Economical Updates March 10, 2017

Green Shoots

As if you didn’t know, lack of housing inventory has been cited over and over (and over) as hampering homebuying. To a lesser extent, consumer confidence has been a drag both on homebuying and the economy. This week there were green shoots of hope for both.

A National Association of Realtors (NAR), survey broke down homebuying trends by generation. Gen X, currently aged 37 to 51, (NAR appears to have “disappeared” the quite small Gen Y into this cohort), never gets much attention, but they presented some of the survey’s more interesting findings. They appear to have delayed homebuying (usually of a “move-up” house) longer than Millennials and are the generation to have most often lost a distressed home or been locked out of the market by debt or being underwater in their existing home. They also carry the most student debt, $35K against $25K for Millennials.

NAR says that generation has now recovered enough equity to sell and buy another home. Xers accounted for 28% of sales last year, up 2 points from the previous year. Millennials had a 35% share, but there are a lot more of them.

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun says that Gen Xers who bought last year had been in their existing homes a median of 10 years; many of them buying when “home values were on the precipice of declining.” He said more of the generation are expected to sell this year and that should help ease the inventory shortages in much of the country. That these are likely to be mostly starter homes is even better news.

Fannie Mae’s National Housing Survey has tracked homeowner and renter attitudes toward homeownership and the economy since 2011. The survey has 100 questions, six of which are distilled into a single number, the Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI).

The February survey blew the roof off. The HPSI jumped 5.6 points to 88.3, an all-time high. Five of the six components were higher than the previous month, and three set records of their own.

Asked if it was a good time to buy a house, 66% said yes, 26% said no, a net of 40%, 11 points higher than in January. A net of 22% think it is a good time to sell, a survey high.

Financial confidence is also on the rise. The net of those unconcerned about losing their job jumped 9 points to 78% while a net of 19% reported their household income higher over the last 12 months. Both were survey highs.

Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist said, “Millennials showed especially strong increases in job confidence and income gains, a necessary precursor for increased housing demand from first-time homebuyers.”

Lots of housing news next week–including a resumption of the Fed Watch–will they or won’t they raise rates?

Tune-in next week to find out.