What You Should Know About Pending Home Sales This Month Pending home sales fell in September by -5.60 percent, and were 1.20 percent lower year-over-year. This is the first time in more than two years that pending home sales have fallen below year-earlier readings. September’s reading was below August’s reading of -1.60 percent.

The National Association of REALTORS®, which released the report, expects lower home sales for the fourth quarter of 2013 and flat sales into 2014. NAR provided good news in its forecast of 10 percent growth in existing home sales in 2013 as compared to 2012.

A spike in mortgage rates in August coupled with rapidly rising home prices were seen as major factors leading to lower pending sales.

Real estate analysis firm CoreLogic has reported that August home prices were 12.4 percent higher than for the previous 12 months; this was the fastest annual growth rate for home prices since February 2006.

While positive news for homeowners and housing markets, rapidly rising home prices can cause some buyers to postpone or cancel their plans for purchasing a home.

Economic, Government Policy Challenges Reduce Buyer Enthusiasm

In addition to higher mortgage rates and home prices, recent concerns of investors and consumers about the government shutdown and its consequences were noted as factors contributing to lower pending home sales.

High unemployment rates are a lingering influence, as would-be home buyers waver in their decisions to take on a long-term obligation when unemployment rates remain higher than normal and job security is questionable.

Fed Expected To Maintain BondBuying At Current Level

The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve meets this week and is expected to maintain its current level of $85 billion per month in Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities. The fed’s program is intended to keep long-term interest rates, including mortgage rates, low as a means of supporting the economic recovery.

Mortgage rates are affected by bond prices; if the fed reduces its monthly bond purchases, demand for bonds would fall, and mortgage rates would be expected to rise.

Mortgage rates spiked in August on expectations that the FOMC would taper its monthly bond-buying, but have since trended lower. 

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – October 28, 2013Federal government agencies issued reports that were delayed by the government shutdown; and Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell for all types of loans it reports. The National Association of REALTORS issued its Existing Home Sales report on Monday. While 5.30 million home sales were expected an annual basis, September’s reading fell short at 5.29 million sales.

August’s reading was adjusted from an original reading of 5.48 million, which equaled July’s reading. Higher mortgage rates and home prices were cited as contributing to the slip in September’s sales.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics issued the Nonfarm Payrolls report for September on Tuesday. September’s reading indicated that only 148,000 jobs were created as compared to economists’ expectations of 185,000 jobs and August’s reading of 173,000 new jobs.

National Unemployment Rate Dropped 

Analysts indicated that the modest reading for September was caused by uncertainty over the government shutdown, and also indicated that the economy is growing, but continues to experience ups and downs. The national unemployment rate for September fell from August’s reading of 7.30 percent to 7.20 percent.

According to the Commerce Department, construction spending rose by 0.60 percent in August as compared to expectations of 0.50 percent and July’s revised reading of 1.40 percent, of which 1.20 percent represented spending on residential construction. The Federal Reserve characterized residential construction as growing at a “moderate pace” in September.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency reported that August sales of homes connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac grew by 8.50 percent on a seasonally adjusted year-over-year basis. This represented monthly growth of 0.30 percent and was the smallest rise since September 2012.

Good News! Mortgage Rates Fall

Thursday brought encouraging news with Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey. Average mortgage rates fell across the board with the average rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage falling from last week’s 4.28 percent to 4.13 percent. 

The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage dropped from 3.33 percent to 3.24 percent, and the rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped from 3.07 percent to 3.00 percent. Discount points rose to 0.8 percent for 30 and 15-year fixed rate mortgages and stayed steady for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages at 0.4 percent.

Weekly Jobless claims were higher than expected at 350,000 new claims; analysts had expected 337,000 new claims. The latest reading was below the prior reading of 362,000 new jobless claims.

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index was released Friday with some telling results. October’s reading 73.2 from September’s revised reading of 77.5. A reading of 74.8 had been expected based on September’s original reading of 75.2. Consumers interviewed for the October CSI indicated that the federal government was the major factor in lower confidence in the economy.

What’s Coming Up

A number of federal agencies are still delaying their reports. Next week’s scheduled economic news includes the Case-Shiller Housing Market Index, Consumer Confidence report and ADP’s Employment Report. Weekly Jobless Claims and the Freddie Mac PMMS will be issued Thursday. 

RealtyTrac Foreclosure Report Shows 28 Percent Decline From May 2012

Foreclosure actions increased by 2.0 percent in May from April’s 75 month low point for foreclosure activity according to RealtyTrac’s U.S. Foreclosure Market Report released June 11. However, the good news is that May 2013 foreclosure filings were still 28 percent below May 2012 filings.

RealtyTrac reports that approximately one in 885 homes were in some stage of foreclosure in May. This does not mean that 1 in 885 homes was lost to foreclosure, but it does indicate that documents related to some phase of foreclosure (Notice of Default, Notice of Trustee Sale, and Bank Reposession) were filed.

Actual lender repossessions (REO) increased by 11 percent in May, but were down by 29 percent as compared to May 2012. 33 states reported increases in REOs with North Carolina, Oregon and Wisconsin having the highest numbers of REO properties added.

Judicial Foreclosure States Lagging In Clearing Foreclosure Inventory

Foreclosure starts were up by 4 percent in May, but were 33 percent lower than for May of 2012. States using judicial foreclosure proceedings were 5 of the top 6 states for foreclosure filings. The state of Nevada, which uses non-judicial foreclosure proceedings, was second after Florida and ahead of Ohio, South Carolina and Illinois.

In general, judicial foreclosure proceedings take longer to complete than non-judicial foreclosures. This results in homes being unavailable for sale for longer periods of time. Lenders are required to complete the foreclosure process and in some cases, they must await expiration of a redemption period before a foreclosed home can be repaired and sold.

In states using non-judicial foreclosure proceedings, the time between the initial foreclosure filing and the foreclosure sale can be as little as three to four months. Quickly turning over foreclosed homes is helpful for improving regional housing markets and making more homes available for purchase. Economists have recently cited low inventories of homes as holding back housing markets in some areas.

Bank Owned Properties Provide Buying Opportunities

Lender-owned properties provide potential opportunities for first-time buyers and others seeking affordable homes. Mortgage lenders tend to offer attractive sale terms on REO properties, as their objective is to move these homes out of their inventories as quickly as possible.

Some foreclosure properties are also lacking current maintenance and are often sold as-is. DIY enthusiasts can buy and renovate foreclosed homes for owner occupancy or investment. 

It’s a good idea to discuss your interest in the opportunities available for buying a lender-owned home with a trusted real estate professional.