The most recent report from the National Association of Realtors has important data worth considering. According to their research, home sales across the country increased by 5.1 percent, indicating the highest level of sales since the end of 2009. Other news sources celebrated this report, stating that economic activity and the housing market were signs of overall improvement. It doesn’t appear that all the news is good, however, as all data should be reviewed carefully in context.
The biggest reason for loosened lending restrictions had to do with data showing that first-time homebuyers were not participating in the housing market. High fees, high home costs, and strict lending regulations designed to limit further industry fallout were all blamed for the fact that those shopping for a first home were virtually shut out.
One of the main reasons for the boost was that more people listed their homes for sale during the second quarter of 2015. This gave buyers more choices to select from, but the general supply is still tight. The growth of prices is generating a double digit appreciation and homes that are listed are selling very quickly. So, despite the fact that more homes are being listed on the market, it’s still not necessarily an optimal market for buyers.
Data collected from elsewhere, specifically the AEI’s International Center on Housing Risk, indicate that the tight supply is part of a more systemic problem. With government agencies seeking to loosen up strict lending practices, combined with non-bank lenders getting into the market, new home construction has stalled.
According to the co-director of that organization, the claims that first-time home buyers have little access to loans is simply not true. Stephen Oliner says that individuals with very little money down and low FICO scores are actually gaining access to the market, even though government agencies are using claims about limited access to loosen up some lending practice regulations.
It seems like Oliner’s statement might be correct, since first-time buyers made up approximately 1/3 of the market in recent months. This is the highest percentage of the market these buyers have grabbed since September 0f 2012. Unemployment for young adults still remains a serious problem across the country despite these other numbers indicating economic improvement.
The National Mortgage Risk index supports these allegations, too. Purchase loans in April were at a high of 12.08 percent, and high-risk loans outpaced low-risk loans for the first time since this kind of data was collected.
NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun noted that it’s certainly a fair claim to allege that the market is tight with those listed homes being snapped up quickly. But the lack of gains in new home construction is troubling, he believes. This trend, he argues, likely means that home prices will stay high over the coming months, even when mortgage rates are hovering over the four percent mark.