This week marked the first meeting of the Fed under new Chair Janet Yellen. The Federal Reserve opted to continue the taper of the mortgage and bond-buying program, dropping participation by another $10 billion per month to a rate of $55 billion per month. The Fed Open Market Committee also changed language that stated the U.S. central bank’s key policy-making body would begin to consider raising interest rates once the national unemployment rate hit 6.5%. The new change gives the Fed more room in deciding when to raise rates regardless of the unemployment rate. Rate increases are still off in the future but some economists feel that they could move more quickly once they begin. Yellen indicated that the bond-buying program could end this fall with short term interest rates probably being raised about six months later. It would be the first hike since 2006. Yellen’s frank talk was dubbed a mistake by many in the media.Yellen’s remarks caused ripples in the market early in the week but stocks rose Friday on positive economic data. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s manufacturing-activity index for March came in higher than expected showing an increase in regional manufacturing. The Dow rose this week to 16,302.70 up 1.48% from last week’s close of 16,065.67. The Nasdaq saw a more modest increase to 4,276.79 up 0.74% from last week’s close of 4,245.40. The S&P 500 ended the week at 1,866.40, up 1.37% from last week’s 1,841.13 close.
The Freddie Mac Weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed that the 30-year-fixed rate fell to 4.32%, the rate was 4.37% last week. The 15-year-fixed fell to 3.32% from last week’s 3.38%. A year ago the 30-year fixed was at 3.54% and the 15-year was at 2.72%. Unfortunately, rates rose later in the week after the Fed’s announcement. The 30 year rate is closer to 4.5% for loans under $417, 000 and about 4.75% for higher loan amounts. The 15 year is about 3.5% for loans up to $417, 000 and 3.75% for higher balance loans.
The 10 year treasury note yield rate rose to 2.75% after closing at 2.65% last week. It was at 1.95% one year ago.
The National Association of REALTORS® reported that February home sales dropped -0.4% to an annual pace of 4.60 million units, the lowest level since July 2012. Sales have declined in six out of the seven last months. The median existing home price is at $189,000, up 9.1% from February 2013. In the West alone, existing home sales rose 5.9% to a pace of 1.07 million from January but were down -10.1% from a year ago. The median price in the West was $279,400, up from 18% from last year. Total housing inventory was up 6.4% in February to 2.00 million existing homes for sale. This represents a 5.2 month supply and is up from the 4.6 month supply a year ago. Distressed homes were 16% of sales nationwide compared with 25% a year ago. The median time on market for February was 62 days, down from 67 days in January, and 74 days a year ago. A total of 34% of homes sold in February were on the market for less than one month. First-time buyers accounted for 28% of all sales compared to 26% in January and 30% one year ago. All-cash sales were 35% of transactions compared to 33% in January and 32% one year ago.
Data from the California Association of Realtors® shows California home sales fell in February, but housing inventory increased as sellers gear up for the spring home-buying season. Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 361,210 units in February, which was down -0.7% from revised 363,930 in January and down -13.7% from a revised 418,520 in February 2013. The statewide median price of an existing, single-family detached home declined -1.6% from January’s median price of $410,990 to $404,250 in February. February’s price was 21.3% higher than the revised $333,180 recorded in February 2013, marking two full years of consecutive year-over-year price increases and the 20th straight month of double-digit annual increases. Inventory improved with the available supply of single-family homes for sale now up to 4.7 months from January’s 4.3 months. The index was at 3.6 months in February 2013. A normal supply is generally six or seven months. In Los Angeles County, the median sold price was $389,080 in February 2014, down -8.1% from January’s $423,570 but up 15.2%from February’s $337,630. Sales in Los Angeles were down -8.9% on a month-to-month basis, and down -14.4% year over year. The housing inventory in Los Angeles is currently 4.6 months, up from 4.0 in January 2014, and also up from 3.3 months a year ago. Median time on market in Los Angeles is currently 43.6 days down from 46.6 days in January and up from 36.5 days in February 2013.
The National Association of Home Builders/Well Fargo builder sentiment index rose to 47 in March, up from February’s reading of 46. Readings below 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as poor rather than good. The overall index had been over 50 from June through January. The measure of builders’ expectations for sales over the next six months fell one point to 53, the lowest level since May, however builders’ view of current sales conditions for single-family homes rose one point this month to 52.
The Commerce Department reported that housing starts were down -0.2%to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 907,000 units, following January’s revised -11.2% drop (it was originally reported at -16%). Groundbreaking was down -5.5% in West and also down in the Northeast but up in the South and Midwest. Permits to build homes were up 7.7% in February to a 1.02 million-unit pace. Permits for single-family homes were down -1.8% but multifamily permits were up 24.5%.
The February numbers from the Southland Regional Association of Realtors® show that inventory is on the rise. Inventory increased 37% from a year ago. At the end of February there were 1,419 homes on the market in the San Fernando Valley as compared with 1,033 a year earlier. The inventory rate is currently 3.2 months versus a 1.9 month supply a year ago. The median home price was $475,000, up 13% from $422,000 a year earlier but down $10,000 from January’s median. Sales in February dropped -16% from a year ago and -8% from January.
The National Housing Trend Report from Realtor.com® showed that the nationwide median list price increased 7.6% year over year to$199,000. The media age of inventory also rose 6.5% to 114 days. The Los Angeles-Long Beach MSA was one of the ten markets nationwide with the biggest year-over-year increase in median price. Prices rose 20% to $449,999.
It was a week full of data! Activity is great and its gearing up to be a very active spring!
Have a great weekend!
If you’d like more information on the San Fernando Valley or Los Angeles, or to have help looking for your next home, please feel free to reach out! I’m happy to help, no obligation.