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Real Estate Big Data

Pending home sales rise, still below 2017 levels

(ECONOMICS) Pending home sales trend upward, but sales remain below last year’s level – why, and what’s next?

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With home sales jumping 4.5 percent in the West, pending home sales ended up rising 0.5 percent in September, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Pending home sales are contracts signed on homes for sale, so economists watch this indicator closely as a measure of the housing market’s health and an indicator of what will happen next.

But NAR is quick to point out that this slight uptick does not overshadow nine consecutive month of annual decreases.

pending home sales

NAR Chief Economist, Dr. Lawrence Yun calls it a “stabilizing trend,” that proves “buyers are out there on the sidelines, waiting to jump in once more inventory becomes available and the price is right.”

Beating a dead horse, Dr. Yun again points to the lack of inventory and affordability factors as restrictive, but asserting that the demand for housing “should remain steady.”

But with all other facets of the economy firing on all cylinders, why is the real estate market not exceeding expectations? Simple supply and demand – with homeowners seeing healthy gains in recent years, prices continue to rise alongside interest rates, and combined with inventory levels remaining tight, some buyers are simply left on the sidelines, regardless of their desire to buy.

Dr. Yun says this is about to change, pointing to annual increases in inventory in many major markets. In the past, he has noted one method to alleviate the supply/demand imbalance is for homebuilders to step up production, but as that has not happened, there is no expediting the natural process.

Further, performance varies between regions with pending home sales jumping 4.5 percent in the West (while dipping to 7.4 percent below a year ago), and 1.2 in the Midwest (only 1.1 percent below last year). Meanwhile, falling 0.4 percent in the Northeast (now 2.7 percent below September 2017), and 1.4 percent in the South (down 3.3 percent annually).

The wheels of the market are currently slowly moving, and the fed is expected to increase rates one more time this year, but NAR’s forward-looking indicator reveals a decent close to 2018.

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Real Estate Big Data

Demand for urban vs. suburban housing remains even (unless you’re in SF)

(REAL ESTATE BIG DATA) Most would assume that housing market trends would show people moving out of cities and into the suburbs following COVID restrictions. But the demand for both has stayed surprisingly even.

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Houses part of the housing market against a blue sky.

Despite what most people think, the suburban housing market isn’t completely leaving the urban market behind in the dust. According to a 2020 Zillow Urban-Suburban Market Report, data shows both markets are “hot sellers.” To illustrate this trend, Zillow’s Economic Research team analyzed various points related to for-sale listings.

Data shows homes in both areas are selling quicker than they were at the beginning of the year. The trend of houses selling above their listed prices and home value growth has accelerated at about the same pace for both markets.

With the exception of the Northeast region, national year-over-year (YoY) pending sales trends are almost even across urban classifications since February. Due to a smaller urban inventory pool at the start of the pandemic, this might account for the slower acceleration rates of sales in the Northeastern states.

On Zillow, suburban homes are receiving about the same attention as they did in 2019, and “urban and rural page views each climbed 0.2 percentage points from last year.” Suburb listings do attract more traffic on Zillow, but urban listings are still holding their ground.

Based on home characteristics, there isn’t a higher demand for single-family homes versus condos. Overall, this means the urban market is still attracting an audience.

However, this isn’t true in all cases. The San Francisco metro area falls out of these patterns. A great increase of listings are just sitting on the market. With an inventory up 96% YoY, this is a significant jump compared to the surrounding suburbs. Sellers are flooding the market, but buyers haven’t changed their purchasing pace.

According to Bay Area Market Reports, “With the increase in inventory has come a big jump in the number of listings reducing asking price. In some market segments, sellers are now competing for buyers, instead of buyers competing for listings.”

Although “San Francisco list prices have fallen 4.9% YoY,” there aren’t enough people buying in that housing market. With more tech companies like Google and Facebook allowing employees to work remote, hundreds of employees are leaving the city. And with them, will renters and buyers that aren’t renewing their leases look elsewhere to settle down?

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Real Estate Big Data

Top 30 ‘work from home’ counties in U.S. ranked (Texas beat all y’all, btw)

(REAL ESTATE) NAR examines the shift in purchase decisions based on a rapidly changing workforce to work from home, and of course, Texas dominates the top 30. Maybe not the top 10, but the top 30.

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We typically ignore all of the new, rushed rankings of geographies during the COVID-times, but the National Association of Realtors (NAR) just put out a well thought out argument for their top 30 counties for working from home, taking into account internet connectivity, the percentage of workers in office-related jobs, home affordability, urbanization, and a county’s population growth.

Not to be a conspiracy theorist, but the top 10 looks like a map of the old Big 12 football conference schedule back when it was the Southwest Conference, just saying…

The report analyzes the aforementioned factors that “support the remote work trend,” which we firmly believe will drive real estate purchases for years to come as employers begin implementing more permanent flex work options.

Texas leads all states with 7 counties among the top 30, but for the sake of fairness, here is the top 10, in which we painfully acknowledge Georgia as the top spot stealer:

  1. Forsyth County, Georgia
  2. Douglas County, Colorado
  3. Los Alamos County, New Mexico
  4. Collin County, Texas
  5. Loudoun County, Virginia
  6. Hamilton County, Indiana
  7. Williamson County, Tennessee
  8. Delaware County, Ohio
  9. Broomfield County, Colorado
  10. Dallas County, Iowa

“The coronavirus pandemic greatly accelerated the number of workers who are able to work from home,” notes NAR Chief Economist, Dr. Lawrence Yun. “Possibly a quarter of the labor force may be permitted to work from anywhere outside of the office even after a vaccine is discovered – compared to only 5% prior to the pandemic – and this will greatly change the landscape of where people buy homes.”

NAR President Vince Malta observes that location options are not the only changes for potential homebuyers, but that as remote work becomes more commonplace, “we may see buyers seek larger properties that offer space for a potential home office and other features that have become more valuable as a result of this pandemic.” Aha!

Malta adds, “The growing trend and historically-low mortgage rates are spurring potential homebuyers to consider a broader range of options and rethink what’s important to them in the long term.”

In a statement, NAR indicates, “The growing number of people working remotely also impacts commercial real estate, particularly the office sector, with future office sizes and locations potentially changing as a result.”

Dr. Yun states that the future of commercial real estate “appears uncertain” as companies reorganize “from having a central business district headquarters to several suburban satellite offices.”

The bright spot, however, is retail. “One can reasonably expect to see some growth in the number of smaller stores in the top 30 counties coming at the expense of similar establishments near downtown office buildings,” Dr. Yun concluded.


Below is a breakdown of their methodology:
nar work from home

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Real Estate Big Data

Home purchase contract signings surge 5.9% in July

[REAL ESTATE BIG DATA] Positive NAR reports encourage strong homebuyer return into the housing market following pent-up demand.

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pending home sales contract signings

Like all other housing economic indicators, home purchase contract signings jumped 5.9% in July, according to the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI).

This marks the third consecutive month of growth, and all regions saw rising pending home sales during this time in annual and monthly improvements. Comparing the data to this time last year, contract signings are up 15.5%.

The index is used by the industry as an early indicator of upcoming closings. What do consumers do with this data? Typically not much.

But with all of the positive headlines, homebuyer Alexei F. in Austin, TX tells us that his family is inspired to begin house shopping a year earlier than previously planned.

“We are witnessing a true V-shaped sales recovery as homebuyers continue their strong return to the housing market,” said NAR’s Chief Economist, Dr. Lawrence Yun. “Home sellers are seeing their homes go under contract in record time, with nine new contracts for every 10 new listings.”

The global pandemic restricted the spring buying season, but NAR points out that most states are at least partially reopened, freeing up the pent-up demand.

Dr. Yun said in a statement that there are “no indications that contract activity will wane in the immediate future, particularly in the suburbs.”

Further, he forecasts that existing home sales (closings) will jump to 5.8 million in the second half of this year, creating a rebound and a small (1.1%) gain over 2019. In 2021, he anticipates that with a continuing low interest rate environment, and an economy he expects to expand by 4%, sales could reach 5.86 million.

“Anecdotally, Realtors are telling me there is no shortage of clients or home seekers, but that scarce inventory remains a problem,” Dr. Yun said.

“If 20% more homes were on the market, we would have 20% more sales, because demand is that high,” Dr. Yun observed, adding that he expects housing starts to average at 1.35 million in 2020 and to pick up in 2021, to 1.43 million.

July saw small to large surges regionally, and all have substantial growth compared to July of 2019:

  • The Northeast PHSI grew 25.2% to 112.3 in July, a 20.6% jump from a year ago.
  • In the Midwest, the index rose 3.3% to 114.6 last month, up 15.4% from July 2019.
  • Pending home sales in the South increased 0.9% to an index of 142.0 in July, up 14.9% from July 2019.
  • The index in the West rose 6.8% in July to 106.4, up 13.2% from a year ago.

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