Last week’s economic news included readings on sales of new and previously-owned homes and consumer sentiment. Weekly average mortgage rates were also released, but readings for jobless claims were not released due to the Christmas holiday.
Single-Family Home Sales Fall in November
Sales of new and previously owned homes were lower in November. Fear of rising covid-19 cases and the usual slump in home sales during the winter holidays contributed to fewer home sales. Rapidly rising home prices cooled buyer interest; short supplies of pre-owned homes for sale drove prices of new homes higher as demand increased.
Inventory of new homes increased by 14 percent as the median price of a new single-family home rose to $335,000, which was five percent higher year-over-year. George Ratiu, a senior economist with Realtor.com, said that would-be homebuyers were dealing with an increased divide between their home-buying preferences and affordability.
Rising materials costs continued to drive new home prices up; builders faced challenges in constructing affordable homes due to higher materials costs and lower profit margins.
November sales of previously-owned homes were lower with 6.69 million sales reported on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis as compared to October’s reading of 6.86 million sales. Short inventories of available pre-owned homes caused a dip in sales as buyers competed for fewer available homes. Shortages of available homes are expected to persist into 2021 and to drive home prices higher. Affordability will challenge many buyers even as mortgage rates remain at or near record lows.
Mortgage Rates Lower
Rates for fixed-rate mortgages dipped last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was one basis point lower at 2.66 percent; rates for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 2.19 percent and were two basis points lower. The average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages was unchanged at 2.79 percent. Discount points averaged 0.70 percent for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, 0.50 percent for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, and 0.20 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
The University of Michigan reported a lower index reading of 80.7 for December as compared to an expected reading of 81.0 and November’s reading of 76.9. A post-Thanksgiving surge in Covid-19 cases caused consumer sentiment to fall.
This week’s scheduled economic readings include Case-Shiller’s Housing Market Indices, pending home sales, and weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims.