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Declining Affordability: Shock or Not?

Yes, affordability (as measured by the National Association of Realtors' Housing Affordability Index) is down as much as 22 percent from its January 2013 peak, but is still far higher than it was in the early 2000s, says CoreLogic chief economist Mark Fleming in the company's February MarketPulse report. Moreover, Fleming notes the problem of "unaffordable housing" is one that only really exists for first-time homebuyers.

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Fannie Reports Q4 Profit, Makes Good on Bailout Funds

Posting a profit of $6.5 billion in the fourth quarter, Fannie Mae announced Friday it will pay the Treasury Department $7.2 billion in March, bringing its total dividend payments to the government to $121.1 billion—a full $5 billion more than what the enterprise drew following the financial crisis. Nevertheless, per Fannie's (and Freddie's) agreement with Treasury, the payments will continue.

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Home Listings Up 3.1% in January

Realtor.com's latest National Housing Trends Report uncovers some positive indicators for the year ahead, not the least of which is a recovery in supply. "In January 2013, just 8 markets registered increases in inventory. This January, 83 markets (58 percent) of the 143 markets tracked by realtor.com showed increases in inventory, year-over-year," the report said.

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Existing-Home Sales Fall to Lowest Level in 18 Months

Existing-home sales slowed last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million—their lowest level in a year and a half—as ongoing inventory constraint lifted prices, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported Friday. The drop represents a 5.1 percent decline compared to both December and January last year. On just the single-family side, sales were down to a rate of 4.05 million.

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Competition to Decline as Year Progresses

Home buying competition rose over the month of January but was down from last January, according to national real estate brokerage Redfin, which took the year-over-year decline as a sign that low inventory and rising prices are thwarting demand in the housing market. About 58 percent of home offers by Redfin agents encountered a competing offer in January compared to nearly 53 percent in December.

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Leading Indicators Show Signs of Economic Stability

The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index (LEI) for January increased 0.3 percent to 99.5, the group reported Thursday. Also released Thursday were the Conference Board Coincident Economic Index and the Lagging Economic Index, which both ticked up slightly. Together, the three indexes represent observed changes in average weekly hours, building permits, stock prices, consumer expectations for business conditions, and more.

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Monthly Home Payments Up 21% in Q4

RealtyTrac released Thursday a new housing affordability analysis, noting an average 21 percent increase in monthly house payments from a year ago. The report showed that the average house payment of a home purchased in the fourth quarter of 2013 rose to $865. That figure is based on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage with an interest rate of 4.46 percent and a 20 percent down payment.

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Boost in Inventory Slows January Home Value Growth

A report released Thursday by Zillow shows national home values rose just 0.2 percent in January from December. Inventory rose in 22 of the nation’s 35 largest metros, explaining some of the slowdown in home value gains. Year-over-year, home values rose 6.3 percent in January, down from previous gains of 7.1 percent as recently as August 2013. Home values are expected to rise another 3.4 percent to $175,301 in the next 12 months.

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