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The volume of mortgage applications rose fractionally last week as rates edged down and applications for refinancing staged a small comeback. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) said its Market Composite Index, a measure of that volume, increased 0.7 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier although it was down 20 percent from the prior week before adjustment. Applications for refinancing rose 2.0 percent week-over-week but were 80 percent below the level during the same week in 2021. The share of refinance applications ticked up from 29.7 percent of the total received the previous week to 30.3 percent. [refiappschart] The Purchase Index rose 0.1 percent compared to the prior week on an adjusted basis, but the unadjusted index fell 21 percent from a week earlier and 24 percent from the same week last year. [purchaseappschart] “Mortgage rates continue to experience large swings,” according to Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “After increasing 65 basis points during the past three weeks, the 30-year fixed rate declined 14 basis points last week to 5.84 percent. Rates are still significantly higher than they were a year ago, when the 30-year fixed rate was at 3.2 percent. The decline in mortgage rates led to a slight increase in refinancing, driven by an uptick in conventional loans. However, refinances are still 80 percent lower than a year ago and more than 60 percent below the historical average.”
It's one of the perennial "yeah buts" of the two largest and most widely-cited home price indices: there data is always about 2 months old by the time it comes out. This is the nature of home price reporting. It doesn't mean the data is bad or wrong--simply that it should be taken with a grain of salt given that interest rates and consumer sentiment took a decisive turn for the worse in both May and June. So if you've had your salt, here's the latest on home prices (in April) from both the FHFA and S&P Case-Shiller: FHFA Home Price Index +1.6% in April vs +1.6% in March +18.8% over 12 months in April vs +19.1% in March Case Shiller 20-City Price Index +1.8% in April vs +2.4% in March +21.2% over 12 months in April vs +21.1% in March There are a few ways to glean more timely data, but there are grains of salt here too. The following chart shows the percentage of active listings with price drops as of last week. It DOES NOT take into account the extent to which those homes may have been swinging for the fences in terms of list price. It also doesn't make any comment about the actual final sales price. It's highest and best use would be to suggest a general shift has taken place over the past 2 months (the same 2 months not counted by the big indices above) from a frothy real estate valuation landscape to "something else." In so many ways, it remains to be seen what "something else" ultimately looks like.
Pending Home Sales hit their most recent peak in October according to data reported in November, 2021 by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). In each of the subsequent 6 months, the NAR's Pending Home Sales Index declined until bottoming out in April at 99.2. Apart from the first 2 months of the pandemic, that was the lowest reading since 2014. Today's report (for the month of May) finally saw the index improve. While the gains barely registered, it was a much stronger showing than the median forecast which called for a 3.7% decline. Realtors remain cautious nonetheless. "Despite the small gain in pending sales from the prior month, the housing market is clearly undergoing a transition," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "Contract signings are down sizably from a year ago because of much higher mortgage rates." Yun blamed the general ongoing slump on the interest rate surge seen in 2022 so far, saying "choking off demand via higher mortgage rates is damaging to consumers and the economy. The better way to balance the market is through increased supply, which also helps the broader economy." Yun isn't wrong regarding a correlation between sharp rate spikes and pending sales. That said, experts were already questioning the sustainability of the housing market's trajectory--both in terms of prices and sales--well before the brunt of the recent rate spike. In other words, some sort of reckoning was inevitable. The meteoric nature of the rate spike simply made the timing obvious.