Builder confidence surges as the market experiences gains in single-family permits and starts. The National Association of Home Builders reported This Week in Real Estate that the Housing Market Index has returned to its pre-pandemic March reading. Below are a few newsworthy events from the third week of July that influence our business:
U.S. Mortgage Rates Fall Below 3 Percent, Breaking 50-Year Record. According to Freddie Mac’s latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey for Mid-July 2020, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage in the U.S. averaged 2.98 percent, the lowest rate in the survey’s history dating back to 1971. “Mortgage rates fell below 3 percent for the first time in 50 years. The drop has led to increased homebuyer demand and, these low rates have been capitalized into asset prices in support of the financial markets,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.98 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending July 16, 2020, down from 3.03 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.81 percent. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.48 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.51 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.23 percent.
Another Massive Jump in Builder Confidence. Economists talk about the potential for a V-shaped recovery from the pandemic and that is exactly the pattern displayed by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). The HMI, a measure of builder confidence in the market for newly constructed homes, rose 14 points this month, completing the upward leg of the V and returning to its pre-pandemic March reading of 72. The index had plummeted 42 points in April before staging a three-month comeback. All the HMI indices posted gains in July. The HMI index gauging current sales conditions jumped 16 points to 79, the component measuring sales expectations in the next six months rose seven points to 75, and the measure charting traffic of prospective buyers posted a 15-point gain to 58. Looking at the monthly average regional scores, the Northeast HMI surged 22 points to 70, the Midwest jumped 18 points to 68, the South increased 10 points to 73 and the West increased 14 points to 80.
Gains For Single-Family Permits, Starts in June. Single-family housing permits and starts were higher in June as housing demand and construction remains a bright spot for the overall economy. Consistent with recent gains in the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), which has recovered to pre-recession levels, single-family permits increased by almost 12% in June. Total permits for single-family homes issued in 2020 on a year-to-date basis are 3.4% higher than the first six months of 2019. The increase in the pace of permits and resurgent builder confidence signals gains for single-family starts ahead. Single-family starts, on a year-to-date basis, are down just 1.3% relative to the first half of 2019. Thus far, single-family starts are down on a year-to-date basis 8% in the Northeast, down 2% in the South, flat in the Midwest, but are 2% higher in the West (led by the fast-growing Mountain states).