growth outlook for the first quarter of 2016. However, despite the disappointing economic reports, we still forecast housing to maintain its momentum in 2016.

We’ve revised down our forecast for economic growth to reflect the recent data for the first quarter, but our outlook for the balance of the year remains modestly optimistic for the economy.”

What about real estate?

Freddie Mac was much more optimistic about housing…

“We maintain our positive view on housing. In fact, the declines in long-term interest rates that accompanied much of the recent news should increase mortgage market activity.”

They went on to conclude:

“We expect housing to be an engine of growth. Construction activity will pick up as we enter the spring and summer months, and rising home values will bolster consumers and help support renewed confidence in the remaining months of this year.”