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More Than Half Of U.S. Homes Affordable

During the first quarter of 2014, 65.5 percent of new and existing homes sold were affordable to a family earning the U.S. median income of $63,900, according to the National Association of Home Builders Opportunity Index. The improvement over the previous quarter was largely due to a dip in the national median home price and the fact that average mortgage rates remained steady during this period. But the slight increase in the number of affordable homes – up from 64.7 percent at the end of last year – is also an encouraging sign for the housing market going into the spring and summer season. David Crowe, NAHB’s chief economist, said the first-quarter results are another indicator that this is an opportune time to buy a home, as home prices and mortgage rates are expected to rise through the end of this year and into next. Also in the release, the national median home price fell from $205,000 in the fourth quarter of 2013 to $195,000 in the first quarter of this year. More here.

Market Booms Among Baby Boomer Buyers

The market for single-family homes among buyers 55 and older is booming, according to the most recent 55+ Housing Market Index from the National Association of Home Builders. During the first quarter of 2014, builder confidence in the market for new homes among older buyers reached its highest level ever after 10 consecutive quarters of year-over-year improvement. Steve Bomberger, chairman of NAHB’s 50+ Housing Council, said rising home prices and low mortgage rates are helping baby boomers sell their existing homes at a good price and purchase new homes more suited to their lifestyle. This trend, spurred by last year’s spike in home prices, is expected to lead to more homes being put up for sale this year, which will help slow the rate of price increases by building up the supply of homes available for purchase. Also in the report, the index’s individual components measuring current sales and expected sales both rose significantly from one year ago, while the gauge of prospective buyer traffic remained unchanged. More here.

Home Builders Expect Spring Sales Bump

Builders have an unique perspective on the housing market, demand, and where home sales are headed. And, according to the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, builders’ confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes is rising. In fact, the most recent reading shows the index up one point to 47 in April from March. The index – which measures confidence on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders view conditions as good than poor – found that, though builders’ perception of current conditions and buyer traffic was unchanged from the month before, their expectations for future sales rose four points to 57. Kevin Kelly, NAHB’s chairman, said builder confidence has been in a holding pattern the past three months but, as the spring home buying season gets into full swing and demand increases, builders are expecting sales prospects to improve. Also, all four regions of the country are down, according to the index’s three month moving averages. The West and Midwest show the largest decreases, though both remain near 50. The South and Northeast, on the other hand, both slipped two points, falling to 33 and 47, respectively. More here.

Local Markets Return To Normal Nationwide

The National Association of Home Builders Leading Markets Index measures the number of metropolitan housing markets nationwide that have returned to or exceeded their last normal levels of economic and housing activity based on current permit, price, and employment data. According to the most recent release, the overall housing market is now running at 88 percent of normal activity, with 83 percent of local markets having improved over the past year. In fact, just since last month’s report, nearly 28 percent of metro areas saw their score rise. Kevin Kelly, NAHB’s chairman, said things are getting better overall and, with the housing market now entering the spring buying season, the fact that the nation’s economy is headed in the right direction is a very promising sign. Though the improved markets are dominated by smaller metros in the middle of the country experiencing growth due to an energy boom, regions outside of the energy states are starting to post gains as well, with areas like Los Angeles and San Jose joining the list of major metros showing a recovery. David Crowe, NAHB’s chief economist, said 2014 should be a strong year for housing and the overall economic rebound. More here.

The Top New Home Features For 2014

This year’s home buyer is putting practicality before style when searching for a new home, according to a recent survey of builders from the National Association of Home Builders. Builders say the top features they’re likely to include in a new single-family home are walk-in closets, low-e windows, laundry rooms, and great rooms. Energy efficiency is a common theme, important to buyers due to the money it can save over the long term. Energy-Star rated appliances, programmable thermostats, and Energy-Star windows are all near the top of the list. Among the other features builders named, granite countertops, double sinks, and a central island are popular in new-home kitchens, while 9-foot ceilings, a front porch, outdoor lighting, and linen closets in the bathrooms are also features likely to be included in new houses this year. Kevin Kelly, NAHB’s chairman, said newly constructed homes can be built to suit the specific requirements of today’s buyer and now is a great time to consider purchasing a new home. More here.

Builder Confidence Edges Up In March

The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index measures builder confidence in the market for newly-built, single-family homes. The index gauges builders’ perceptions of current sales, buyer traffic, and expectations for the next six month on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders view the market as good than poor. In March, the index rose a point to 47 after a 10-point drop in February resulted in the first monthly reading below 50 since May of last year. Kevin Kelly, NAHB’s chairman, said the March reading mirrors last month’s sentiment, as builders continue to be affected by poor weather and difficulty finding available lots and labor. The results of the index’s individual components show increasing optimism about current conditions and traffic but concerns over future sales. Still, despite falling, the component tracking sales expectations over the next six months remains in positive territory with a reading of 53. Regionally, three-month moving averages for the Northeast, Midwest, South, and West all declined in March. More here.

Housing Markets Nationwide Return To Normal

The National Association of Home Builders’ Leading Markets Index is a measure of the housing market’s health that looks at housing and economic activity in 350 metropolitan areas across the country. The Index scores each area based on their average permit, price, and employment levels for the past year divided by their annual average over the last period of normal growth. According to this gauge, 59 of the 350 included metros have returned to or exceeded their last normal level of economic and housing activity. Kevin Kelly, NAHB’s chairman, said markets are returning to normal levels despite the cold weather that has constrained market activity this winter. According to Kelly, this bodes well for the remainder of 2014, as the job and housing markets continue to mend and warmer weather helps boost home sales activity. With this latest release, the number of markets operating at or above 90 percent of previous norms has climbed to 130. More here.