Home Sales Should Be Higher—But They’re Not

Following population trends, the U.S. should be adding more than a million households each year for the next few years, economists note in Freddie Mac’s April Outlook report. But higher housing costs and a delay in younger adults’ buying are prompting an uptick in shared living arrangements, multigenerational households, and delayed household formation.

A shortage of homes for sale continues to press on many markets across the country. The number of single-family homes available for sale in the U.S. in February was 1.41 million units, less than half of the inventory peak in 2007, according to data from the National Association of REALTORS®.

Researchers predict that home sales will rise from 6.12 million in 2017 to 6.3 million in 2018, and to 6.44 million in 2019. They are forecasting that new home sales will be a significant driver in home sales over the next few months.

Source: “Nothing Draws a Crowd Like a Crowd: The Outlook for Home Sales,” Freddie Mac Outlook (April 2018)

‘First-Time Buyers’ Fuel Latest Home Sales Boost

The market share of first-time home buyers rose to 32 percent of transactions in May, matching the highest share since September 2012. A year ago, first-time buyers represented 27 percent of all buyers, NAR reports.

“The return of first-time buyers in May is an encouraging sign and is the result of multiple factors, including strong job gains among young adults, less expensive mortgage insurance and lenders offering low down payment programs,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s economist. “More first-time buyers are expected to enter the market in coming months, but the overall share climbing higher will depend on how fast rates and prices rise.”

As the supply of homes remain tight, homes are selling fast and price growth in many markets continues to teeter at or near double-digit appreciation, Yun notes. “Without solid gains in new home construction, prices will likely stay elevated – even with higher mortgage rates above 4 percent,” Yun says.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

Why Buyers Are Annoyed With New Homes

An increasing labor shortage among homebuilders reportedly is causing more new homes to be delivered late, and buyers say they’re getting frustrated that builders don’t come back to fix common issues such as sticky doors and loose floor tiles.

“Builder tardiness” is a growing problem because the economic downturn drove hundreds of thousands of craftsmen and laborers away from housing and into other industries — and they’ve yet to return to construction, the Los Angeles Times reports. The labor shortage has become “substantially more widespread” since last year, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

“The incidence of reported shortages is now surprisingly high relative to the current state of new-home construction,” NAHB economist Paul Emrath noted in a recent report.

About two out of every three builders report paying higher wages due to the labor shortage. Nearly as many say they’ve had to raise home prices, too. Builders report that their direct labor or employee costs have risen 2.9 percent over the last six months, while subcontractor costs have increased 3.8 percent, according to NAHB.

On average, single-family builders employ about 25 trades when constructing a residential house, and more than half of builders subcontract at least 75 percent of the construction work, according to NAHB. Builders report the greatest shortages in carpenters and framing contractors.

Source: “Housing Labor Shortage Turning More Severe, Boosting Home Prices,” Los Angeles Times (July 26, 2014)

3 Challenges Still Facing the Housing Market

Existing-home sales gained momentum in June, reaching an annual pace of 5 million sales for the first time since October 2013, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ latest housing report. Rising inventories also are pushing the overall supply of homes for sale toward a more balanced market, with unsold inventories 6.5 percent higher than a year ago, NAR notes.

“Inventories are at their highest level in over a year and price gains have slowed to much more welcoming levels in many parts of the country,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “This bodes well for rising home sales in the upcoming months as consumers are provided with more choices.”

Still, the market is facing several headwinds that continue to subdue a more robust recovery. NAR noted three in its most recent housing report:

1. Sluggish new-home construction: While overall housing inventories showed improvement in June, inventory problems continue to weigh on the market and could become more problematic if new-home construction doesn’t increase in more markets, NAR notes. “New-home construction needs to rise by at least 50 percent for a complete return to a balanced market because supply shortages — particularly in the West — are still putting upward pressure on prices,” Yun notes.

2. Stagnant wage growth: Yun also noted that stagnant wage growth is holding back what should be a stronger pace of sales. “Hiring has been a bright spot in the economy this year, adding an average of 230,000 jobs each month,” Yun notes. “However, the lack of wage increases is leaving a large pool of potential home buyers on the sidelines who otherwise would be taking advantage of low interest rates. Income growth below price appreciation will hurt affordability.”

3. Dwindling first-time home buyers: The percentage of first-time buyers continues to be low by historical standards. First-time home buyers made up 28 percent of the market in June, down from a typical 40 percent of the market historically.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

 

New home construction is looking up this year!

During an economic update Wednesday at the International Builders’ Show in Orlando David Crowe, chief economist of the National Association of Home Builders, projected single-family housing starts to rise by 21 percent in 2011, reaching 575,000 units.

The estimate is slightly more conservative than the Dec. 30 projection of 716,000 housing starts this year by Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of REALTORS®. Both estimates assume sustained job growth, increasing U.S. population, as well as continued low interest rates driving construction.

Yun expects about 2 million jobs to be added in 2011. However, as NAHB presenter Frank Nothaft, chief economist for Freddie Mac, pointed out, 2011 got off to a slow start with nonfarm payrolls rising only by 103,000 in December. He called the figure weaker than expected.

Credit is another factor. Lending remains tight, but if it opens up with safe underwriting standards for creditworthy buyers, Yun says there would be a bigger boost to the housing market with spillover benefits for the broader economy. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is forecast to rise gradually to 5.3 percent around the end of 2011; at the same time, unemployment should drop to 9.2 percent, according to NAR.

In addition, over the past 10 years the U.S. has added 27 million people. Continued population growth will also spur home construction and sales. “All the indicator trends are pointing to a gradual housing recovery,” Yun says.

An even more conservative projection of 492,000 housing starts in 2011 was released by the Portland Cement Association during the International Builders Show Wednesday. Edward Sullivan, PCA chief economist, does not expect significant increases until 2012 due to tight lending standards, a high home inventory count, and unstable housing prices. He also says that new home construction will vary considerably by region.

Erica Christoffer, REALTOR® Magazine

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