The Mortgage Corner

Housing sizes are ballooning, after a slight pause due to the Great Recession, reports the U.S. Census Bureau and Marketwatch. In 2013 the median floor area of new single-family homes sold in the U.S. rose 4 percent to hit almost 2,500 square feet, according to recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

That compares to the median 1,800-square-foot size of a single detached home, as reported in the 2011 American Housing Survey, when 40 percent of homes were 1-2,000 square feet in size.

largehomes

Graph: WSJ Marketwatch

The biggest new single-family homes of all were sold in the South, hitting a median of 2,534 square feet in 2013, up 1 percent from the prior year. Homes in the Northeast reached 2,456 square feet, up 3 percent. Homes in the Midwest measured 2,405 square feet, up 9 percent from 2012, and homes in the West hit 2,394 square feet, up 5 percent.

And prices continue to rise. The Case-Shiller Home Price Index of same-home sales has risen 12.4 percent in a year, and buyers are paying more for these larger homes. The median sales price of new single-family homes rose to $268,900 last year, up 10 percent from 2012.

What does that say? Those with the money are moving the various markets. The fastest growing segment are homes from 3,000 to 3,999 square feet, says the Census Bureau. Last year 9 percent of new single-family homes sold in the U.S. were at least 4,000 square feet, up from 8 percent in 2012. Meanwhile, the share of homes under 1,800 square feet fell to 17 percent in 2013, down from 22 percent in 2012 and 33 percent a decade earlier.

Existing-home sales are following the same trend. April’s sales of existing homes that cost at least $1 million grew more than 5 percent from a year earlier, while sales of homes under $250,000 fell more than 5 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors.

What will bring more buyers into the housing market? Even lower mortgage rates, it seems. Purchase mortgage applications are still declining since January, even though mortgage rates have plunged on late, with the 30-year conforming fixed rate falling to 3.875 percent, and Hi-Balance conforming fixed rates at 4.00 percent for 1 origination point.

mortgages

Graph: WSJ Marketwatch

So the big question remains whether middle class families will be able to afford those middle class homes anymore? That has as much to do with households starting up, or new household formation. And with so many of the 25 to 55 year-olds out of work, it may take years for households formation to pick up to the 1.2m per year average that prevailed before the Great Recession, from the current 600,000 new annual households being formed.

workers

Graph: Zero Hedge

For instance, in the April unemployment report, one of the most important age group for jobs, those workers aged 25-54 which represent the bulk of the US labor force and are also the best and most productive group, the total number of jobs tumbled from 95,360K to 95,151K, a drop of 209K, reports Zero Hedge.

Seniors were the winners. According to the establishment survey, the only beneficiary of whatever this jobs "recovery" is, were workers aged 55-69, that have gained 174,000 jobs to date.

Harlan Green © 2014

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