While housing prices aren’t showing any signs of leveling off in the near future, one analyst says he expects total sales to drop precipitously in the coming months.
Ian Shepherdson, chief economist and founder of research consulting firm Pantheon Macroeconomics, predicts existing-home sales will tumble 25% between February and the end of summer. In real numbers, that brings the annual pace from 6.02 million to 4.5 million.
“The housing market is in the early stages of a substantial downshift in activity, which will trigger a steep decline in the rate of increase of home prices, starting perhaps as soon as the spring,” Shepherdson wrote in a note.
The prediction is based upon data from the Mortgage Bankers Association that shows an 8% decline in loan applications. That comes as the average monthly mortgage payment has increased by over $400 per month, Shepherdson calculates. And it could be a canary for the housing industry.
Should the market slow down, he notes, many potential sellers could opt not to list, in an effort to not “be the last person trying to sell into a falling market.” That would hurt existing market supply issues even more.
The slowdown could impact new-home sales, in addition to existing homes, he says. And that could have some more severe long-term economic impacts.
“A sustained drop in home sales—new-home sales will fall too—would be a direct drag on GDP growth, at the margin, via downward pressure on residential investment, and all the services—legal, removals, and others—directly tied to sales volumes,” he said. “It would also depress retail spending on building materials, appliances, and household electronics.”
But homebuyers are far from discouraged.
Hot on the heels of the latest Fed rate hike, the 30-year fixed US mortgage rate increased three basis points to 5.30%, Freddie Mac reported Thursday.
As of May 12, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was up to 5.30% compared to 2.94% at this time last year. The uptick follows the FOMC’s move on Monday to increase the benchmark rate by half a percentage point – the biggest interest rate hike in 22 years.
The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, however, posted a slight week-over-week decrease, down to 4.48% from 4.52% a week ago and up from 2.26% a year ago. The five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.98% - two basis points higher than a week ago and up by more than a percentage point from last year’s 2.59% average.
Even though higher rates have caused monthly payments to increase by roughly one-third year over year, Freddie Mac chief economist Sam Khater noted that consumers’ appetite for buying homes remains strong.
“Several factors are contributing to this dynamic, including the large wave of first-time homebuyers looking to realize the dream of homeownership,” Khater explained.
“In the months ahead, we expect monetary policy and inflation to discourage many consumers, weakening purchase demand and decelerating home price growth,” he added.
Scam fraudulently eliminated home mortgages before profiting on sales.
A California man was sentenced this week to 15 years in prison for a bank fraud scheme aimed at fraudulently eliminating home mortgages before profiting on subsequent home sales, the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California said.
James Christopher Castle, 57, formerly of Petaluma, Calif., was given the lengthy prison sentence for the scheme. Last August, a jury found Castle guilty of 35 counts of bank fraud. According to evidence at trial, in May 2020, Castle was extradited to the United States from Australia. Castle previously fled to New Zealand and then Australia in 2011 when it became clear that his scheme was unravelling, the US Attorney said. After a three-year extradition process, Castle was transported back to the US by the US Marshals Service to stand trial in the United States.
Between April 22, 2010, and Nov. 18, 2011, justice officials said, Castle was the leader of a conspiracy that ran a “mortgage elimination program” that purported to help distressed homeowners avoid foreclosure. The conspirators fraudulently altered the chain of title on residential properties, sold the properties, and received the sales proceeds.
Justice officials described how, as a requirement for participation in the “mortgage elimination program,” the conspirators enrolled homeowners as members in a Nevada City-based church named Shon-te-East-a, Walks With Spirit, or its successor entity Pillow Foundation. The conspirators told the homeowners that these entities would offer protection against the banks.
Castle directed other co-conspirators in all aspects of the mortgage elimination program, including recruiting homeowners into the scheme, marshaling the necessary recorded documents, and guiding the homes through sale, officials said. Once the homeowner enrolled with Shon-te-East-a or Pillow Foundation, Castle would cause a sham deed of trust to be created and recorded, giving the impression that the homeowner had refinanced the mortgage loan with a new lender. In reality, officials noted, the new lender was a fake entity controlled by the conspirators, and the homeowner owed no money to the purported new lender.
The next step in the process was also a recorded document. According to the US Attorney’s Office, the conspirators caused a fake deed of re-conveyance to be recorded, giving the appearance that the true mortgage loan had been discharged and that the true lien holder no longer had a security interest in the home.
With title appearing to be clear, the conspirators caused the sale of the home and split the proceeds between the co-conspirators and the homeowners.
In total, 37 properties were sold through the Shon-te-East-a conspiracy. The conspirators recorded fraudulent documents on an additional approximately 100 homes but were unable to sell these before the scheme unraveled, officials added.
Three other co-defendants have previously entered guilty pleas. On April 21, 2017, Remus A. Kirkpatrick, 65, formerly of Oceanside, pleaded guilty to one count of falsely making writings of lending associations and was sentenced to six years in prison. On May 26, 2017, Michael Romano, 75, of Benicia, Calif., pleaded guilty to conspiracy and was sentenced to three years in prison. On July 14, 2017, Laura Pezzi, of Roseville, Calif., pleaded guilty to falsely making writings of lending associations and was sentenced to time served.
In related cases, on Sept. 04, 2015, Tisha Trites and Todd Smith, both of San Diego, Calif., pleaded guilty to related charges. Trites is scheduled to be sentenced on June 14, 2022, and Smith was sentenced to two years in prison.
Two other co-defendants, George B. Larsen, 60, of San Rafael, and Larry Todt, 70, of Malibu, Calif., were convicted of conspiracy and bank fraud following a jury trial in December 2017. Larsen was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and Todt was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison.
Co-defendant John Michael DiChiara passed away on Aug. 24, 2019, while awaiting trial.
New figures suggest inflation could remain elevated for the foreseeable future.
US consumer prices rose more than forecast in April, building on economy-wide inflationary pressures that are weighing on households and spurring the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates aggressively.
The core consumer price index, which excludes food and energy, increased 0.6% from a month earlier and 6.2% from April 2021, according to Labor Department data released Wednesday. The broader CPI rose 0.3% from the prior month and 8.3% on an annual basis, still among the highest readings in decades.
Some of the largest contributer's to the monthly increase included shelter, food, airfares and new vehicles.
The core CPI was projected to rise 0.4% from a month earlier, while the headline gauge was seen climbing 0.2%, according to the median estimates in a Bloomberg survey of economists.
While the latest report shows that US inflation has likely peaked, the figures underscore the breadth of price increases in the economy and, when combined with firm wage growth, suggest inflation will remain elevated for quite some time.
Despite the Fed raising interest rates, including the biggest rate hike since 2000 last week, global headwinds like China’s lockdowns and resilient services’ demand may mean a slow road to the central bank’s 2% goal.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell signaled last week that officials are open to several half-point increases in the central bank’s benchmark rate in the months ahead. The CPI will help shape estimates for the April personal consumption expenditures price index, the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge, which will be released on May 27.
Inflation has put President Joe Biden and Democrats on their heels this year, threatening their thin congressional majorities despite a robust job market and resilient consumer spending.
A key expectation for a moderation in inflation this year hinges on slowdown in goods prices as Americans shift their discretionary income to activities like travel and dining out. Goods inflation declined while services costs increased by the most since 2001 on a monthly basis.
Much of the cost control can be attributed to technology, says CoreLogic exec.
The national average closing costs for a single-family property refinance increased by $88 to $2,375 in 2021, data from CoreLogic showed.
While refinance closing costs were 3.8% higher than 2020’s reported amount of $2,287, they were less than 1% of the average refinance loan amount of $304,909. Refi closing costs were also relatively lower compared to the average closing costs for purchase transactions, which require title insurance and several inspection fees.
Still, homeowners were able to get good deals on refinance closing costs, according to CoreLogic executive Bob Jennings.
“While refinance closing costs increased marginally, annual increases in fees still remain below the 7% average rate of inflation seen in 2021,” Jennings said. “Much of the cost control can be attributed to the growing use of technology solutions by both lenders and settlement services providers, which enabled the industry to scale up capacity while holding the line on closing costs.”
The highest average closing costs (without specialty taxes) were Hawaii ($4,730), New York ($4,679), Florida ($3,956), Texas ($3,588) and District of Columbia ($3,370). Including taxes, New York ($10,084), Pennsylvania ($7,614), Delaware ($7,223), Florida ($5,821) and California ($5,762) posted the highest closing costs.
Consumer perception of getting a mortgage also falls.
Consumer outlook toward housing slumped in April to its lowest level in two years as Americans continue to stress about housing affordability and rising mortgage rates.
Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI) plunged 4.7 points month over month and 10.5 points year over year to 68.5 – its lowest reading since May 2020.
The decline comes as more consumers report “difficult homebuying conditions amid the budget-tightening constraints of inflation, higher mortgage rates, and high home price appreciation,” said Doug Duncan, chief economist of Fannie Mae.
“The current lack of entry-level supply and the rapid uptick in mortgage rates appear to be adversely impacting potential first-time homebuyers, in particular, evidenced by the larger share of younger respondents (aged 18- to 34) reporting that it’s a bad time to buy a home,” Duncan said. “Additionally, consumer perception regarding the ease of getting a mortgage also decreased across nearly all surveyed segments this month, suggesting to us that the benefit of the recent past’s historically low mortgage rate environment appears to have diminished, and affordability is poised to become an even greater constraint going forward. This sentiment is consistent with our forecast of decelerating home sales through the rest of 2022 and into 2023.”
They have resumed their upward climb.
Mortgage rates in the US resumed their upward climb, reaching the highest level since August 2009.
The average for a 30-year loan jumped to 5.27% from 5.10% last week, Freddie Mac said in a statement Thursday.
The Federal Reserve yesterday raised its benchmark rate by a half point, the biggest bump since 2000, and signaled further hikes to come in its effort to cool inflation and the overheated housing market. Higher mortgage costs -- already up more than two percentage points this year -- may increasingly push out would-be homebuyers and ease competition for a scarce supply of listings.
“While housing affordability and inflationary pressures pose challenges for potential buyers, house-price growth will continue but is expected to decelerate in the coming months,” Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, said in the statement.
Families typically spent 18.7% of their income on mortgage payments in the first quarter, up from 14.2% a year earlier, data from National Association of Realtors showed this week.
At the current 30-year average, a borrower with a $300,000 mortgage would pay $1,660 a month, $377 more than at the end of last year.
“With much higher monthly payments, buyers who don’t have savings for a large down payment risk being priced out of the market,” said Joel Berner, senior economic research analyst from Realtor.com. “Unfortunately, this is occurring just as nationwide rents reach an all-time high, making saving more difficult for those looking to buy their first home.”
Tight inventory is beginning to crimp purchases. But plenty of pent-up demand from the past couple of years and a rising share of cash buyers make a crash in home sales unlikely, according to Matthew Pointon, senior property economist at Capital Economics.
"Expeditiously 'getting to neutral' will not be enough this cycle"
The Federal Reserve will need to raise short-term interest rates to at least 3.5% to bring surging inflation under control, former vice chairman Richard Clarida said.
“Expeditiously ‘getting to neutral’ will not be enough this cycle to return inflation over the forecast horizon back to the 2% longer-run goal,” he said in remarks prepared for delivery to a Hoover Institution conference on Friday. “The funds rate will I believe ultimately need to be raised well into restrictive territory, by at least a percentage point above the estimated nominal neutral rate of 2.5%.”
The Fed on Wednesday raised it target range for the federal funds rate by a half percentage point, to 0.5% to 0.75%, and said ongoing increases were likely. It also announced a plan to start reducing its big balance sheet next month.
Clarida, who left the Fed in January, said his former colleagues might not have to raise rates as high as he suggested if the balance-sheet rundown has a substantially bigger impact on financial conditions than currently envisaged.
The Fed will begin shrinking its holdings of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities from June 01 at a combined monthly pace of $47.5 billion, stepping up after three months to $95 billion.
Conversely, policy makers might have to raise more if inflation does not fall as much as they’ve projected, the Columbia University professor said.
It's also a double-digit price appreciation for most metros.
A host of metros reached double-digit annual house price gains in Q1 2022 compared to the previous quarter – with midsize and small markets making the biggest jumps, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
Alarmingly, 70% of 185 metros have reported a 66% increase from last quarter. This has been exacerbated by the increases in median single-family existing-home prices, rising 15.7% to $368,200 compared to 2021.
The South region alone made up 45% of single-family existing-home sales in the first quarter, with a double-digit price appreciation of 20.1%. Meanwhile, the Northeast saw a climb of 6.7%, the Midwest 8.5% and the West 5.9%.
Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR, said appreciation would likely ease as more supply comes in for the upcoming quarter, noting a record low amount of inventory at the start of Q1.
“Prices throughout the country have surged for the better part of two years, including the first quarter of 2022. Given the extremely low inventory, we’re unlikely to see price declines, but appreciation should slow in the coming months,” Yun said. “I expect more pullback in housing demand as mortgage rates take a heavier toll on affordability. There are no indications that rates will ease anytime soon.”
The top 10 locations with the highest YOY price gains consist of mid and small markets, with half of them in Florida: Punta Gorda (34.4%), Ocala (33.8%), Ogden-Clearfield (30.8%), Lakeland-Winter Haven (30.1%), Decatur (28.9%), Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (28.8%), Fort Collins (28.4%), North Point-Bradenton-Sarasota (28.0%), Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach (28.0%) and Salt Lake City (27.9%).
“Traditionally, homes in these markets were viewed as relatively inexpensive, but with recent migration trends, prices have increased significantly,” Yun said. “As more families relocate to various areas, we may see some surprising markets on our top 10 list.”
Meanwhile, the top 10 locations with the most expensive markets aren’t so surprising, with half of them in California: San Jose-Sunnyvale-Sta. Clara ($1,875,000), San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward ($1,380,000), Anaheim-Sta. Ana-Irvine ($1,260,000), Urban Honolulu ($1,127,900), San Diego-Carlsbad ($905,000), Boulder ($859,100), Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale ($792,500), Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue ($746,200), Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island ($745,000) and Denver-Aurora-Lakewood ($662,200).
Supply chain issues and cost spikes are especially problematic.
Unless one is in the process of building a home, the effects that supply chain issues and inflation have on homebuilders can be viewed as an abstraction. But to builders themselves, the issue is hardly conceptual but one dramatically affecting business.
Just ask Ernie Hofmann, president of New Jersey-based Hofmann Design Build Inc. – a full line design/build firm specializing in residential remodeling, custom home construction, historic restoration and light commercial remodeling – who’s also a member of the National Association of Home Builders. In a recent interview, he gave Mortgage Professional America an insider’s look at the real-world impact market changes are having on his industry.
For instance, take lacquer – the liquid made of shellac that’s dissolved in alcohol or of synthetic substances that dries to form a hard, protective coating for wood, metal and other materials. “Kitchen cabinets and cabinetry in general has gone up 30 percent in the past year and continues to go up on a monthly basis,” he said during a recent interview, as if setting up for the zinger. “The lacquer finish that my cabinet maker uses was 90 bucks a gallon two years ago, and now it’s $400 a gallon.”
Having worked in the construction industry for 43 years – starting as an apprentice carpenter before working in the field for ten years prior to earning his degree in civil engineering technology – there’s not much Hoffman hasn’t seen. But the current situation has been eye-opening for even this seasoned industry veteran.
“The supply chain [issues] are significantly delaying our projects,” he said, citing a two-year period beginning in 2020 when delays began occurring in earnest until today. Last year, his firm had a project for which interior doors were needed. What would’ve have taken a week to secure in the past instead took three and a half months, he said.
Exacerbating the problem is the sheer randomness of shortages, with one never knowing what specific items will be delayed and which won’t. “It was not quite as random,” he said of times past. “Probably the biggest issue is the long lead time on things. Kitchen cabinets went from four to six weeks in June 2021 to 14 to 18 weeks in August 2021, and it hasn’t changed since.
“It only takes about six weeks to renovate a kitchen, and we’re waiting on cabinets. Windows are a 14-week lead time. That’s really hurting cash flow in a big way.”
Labor shortages aren’t an issue, he said, but those shortages put things on hold: “We don’t necessarily have a labor shortage, but we can’t start because of potential delays.” Sub-zero refrigerators and Viking ranges are all the rage among luxury supplies, but are hard to come by as well, he noted. “There are alternatives, but still months and months away.”
And that’s not even mentioning supply costs.
“Another big factor is several of our projects are canceled because of the astronomical building material costs,” Hofmann said. Take cedar shingles: “They’re practically the cost of gold these days. I think it’s $450 to cover 20 square feet with cedar siding, which is just ridiculous. That project was postponed because from when we started this design to when it was ready for construction, the building materials costs jacked up the price by $30,000.”
Lumber costs continue to rise as well – if one can even secure it, he said. “We can’t order that in advance, and there’s no lead time.” Back in the day, he said, one could call the lumber yard and get what’s needed in a matter of a couple of days. Today, it takes two to three weeks. Lately, more substitutions are being made with three0inch flooring in lieu of the 2 ¼-inch variety given the latter’s shortage amid high demand, he said.
Clients sometimes postpone projects given such spiraling costs, hurting builders’ cash flow and revenue in the process. “We’ve had at least four projects in the past year that have been canceled because the costs have escalated so much,” Hofmann said, invoking the example of a $400,000 project upon which his firm was ready to embark. “The owner said ‘We want to do this, but can’t bring ourselves to spending that kind of money right now with building materials so out of control.’”
So, homebuyer, next time you start to write a negative online review for a builder or fire off a nasty email, think of their woes amid this changing market. And maybe think more along the lines of a sympathetic hug.