Home prices rise for eighth month in September: S&P

NEW YORK, Tue Nov 27, 2012 — Single-family home prices rose in September for an eighth straight month in a further sign that the housing market is on the mend, a closely watched survey showed on Tuesday.

The S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas gained 0.4 percent in September on a seasonally adjusted basis, in line with economists’ forecasts.

The index’s eighth month of gains on a seasonally adjusted basis is the longest since prices bounced in 2009 after the government unleashed stimulus measures following the market’s collapse the previous year.

“This is the positive trend that prices have been on for the past year. The housing sector continues to recover,” said Peter Hooper, global chief economist at Deutsche Bank.

Prices in the 20 cities rose 3.0 percent year over year, just topping expectations for a rise of 2.9 percent.

“In September’s report all three headline composites and 17 of the 20 cities gained over their levels of a year ago,” David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at Standard & Poor’s, said in a statement.

Home resales climb, housing recovery gains traction

WASHINGTON, Mon Nov 19, 2012 – U.S. home resales rose in October and a gauge of homebuilder sentiment climbed to a six-year high in November, a sign slow improvements in the labor market are helping the housing sector recovery gain traction.

The National Association of Realtors said on Monday that existing home sales climbed 2.1 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.79 million units, beating forecasts by Wall Street economists.

The data suggests America’s recovery from the 2007-09 recession is becoming increasingly self-sustaining, with job creation helping drive home sales, which in turn are supporting economic growth.

“The housing market is continuing to improve. It’s probably improving more than most economists were projecting earlier this year,” said Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Mass.

However, the data also showed that superstorm Sandy, a mammoth storm that slammed in the U.S. East Coast on Oct. 29, continues to distort economic data in the United States.

The deadly storm had only a slight impact on home resales last month, with sales dropping in the Northeast. But NAR economist Lawrence Yun said the storm could temporarily hold back the pace of sales in November and December.

The storm, which killed more than 130 people in the United States and left millions of homes and businesses without electricity, also lead U.S. factories to cut production in October while consumers pulled back on automobile purchases. Economists, however, think Sandy’s impact on the economy will only prove temporary.

Pending home sales rise modestly in September

WASHINGTON, Thu Oct 25, 2012 — Contracts to buy previously owned homes rose far less than expected in September, an industry group said on Thursday, but the data continued to point to an improving tone in the housing market.

The National Association of Realtors said its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in September, gained 0.3 percent to 99.5.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected signed contracts, which become sales after a month or two, to rise 2.1 percent after declining 2.6 percent in August.

“This means only minor movement is likely in near-term existing home sales, but with positive underlying market fundamentals they should continue on an uptrend in 2013,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.

The housing market is steadily healing after collapsing in 2006, supported by modest job gains, increased job security and record low mortgage rates. Pending home sales were up 14.5 percent in the 12 months to September.

Contracts were up in three of the country’s four regions. They fell 5.8 percent in the Midwest to the lowest rate since January.

U.S. housing more affordable than other English countries: study

WASHINGTON ― Would-be American home-buyers can take heart: U.S. housing is more affordable than in other English-speaking countries, according to a study of metropolitan areas around the world.

The median home price in the United States as a whole was three times pre-tax household income in the third quarter of 2011, on the cusp of what Demographia, a public policy firm which conducted the survey, deems “affordable.”

In major U.S. metropolitan areas, the ratio was 3.1, down from 4.6 in 2007, before the worst of the U.S. housing market slump that dragged the economy into recession, and 3.3 in 2010.

Detroit, at 1.4 times, was the most affordable big city in any of the 325 areas surveyed in six countries and in the Chinese territory of Hong Kong.

In contrast, the index was 12.6 in Hong Kong, by far the priciest market. And Canada, despite being larger in size than the United States with just one ninth of the population, continues to grow less affordable.

A ratio of 3 or less is considered “affordable,” according to Demographia which surveyed 325 metropolitan areas in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the U.K., the United States, Canada and Hong Kong.

“The bubble is over ― prices have continued to decline. We have housing prices back to where they’re supposed to be,” said Wendell Cox, principal of Demographia which is based in Belleville, Ill.

Not everywhere in the United States is housing looking like a good deal: the most unaffordable U.S. markets were San Jose (6.9), San Francisco (6.7), San Diego (6.1), New York (6.1), Los Angeles (5.7) and Boston (5.3), according to the survey.

Cox blamed stringent land use regulations for choking supply in many of the “unaffordable” U.S. markets, driving up prices.

Signs have appeared in recent months that the U.S. housing slump may have touched bottom and economists mostly expect prices to remain flat in 2012 before small gains next year.

After Hong Kong, Australia’s major cities were the most expensive at 6.7 times pretax median household income, followed by New Zealand at 6.4 and Britain at 5.0.