Employment is up; mortgage delinquencies are down. Home values are up; interest rates are down. While the spring buying season may seem like a roller coaster, the outlook for the real estate market is quite rosy, according to recent measurements of market forces.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s National Delinquency Survey, the delinquency rate for mortgage loans on one- to four-unit residential properties decreased to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.54 percent of all loans outstanding at the end of the first quarter of 2015 — the lowest level since the second quarter of 2007. The delinquency rate decreased 14 basis points from the previous quarter, and 57 basis points from one year ago, MBA said.
In addition, the percentage of loans in the foreclosure process at the end of the first quarter was 2.22 percent, down five basis points from the fourth quarter of 2014 and 43 basis points lower than the same quarter one year ago — the lowest foreclosure inventory rate since the fourth quarter of 2007, MBA said.
Loans considered “seriously delinquent,” or those that are 90 days or more past due or in the process of foreclosure, dropped 28 basis points from the previous quarter to 4.24 percent, which was also a decrease of 80 basis points from the first quarter of 2014, according to MBA’s survey.
“Delinquency rates and the percentage of loans in foreclosure continued to fall in the first quarter and are now at their lowest levels since 2007,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of industry surveys and forecasting. “The job market continues to grow, and this is the most important fundamental improving mortgage performance. Additionally, home prices continued to rise, as did the pace of sales, thus increasing equity levels and enabling struggling borrowers to sell if needed.”
Building on that good news is the National Association of Home Builders/First American Leading Markets Index (LMI), which recently found that markets in 68 of 360 metro areas nationwide either returned to or exceeded their last “normal” levels of economic and housing activity during the first quarter.
The index’s nationwide score edged up to 0.91, meaning that based on current permit, price and employment data, the nationwide average is running at 91 percent of normal economic and housing activity. Meanwhile, 68 percent of markets have shown an improvement year over year.
“The markets are continuing to make gains,” said NAHB Chairman Tom Woods, a homebuilder from Blue Springs, Missouri. “A strengthening economy and low interest rates should spur the release of pent-up demand and keep housing moving forward this year.”
The market looks particularly strong in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Austin, Texas; Honolulu; Houston; Oklahoma City; San Jose, California; Los Angeles; Salt Lake City; Charleston, South Carolina; and Nashville, Tennessee, according to the index.
“The strongest gain is employment, where the number of metros that reached or surpassed their norms nearly doubled in a year,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “Despite a minor uptick in single-family permits, only 7 percent of the markets are at or above their normal permit activity.”