Matrix Blog

Posts Tagged ‘NAR’

My Bloomberg View Column: Housing Data Is Old and Moldy

July 31, 2014 | 11:32 am | BloombergViewlogoGray | Articles |

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After being pummeled with confusing sound bits after the release of Monday’s Pending Home SalesIndex by the NAR and the S&P/Case Shiller Index, I thought it was time to set the record straight on the applicability of this research.

This is my second column for Bloomberg View: Housing Data Is Old and Moldy


My Bloomberg View RSS feed.

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My First Post on Bloomberg View: Homebuying Gets a Housecleaning

July 28, 2014 | 9:28 pm | BloombergViewlogoGray | Columns |

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I was recently approached by Bloomberg View, the editorial arm of Bloomberg LP, to provide commentary on the housing market. I seem to be in good company.

Although their well oiled machine began to append my additional title “Bloomberg Contributor” earlier in the month when being sourced, it wasn’t an oversight on their part. I didn’t submit my first post until last week. It took me a few weeks to get my groove on as I was in the midst of a 2Q14 market report release gauntlet.

Last Wednesday evening I wrote my first post about Lawrence Yun’s attendance at the Zillow Housing Forum and how NAR had become just one of the crowd, and the symbolism of it all. I got the idea when I was sent the Zillow e-vite to attend the conference and I noticed that Yun was to speak.

Excited, I submitted my first post on Thursday morning, unfortunately just before the Zillow-Trulia bombshell deal jumped into the headlines. So I needed to add this new twist – which thankfully made my original point even stronger. I re-wrote my first post and it was placed online last Friday.

Here is the first column of hopefully many to come: Homebuying Gets a Housecleaning


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NAR May 2014 Existing Home Sales: ‘Heat-up’

June 23, 2014 | 2:54 pm | Charts |

6-23-NAR-EHSperc

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I always like to parse out press release of the NAR Existing Home Sales Report using their data but presented it with proper emphasis. I believe these charts are better ways to interpret the report results.

My two big rules: ignore seasonal adjustments and focus on year-over-year results. The consumer doesn’t know that the EHS report results are heavily adjusted rather than providing the actual results.

Since the annual sales figure is a multiplier of a monthly figure, why do we need to alter the actual numbers any more by adjusting for seasonality? Through recent periods like the possible expiration of the Bush tax cuts (end of 2010), the federal homeowners tax credit for new buyers and existing home buyers as well as the expiration of the fiscal cliff at the end of 2012, seasonal adjustments are subject to maddening skew.

For much of 2013, median sales price was rising at an annual rate of more than 10%…

  • It’s good to see the pace of the market returning to more sustainable conditions – last year’s market was not normal with rapid price growth and tight supply.
  • Now we are seeing inventory return to the market and rate of price growth is easing. Both are good news.
  • Mortgage rates have slipped but still not to the lows of early 2013. Falling rates not helping sales rise because last year was a release of years of pent-up demand.
  • First time buyers are still not as active as they need to be, with their share down to 27% from 29%. Typically they shold account for at least 1/3 of the market. Tight credit and tough job market are reasons (not a lifestyle changes).

 

6-23-NAR-EHS

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New Angle: Blame Low Mortgage Rates

June 23, 2014 | 10:37 am |

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The National Association of Real Estate Editors just held their annual conference and one of the experts was Lawrence Yun, the chief economist of the National Association of Realtors.

Admittedly he has always seen the real estate world through different lenses than I so I am often thrown for a loop when I come across some of the rationale for the current state of the housing market.

A local media outlet recapped his NAREE speech but since I didn’t attend and there is no transcript, I’ll go with the following paraphrasing:

Mortgage rates reached record lows in 2012 and 2013 of around 3.3 percent for 30-year home loans. Homeowners don’t want to let go of those once-in-a-lifetime bargain mortgages, says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. So homeowners avoid putting their homes on the market in order to keep those low mortgage rates and that has resulted in super low inventories of home for sale. Although rates are still low (less than 5 percent) many people are opting to rent out their houses so they can hang onto great mortgages, Yun says.

Here’s another way to look at what he says is happening:

Yun – Home sales are not rising (year-over-year) because mortgage rates are so low that would-be sellers won’t sell. They simply love their low mortgage rate more than moving.

My view – Home sales are not rising (year-over-year) because of a combination of rapidly rising home prices that reduces affordability and historically tight mortgage lending standards that resulted record low inventory. Tight credit keeps the roughly 40% of home owners with low or negative equity from selling because they don’t qualify for the next mortgage. Hence, sales fall.

There is clearly way too much emphasis on mortgage rates in our housing economy.

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Tall and Thin Skyscraper Renderings: the New Bricks and Mortar

June 10, 2014 | 10:05 am |

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The New York Post ran an article on Sunday “Chinese buyers snapping up NYC skyscrapers” that was chock full of Manhattan skyscraper renderings – I found myself clicking through all of them. While I already am familiar with each of these residential and commercial towers, I never get tired of looking at them.

While I’m no architectural critic and some of these designs are controversial, even cited as dangerous, I must admit I really like the genre. I was fatigued from enduring the boring, utilitarian and ultimately generic designs throughout the 1980s and 1990s.  We got a sampling of this new genre in the last new development boom a decade ago, but with the shift towards the higher end of the market, there seems to be more money available for creating iconic designs.

As far as the China hyperbole cited in the piece, it is an assumption based almost exclusively on anecdote as well as 2013 research by National Association of Realtors (cited as “US National Real Estate Association” but had no luck finding it with Google so I assumed they meant NAR). And how do we rely on an NAR survey of it’s members when so few Manhattan real estate agents are members of that trade group?

I’ve inserted all the renderings below: I’m not going to  bother labeling them since that’s not the point – you can get that detail in NY Post piece.  These are placed here for your oogling pleasure.

HudsonYards from West Chelsea (c) Related Cos..jpg

ARTS ARCHITECTURE

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99 Church Street, Silverstein Properties, New York

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World Trade Center

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[Fox Business TV] Risk & Reward with Deirdre Bolton 5-29-14

May 29, 2014 | 4:43 pm | realtytraclogo | Videos |

It was great to reconnect with Deirdre Bolton after she made the move to Fox Business from her long time home at Bloomberg TV.

We talked housing, touching on NAR’s pending home sale index release as well as research from Realtytrac concerning record prices in a growing number of urban markets.

Fun.

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Pending Home Sales Fall Short of Year Ago Sales Surge

May 29, 2014 | 4:29 pm | Charts |

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The NAR released their Pending Home Sale Index today for April which aggregates signed contract data for the month. It is generally 2 months closer to the “meeting of the minds” between buyer and seller than their existing home sale report, that is based on closed sales (and 4 months faster than Case Shiller).

Pending Home Sales Index is not “forward looking”
In my chart above, and if you know me, I hate seasonal adjustments (SA) in housing data so this chart uses NAR’s reported numbers without adjustments. NAR always frames this release series as “forward looking” when it really is “less backward looking” because it is based on contracts, not closed sales. The end of May report reflects April contracts, half of which were probably signed in Late March. With a 2 month spread between contract and closing dates, this report is the most recent US housing market snapshot but nothing about it is actually “forward looking.”

With all the weather talk and mixed housing market messaging over the last month, this release brought us a broad range of interpretation, from “plunging” to “edging higher.”

Well, which is it? Or could it be both? Yes it can. We just need context.

According to Housingwire (uses SA numbers): Pending home sales plunge 9.2% in April So much for that post-winter, pent-up demand

Pending home sales for the month of April plummeted 9.2% compared to April 2013, the National Association of Realtors reported Thursday.

Contracts signed to buy existing homes increased 0.4% in April compared to March 2014, but that’s coming off three months of flat sales blamed on cold weather.

The expectation had been for at least a 2% gain month-over-month.

According to Diana Olick at CNBC (uses SA numbers), Pending home sales up just 0.4% in April, missing expectations

Warmer weather and higher expectations failed to cause a meaningful surge in home sales.

Signed contracts to buy existing homes increased just 0.4 percent in April, according to a monthly report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The expectation had been for at least a 2 percent gain sequentially.

The Realtors’ so-called pending home sales index is now 9.2 percent lower than April of 2013.

What’s going on?

If you look at the above chart you can see that last year’s pending home sales were surging up until May 2013, their highest level in 3 years (since the federal homeowner tax credit program as part of the stimulus). The surge in contracts in the first half of 2013 was born out of consumer fears that rates were going to rise. In addition, all the pent-up demand accumulated during the two year period preceding the US election and fiscal cliff deadline was released into the market. Many fence-sitters became decision-makers.

This winter’s harsh weather could have delayed buyers and we should be seeing this uptick in activity by now. We probably are seeing it but it no match for the year ago surge in activity but now the market is being characterized as weak or weakening. The problem with that description is it assumes that 2013 was a normal trend of an improving market. Well it wasn’t.

So yes, sales are down from the 2013 sales surge anomaly and the weather time-shifting buyers forward further into spring this year was no match for it. In fact, I suspect the next month will show the same type of “weakness” and the PHSI results probably can’t show real improvement at least until June.

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Thank Goodness The Pace of US Home Price Growth Will Cool

May 27, 2014 | 3:18 pm | Charts |

2014-april-ehs-infographic-05-27-2014
[Source: NAR, click to expand]

Last week we were given another dose of housing news – housing sales didn’t go negative for the first time in four months (m-o-m) as inventory continued to expand and prices kept rising. Even though mortgage rates are down to what they were shortly after the rate spike last spring, it’s not stimulating much of an increase in sales activity (translation: no correlation between housing prices and mortgage rates). I still refer to Nick Timiraos’ epic post of charts last month. Lower sales will continue to expand inventory and take the edge off of price growth.

Looking back over 2013 – the housing market wasn’t “recovering” – prices were rising from the perfect storm of tight credit, sentiment that things were getting better, surviving the fiscal cliff and threat of rising mortgage rates. The market was rebounding off a low point that had nothing to do with fundamentals. I still think we will see some improvement over the next several years but it will be nominal until the economy shows real improvement i.e. jobs, income and credit.

Removing all seasonal adjustments, here’s what the key NAR US Existing Home Sale metrics look like to me:

matrix5-23-2014

UPDATE Here’s a wonky explanation from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco of the existing sale slow down in their Economic Letter.

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NAR Pending Home Sales Had Biggest “February to March” Jump in 4 Years

April 28, 2014 | 4:52 pm | irslogo |

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After all the housing news drama of the past month, I thought it was interesting to see the negative streak broken. Still, sales are below year ago levels after what I described as a “release of pent-up demand” that was caused by the expiration of the “fiscal cliff” and the looming rise in mortgage rates last year.

Although home sales are expected to trend up over the course of the year and into 2015, this year began on a weak note and total sales are unlikely to match the 2013 level.

All the indices NAR publishes bother me because they include seasonal adjustments and those adjustments can be very severe. The chart above has no seasonal adjustments so you can see how much adjusting has to take place to smooth out the line. I thought I’d take a look at the month-over-month data that wasn’t seasonally adjusted to see if the same pattern occurred.

4-28-14PHSIfebtomarch

Yes, month-over-month pending sales rose the most since 2010 when the market was wildly skewed (higher) as a result of the First-Time Homebuyer Credit (federal first time buyer and homeowner tax credit).

February to March 2014 had the largest increase in contracts than the same period in each year since 2010.

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Pending Home Sales Down 10.2% YOY And That’s Not A Bad Thing

March 27, 2014 | 11:55 am | Charts |

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NAR released their pending home sale index today and the news was not unexpected. US home sales volume has slowed since last spring’s taper miscue by the fed which caused mortgage rates to jump. If you look at the May surge in pending sales, sales volume, seasonally speaking (comparing year over year) has fallen 10.2% (unadjusted).

The introduction of QM earlier in the year probably doesn’t help volume levels, but I’m not really convinced that the housing recovery is actually stalling. It seems more like sales levels are settling to more sustainable levels. And as sales go, so goes the insane price gains seen in the national reports.

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