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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.

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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

Are you selling real estate in a high-cancer-risk area?

(BIG DATA) If you own a brokerage knowing your local ecosystem can be beneficial. Whether it’s a humble brag on your blog, or a letter to a local rep, knowing your environment is always a good idea.

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As a realtor or brokerage owner, you know the importance of understanding your community’s ecosystem in order to shape your business strategy.

However, have you considered how environmental and quality may play a role in those decisions?

A recent study published in Cancer suggests that you should. According to the study, “of every 100,000 Americans, 451 of us will get cancer in a given year.” The study “found a difference of 39 cases (per 100,000) people, between areas with the highest and the lowest environmental quality.

This establishes a significant link between environmental qualities and cancer risks.

The study also showcases a map of the US and the air quality of various regions. Red and orange areas have the worst air quality, while blue and green areas have the best air quality. As you might expect, large metropolitan areas have the worst air quality, and things improve as you move into more rural areas. You do find the most exceptions throughout the southeastern region and a vertical stretch that runs from the tip of Texas to the Dakotas up north.

These kinds of signs can either be a major benefit or a major obstacle to attracting buyers to your real estate market.

According to the most recent Gallup polls, 47 percent of Americans worry a great deal about the quality of the environment. So, how do you adjust?

If you’re in a blue or green area, make sure to get the word out! People now consider environmental quality as part of the quality of life factor. Don’t let that benefit go unnoticed. Blog about it on your own website. Use your social media to share data like this from other sources, or other information praising the environmental quality and protections of your market.

Integrate it into your marketing materials where possible.

If you’re in a red or orange area, you’ve got a bit more work to do here, and it’s going to get a bit political. There is already plenty of concern about attempts at the federal level to handicap agencies dedicated to protecting the environment. Be wary of such measures at the state and city level, and be a voice for the real estate economy in shaping this policy.

Does going to places of legislative businesses give you the heebie-jeebies? Find local organizations dedicated to improving environmental quality. Sponsor a river or park clean up event. Show your support for events like Earth Day. Don’t have those kinds of events? Harness your entrepreneurial spirit and bring these events to your community. Taking action as a community leader will be massively beneficial for your brand.

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Real Estate Big Data

Much needed good news for housing, despite slowed sales

(REAL ESTATE) The data is in, and some truly positive signs for the housing market are slowly surfacing.

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If you put your finger on the pulse of the housing market right now, you’d see some much needed health improvements – inventory levels are finally loosening up for the first time in years, and the rate of price increases abated in the fourth quarter.

The median price of an existing home in Q4 rose 4.0 percent to $257,600 compared to the fourth quarter of last year, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Dr. Lawrence Yun, NAR Chief Economist, said in a statement that despite hurdles last year, “the close of the fourth quarter was promising.”

“Home prices continued to rise in the vast majority of markets,” said Dr. Yun, “but with inventory steadily increasing, home prices are, on average, rising at a slower and healthier pace.”

Existing home sales fell 1.8 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the previous quarter, and 7.4 percent over the year.

Why?

Dr. Yun said the West Coast needs more homes built. “The West region, where home prices have nearly doubled in six years, is undergoing the biggest shift with the slowest price gain and large buyer pullback.”

Comparing Q4 of 2017 and 2018 shows some relief when it comes to tight inventory levels which has edged hopeful homebuyers out of the market, increasing 6.2 percent over the year.

Housing affordability is the key ingredient to a healthy real estate sector going forward, which Dr. Yun says will require more homebuilding of moderately priced homes (a drumbeat the economist has been steadily beating for years).

“Housing starts fell far short of historically normal levels, with only 9.6 million new housing units added in the past decade; compared to 15 to 16 million that would have been needed to meet our growing population and 20 million new job additions,” said Dr. Yun.

“Local zoning law changes, expanding construction worker training programs at trade schools and promoting the use of tax breaks for developers in the designated Opportunity Zones will all play an important role in assuring an adequate future supply of housing,” Dr. Yun opined. 

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Real Estate Big Data

Pending home sales fall, hardest hit in the South

(REAL ESTATE) Despite a setback in home sales, there are several factors that indicate 2019 is back on track for being a growth year in the real estate sector.

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For the twelfth consecutive month, pending home sales (contracts signed on homes for sale) fell annually, dipping 9.8 percent in December compared to the previous December, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Down 2.2 percent from the previous month, NAR reports that pending home sales fell most dramatically in the South by 5.0 percent (down 13.5 percent annually), and 0.6 percent in the Midwest (down 7.2 percent from last December).

Meanwhile, pending home sales actually rose for the month in the Northeast (up 2.0 percent) and the West (up 1.7 percent), despite coming in lower than December 2017 (down 2.5 percent, and 10.8 percent, respectively).

Dr. Lawrence Yun, NAR Chief Economist, points to Wall Street and Main Street as factors in the decline.

“The stock market correction hurt consumer confidence,” said Dr. Yun, adding, “record high home prices cut into affordability and mortgage rates were higher in October and November for consumers signing contracts in December.”

Dr. Yun indicates that the partial government shutdown has not caused obvious damage to home sales, and that as the government reopens fully, more mortgage options will become available for consumers.

“Some home transactions were delayed,” he notes, “but we now expect those sales to go forward.”

Despite a setback in December, Dr. Yun stands by his previous forecast, asserting that the housing sector will see improvement in 2019.

“The longer-term growth potential is high,” he observes, adding that he expects the Federal Reserve to reduce their projected rate increases to one or even zero (from four as previously expected), decreasing mortgage rates and improving the 2019 forecast.

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