New Home Sales Slip (Rates?)

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Today the Census Bureau reported that 536K new homes sold in December 2016. Sales for the previous month were revised to 598K.

http://www.census.gov/construction/nrs/pdf/newressales.pdf

Sales of new single-family houses in December 2016 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 536,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 10.4 percent (±12.2%)* below the revised November rate of 598,000 and is 0.4 percent (±11.7%)* below the December 2015 estimate of 538,000

More importantly,

The median sales price of new houses sold in December 2016 was $322,500; the average sales price was $384,000.


There are two things to keep in mind when thinking about these numbers:

1. New home sales data and construction data are volatile. There will be swings month to month and frequent revisions.

2. Total new home sales are at cycle highs, finishing at 563K  and revisions have been trending positive this year as compared to other years.

In my opinion these number are exactly where we should be. For 2016 I predicted 4%-8% growth, with more growth  if median home prices stayed flat.  The median home price is staying flat  and that is why I am predicting for better growth for new home sales going forward.

Before this report, the median sales price was listed at $305,400.  The report today shows it to be $322,500. More smaller, lower priced homes need to be in the mix of sales if we expect  growth to go above my low end of the range for total sales of  675K -775k , for the year.  For the last 2 years,my predictions for higher than expected growth were based on the assumption that  the chart below of median home prices, stays flat goes down or has a limited upside. And for the last 18 months this has been the case. This is good for the new home sales market, new construction and the economy.

From Fred
https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=ccKF&utm

Before today’s report

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After today’s report, not much action since mid 2015.

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Let’s be honest here. I take issue when some say this is a strong housing market when new home sales have missed sales expectation 3 out of the last 4 years –with double digit % misses for two of those years.  Builder stocks and indexes have be flat in relative terms for 3 years now. They have been good channel trades but not great investments in this cycle

When I was on CNBC back in June of 2015, TOL was trading $37.55 and is now trading $4 dollars lower with the markets at all time highs.

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XHB (SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF) hasn’t done much the last few years either, even though markets have hit all time highs.

http://finviz.com/quote.ashx?t=XHB&ty=c&ta=0&p=m

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We are seeing a slow and steady rise in the housing market, creeping up from the lowest levels ever recorded in U.S. history. New homes are more expensive than existing homes and this cycle has been tilted to the upper end market. Even with that, 2016 ended with  only 563K total new home sales.

 From Doug Short
https://www.advisorperspectives.com/dshort/updates/2017/01/26/november-new-home-sales-down-10-4-mom-below-forecast

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So what is going to happen with rates?

Two  times in this cycle when rates went over 4%,  growth in sales did slow.  For now we have to wait and see how the first 6 months of 2017  will shape up,  but note that we aren’t at peak rates as we were at the time of the taper spike in 2013. However, in 2014, when new home sales had its biggest sales miss, rates were falling from the start of the year.  In 2015, when rates rose, we still had 15% sales growth even though we did not attain the sales estimates.

So, as Arron Rodgers once said  “RELAX”  This report showed the best new home sales data, not only in nominal terms but also for revisions, which are key in order for new homes sales to end  with positive numbers this year.

The best data source for predicting sales for 2017 would be the mortgage purchase application data from now until first week of May.   I recommend focusing on the year over year numbers for existing home sales.  If higher rates have impacted sales,  this will be reflected the year over year prints first. Be mindful that we had 25% plus year over year growth in that index last year in the crucial heat months ( 2nd week of January to first week of May) and  in the first print we saw this week growth was flat year over year. This index is tied more to existing home sales, not new home sales. However, it’s great for trend direction demand.

From Calculated Risk
http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2017/01/mba-mortgage-applications-increase-in_25.html

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Note: I will be speaking at the California Association of Realtors conference in Indian Wells, CA on Jan 27th. Joining me will be economist Dr. John Husing to speak on the topic of the U.S. housing market and  the U.S. economy under President Donald Trump.  Leslie Appleton Young will be moderating.  It should be a great discussion.

Logan Mohtashami is a financial writer and blogger covering the U.S. economy with a specialization in the housing marketLogan Mohtashami is a senior loan officer at AMC Lending Group,  which has been providing mortgage services for California residents since 1987. Logan also tracks all economic data  daily on his own facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Logan.Mohtashami