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When you look at the recent mortgage activity the housing outlook does not make you feel better.

-3.3% last week versus +4.3% the week before.  A startling -18% year/year. 

The culprits?  Higher mortgage rates combined with higher housing prices in an environment of flat to declining wages makes house more and more unaffordable. 

Average price:  $280,500, the highest level in the MBA survey history.  Why are they advancing?  I would say it is that the lower end is not selling because speculators bought most of them.  The only homes where mortgages apps are being submitted are the more expensive ones.  We are told that there is a dearth of supply as potential sellers are not putting their homes on the market for fear they may not be able to find a place after selling.  You would think that eventually higher prices would lure them in, but if their incomes don't allow a mortgage for the home they might aspire to then perhaps they view keeping their current home as not a bad non-trade.

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March New Home Sales fall 14.5%, 4.5% February

New Home sales March are out after Existing Home sales March feel the lowest level in 1.5 years, down 0.2%.  The silver lining is that sales fell less than expected.  Small lining given millions are still underwater in their houses and affordability is heading lower given higher mortgage rates and at best stagnant wages.  After the crash all-cash speculators bought everything they could in the hard hit markets.  Now they are no longer buying and the baton has not been passed to the next buyers, the owner occupier. 

Here is the rub:  prices are rising when wages are not.  60 of the 300 metro housing markets Zillow follows are at or close to their pre-crash prices.  Prices could top per-crash levels in over 1,000 cities within 12 months . . . if there is no crash.  Nationally prices are 13.5% below the 2007 peak.  They say there are not enough houses in inventory.  Hmm.

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The Housing Market

While the attention focused on the US housing market, some interesting facts about housing markets elsewhere came out. The news could be good, it could be bad.  You make the call.

US:  The 1.9% decline was the sharpest in 15 months, but off of 4 year highs.  You cannot stay at the peak all the time. Of course the revision to August made the number an expectations beat.  The beauty of low expectations. 

The problem for the US market is affordability.  Yes rates remain historically low and have leveled out from the rapid rise.  That helps for future sales as it is the RATE of change that is the killer.  Unfortunately, rates remain elevated at the same time that income growth (and I reluctantly say growth) is easily outmatched by price increases.


 UK:
  Home prices in London jumped 10% month over month in October.  10% appreciation in a month.  Oh surely the recovery is here.  But as pointed out regarding the US economy versus the stock market over the weekend, the 'recovery' does not justify the price.  The not so missing link that underlies all markets: the excessive, massively excessive, liquidity is the x-factor.  It has single-handedly provided whatever mediocre growth economies have experienced, and now it is threatening to unleash pretty hideous inflation, at least as the London housing prices suggest.  Kind of an 'uh oh' moment.

China: 
But there is a worse case.  Bloomberg reports Shanghai average housing costs rose 12% over last week.  That's pricey.  While London might be having an 'uh oh' moment, Shanghai and China have to be thinking more of along the lines of an 'oh crap' gut check.

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