In August, sales of new single-family homes were 0.3 percent below July’s upwardly revised annual rate of 374,000, according to estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. New home sales were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 373,000, which is 27.7 percent above last year’s level. But though sales were relatively flat month-over-month, median price rose significantly, climbing 11.2 percent and setting a record for the largest one-month gain. The median sales price of new houses sold during the month was $256,900; the average sales price was $295,300. Also, there was a 4.5-month supply of new homes available for sale at the end of August. More here and here.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, demand for mortgage loan applications grew last week as rates dropped to another survey low. The Market Composite Index, which measures both refinance and purchase loan volume, increased 2.8 percent from the week before. The improvement was due to a 3.0 percent spike in the Refinance Index and a 1.0 percent jump in the Purchase Index. Refinance applications accounted for 81.2 percent of total application volume, the highest since early August. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances fell to 3.63 percent from 3.72 percent the week before. It was the lowest average mortgage rate recorded in the survey’s history. More here.
The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices are among the most closely followed measures of home values in the United States. They are intended to accurately track the price path of single-family homes in each of the included metropolitan areas. According to the latest release, which contains data through the end of July, home prices experienced their third consecutive month of increases, with gains to both the 10- and 20-City Composite Indexes. Average home prices increased 1.5 percent for the 10-City Composite and 1.6 percent for the 20-City Composite. It would have been the fourth straight month of improvement had Detroit’s prices not fallen 0.6 percent in April. David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee, said the report confirms the recent good news about housing and is reason for optimism. More here and here.
According to the most recent release from Fannie Mae’s Economic and Strategic Research Group, the housing market’s performance during the second quarter has been increasingly positive despite sluggishness in the broader economy. Home prices have begun to rise and, based on some measures, are posting their best year since 2005. Also, new home sales are up nearly 20 percent from the year before and existing home sales have improved 10 percent over the past 12 months. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist, said the increasingly positive news from the housing market has compensated for some of the economy’s sluggishness. But despite year-over-year gains, the report cautions that housing activity remains below historical standards and shows signs of only modest growth through the rest of 2012. More here.
The latest estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development show construction of new homes gaining ground in August. According to the report, housing starts rose 2.3 percent above July’s estimate of 733,000 and are 29.1 percent above last year’s rate of 581,000. The improvement included a 5.5 percent spike in single-family housing starts, the best pace in more than two years. Despite the gains, building permits were flat for the month. Single family authorizations were up just 0.2 percent and total authorizations were down 1.0 percent. Still, permits were 24.5 percent above the August 2011 estimate. More here and here.