The Mortgage Corner

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) just reported that for all of 2013, there were 5.09 million sales, which is 9.1 percent higher than 2012. It was the strongest performance since 2006 when sales reached an unsustainably high 6.48 million at the close of the housing boom, and is now back to the 2000 sales rate at the beginning of the housing bubble.

existsales

Graph: Calculated Risk

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said housing has experienced a healthy recovery over the past two years. “Existing-home sales have risen nearly 20 percent since 2011, with job growth, record low mortgage interest rates and a large pent-up demand driving the market,” he said. “We lost some momentum toward the end of 2013 from disappointing job growth and limited inventory, but we ended with a year that was close to normal given the size of our population.”

But for sale inventories have declined and are putting upward pressure home prices. The national median existing-home price for all of 2013 was $197,100, which is 11.5 percent above the 2012 median of $176,800, and was the strongest gain since 2005 when it rose 12.4 percent.

The is in large part because total housing inventory at the end of December fell 9.3 percent to 1.86 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 4.6-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 5.1 months in November. Unsold inventory is 1.6 percent above a year ago, when there was a 4.5-month supply.

The median existing-home price for all housing types in December was $198,000, up 9.9 percent from December 2012. Distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales – accounted for 14 percent of December sales, unchanged from November; they were 24 percent in December 2012. The shrinking share of distressed sales accounts for some of the price growth.

Ten percent of December sales were foreclosures, and 4 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 18 percent below market value in December, while short sales were discounted 13 percent.

Interest rates will play a big part on home sales this year, needless to say, but will probably not rise much above current rates, even with higher economic growth. This is because of the tremendous cash hoard of businesses that obviates their need to borrow, as well as consumers that are borrowing much less than in the past. The 30-year conforming fixed rate is averaging 4.0 percent in California for a 0.5 point origination fee, and high-balance 30-year conforming is averaging 4.125 percent for a 1 point origination fee.

Harlan Green © 2013

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