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Pending home sales dip in all regions but the Midwest

(REAL ESTATE) Pending home sales slipped nationally, but there are some healthy signs for the housing sector as we look forward.

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home sales

If you’re in the field and feeling a slight slowdown, you’re probably right. Pending home sales (contracts signed) dipped 1.5% nationally, down 2.0% year-over-year, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). This marks the 16th consecutive month of annual decreases.

Pending home sales dipped 1.8% in the Northeast, 2.5% in the South, 1.8% in the West, and rose 1.3% in the Midwest.

Compared to last year, pending homes are 2.1% below a year ago, down 1.8% in the South, 1.5% lower in the West, and 2.4% lower in the Midwest during the same time period.

This indicator is forward-looking and lets us know how closings will look in the coming months.

NAR Chief Economist, Dr. Lawrence Yun said the sales dip has not yet reflected the market shifts that work in favor of homeownerships.

“Though the latest monthly figure shows a mild decline in contract signings, mortgage applications and consumer confidence have been steadily rising,” he said. “It’s inevitable for sales to turn higher in a few months.”

Dr. Yun noted that home price appreciation has been strongest on homes priced under $250,000 as inventory levels have been perpetually tight for several years. Price conditions are soft on upper-end homes, “especially in high tax states like Connecticut, New York and Illinois,” he added.

There are now signs for a rise in inventory, Dr. Yun states, digging into data from realtor.com, noting the largest increase in active listings (in April) compared to April 2018.

“We are seeing migration to more affordable regions, particularly in the South, where there has been recent job growth and homes are more affordable,” Yun said.

NAR has repeatedly pointed to housing starts by new home builders as one of the key paths to loosening up the tight inventory levels that continue to edge out willing buyers. Starts remain low, but with a healthy market, the inventory appears to be correcting, albeit slowly.

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Real Estate Big Data

‘Boom, boom, boom,’ Kudlow declares this a ‘housing boom’ as sales fluctuate

(REAL ESTATE) Existing home sales slide for the month but surge for the year – challenges remain, but Kudlow declares this a “housing boom.”

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existing home sales

Existing home sales (contracts signed) dipped 1.3% in January, following the current trend of “a fluctuating pattern of monthly increases and declines,” according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

NAR points to sluggish sales in the Western region as dragging down the national average, while other regions saw little to no change last month.

The good news, however, is that year over year, existing home sales actually surged 9.6%. Also hopeful is the news this week that housing permits hit a 13-year high, and housing starts recently hit a 13-year high as well.

Although affordability and tight inventory levels continue to hold back the housing market, Larry Kudlow, Director of the United States National Economic Council calls this a “housing boom.”

In jest, when Fox News began to ask about existing home sales, Kudlow interrupted with the words “boom, boom, boom.”

“Whatever the question is, the answer is boom. We’re in a housing boom,” Kudlow asserted.

NAR Chief Economist, Dr. Lawrence Yun calls the outlook for 2020 home sales “promising despite the drop [in existing home sales] in January.”

In a statement, Dr. Yun said, “The trend line for housing starts is increasing and showing steady improvement, which should ultimately lead to more home sales.”

The median existing home price rose 6.8% from January 2019 to hit $266,300. Supply conditions are driving price grown, notes Dr. Yun, adding that low mortgage rates have aided with affordability.

The average days on market fell to 43 days in January (down from 49 in January 2019). Fully 42% of all homes sold in January 2020 were on the market for less than a month.

On Wednesday, Dr. Yun called the housing start and building permit data “jumpy,” which is proving to be applicable to current home sales as well.

It’s this muddy mix of monthly setbacks with wildly successful annual increases. Spring sales are set to similarly trend positively, so long as starts and permits continue to fuel what Kudlow calls a “housing boom.”

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Real Estate Big Data

Get in on alternative data – an inventive new way to market

(REAL ESTATE BIG DATA) Alternative data is a wild ride with surveillance planes, satellite images, and specially equipped helicopters, and it’s not stopping anytime soon.

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Alternative data

The road less traveled has always been a little stranger and trust me, alternative data is a little strange. Buckle-up your seatbelts, it’s going to be a wild ride.

Data has always been a hot commodity. The digital world has made it easier than ever for investors to get their hands on all kinds of data. The problem is, if one person can gain access to a data set then nearly everyone else can too. So, how are investors supposed to get an edge over their competitors and make the best decisions in their power? Please welcome, alternative data to the stage.

First of all, what the heck is alternative data? According to alternativedata.org, it refers to “data used by investors to evaluate a company or investment that is not within their traditional data sources.” Alternative data is the road less traveled. It offers investors a way to add new and unique variables to the mix.

This data can be anything from private aircraft surveillance to satellite images of parking lots. Every bit of data that investors can gather to determine their next course of action has value. It gets wild, y’all.

In the oil and gas industry, one company uses helicopters decked out with infrared beams to estimate the amount of oil in storage tanks. It may sound like something out of a silly movie, but it’s actually quite clever.

So, is alternative data just an industry fad? Probably not, but what qualifies as this kind of data will evolve over time. As certain practices become more mainstream, they will lose that “alternative” edge. Kind of like when the band you’ve been following for years gets a hit song and now, they’re everyone’s favorite band.

What’s already clear is alternative data is not pixie dust. These creative data sets can provide an interesting insight, but it shouldn’t be the sole basis of any decisions. At the end of the day, alt data points are just more variables on the table. It’s best to not get caught up in the sexiness of private jets and satellites.

One thing is for sure, we will be seeing more creative uses of alternative data in the future.

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Real Estate Big Data

‘Jumpy’ data: Housing starts dip 3.6%, permits hit 13-year high

(REAL ESTATE) Housing starts fall, but experts say the market is *almost* firing on all cylinders. Spring could be rough, but summer looks strong.

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housing starts + construction

Housing starts (construction on new homes) fell 3.6% in January across America, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

This sounds scary, but is barely a blip after skyrocketing at the end of 2019, when housing starts hit a 13-year high.

Also hitting a 13-year high (read: pre-housing crash levels) is applications for building permits, up 9.2% in January, a promising sign for future growth.

National Association of Realtors (NAR) Chief Economist, Dr. Lawrence Yun said, “this housing data is quite jumpy,” but assures people that the 3.6% dip in housing starts is “nothing to be concerned about,” as housing starts are “on an upward path,” continuing to trend positively overall.

Dr. Yun has long pointed to home builders as the secret ingredient for a healthier housing market, as it positively impacts restrictive inventory levels, and allows in otherwise pushed out buyers, particularly first timers.

“More construction will mean more housing inventory for consumers in the later months of this year,” he notes, adding that spring could still be tough for buyers with perpetually tight inventory levels, but “as trade-up buyers move into these new completed homes in the near future, their existing homes will be released onto the market.

Joel Kan, AVP of Economic and Industry Forecasting at the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) calls today’s data “another step in the right direction,” noting that despite the December surge followed by the January retraction, “the current pace is still over 1.5 million units – remaining close to the highest levels since 2006.”

Kan points out that while single-family starts are down, they’ve exceeded an annual pace of 1M+ units for a second consecutive month, the first time since 2007. Further, he points out that multifamily just had their strongest month of production in 34 years.

“The success of the spring buying season greatly depends on how much new and existing inventory is on the market,” said Kan.

It could still be a tight market in coming months, but today’s data offers hope for a less “jumpy” market.

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