Historically low rates bolster California September home sales: The sale of existing single-family homes in September grew 5.8 percent when compared to 12 months ago, and it marked the third consecutive year-over-year gain and the largest in 2½ years.
Similarly, the median home price remained above $600,000 for the sixth straight month and in fact had the largest yearly gain of 4.7 percent in nearly 12 months.
CoreLogic August home prices increased nationwide by 3.6 percent from a year ago: The modest increase in August actually marked a big slowdown from a year earlier when the U.S. index was up 5.5 percent.
In fact, prices increased by 8.4 percent last August, which means the moderation in home-price growth combined with lower interest rates provide a window of opportunity to entry-level buyers.
U.S. builders remain upbeat despite big drop in housing starts: The construction of new houses fell 9.4 percent in September, but builders are confident and optimistic on the future as a recent surge in permits suggest the decline in housing starts is only temporary.
The number of housing starts slid to 1.26 million from a revised 1.39 in August, but the slowdown was mainly as a result of a tumbling drop off in construction of multifamily or buildings with five or more units, which had a decline of 28.2 percent.
California sees solid job growth in September: To be exact, 21,300 jobs were added in September across all industries and geographies, adding up to 320,000 jobs over the past year. What’s more, California’s unemployment rate has fallen to a new era low of 4.0 percent, providing more evidence the state has all the right fundamentals of a strong economy.
After strong summer, retail sales break six-month winning streak: Sales at U.S. retailers declined in September for the first time in seven months and most stores even posted lower receipts. This could mean a slowdown in consumer spending, which has been hinted and sort of expected as their confidence diminished as a result of growing concerns of a slowing economy.
Consumer credit growth weakens a bit: Credit card borrowing dropped in August after rising strongly the month prior and led to slower growth in consumer debt. Total consumer credit increased $17.9 billion or an annual growth rate of 5.2 percent, while borrowing in July went up by $23 billion.
As more evidence continues to signal a slowing economy, consumers are becoming a little more conservative with their borrowing.
Consumer price index unchanged at 1.7 percent in the last 12 months: The increase in the cost of living over the past 12 months was unchanged in September, partly due to falling prices for gasoline and used vehicles.
The low rate of inflation from CPI and other price barometers, should give the Fed more room to trim rates if growth in the economy continues to slow.
Real Estate Finance
Mortgage rates jump 12 basis points: The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) increased from 3.57 percent the week prior to 3.69 percent the week ending on Oct. 17. Despite this week’s uptick in mortgage rates, the housing market has seen improvements in construction and homes sales, mainly due to the low rate environment we’ve been experiencing the last few months as compared to last year.
Mortgage applications inch up: Mortgage applications increased slightly by a half of a percent (0.5%) from the week prior, meanwhile the refinance index continued to have another healthy increase of 4 percent.
Refinance activity is now 199 percent higher than a year ago, providing more evidence that existing don’t mind shopping for a cheaper rate and compared to last year, now it is a great time to do that.
However, even though new purchase applications jumped by 4 percent, growth has slowed for the second consecutive week, suggesting lower rates aren’t everything and other fundamental issues like lack of housing inventory and high prices are preventing purchase activity from meaningfully rising.
*Data prepared by the California Association of Realtors.
— Thomas Schultheis is with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties, and can be reached at 805.729.2802 or SbRealtorTom@gmail.com.