July Housing Starts and Permits

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.
Joel L. Naroff
President and Chief Economist

INDICATOR: July Housing Starts and Permits
KEY DATA: Starts: -1.5%; 5+ Units: +6.3%; Permits: -3.2%;

IN A NUTSHELL: “Home construction may not be the leader of the pack but it no longer looks like it will hold things back.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Housing activity is a key factor in the sluggish recovery and there are no great expectations that the sector will return to being robust for quite a while. Given that reality, what I have been looking for is the sector to move forward at a pace which will actually add to growth and that may be happening. After a solid rise in June, there was a modest decline in construction in July. To me, this represents not a backward movement but a solidification of the gains that were made. Housing starts are also up nearly 10% from July 2010, so maybe the improvement is really underway. The multifamily segment rose strongly and since rental housing looks to be the place to be given the inability to buy new homes, this is a good sign that the market is working. Improvement was seen in the East and West. However, a large decline in the Midwest largely created the drop in housing starts. Was weather a factor? That is not clear but a nearly 23% fall off seems to point to a special circumstance not a trend. There was a much more moderate decline in the South. Looking forward, permit requests also eased back but again they are up compared to last year. The number of homes under construction continues to drop, which is disturbing as it implies payrolls are not rising. This is due to the large number of houses that have been completed recently.

MARKETS AND FED POLICY IMPLICATIONS: Housing is coming back slowly but it is coming back. We too often forget that most of the problems arose in just a handful of major construction regions. A large part of the country did not participate in the housing bubble at nearly the same pace and are now beginning to come back. Don’t expect to see strong levels of construction anytime soon as the areas where so much of the construction used to take place are where the excess supply due to the distressed housing inventory exists. But if we see housing starts rise in other areas, which is most of the rest of the nation, then we know the sector is healing. I think that process has begun and I am buoyed by that. As for investors, the world is now the worry, especially Europe even as it appears the U.S. economy is beginning to show that it remains quite resilient. Watch August vehicle sales. With demand up in July, a good sales pace would signal the consumer is spending better than expected and with construction in the positive column, we could see third quarter growth better than the weak pace most economists now project.
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RE/MAX Connection Realtors are not licensed financial advisors, and are not providing any financial advice, you should consult with a licensed financial advisor prior to making any financial decisions. RE/MAX Connection Realtors are only providing this economic statement from Naroff Economic Advisors, Inc. for informational purposes.
Our company accepts no liability for the content of this email/blog, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. Any views or opinions presented in this email/blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. Finally, the recipient should check this email and any attachments for the presence of viruses. The company accepts no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this email.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors, 1000 East Lincoln Drive, Suite 2, Marlton, NJ 08053 www.goconnectionnj.com

January Existing Home Sales

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.
Joel L. Naroff
President and Chief Economist

INDICATOR: January Existing Home Sales
KEY DATA: Sales: up 2.7%; 1-Family: +2.4%; Condos: +4.7%; Median Prices: -3.7%

IN A NUTSHELL: “Distressed homes are being recycled and while that may be bad for prices it is good for the housing market.”

WHAT IT MEANS: The housing market is slowly coming back, powered by rising distressed homes demand. Existing home sales improved solidly in January to the highest level in eight months. In the spring, sales were boosted by incentives but now they are being driven by sales to investors. Regionally, only the Northeast posted a decline while the West led the way with a nearly 8% increase. The National Association of Realtors noted that all cash purchases and investor demand has been rising consistently and is beginning to make a dent in the inventory, which is falling sharply. But there is no such thing as a free home and with distressed properties accounting for such a large share of the demand, it is not surprising that prices continue to decline. In January, they were the lowest in almost nine years.

MARKETS AND FED POLICY IMPLICATIONS: This was a good report as sales are steadily rising and inventory is thinning. We have to be cautious about prices, though. Yes, they look abysmal but with so much of the market being driven by distress sales, it is not clear what has happened to the price of “normal” properties. I suspect in those cases, the price declines are limited and in those areas where foreclosures have been modest, they could even be rising. Don’t be surprised if housing adds to growth all this year, though with the pace of sales and construction so low, not a lot of jobs will accompany those gains. Meanwhile, back in the Middle East, turmoil continues and until we get some idea when it will end and what the implications are for oil and other commodities, investors are likely to remain on edge.

RE/MAX Connection Realtors disclaimer:
RE/MAX Connection Realtors are not licensed financial advisiors, and are not providing any financial advise, you should consult with a licensed financial advisior prior to making any financial decisions. RE/MAX Connection Realtors are only providing this economic statement from Naroff Economic Advisors, Inc. for informational purposes.
Our company accepts no liability for the content of this email/blog, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. Any views or opinions presented in this email/blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. Finally, the recipient should check this email and any attachments for the presence of viruses. The company accepts no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this email.
RE/MAX Connection Realtors, 1000 East Lincoln Drive, Suite 2, Marlton, NJ 08053 www.goconnectionnj.com

December Existing Home Sales

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.

Joel L. Naroff

President and Chief Economist

INDICATOR: December Existing Home Sales

KEY DATA: Sales: +12.3%; 2010 Annual: -4.8%

 IN A NUTSHELL:   “With the confusion from the government’s buyers’ incentives finally a thing of the past, it appears that the housing market is getting better.”

 WHAT IT MEANS:  The weakest link may be finally eating some spinach.  Existing home sales soared in December wiping out the downturn that appeared after the first time/long time buyers’ incentives disappeared.  It looks like buyers are coming in to the market and that is occurring throughout the nation.  Every region posted double-digit gains.  The National Association of Realtors noted that distressed homes made up a significant portion of the sales with the percentage rising to 36% from 33% in November.   Prices eased back but largely because of a sharp drop in the West where foreclosures are the way to go.  There were increases in prices in the Midwest and South and a minimal decline in the Northeast.  For the year as a whole, median home prices rose a modest 0.3%.  Still, they were up.  The inventory of homes fell with the number of houses available down and the months of supply also off.  

 MARKETS AND FED POLICY IMPLICATIONS: This was a solid report that points to a firming in the housing market, at least for existing homes.  Clearly, distressed properties are a critical part of the recovery as those homes generally sell at a significant discount.  That makes it difficult for new home builders to compete and that part of the market will likely continue to lag.  Investors are becoming a very significant part of the market as they bought about 20% of the properties in December, according to the National Association of Realtors.  That is a good thing as the inventory has to be reduced.  Investors are not simply flipping the homes but are often renting them out, matching need with supply.  This is a valuable part of the process of working through the excess number of homes built last decade.  The sooner that happens, the quicker the housing market will return to normal.  This report is another in a long line that point to the recovery improving and investors and members of the Fed should read it that way.

November Existing Home Sales

NAROFF ECONOMIC ADVISORS, Inc.

Joel L. Naroff

President and Chief Economist

 

INDICATOR: November Existing Home Sales

KEY DATA: Sales: +5.6%; 1-Family: +6.7%; Condos: -1.9%  

IN A NUTSHELL:   “The housing markets upward climb from the depths of depression is continuing.”  

WHAT IT MEANS:   The housing market is coming back!  Okay, that is saying way too much about a sector that is still hurting.  Nevertheless, the direction is up and that is good.  Existing home sales rose in November, according to the National Association of Realtors.  Yes, I know, the sales pace remains pathetic but everything is relative.  Since hitting rock bottom in July, a consequence of the government’s home buyers’ credits disappearing, demand has steadily improved.  Most of the gain came in the single-family portion of the market.  Condo and coop purchases have improved modestly.  Looking across the nation, while every region posted an increase, the Midwest and West shined the most.  As for prices, they firmed but mostly in the Northeast.  With inventory declining, we could see prices rise slowly going forward. 

MARKETS AND FED POLICY IMPLICATIONS: Yes, Virginia, there is a housing market.  No, it is not a robust, economy leader but it is turning around.  Housing starts seem to be edging upward and now we see that existing home sales are on a clear improving trend.  Mortgage rates are still quite low even with the recent pop and that rise will likely hurt refinancings more than new purchases.  That, indeed, is what the Mortgage Bankers Association weekly applications data seem to be indicating.  The rates remain great on an historical basis and should hot stop too many sales.  The problem is more with equity and credit availability.  With prices so low and appraisals using many fire sale comparables, it is hard to get much money from a home.   Lacking equity, it’s tough to move and without people trading up or down, demand is limited.  That not only hurts the housing market but also affects labor mobility.  While another housing bubble would not be a good idea, some decent increases in home prices would be a great help.  Despite the depressed levels, investors should look at this report as a sign that housing could add somewhat to growth going forward.  As for the Fed, the members have hung their bond purchases on the economy with care, hoping a robust recovery will soon appear.  They will likely get that upturn, but not because of QE2.