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Daily Dose

Prices Up, Sales Down in Windy City

According to an analysis by RE/MAX, bitter weather and a small inventory of homes for sale were the primary factors causing reduced sales activity in the Chicago area in February. The report commented, "Mortgage interest rates, which remain comfortably under 5 percent for 30-year fixed-rate loans, continue providing stimulus to the housing market."

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Interest in Homeownership Drives Optimism Among Millennials

According to the latest Home Index Survey released by PulteGroup, Inc., out of more than 1,000 consumers surveyed in February, a combined 74 percent feel the economy is either better off or the same as it was this time last year. Among respondents in Generation Y, more than half (54 percent) said the economy is in better shape now. What’s more 74 percent said now is a good or excellent time to buy the things they want or need—including homes.

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Tight Credit Standards Create Up to 1.22M in ‘Lost’ Loans

Tight credit conditions have pushed as many as 1.22 million loans out of the market per year over the last few years, researchers at the Urban Institute (UI) assert in a new commentary. Admitting that their calculation method “likely ... [overstates] the impact of tighter credit,” they also calculated a scaled lower bound estimate of 273,000 “missing” first-lien purchase loans—though they maintain the "true" number is likely on the higher end.

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Reports: Loan Trends Positive for Economic Growth

In two reports issued separately Monday, Wells Fargo's Economics Group explores two promising trends that both indicate a positive climate for economic growth. The first report follows FDIC loan performance, noting cyclical improvement in loan performance and a trend favorable for credit quality. The second report comments on underwriting practices, noting ongoing relaxing in standards.

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Builder Confidence Levels in March

After falling in February to the lowest level in nearly a year, builder confidence barely moved in March, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) revealed in its latest Housing Market Index (HMI). According to the group, the index nudged up one point this month, landing on a reading of 47—still a few points shy of the 50 benchmark that separates a market largely perceived as “bad” from one perceived as “good.”

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February Stats Point to Increased Seller Confidence

The national median listing price improved to nearly $200,000 last month despite an improvement in inventory numbers, Realtor.com reported in its February Monthly Housing Trend Report. The increase in both list price as well as inventory points to a "strong early beginning to this spring's home buying season," the report said, with Move, Inc., CEO Steve Berkowitz adding, "Overall these figures indicate a continued reinforcement of steady gains and market stabilization that we've been watching since late last summer."

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Fed Officials: Housing Still in Sustainable Rebound

Despite warnings raised by some analysts in the wake of softening data releases, housing is still in the midst of “what appears to be a sustainable rebound,” say officials at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Included in that group is Richard Fisher, Dallas Fed president and CEO and one of the more hawkish Fed governors who will have a vote in monetary policy issues this year.

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DoJ Watchdog Finds Lax Approach to Mortgage Fraud

An audit conducted by the inspector general for the Justice Department found that, despite public statements to the contrary, mortgage fraud isn't a highly prioritized issue. FBI field offices visited by the Office of the Inspector General, including Baltimore, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York, listed mortgage fraud to be a low priority—if it was listed as one at all.

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Consumer Sentiment Steps Back

The University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters Index of Consumer Sentiment slipped to 79.9 in a preliminary March report after finishing February at 81.6. A consensus forecast from economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected a slight climb to 81.8. Even with the latest decline, “[c]onsumer sentiment has been weathering the winter rather well,” said Chris Christopher, director of consumer economics for IHS Global Insight.

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Home Sales Fall as Buyers Adjust to ‘New Normal’

Home sales declined for the fourth consecutive month with sharp drops in West Coast markets, according to the latest Real-Time Price Tracker from Redfin, a national real estate brokerage. With the spring selling season about to get underway, the company says March and April should offer insight into buyers’ willingness and ability to adapt to higher costs—as well as sellers’ ability to price appropriately, a skill some are having to relearn to stay competitive.

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