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Home Prices See Gains Again in May

July 25, 2017

Home prices in the U.S. continued their march higher in May, realizing a 5.6% annual gain on the month, which was the same gain seen in April, according to the latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA index.

The 10-City Composite annual increase was 4.9% in May, down from 5.0% the prior month, while the 20-City Composite saw a 5.7% year-over-year gain, down from 5.8% in April.

“Home prices continue to climb and outpace both inflation and wages,” said David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Housing is not repeating the bubble period of 2000–2006: price increases vary across the country, unlike the earlier period when rising prices were almost universal; the number of homes sold annually is 20% less today than in the earlier period and the months’ supply is declining, not surging. The small supply of homes for sale, at only about four months’ worth, is one cause of rising prices. New home construction, higher than during the recession but still low, is another factor in rising prices.”

Over the prior 19 months, Portland, OR, and Seattle saw the largest price gains, while San Francisco realized the biggest gains since February 2012.

– Nicholas Stern, senior editor

Lack of Supply Dampens Existing-Home Sales in June

July 24, 2017

Existing-home sales fell in June thanks to an ongoing lack of supply that fueled sales at a near-record pace but wound up muting overall activity, according to the latest data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Total existing home sales dropped 1.8% in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.52 million from 5.62 million in May, NAR said. The rate for June is still 0.7% higher than a year prior, but it is the second lowest for 2017.

"Closings were down in most of the country last month because interested buyers are being tripped up by supply that remains stuck at a meager level and price growth that's straining their budget," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "The demand for buying a home is as strong as it has been since before the Great Recession. Listings in the affordable price range continue to be scooped up rapidly, but the severe housing shortages inflicting many markets are keeping a large segment of would-be buyers on the sidelines."

Total housing inventory at the end of June decreased 0.5% to 1.96 million existing homes available for sale, and is 7.1% lower than a year prior, having fallen year-over-year for 25 months in a row. Meanwhile, unsold inventory is at a 4.3-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from 4.6% a year prior.

The median existing-home price in June for all housing types was $263,800, which is 6.5% higher than a year prior, NAR said.
First-time buyers made up 32% of sales in June, down from 33% in May and a year prior. "It's shaping up to be another year of below-average sales to first-time buyers despite a healthy economy that continues to create jobs," said Yun. "Worsening supply and affordability conditions in many markets have unfortunately put a temporary hold on many aspiring buyers' dreams of owning a home this year."

– Nicholas Stern, senior editor

Remodelers Report Positive Market Activity

July 21, 2017

The remodeling market has posted another positive quarter, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Remodeling Market Index (RMI). The index has been above the 50 threshold for 17 consecutive quarters. “The overall RMI averages ratings of current remodeling activity with indicators of future remodeling activity,” according to the NAHB.

The second quarter of 2017 showed a reading of 55, which is down three points from the first quarter of the year. Future market indicators and current market conditions were also at 55 in the second quarter. Both categories fell three points from the previous index.

“The RMI has remained above 50 for the past four years, indicating strong demand for remodeling work,” said Robert Dietz, NAHB chief economist, in a news release. “However, the challenges posed by rising labor and material costs will constrain remodelers’ ability to increase production at a faster pace.” More than eight out of 10 respondents to the survey reported the cost and availability of labor was the most significant challenge in residential remodeling.

“While remodelers continue to see robust demand across the country, the lack of skilled labor continues to be a serious issue,” said Houston remodeler and NAHB Remodelers Chairman Dan Bawden in the release. “Remodelers are finding they have to decline projects because they can’t hire enough skilled staff to keep up with the demand,” Bawden added.

The West, South and Midwest each had readings of at least 55, but the Northeast was at 46 this past quarter after a 55 during the first three months of the year.

– Michael Miller, editorial associate

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