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Home Sales and Values Up, Mortgage Rates Down

Mar 23, 2017
There was more good news than not-so-great news to be culled from the morning’s housing data

There was more good news than not-so-great news to be culled from the morning’s housing data.
First, the good news: Sales of new single-family houses during February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 592,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This level is 6.1 percent higher than the revised January rate of 558,000 and is 12.8 percent above the 525,000 estimate from February 2016.
The median sales price of new houses sold in February 2017 was $296,200 while the average sales price was $390,400. The seasonally-adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of February was 266,000, which represents a 5.4-month supply at the current sales rate.
Separately, home values during February increased by seven percent on a year-over-year while the selection of available properties fell by three percent during the same period, according to new data from Zillow. Last month also saw the median U.S. home value reach $195,700, its highest value since June 2007.
Zillow also reported that purchase mortgage requests on its Web site were seven percent compared to one year ago, while refinance requests on Zillow plummeted by 69 percent during the same period. On the other side of the homeownership spectrum, the national median rent across the nation increased year-over-year by 1.2 percent since last February, with the median payment reaching $1,406 per month.
"Low inventory, strong demand and tough competition will be the defining characteristics of this year's home shopping season," said Zillow Chief Economist Svenja Gudell.
Over on the servicing side, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac completed 189,911 foreclosure prevention actions in 2016, bringing the total number of troubled homeowners helped since the September 2008 conservatorships to more than 3.8 million. The government-sponsored enterprises’ (GSE) serious delinquency rate fell to 1.1 percent at the end of the fourth quarter, the lowest level since June 2008, while the number of 60-plus-days delinquent loans declined slightly to 420,709 at the end of the fourth quarter, which was also the lowest level since 2008. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s REO inventory shrank by nine percent in the fourth quarter to 48,380.
And, now, the not-so-great news: After two consecutive weeks of increases, average mortgage rates took a drop. According to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS) for the week ending March 23, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.23 percent, down from last week when it averaged 4.30 percent, and the 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.44 percent, down from last week when it averaged 3.50 percent. The five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.24 percent this week, down from last week when it averaged 3.28 percent.
Sean Becketti, chief economist at Freddie Mac, noted, “This marks the greatest week-over-week decline for the 30-year mortgage rate in over two months, a stark contrast from last week's jump following the FOMC announcement.”
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