Leading Indicators For Housing Market Send Mixed Signals

Tuesday, April 27, 2010, 4:30 AM | 1 Comment

Economists and housing market experts suggest there are many leading indicators to tell us whether the housing market is on a rebound.

That means they can forecast the direction the economy is headed – up or down.

However, none of the leading indicators by itself truly predicts the future of the housing market.

Therefore, we must look at all leading indicators for a good and stable forecast.

  1. Pending Home Sales

    According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), pending home sales (under contract) rose by 8.2% in February. The index is 17.3% over last year. That’s relatively good sign.

  2. Housing Starts

    Housing starts don’t look promising right now. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that privately owned housing starts in February were 5.9% below January and 0.2% above February 2009. That’s relatively bad sign.

  3. New-Home Sales

    New-home sales reached a record low in February with 308,000 sales, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). That’s relatively bad sign.

  4. Existing-Home Sales

    About 5 million existing homes were sold in February, up from about 4.7 million a year ago. That’s relatively good sign.

  5. New-Home Inventory

    The NAHB reported that as of February 2010, there were 236,000 new homes, or 9.2 months’ supply, on the market, the worst number since May 2009. That’s relatively bad sign.

  6. Existing-Home Inventory

    The NAHB reported that as of February 2010, There was also 8.6 months’ supply of existing homes on the market, the worst number since August 2009. However, these numbers are better over last year supply of 9.7 months. That’s relatively somewhat good sign.

  7. Housing Affordability

    NAR reports that in February 2010, the median price of an existing home in the United States was $164,300 and the average mortgage rate was 4.99%. With median family income at $60,498, a family’s housing payment would only be 14.2% of its income. Many financial experts recommend 25% cap for keeping the monthly budget under control. That’s relatively good sign.

  8. Mortgage Applications

    The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reports for the week ending April 9, mortgage applications declined by 9.6% over the previous week. That’s relatively bad sign.

  9. Mortgage Interest Rates

    MBA reports the average contract rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has been between 5% and 6%. That’s relatively good sign. However, the thousands of Americans who are unemployed couldn’t get a mortgage even if rates were 1%. That’s relatively bad sign.

  10. Real Estate Mutual Funds

    According to Morningstar, real estate mutual funds (REIT) returned 9.4% in the first quarter of 2010, one of the highest return of any mutual fund category. That’s relatively good sign.

In a Nutshell
Mixed signals, at best, are coming out of the housing market. Experts suggest the following reasons for the still relatively down market:

  • High unemployment rates
  • The continued difficulty of obtaining credit
  • The pending expiration of the home buyer tax credit

The leading indicators make it hard to tell where the housing market is headed at the moment. Five bad signs and Six good signs are a definite mixed signal. I guess we have to wait longer than experts had predicted to really tell whether the housing market is on a rebound.

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