With all the turbulence and losses in stocks and bad economic news in the headlines lately, you can easily lose perspective on what’s really going on in the real estate sector.
For example, new mortgage applications increased last week by 12 percent, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Applications from people looking to buy houses with FHA loans were up by 15.3 percent, while applications from purchasers seeking conventional mortgages rose by six and a half percent.
How could that be, with all the grim economic news? Well, remember that there is a huge pent-up demand simmering away out there for housing — especially from first-time buyers who want to scoop up low-priced deals.
When fixed interest rates drop — and last week they were down by a quarter of a percentage point — those buyers start doing the math and getting into the market with offers.
Fixed thirty year rates fell from six and a half percent to 6.24 percent during the week. Fifteen year rates broke below six percent to 5.9 percent, down from 6.14 percent.
Another piece of positive news you may not have noticed: Pending home sales were higher than year-earlier levels for the second straight month — 1.6 percent higher than September 2007 .
Although pending sales contracts were down slightly for the month, in the western states they wee up by 3.7 percent, and now stand at an extraordinary 39.7 percent higher than they were at the same time in 2007.
At the National Association of Realtors’ convention in Orlando, chief economist Lawrence Yun, warned the delegates not to expect a housing recovery overnight, certainly not with unemployment on the rise. But he projected a slow, steady, multi-year upward trend, with 5.02 million total sales this year, 5.3 million for 2009, and 5.6 million for 2010.
Already sales are up significantly in major markets in many parts of the U.S. Yun specifically mentioned the west coast of Florida, the Phoenix area, Virginia, Long Island New York, Kansas City, Minnesota and Idaho.
So here’s the key point to keep in mind as you try to make sense of the headlines: The stock market is NOT the housing market. It’s on a whole different set of tracks. And it’s been in a highly volatile state for more than a month.
Housing, on the other hand, has already endured its painful correction for two and a half years … is now pretty much stabilized … and is slowing moving toward its cyclical recovery.