Market Update

27 May 2014

Rising home values are cooling off a bit as prices come back down to more normal levels after the big gains seen in 2013. The March Case Shiller 20-city Index rose by an annual rate of 12.4%, above the 11.8% expected, but down from the February annual rate of 12.9% and a recent peak of 13.7% in November. The Index did show a 0.9% increase in prices from February to March.

Consumers attitudes towards jobs, the economy and personal finances were more upbeat in the short term based on a recent survey from the Conference Board. The May Consumer Confidence Index rose to 83.0 from the 82.3 recorded in April and just above the 82.7 that was expected. The Index also revealed that the percentage of consumers expecting their incomes to grow over the next six months is the highest since December 2007, 20.2%.

The closely watched S&P 500 closed at a record high of 1,900 on Friday and is now up a whopping 186% from the low of 666 seen on March 9, 2009, at the height of the Great Recession. The Stock markets have been fueled by rising corporate profits, positive economic data, a comeback in housing and last but not least, support from the Federal Reserve through its QE programs. The S&P 500 is an index of 500 stocks and is designed to be a leading indicator of U.S. equities.

Home Opportunity Index 2004-2010

Home affordability reached an all-time high in 2010’s last quarter. Unfortunately for home buyers in California , it’s been a different story since, however.

As mortgage rates cratered, and with home values soft, the Home Opportunity Index reached its highest level in 20 years. The index is published by the National Association of Home Builders. 

Close to 74 percent of the new and existing homes sold between October-December 2010 were affordable to families earning the national median income of $64,400. It’s the 8th straight quarter in which the Home Affordability Index surpassed 70 percent.

Prior to 2009, the HOI rarely topped 65 percent.

That said, though, as with everything in real estate, home affordability is a local event. For example, take the Elkhart/Goshen area of northern Indiana. 97 percent of homes sold there last quarter were affordable to families making the area’s median income. 

This level of affordability is likely related to state capital Indianapolis, a perennial top-scorer itself.

For the second straight quarter — and the 22nd time dating back to 2006 — Indianapolis led all major metropolitan areas with a 93.5 affordability rating.

Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the home affordability spectrum, the “Least Affordable Major City” title went to the New York-White Plains, NY-Wayne, NJ area for the 11th consecutive quarter. Just 25.5 percent of homes were affordable to households earning the area median income.

It’s a a 6-point improvement from Q2 2010, however.

The rankings for all 225 metro areas are viewable on the NAHB website but regardless of where you live, it’s important to remember that rising mortgage rates this year have made homes less affordable in all markets across the United States. We won’t see a repeat record in this quarter’s HOI once it’s calculated and published.

Home buyers in San Jose have lost 10% of their purchasing power since November, and mortgage rates look poised to rise even more.

If your plans call for buying a home later this year, consider moving up your time frame. The long-term costs of homeownership are rising, and affordability, therefore, is falling.

Home Affordability - Top and Bottom 5 markets 2010 Q3

Last quarter, with home prices still relatively low and mortgage rates making new, all-time lows almost weekly, the cost of home ownership was extraordinarily low in California and most U.S. markets.

According to the National Association of Home Builders’ quarterly Home Opportunity Index, 72.5 percent of all new and existing homes sold between June-September 2010 were affordable to families earning the national median income. This ties the all-time high for home affordability, set in the first quarter of 2009.

The data also underscores that, when compared to historical norms, it’s a fantastic time to be a San Jose home buyer.

Prior to 2009, the Home Opportunity Index rarely topped 65. The index has remained above 70 ever since.

All real estate is local, though, and on a city-by-city basis, home affordability varied last quarter.

For example, 96% of homes sold in Kokomo, IN are affordable for families earning the area’s median income. This handily beat the average figure and led the nation. Looking at major cities, Indianapolis led the pack.

93% of homes in Indianapolis are affordable to families earning the area’s median income. This ranks #9 nationwide.

On the opposite end of the affordability scale is the New York-White Plains, NY-Wayne, NJ region. For the 10th consecutive quarter, the New York Metro region ranks last in U.S. home affordability. Just 23% of homes are affordable to families earning the local median income, although this is 3 points higher versus Q1 2010.

The rankings for all 225 metro areas are available online.

Regardless of where your hometown ranks relative to its neighbors, home affordability remains high as compared to historical values. That said, with mortgage rates rising and home sales expected to climb this winter, it’s unlikely that the Home Opportunity Index will improve.

Buying a home may never be this inexpensive again. If you planned to buy in mid-2011, consider moving up your time frame.

Home Price Index from April 2007 peak

The private-sector Case-Shiller Index reported home values up 5 percent nationwide in June. The government’s own Home Price Index, however, reached a different conclusion.

According to the Federal Home Finance Agency, month-to-month home values fell 0.3 percent in June, and values are down by 1.7 percent from June 2009.

So, as a home buyer and/or homeowner in San Jose , by which valuation model should you make your bets?  Perhaps neither. 

This is because both the Case-Shiller Index and the Home Price have inherent methodology flaws, the most glaring of which is their respective sample sets. 

The Case-Shiller sample set, for example, comes from just 20 cities across the country — and they’re not even the 20 most populated cities. Together, the Case-Shiller cities represent just 9 percent of the overall U.S. population

That’s hardly representative of the housing stock overall.

By comparison, the Home Price Index tracks home sales everywhere — every city in every state — but it specifically excludes certain properties.  The Home Price Index does not track sales of homes for which the financing comes from agencies other than Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. This means that as FHA loans grow in popularity, the pool of Home Price Index-eligible homes is reducing. 

The HPI ignores homes backed by “jumbo” loans, too.

Therefore, the “right” model for home values cannot come from national data at all — it can only come locally. Neither Case-Shiller nor the government has the tools to get as granular as a neighborhood like Willow Glen. A real estate agent in the area does, however.

The best way to get a pulse for what’s happening in markets right now is to talk to somebody with good data.

Home Affordability - Top and Bottom 5 markets 2010 Q2

With home prices holding firm and mortgage rates still dropping, home affordability is reaching new heights.

According to the quarterly Home Opportunity Index as published by the National Association of Home Builders, more than 72 percent of all new and existing homes sold between April-June 2010 were affordable to families earning the national median income.

It’s a slightly higher reading as compared to last quarter, and the second highest reading in the survey’s history.

As with all aspects of real estate, however, home affordability varies by locale. 

For example, 97.2% of homes sold in Syracuse were affordable for families making the area’s median income, earning the New York city its first “Most Affordable Major City” designation.  Indianapolis was the first quarter winner.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the “Least Affordable Major City” title went to the New York-White Plains, NY-Wayne, NJ area for the 9th consecutive quarter.  Just 19.9% of homes are affordable to families earning the local median income, down 1 percent from last quarter.

The rankings for all 225 metro areas are viewable on the NAHB website but regardless of where you live, buying a home is as affordable as it’s ever been in history. Furthermore, because home values are in recovery and mortgage rates may rise, the market is ripe for home buyers in Cambrian.

All things equal, buying a home may never be this inexpensive again. If you were planning to purchase later this year, you may want to move up your time frame.

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Home Affordability - Top and Bottom 5 markets 2010 Q1

With home prices still relatively low and mortgage rates trolling near their all-time best levels, it’s no surprise that home affordability is extraordinarily high in San Jose and most U.S. markets.

According to the quarterly Home Opportunity Index as published by the National Association of Home Builders, more than 72 percent of all new and existing homes sold between January-March 2010 were affordable to families earning the national median income.

It’s the second highest reading in the survey’s history.

Of course, on a city-by-city basis, home affordability varies. 

In the first quarter of 2010, for example, 98.7% of homes sold in Bay City, Michigan were affordable for families earning the area’s median income and in Indianapolis, the percentage was almost 95 percent.

Indianapolis has held the top quarterly ranking for close to 5 years now.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the New York-White Plains, NY-Wayne, NJ region earned the “least affordable” metropolitan area for the 8th consecutive quarter.  Just 20.9% of homes are affordable to families earning the local median income.

The rankings for all 225 metro areas are available on the NAHB website but regardless of where your town ranks, home affordability remains high as compared to historical values but it likely won’t last long.  Home values are recovering in many markets and mortgage rates won’t stay this low forever.

All things equal, buying a home may never come this cheap again. If you were planning to buy later this year, consider moving up your timeframe.

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Real estate is localCNNMoney.com recently published its 2010 forecast and projections for home prices in the country’s largest metro markets. 

Listed as “Top 25” and also comprehensively by state, CNNMoney.com’s home price forecasts puts Santa Rosa, California at the top of 2010’s home appreciation list and Hanford, California at its bottom.

The 10 cities projected for highest home appreciation in 2010 are:

  1. Santa Rosa, CA : +6.0%
  2. Cheyenne, WY : +4.7%
  3. Kennewick, WA : +4.6%
  4. Merced, CA : +4.4%
  5. Bremerton, WA : +4.2%
  6. Fairbanks, AK : +4.2%
  7. Corvallis, OR : +4.1%
  8. Tacoma, WA : +3.9%
  9. Anchorage, AK : +3.8%
  10. Bend, OR : +3.3%

The Pacific Northwest is the region most heavily-represented among price gainers. The Southeast and Middle Atlantic are most represented on the under-perform list.

However, just because a city’s homes are expected to appreciate (or depreciate) in 2010, that doesn’t mean that every home within its limits will follow suit.  Real estate cannot be grouped on a city level like CNNMoney.com tries to. There will always be areas in demand within city limits in which prices rise, just as there will be out-of-demand areas in which prices fall.

Real estate data can’t be grouped by city or even by ZIP code, really.

Real estate in San Jose is more local than that.

When we say “real estate is local”,  it means that every street in every town has a distinct set of traits that drives its home values. Homes that are one block closer to the train; or, homes that are facing north; or, homes that are made of brick. Each of these characteristics can affect a home’s desirability which, in turn, can affects its sales price.

National surveys can’t capture “essence” like this. They only report on the aggregate.

For local real estate data, look to established, publicly available websites and to active, local real estate agents.  Both will have data and insight that can help you.  National surveys often make for good headlines, but do little to help homebuyers find good value.

10 Cities For Home Bargains

13 January 2010

As the housing market improves across the country, certain cities are emerging as relative bargains.  Some areas, like Miami, were hit hard by the recession, and other areas are buoyed by good school systems and strong labor markets.

In this 5-minute video from The Today Show, 10 cities are highlighted for their home prices.  And they’re not “small towns”, either. 

Among the featured cities:

  • Miami, Florida
  • Akron, Ohio
  • Tuscon, Arizona
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Trenton, New Jersey

Now, this piece is about finding gems on a national scale.  They exist locally here in Los Gatos , too.  You just need to know what to look for.

With mortgage rates low and tax credits available, it’s not likely that bargains will last.

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Home Price Index April 2007 to October 2009

More positive signals from housing — home values are still on the rise.

According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, after posting its first quarterly increase since 2007 this past September, the Home Price Index rose by another 0.6 percent in October.

Prices are up in 4 of the last six months.

But before we take the stats to the proverbial bank, it’s important that we recognize the Home Price Index for its shortcomings.

  1. HPI only accounts for homes with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac
  2. HPI only accounts for re-sold homes — newly-built homes are excluded
  3. HPI aggregates national data whereas real estate markets are local phenomena

On a broad scale, the Home Price Index can be useful, but it doesn’t specifically apply to Los Gatos or any specific U.S. market.  For that, analysts tend to turn to the Case-Shiller Index, a privately-produced report that assesses home values in 20 cities nationwide.

 

The good news for home sellers in Cambrian is that Case-Shiller’s most recent report corroborates the government’s conclusion — home values are creeping back.

Home buyers should pay attention. When public and private sector data is in accord, markets tend to go along and, looking back, housing likely bottomed in February 2009.  Since then, home sales are up, home supplies are down, and values have increased in most U.S. markets.  Furthermore, so long as mortgage rates remain low and government stimulus is in place, the trend should continue through at least the first quarter of 2010.

If you’re on the fence about buying a home right now, or wondering about timing, consider your options vis-a-vis today’s market.  Into the new year, homes won’t likely be as cheap to buy, nor to finance.