Home Prices post biggest rise in more than 2 years

Source: CNNMoney

In another sign of a housing market rebound, home prices posted the biggest percentage gain in more than two years in the third quarter, according to the closely followed S&P/Case-Shiller index.

Home prices are up for the 2nd straight quarter, the biggest year-over-year increase in more than two years.

Home prices are up for the 2nd straight quarter, the biggest year-over-year increase in more than two years. Photo credit: S&P/Case-Shiller

The 3.6% increase from a year earlier is more than three times the rise in the previous quarter and was the biggest jump in prices since the second quarter of 2010. But that 2010 rise was much more of a temporary blip caused by a homebuyer’s tax credit of up to $8,000 on homes purchased in late 2009 and early 2010.

This latest rise comes as the housing market has shown numerous other signs of recovery in recent months. The rebound is spurred by a combination of record low mortgage rates, an improving jobs market and a drop in foreclosures to a five-year low, reducing the supply of distressed homes available. There is also a tighter supply of both new and previously owned homes on the market.

The improvement in housing market fundamentals have helped to lift the pace of both home sales and home building.

Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research who was one of the earliest economists to warn about the housing bubble and the trouble that lay ahead, said this recovery in the housing market should lead to some sustained housing price increases in the coming years.

“I’ve been an optimist as of late,” he said. “Some think it’ll get back to bubble prices and that’s crazy. But we’ll probably do better than inflation for the next few years, and people who have been underwater on their mortgage will get out from that, and build some equity.”

The latest rise in the Case-Shiller index was the second straight quarter of year-over-year improvement, while the monthly annual reading has climbed for four months in a row, with six straight month-over-month increases.

“With six months of consistently rising home prices, it is safe to say that we are now in the midst of a recovery in the housing market,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Pending Home Sales Post Strong Gain

Pending home sales rose strongly in October and remain above year-ago levels, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

The Pending Home Sales Index*, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, surged 10.4 percent to 93.3 in October from 84.5 in September and is 9.2 percent above October 2010 when it stood at 85.5. The data reflects contracts but not closings.

National Association of Realtors Monthly Pending Home Sales Index

The Pending Home Sales Index* surged 10.4 percent to 93.3 in October from 84.5 in September and is 9.2 percent above October 2010 when it stood at 85.5. The data reflects contracts but not closings.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said improved contract activity is a hopeful sign. “Home sales have been plodding along at a sub-par level while interest rates are hovering at record lows and there is a pent-up demand from buyers who normally would have entered the market in recent years. We hope this indicates more buyers are taking advantage of the excellent affordability conditions,” he said.

“Many consumers are recognizing that home buyers in the past two years have had one of the lowest default rates in history. Moreover, continued inventory declines are another healthy sign for the housing market,” Yun added.

“Although contract signings are up, not all contracts lead to closings. Many potential home buyers inadvertently hurt their credit scores and chances of getting a mortgage through easily averted actions, such as cancelling an old credit line while taking on a new one,” Yun said. “Such actions could unwittingly prevent buyers from obtaining a mortgage if their credit score is close the margins of qualifying, or they might get a loan but with less favorable terms.”

NAR encourages consumers to be aware of their credit score and actions which could hurt or enhance it. HouseLogic.com, the association’s consumer website devoted to all aspects of homeownership, offers tips for improving credit scores here.

To view the full article and a video report, visit the National Association of Realtors®.

*The Pending Home Sales Index is a leading indicator for the housing sector, based on pending sales of existing homes. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed but the transaction has not closed, though the sale usually is finalized within one or two months of signing.

Existing Home Sales Rise Nationwide in August 2011

August 2011 Existing Home Sales Increase Nationwide.

August 2011 Existing Home Sales Increase Nationwide.

Existing-home sales increased in August, even with ongoing tight credit and appraisal problems, along with regional disruptions created by Hurricane Irene, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Monthly gains were seen in all regions.

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 7.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.03 million in August from an upwardly revised 4.67 million in July, and are 18.6 percent higher than the 4.24 million unit level in August 2010.

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for National Association of REALTORS

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for National Association of REALTORS

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said there are some positive market fundamentals. “Some of the improvement in August may result from sales that were delayed in preceding months, but favorable affordability conditions and rising rents are underlying motivations,” he said. “Investors were more active in absorbing foreclosed properties. In addition to bargain hunting, some investors are in the market to hedge against higher inflation.”

Yun said an extremely important issue currently is the renewal and availability of the National Flood Insurance Program, scheduled to expire at the end of this month. “About one out of 10 homes in this country need flood insurance to get a mortgage, and we would see significant negative market impacts without it,” he said.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $168,300 in August, which is 5.1 percent below August 2010. Distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales typically sold at deep discounts – accounted for 31 percent of sales in August, compared with 29 percent in July and 34 percent in August 2010.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 3.8 percent in August to a level of 1.09 million and are 26.7 percent above August 2010. The median price in the Midwest was $141,700, down 3.5 percent from a year ago.

In the South, existing-home sales increased 5.4 percent to an annual pace of 1.94 million in August and are 16.9 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the South was $151,000, which is 0.8 percent below August 2010.

Please click here for the entire article about the improvement of home sales in August 2011 from Realtor.org.