According to the National Association of Home Builders, July builder sentiment dipped to an index reading of 64 as compared to June’s revised reading of 66, the original reading was 67. Analysts expected the reading for July to increase to 68. Builders cited increasing lumber prices as a concern affecting builders’ outlook on housing market conditions for new single-family homes. Any reading over 50 for the NAHB Housing Market Index indicates that more builders than fewer are positive about housing market conditions, but July’s reading was the lowest in eight months. NAHB said that home builder confidence in market condition “remains strong.”

Three month rolling averages were mixed. The Northwestern region gained one point for an index reading of 47, the Midwest gained one point to a reading of 66 and the Southern region dropped three points to a reading of 66. The Western region had the highest level of builder confidence but lost one point for a reading of 75.

Shortages of homes for sale and buildable lots have impacted builder confidence for several months. As the number of available homes dwindles, demand and home prices have risen. Real estate pros view building more home as the only solution for easing the shortage of homes for sale Lower readings on builder confidence in market conditions could indicate slowing in the construction of new homes.

Lumber Tariff Raises  New Home Prices, Could Cost Jobs

While home builder confidence jumped in the aftermath of the election, builders said that a tariff on Canadian lumber is affecting home prices and construction jobs. In a statement released with July’s Housing Market Index readings, NAHB said that the lumber tariff tacked on an average of  $1236 to the average home price. NAHB leaders also said that as materials costs continue to rise, affordability will become an issue and that construction layoffs could potentially exceed 8000 jobs.

NAHB Chairman Granger MacDonald said about the lumber tariff, this is hurting housing affordability even as consumer interest in the new-home market remains strong” While current interest in new homes is healthy, home builders will have to manage costs to keep home prices affordable and competitive.

Buying a Home in a Fire Risk Area: Here's What You Need to KnowOutside of the significant financial responsibility of delving into home ownership, there can also be a lot of other risks involved that you may not have thought about before investing in a home. You’ll need to protect your home against theft or burglary, and homeowner’s insurance to protect your home and belongings. But there are other less common occurrences you may not have thought about. If you happen to be living in an area that’s at high risk of fire, here are some things to consider beforehand.

Defining “High Risk”

It’s easy to be swept away by a beautiful home and forget about what the natural landscape around it consists of. Many homes across the United States are built in areas close to trees and shrubs, which can be dangerous in times of high temperatures, so it’s important to do your research. While hot spots can occur in many different areas, California and the southwest region are particularly vulnerable in times of drought.

What It Means For Your Mortgage

Nearly all homes can be adversely affected by a fire so it’s important to realize that buying in a high-risk area will not impact your ability to get a mortgage. It can, however, impact some of the costs associated with investing in your home. While homeowner’s insurance is a requirement of buying a home and it will generally cover you in the incidence of a fire, it can be a bit pricier. Fortunately, you may be able to guard against some of the additional costs by purchasing a home with materials that are more fire resistant.

In The Event Of Fire

If the worst happens and your home incurs damage from a fire, you’ll want to assess the extent of the damage before making a decision on how to proceed. For a home that is minimally impacted, you may want to use insurance to repair the property. However, if the property is significantly or completely destroyed, a payout may be required in order to pay off the mortgage. Before purchasing a home in a fire-prone area it’s best to be aware of all aspects of your insurance policy so you can be prepared.

It’s a more significant risk to buy a home in a fire-prone area, but you can be prepared for the worst by knowing your options. If you’re currently considering purchasing a new home, contact your local real estate professional for more information.

Inflation Rate Stays Flat in June

Inflation was flat in June, but achieved a 0.00 percent reading as compared to May’s – 0.10 percent reading. Analysts expected a June reading of +0.10 percent reading month-to-month. The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve has established a benchmark reading of 2.00 percent inflation year-over-year as an indication of economic recovery. In recent months, the Fed has increased its target federal funds rate at each meeting of the FOMC. A slowdown in inflation and other economic indicators may cause the Fed to halt rate increases until conditions improve.

Fed Chair Testifies before House Financial Services Panel

During testimony last week, Fed Chair Janet Yellen addressed questions about Federal Reserve board members’ interaction with Wall Street. Ms. Yellen explained that the Fed values clear communications with Wall Street as a productive relationship. Chair Yellen also noted that the Fed may taper off on interest rate increases soon; she said that further rate increases may not be warranted at present.

Stating that “monetary policy is not a preset course,” Chair Yellen said that the Fed is aware of problems associated with forecasting higher than actual inflation gains, but also said that the Fed believes that inflation will achieve the 2.00 percent annual goal established by the Fed.

Ms. Yellen hinted that her tenure as Fed Chair may be reaching its conclusion; she did not answer media inquiries about whether she would stay on if asked. She said she was concentrating on current issues instead of focusing on potential developments.

Mortgage Rates Rise, New Jobless Claims Lower

Mortgage rates rose again last week; the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage exceeded four percent for the first time since May with an average rate of 4.03 percent. Fifteen-year fixed rate mortgages had an average rate of 3.29 percent. Average mortgage rates for 15 and 30-year fixed rate mortgages rose seven basis points over last week’s average rates. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate also rose seven basis points to 3.28 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for all three mortgage types.

247,000 new jobless claims were filed last week as compared to expectations of 245,000 new claims filed and last week’s reading of 250,000 new claims. First-time jobless claims stayed below 300,000for 123 consecutive weeks. This run is the longest since the 1970s.  Analysts said that low jobless claims indicate a very low rate of layoffs.

Consumer sentiment dropped by two index points from 95.10 to 93.10 percent. Rising mortgage rates and concerns about current events likely contributed to wavering consumer sentiment.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic readings include NAHB Housing Market Indices, Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued and weekly releases on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.