Monday, 11 of December of 2017

Economics. Explained.  

New Home Sales

November 27, 2017

New home sales climbed 6.2% in October to an annual rate of 685 thousand after having surged by 14.2% in September.  The pace of home sales in October was the fastest since October 2007.  The August/September results clearly seem to have been impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  Sales in the south declined 0.9% in August but then skyrocketed 25.8% in September.  But the pace of sales in October rose in all four regions of the country so it is hard to conclude that this robust pace of sales was hurricane-related.  It is just good, old-fashioned, strength in the housing sector.    A much better representation of the pace of home sales is the 3-month average which stands at 632 thousand (shown above) which is the peak for the cycle.   Keep in mind that builders are still having difficulty finding an adequate supply of skilled labor.  If they could find more workers, builders would build and sell more homes.  Also do not forget that new home sales are single family homes and do not include sales of condos.  Any way you slice it, the housing sector is expanding nicely.

The supply of available homes for sale rose 4 thousand in October to 282 thousand.  The big jump in the number of homes sold combined with a small increase in the number of  homes on the market means that the month’s supply of available homes dropped to 4.9 months.  Realtors suggest that a 6.0 month supply is that point at which the demand for and supply of housing are roughly in balance.

The National Association of Realtors series on housing affordability for existing homes now stands at about 160.0.   That means that consumers have 60.0% more income than is necessary to purchase a median priced home.  Existing homes remain quite affordable despite a post-election increase in mortgage rates to 3.9%. We have made an attempt to estimate affordability if 30-year mortgage rates  climb to 4.4% by the end of 2018.  We estimate the affordability index at that time will be about 155 — still very affordable.  The reason affordability is not hit harder by the increase in mortgage rates is because consumer income continues to climb.

New home prices fell 3.7% in October to $312,800 after having risen 4.2% in September.   Because this is an inherently volatile series we tend to focus on a 3-month moving average of prices (shown below) which is $316,500.  During the course of this past year prices have risen 2.3%.

Given that the demand for housing continues to exceed supply the housing sector will continue to do well in 2018.  Sales will be at a reasonably robust pace of perhaps 700 thousand by the end of next year, builders will continue to boost production, and prices should rise slowly.  Mortgage rates should end 2018 at 4.4% which is still quite affordable.

Stephen Slifer


Charleston, SC

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