We received the usual end-of-the month deluge of February and March housing data. It was mixed but good enough to shore up hopes for a strong spring market while the Federal Reserve gladdened hearts by leaving the fed funds rate unchanged. Mortgage rates, which have been acting unilaterally vis-à-vis the Fed of late anyway, have moved higher, cutting the mini-refi boom short after three weeks of rising numbers.
The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) based on signed contracts to purchase existing homes hit 110.5 in March, an increase of 1.4% from both February and March 2015 and the highest the index has been since last May. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) said it was the 19th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.
Every silver lining has a little tarnish however and NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun pointed out that demand is starting to weaken in some places, particularly the West. Median prices have risen there “an astonishing 38% in the last three years,” he said and as a result the regions pending sales have declined in four of the last five months. March was also the third straight month that contract signings in the region lagged those a year earlier.
The Census Bureau said new home sales slipped 1.5% in March but remained 5.4% ahead of the 2015 pace while revisions to both January and February numbers make the picture much brighter than originally thought. January’s unexpected 9% drop brought sales down to an annual rate of 494,000 units. Two revisions to January and one to February have put sales at a 511,000 unit pace, even after the March dip.
And prices continue to rise. Case-Shiller’s National Index for February was up 0.4% from January and 5.4% year-over-year. In line with what economists have been predicting for months, increases are trending smaller.
A recent study conducted among 1,300 homeowners found that despite growing paperwork and new disclosures, 71% rated their most recent mortgage experience as either “very good” or “excellent.” Twice as many respondents as in 2015 ranked their loan officer as their most valuable resource during the buying process.
So if you are ready for a “very good” to “excellent” experience in home financing, give us a call. We are eager to be your most valuable resource as you buy (or refinance) a home.