Sep182014

Low mortgage rates fail to overcome buyer reluctance

Mortgage interest rates are lower than last year, but sales volumes are also lower than last year as low rates fail to entice additional homebuyer demand.

reluctanceI would like to own a Lexus LS 460. It’s a beautiful and luxurious automobile; however, I am reluctant to buy one because the price is just too high. They could lower the interest rate to zero, and I would be unlikely to buy a car that costs that much. No matter how much people may want something, if the price is too high, they will be reluctant to buy it.

Most Americans want to own a house; study after study shows that. However, Americans aren’t willing to overpay for a house and risk losing their equity and submerge beneath their debts, particularly since they know house prices can go down. This buyer reluctance is reducing demand.

Real estate demand has two components: purchasing power, and total number of qualified buyers. Low mortgage rates increases the buying power of the majority who use financing, so low rates tend to make prices rise; however, low rates do nothing to increase the size of the buyer pool to improve sales volumes. Our current economic environment, the weak job and wage growth hobbles housing; thus transaction volumes are very low, despite low mortgage rates.

Further, low rates are not likely to stimulate more demand due to buyer reluctance at higher prices. Potential buyers saw prices plummet for five years then rise rapidly for two years. The market looks anything but stable, and with the pain they witnessed many of their peers and parents get trapped in houses and struggle with large payments. It’s a natural and prudent reaction to be cautious about repeating the mistakes they just witnessed. It’s one of the many reasons buyers are boycotting the market right now.

Home Buyers Lose as U.S. Bond Rally Skips Mortgage Rates

By Jody Shenn Sep 3, 2014 2:31 AM PTdelusional1

… a potential catalyst to get the faltering U.S. housing recovery back on track is failing to materialize. …“People that had an optimistic bent about housing are certainly disappointed here,” Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at Maria Fiorini Ramirez Inc. in New York, said yesterday in a telephone interview. “Obviously it couldn’t hurt” to have rates even lower, “though it’s not going to be a magic bullet.”

(See: Why aren’t falling mortgage interest rates increasing sales?)

… the seasonally adjusted pace of existing home sales was down 5.4 percent in the same stretch of 2014, according to National Association of Realtors data. New home sales ran 1.8 percent below last year’s level, Commerce Department data show.

The market was supposed to see increasing sales volumes in 2014 — I’m not sure why, but that’s what the consensus predicted. It hasn’t worked out that way.yellen_raise_rates

With housing failing to power enough economic growth to fuel a surge in wages and inflation, yields on 10-year Treasuries have retreated from as high as 3 percent in December, defying economists’ forecasts and ending yesterday at 2.42 percent.

In recent weeks mortgage rates rose significantly, and we may see rates finally start to trend higher.

“When competitive pressures mount and lending volumes shrink, banks will typically respond by easing lending standards and lowering rates in an attempt to maintain market share at the cost of profit margins,” they wrote last month in a report. “Curiously, there has been little movement in pricing.” …

That’s resulted in “very sticky” mortgage rates that may reflect lenders cutting staff in response to a drop in volumes, meaning they’re not fighting to create more demand, said Scott Buchta, the head of fixed-income strategy at Brean Capital LLC. …

Measures of employment in the industry suggest a drop of about 8 percent between April 2013 and March 2014, and little change since, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysts Hui Shan and Spencer Rogers.

Over the summer, mortgage interest rates were lower than the previous year, yet despite lower rates, sales volumes were also lower, suggesting lower rates would not stimulate more demand.

This suggests that mortgage lenders do not see today’s lower mortgage rates as justifying an expansion in production capacity,” they wrote yesterday in a report. The lenders may “expect the recent rates rally to be short-lived and interest rates to move higher soon.”

With the shift in loan demand away from refinancing, lenders may also see offering lower rates as doing little to boost volumes because “home purchasing decisions depend on many other factors such as income prospects and house prices,” they said.

Even if buyers wanted to pay higher prices — which they don’t — many are unable to do so because they lack the down payment and verifiable income.

slow-recovery

‘Just Reluctant’

… Shapiro, the Maria Fiorini economist, said that a recovery in the labor market that’s been particularly soft for middle-income jobs, along with a jump in home prices, pose challenges that can’t cured by mortgage rates. Even amid slowing appreciation, values in June had climbed 28 percent from a 2012 trough, according to S&P/Case-Shiller index data.“People are just reluctant to chase the prices created by the speculative demand,” he said.

I agree with his assessment, and it pleases me to see people behave this way. During the housing bubble, people became excited by speculative demand and rising prices and wanted to participate in the market because of it. The fact that people are turned off to speculative house prices increases is one of the factors preventing a housing bubble from inflating now. That’s a change in the market to be embraced.

There is a solution to high prices… Warning: foul language

[listing mls=”OC14194612″]