What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 4, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week May 4 2015Last week’s economic news included S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports, the Fed’s FOMC meeting statement and pending home sales. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims were also released as usual. The details:

Case-Shiller: Denver Leads Home Price Gains in February

The S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index showed that home prices continue to appreciate, but at a slower rate than in previous years. Home prices increased at a seasonally-adjusted year-over-year rate of 4.20 percent in February as compared to the February 2014 reading of 4.40 percent.

Denver, Colorado led February’s year-over-year home price appreciation rates with a reading of 10.00 percent. San Francisco, California followed closely with a year-over-year reading of 9.80 percent and Miami Florida reported year-over-year home price gains at 9.20 percent.

FOMC Statement: Fed Expects Moderate Economic Growth

In its customary post-meeting statement the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) the Fed repeated its projections for moderate economic growth, but again kept its options open for raising the target federal funds rate, which currently ranges between 0.00 and 0.250 percent. The Fed noted that inflation remains below its goal of 2.00 percent, largely due to earlier decreases in fuel prices. FOMC indicated it will be monitoring inflation data closely.

FOMC members agreed not to raise the target federal funds rate, but said that FOMC will closely monitor data on its dual mandate to achieve maximum employment and an inflation rate of 2.00 percent. Labor market conditions, readings on expected and actual inflation rates and domestic and international economic developments will be considered before the FOMC raises the target federal funds rate. When the Fed does raise rates, mortgage rates can also be expected to rise.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Jobless Claims Fall to 15 Year Low

Average mortgage rates rose last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by three basis points to 3.68 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 2.94 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage increased by one basis point to 2.85 percent. Discount points for fixed rate mortgages were unchanged at 0.60 percent and rose from 0.40 to 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Weekly first-time jobless claims were lower than expected with a reading of 262,000 claims filed against expectations of 287,000 new claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 296,000 claims filed. This was the lowest reading for new jobless claims in 15 years. The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims fell by 1250 claims to a reading of 283,750 new claims filed. Analysts typically rely on the four-week rolling average reading as it softens the effects of volatility that can occur from week to week.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic reports are dominated by employment related data including the National Unemployment Rate, Non-Farm Payrolls and the ADP Employment report. Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey will be released as usual on Thursday.

Case-Shiller: 20-City Home Price Index Hits 6 Month High

Case Shiller 20 City Home Price Index Hits 6 Month HighAccording to the Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index for February, month-to-month home prices increased by 0.50 percent from January’s reading and achieved the highest year-over-year gain in six months. Analysts expected February home prices to increase by 4.80 percent. David Blitzer, chairman of the S&P Dow Jones index committee, said that home prices continue to rise and outpace both inflation and wage gains. Although this is great news for homeowners, it also demonstrates the challenge of affordability for home buyers.

Year-Over-Year Home Prices: Denver Leads in Home Price Gains

Home prices in Denver, Colorado increased by 10 percent year-over-year in February; San Francisco, California home prices gained 9.80 percent year-over-year. Miami, Florida home prices gained 9.20 percent year-over-year. Dallas, Texas and Portland, Oregon rounded out the top five cities with the highest year-over-year home price appreciation in February. Home prices in Dallas increased by 8.60 percent, while and Portland’s home prices gained 7.10 percent year-over-year.

February readings for year-over-year home price growth were lowest in Washington, DC at 1.40 percent. Cleveland, Ohio and New York, New York posted year-over-year gains of 2.30 and 2.50 percent respectively. Phoenix, Arizona home prices grew by 2.90 percent and Minneapolis, Minnesota home prices gained 3.10 percent year-over-year.

Chicago, Illinois and Detroit Michigan posted year-over-year gains of 3.40 percent and 3.7- percent. Both cities have shown the smallest gains in prior months but home prices are gaining in year-over-year readings.

San Francisco Tops Month-to-Month Home Price Growth

Price gains from January to February 2015 were led by San Francisco, California with a reading of 2.00 percent. Denver, Colorado home prices gained 1.40 percent; Seattle, Washington home prices gained 0.80 percent, and were followed closely by a gain of 0.80 percent in Los Angeles, California and a tie at 0.70 percent for Portland, Oregon and San Diego, California.

Cites showing negative readings and the lowest month-to-month price gains in February were Boston, Massachusetts at -0.20 percent; Cleveland, Ohio at -0.10 percent. Chicago held steady with 0.00 percent gain and Atlanta, Georgia and Minneapolis, Minnesota posted month-to-month gains of +0.10 percent.

Home prices remained about 16 percent below their 2006 peak at the end of February.

S&P Case-Shiller: Home Price Growth Slows in 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 30 2015According to the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index report for January, home prices grew by 4.50 percent year-over-year as compared to  January 2014’s  year-over-year  price growth rate of 10.50 percent. This was the lowest rate of home price growth since 2012.

Analysts said that although slower growth in home prices could be good news for home buyers, national wage growth is not keeping pace with home price growth. The Labor Department reports that wages are growing at an annual rate of approximately two percent. Other obstacles to home buyers include strict mortgage standards and likely increases in mortgage rates during 2015.

Highest and Lowest Home Price Growth Rates in January

The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports that January’s five highest rates of year-over-year home price growth were:

Denver, Colorado – 8.40%
Miami, Florida – 8.30%
Dallas, Texas – 8.10%
San Francisco, California – 7.90%
Portland, Oregon – 7.20%

The five cities with the lowest year-over-year rates of home price growth were:

Chicago, Illinois – 2.50%
Minneapolis, Minnesota – 2.20%
New York, New York – 2.10%
Cleveland, Ohio – 1.60%
Washington, D.C. – 1.30%

No cities included in the 20 city index recorded no or negative growth rates on a year-over-year basis.  David Blitzer, S&P Index Committee Chair, cited growing labor markets, current low mortgage rates, lower fuel prices and low inflation as positive influences on U.S. housing markets.

The Case Shiller 20-City Housing Index report for January was also impacted by severe weather conditions that reduced demand for homes.  The 20-City Index has climbed by 29 percent since reaching March 2012 lows.

Pending Home Sales Rise

In other housing related news, pending home sales indicate that home sales are increasing as the peak spring and summer buying season gets underway. The National Association of Realtors® reported that its pending home sale index reading increased by 3.10 percent to 106.9 in February.

This was the highest reading since June 2013 and was up 12.00 percent over February 2014.  Pending home sales are sales for which a contract has been signed, but the sale has not closed. Pending home sales are considered an indicator of future home sales.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 23, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 23 2015Last week’s events included the National Association of Home Builder’s Housing Market Index, which fell to its lowest reading since last summer. Other news included reports on housing starts and building permits, the FOMC meeting statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference.

Home Builder Confidence Falls, Building Permits Rise

The NAHB Wells Fargo Housing Market Index fell by two points for a reading of 53 in March. The expected reading was 57. Analysts said that this proves that lower mortgage rates and steady job growth aren’t fueling housing markets as expected. NAHB chief economist David Crowe also cited supply chain issues such as a shortage of available lots, labor shortages and tight mortgage underwriting standards. Home builders remain optimistic that as labor markets continue to improve and more home buyers enter the market during the traditional spring and summer buying season, that builder confidence will also grow.

The Department of Commerce reported that building permits for February rose from January’s reading of 1.06 million to 1.09 million. This represents a 3.00 percent increase and was the highest reading since October. Permits fell for single family homes fell by 6.20 percent in February, but were 2.80 percent higher year-over-year. Single family permits account for 75 percent of building permits issued.

Housing starts fell dramatically due to bad weather. The Northeast saw housing starts fall by 56 percent due to extreme snowfall; Housing starts in the Midwest fell by 37 percent and the West saw housing starts decline by 18.20 percent in February. The South reported a 2.50 percent decrease in housing starts, but since nearly 50 percent of housing starts are in the South, this decline is more significant than it appears.

Fed Rates Hold Steady, Mortgage Rates Fall

The Federal Reserve noted in its post FOMC meeting statement that the Fed is in no hurry to raise rates. Citing ongoing concerns about low inflation and a sluggish housing market recovery, the Fed’s policymakers indicated that they don’t plan to rush on raising the target federal funds rate. In her press conference held after the FOMC statement, Fed Chair Janet Yellen reiterated the Fed’s intention to raise rates only when domestic and global economic developments warrant.

Mortgage rates fell according to Freddie Mac with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage eight basis points lower at 3.78 percent. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage was four basis points lower at 3.06 percent; the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was also four basis points lower at an average rate of 2.97 percent. Discount points were unchanged at an average of 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

What’s Ahead

This week’s housing-related news includes new and existing home sales, the FHFA home price index and FHFA’s home price index. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims will also be released as usual on Thursday.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 8, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week December 1 2014

Last week’s economic reports related to housing and mortgages were few, but construction spending, the Fed’s Beige Book report, non-farm payrolls and the national unemployment report indicated trends for the end of the year.

Construction Spending Increases

U.S. construction spending rose by 1.10 percent in October according to the Commerce Department. This reading translates to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of $971 billion. Analysts had expected an increase of 0.70 percent based on September’s original reading of -0.40 percent, but September’s reading was revised to -0.10 percent on Tuesday. Private spending on residential projects increased 1.30 percent.

Federal Reserve Beige Book Indicates Economic Improvement, or Not

Oil prices were cited by participants in the Federal Reserve’s survey of regional business leaders; Texas and the Gulf coast areas noted that falling oil prices were a threat to those economies, while other participants said that lower prices at the gas pump were putting more cash in consumers’ pockets. The report noted upward pressure on both minimum wages and higher wages for skilled workers. Wages have remained mostly flat while consumer costs have increased; higher wages can provide more discretionary income for consumers and may build confidence for would-be home buyers that have been waiting for more positive economic trends.

Freddie Mac: Mortgage Rates Down

Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of average mortgage rates brought good news for home buyers and homeowners seeking to refinance their mortgages. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell from 3.97 percent to 3.89 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 3.10 percent from last week’s reading of 3.17 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped to 2.94 percent from last week’s reading of 3.01 percent. Average discount points were unchanged for all loan types at 0.50 percent.

Labor Data Mixed, Unemployment Rate Unchanged

Weekly jobless claims beat expectations by 1000 fewer jobless claims with a reading of 297,000 new claims against expectations of 298,000 new claims. The prior week’s reading was higher at 314,000 new jobless claims. The Commerce Department also released Non-Farm Payrolls figures for November with 321,000 jobs added against expectations of 235,000 jobs added and October’s reading of 243,000 jobs added. Holiday hiring and climate related slowdowns are expected to impact year-end labor statistics. Analysts prefer to look at trends occurring over several months to determine labor trends.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on November retail sales and consumer sentiment in addition to Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates survey and the Commerce Departments weekly jobless claims report.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – November 24, 2014

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week November 24 2014Last week’s scheduled economic news included the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, Housing Starts and Existing Home Sales. FOMC meeting minutes were released along with weekly Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims.

In addition, the National Association of Realtors® suggested that FHA should lower its mutual mortgage insurance premiums (MMI) as its fund for paying claims has normalized since recession.

Homebuilder Confidence Nears Nine-Year High

The National Association of Home Builders/ Wells Fargo Housing Market Index achieved a reading of 58 for November. This was two points higher than the expected reading of 56 and four points above September’s reading. This was the fifth consecutive month of readings above 50.

Readings above 50 indicate that more builders are confident about housing market conditions than not. Components of the index improved with builder confidence in present sales of new homes up 5 points to a reading of 62, confidence in sales over the next six months rose by two points to 66, and the reading for prospective buyer traffic rose four points to 45.

Housing Starts Slow, Existing Home Sales Suggest Stronger Housing Market

Housing starts were lower by 2.80 percent in October at a seasonally-adjusted rate of 1.01 million against an expected reading of 1.03 million and September’s reading of 1.04 million homes started. October’s reading was affected by a 15.50 percent drop in multi-family construction, but single-family home construction increased by 4.20 percent. Analysts noted that the multi-family sector is notoriously volatile.

The National Association of Realtors® reported that the seasonally-adjusted annual rate of existing home sales for October exceeded the expected reading of 5.15 million with 5.26 million existing homes sold. October’s reading also surpassed September’s reading of 5.17 million previously-owned homes sold. October’s reading represented a 1.50 percent increase over September sales of existing homes, and was the highest reading since September 2013.

The median price of previously-owned homes rose to $208,500 in October, which represented a 5.50 percent increase year-over-year. The inventory of homes for sale is higher with a 5.1 month supply of homes available, which was a year-over-year increase of 5.20 percent. Higher inventories of homes available and low mortgage rates were seen as factors contributing to more home sales.

Builders, Realtors® Call for Lower FHA Premiums

Kevin Kelly, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of Realtors® called for the FHA to lower its mortgage insurance premiums. The cost of FHA loans, which require borrowers to pay an upfront mortgage insurance premium and annual premiums that are pro-rated and added to monthly mortgage payments, were seen as an obstacle to first-time and moderate income homebuyers. This request was based on a report that indicated the FHA fund for paying mortgage insurance claims is in the black for the first time since 2011.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell across the board on Thursday with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage lower by two basis points at 3.99 percent, and the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage lower by three basis points at 3.17 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 3.01 percent. Average discount points remained the same for all loan types at 0.50 percent.

The Commerce Department reported that new jobless claims fell to 291,000 from the prior week’s reading of 293,000. Analysts expected a reading of 280.000 new jobless claims, but this was the tenth consecutive week of readings for fewer than 300,000 new jobless claims. The four-week rolling average of new claims rose by 1750 to a reading of 287,500. The four week average reduces the volatility of weekly jobless claims and provides a more accurate reading of unemployment trends.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled events include the Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices, FHFA’s House Price Index and New and Pending Home Sales reports. There are no reports set for Thursday or Friday due to the Thanksgiving Holiday.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – November 10, 2014

Negotiation Tips: How to Ask the Seller to Pay the Closing CostsLast week’s economic reports contained mixed reports indicating that the economy continues to recover with occasional “blips” in its progress. Construction spending was lower than expected.

A Federal Reserve survey of senior loan officers indicated that credit standards remain strict for mortgages and other types of lending. According to the survey, a “modest net fraction” of large banks had eased credit standards for prime mortgage lending.

First-Time Homebuyers Struggle as Market Share Hits 27-Year Low

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) reported that first-time buyers’ share of home purchases has slipped to 33 percent, which was its lowest level in 27 years. According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR, high home prices and mortgage insurance costs along with strict mortgage credit requirements continue to sideline first-time buyers.

In other news, the Department of Commerce reported that construction spending dropped by 0.40 percent in September as compared August’s reading of -0.50 percent and an expected reading of +0.70 percent. September’s reading represented a seasonally-adjusted annual construction spending rate of $950.90 billion.

Mortgage Rates: Average 30-Year Mortgage Rate Tops Four Percent

Average mortgage rates rose last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by four basis points to 4.02 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by eight basis points to 3.21 percent, while the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage rose by three basis points from 2.94 percent to 2.97 percent. Average discount points remained at 0.50 percent for all three types of mortgages.

This is not altogether bad news, as higher mortgage rates are typically prompted by improving economic conditions. 2014 started with an average rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgages of 4.05 percent.

Labor Reports Suggest Stronger Jobs Markets

Last week’s economic news included several reports that indicated improvements in U.S. labor markets. The Department of Labor released its Non-Farm Payrolls report for October with a reading of 214,000 jobs added against expectations of 243,000 jobs added and September’s reading of 256,000 jobs added. While this appears contrary to stronger labor markets, analysts said that a new low in the national unemployment rate of 5.80 percent indicated that fewer new jobs were needed. October was the ninth consecutive month reporting 200,000 or more jobs added.

The ADP employment report, which tracks payrolls in the private sector, reported an increase of 5,000 jobs from September’s reading of 225,000 jobs to October’s reading of 230,000 jobs.

Weekly jobless claims fell to 278,000 against expectations of 285,000 new jobless claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 288,000 new claims filed. This reading supports a stronger jobs market and may compel would-be home buyers to enter the market as concerns about unemployment and jobs wanes.

The national unemployment rate reached a new low with October’s reading of 5.80 percent. In related news, Fed Chair Janet Yellen indicated in a speech on Friday that the target Federal funds rate will likely rise in 2015, but she gave neither a prospective date nor details about how much the benchmark federal funds rate may rise.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – November 3, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - November 3, 2014Last week’s economic news brought mixed developments as pending home sales moved to their second highest level of 2014.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announced the expected end of asset purchases under its quantitative easing program. In its post-meeting statement, the committee noted improvements in overall economic conditions labor markets as indications of better than expected economic trends.

The Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports for August showed continued slowing in housing price gains. Mortgage rates were higher, but consumer confidence exceeded expectations.

Pending Home Sales Rise, Case-Shiller Reports Slower Price Gains

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that pending home sales gained 0.30 percent in September for an index reading of 105 as compared to August’s reading of 104.7. Analysts said that lower home prices and more homes available likely brought more buyers into the market.

The S&P Case Shiller 10 and 20-city home price index reports for August showed further slowing in home price growth with a year-over-year reading of 5.60 percent as compared to July’s year-over-year reading of 6.70 percent.

This was the slowest price increase since November 2012. Home price growth is slowing as demand decreases. Tight mortgage qualification requirements are likely contributing to lower demand for homes.

FOMC ends QE, Mortgage Rates Rise

The Fed ended its asset purchases under its QE program according to a statement after the FOMC meeting on Wednesday. This move was expected, and the statement repeated its plan to leave the target federal funds rate unchanged for a considerable period after the QE program’s conclusion. Analysts interpreted that to mean that no rate change would likely occur until approximately June 2015.

Mortgage rates responded to the demise of QE with an across the board increase. Average rates reported by Freddie Mac on Thursday were 3.98 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, 3.13 percent for a 15-year mortgage and 2.94 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage. Discount points were unchanged at 0.50 percent for all three loan types.

New Jobless Claims Up, But No Big Deal

Housing market trends are connected with what’s happening in labor markets. Last week’s report for new jobless claims took an unexpected jump with 287,000 new jobless claims filed against predictions of 281,000 new claims and 284,000 new jobless claims filed the prior week. The four-week average for new jobless claims dropped to 281,000 and new claims remained below the 300,000 benchmark for the seventh consecutive week.

October’s Consumer Confidence Index rose to a reading of 94.50 as compared to the expected reading of 87.3 and September’s reading of 89.0. The Consumer Sentiment Index for October was also showed an increase of 0.50 percent with a reading of 86.9 against a predicted reading of 86.4 and September’s reading of 86.4.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic news includes construction spending for September, Non-farm payrolls, national unemployment, and the ADP employment report. Regularly scheduled reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will be released on Thursday.

Case-Shiller 20 City Home Price Index And FOMC QE Update

Case Shiller 20 City Home Price Index And FOMC QE UpdateAccording to the S&P Case-Shiller 20 City Home Price Index, Home prices rose by 0.20 percent in August. Three of the 20 cities tracked saw home prices drop, while Detroit, Michigan posted the highest price growth. The seasonally adjusted growth rate for cities tracked declined by 0.10 percent as compared to a decline of 0.10 percent in July.

Detroit led monthly home price growth with a gain of 0.80 percent. Dallas, Denver, Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada posted gains of 9.50 percent as compared to July. Cities posting declines in home price growth included San Francisco at -0.40 percent, Charlotte, North Carolina and San Diego, California at -0.10 percent.

Home prices increased by a seasonally-adjusted year-over-year rate of 5.60 percent in August, which was the lowest reading since November 2012. Year-over-year home prices grew by 6.70 percent in July. August home prices were 16 percent lower than their 2006 peak.

The Case-Shiller National Home Price Index posted a year-over-growth rate of 5.10 percent. This index covers all nine U.S. census regions.

Analysts note that slower growth in home prices will likely attract more buyers, but is a sign of overall decline in demand for homes. August home prices were 16 percent lower than their 2006 peak. As the jobs market continues to improve and if mortgage rates remain low, more buyers are expected to enter the housing market.

FOMC Statement: QE Ends, Labor Market Forecast Brighter

In its customary post-meeting statement, The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve announced that it voted to reduce asset purchases under its current quantitative easing (QE) program to zero. The committee’s decision concluded 37 consecutive monthly purchases of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

FOMC cited “substantial improvement” in the outlook for the labor market since the inception of QE purchases, and also noted “sufficient underlying strength in the broader economy” as the basis for the committee’s decision. The demise of QE was no surprise as FOMC has consistently tapered asset purchases each month along with its advisory that it planned to end asset purchases under the current QE program this year.

The FOMC characterized the pace of economic improvement as “moderate,” but also said that “labor market conditions improved somewhat further with solid job gains and a lower unemployment rate.” Along with the stronger outlook for jobs, the Fed noted that “underutilization of labor resources is gradually diminishing.”

The committee held to its position that it would not increase the target federal funds rate for a “considerable time” after the quantitative easing program ended. Analysts following the Fed estimate that no changes to the federal funds rate will be made until June 2015 or later.

Good News! Existing Home Sales Up And FHFA Home Prices Rise

Good News! Existing Home Sales FHFA Home Prices RiseAfter months of reports of slowing home price momentum and forecasts of a lagging housing market, we are pleased to report an increased volume of existing home sales as reported by the National Association of REALTORS®.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported rising prices for homes connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages. Here are the details.

Pedal to the Metal: Existing Home Sales Achieve Fastest Rate in a Year

September sales of previously owned homes reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million sales against expectations of 5.10 million sales and August’s reading of 5.05 million sales.

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that the national reading for sales of previously owned homes rose by 2.40 percent to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million sales.

Analysts had expected September’s reading for existing home sales to reach 5.10 million based on August’s reading of 5.05 million existing homes sold.

Three of four regions posted month-to-month gains in existing home sales for September; only the Midwest showed a decline. Overall, September’s sales pace for existing homes was 1.70 percent lower year-over-year.

Steady home prices and lower mortgage rates contributed to a higher pace of existing home sales, but obstacles remain. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS® said that September’s reading for existing home sales reflected ongoing economic uncertainty; he said that labor markets will need to strengthen in order to maintain the pace of existing home sales.

Mr. Yun also said that restoration of more “normal” lending standards would allow more first-time and moderate income buyers to qualify for mortgage loans and could potentially increase home sales by 10 percent.

FHFA: Home Prices Rise, Mortgage Credit Standards May Ease

FHFA reported that home prices of properties connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages rose by 0.5 percent in August as compared to a month-to-month revised increase of 0.20 percent in July. August’s reading represents a year-over-year increase of 4.80 percent as compared to July’s year-over-year increase of 4.60 percent.

In related news, FHFA Director Mel Watt hinted at some welcome news during a meeting on October 21 in Las Vegas.

Strict mortgage requirements are frequently cited as a cause of lukewarm home sales, but there is some hope that mortgage credit requirements may return to pre-housing bubble standards. Mr. Watt said that the agency is working on relaxing certain rules affecting how and when mortgage lenders are required to repurchase loans that they’ve sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

These changes are designed to clarify FHFA regulations and to narrow the criteria for when repurchasing loans is required. Lenders have been using strict mortgage approval standards as a protection against Fannie and Freddie requests to repurchase loans categorized as “early defaults.”