Housing Market is Recovering

With consumer confidence up and mortgage rates down, the housing market is making a slow but steady recovery.  “Right now, I think, is a good time to buy because house values are still low,” says Kate Newton, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) Director of Homeownership Programs.  “Especially in Pennsylvania there really aren’t any more signs – that we should expect anyway – for house values to decrease.” 

The Pennsylvania Builders Association reports that new home permits are up 14% year-over-year, another sign that Pennsylvania’s housing recovery is underway. 

Newton says Pennsylvania was fortunate not to have a huge ‘housing bubble,’ so our housing market did not fall as far or as hard as it did in other states.  Appearing on WITF’s Radio Smart Talk, Newton noted that housing markets will vary locally.  The PHFA has recently released county-by-county data on housing availability and affordability. 

The latest update from Freddie Mac indicates that mortgage rates are near record lows (3.34% for a 30-year fixed-rate loan), and the National Association of Realtors reports that pending home sales are at their highest levels since March 2007.

It’s a Buyer’s Market; But Home Buyer Satisfaction is Down

Between low prices and low interest rates, you would expect home buyer satisfaction to be high.  That’s generally true – but it’s not as high as it was in last year’s JD Power and Associates survey.  “There are still some challenges out there for the buyer.  Namely they have to get funds, they have to get a loan,” says Jim Howland, JD Power’s senior director of the real estate and construction practice.  “In many cases they are also selling a dwelling as well.  So, things generally aren’t rosy for all of them, even in this period.” 

While home buyer satisfaction is down, in the JD Power and Associates study, home seller satisfaction is up.  Higher scores for the so-called “marketing factor” account for the biggest gains.  “That’s any online marketing that was done, any open houses, in person, print, that kind of thing,” Howland says.

On JD Power’s 1,000 point scale, home buyer satisfaction comes in at 797, which is still higher than home sellers’ score of 779.  “RE/MAX ranked highest in both categories this time around, which is kind of a first for them, and a bit of news,” Howland explains.  However, the scores of all the top real estate companies are comparable.  This is the 4th year for the JD Power and Associates Home Buyer/Seller Study.   

The JD Power study preceded this week’s news, from the National Association of Realtors that, that pending home sales were up for the second straight month.  However, that’s not enough to give analysts hope that the housing market is on the rebound.  Also, new numbers from Freddie Mac show average mortgage rates inching upward, but still just 4.55%.