Home Prices Trending Up; Mortgage Rates Hit New Lows

By Gino Blefari, President & CEO, Intero Real Estate Services, Inc.

What better end to the year could housing ask for? Home sales and prices are up on average across markets. Inventory is low, but housing starts are up. Mortgage rates remain at rock bottom – and the Fed said at its meeting this month that it doesn’t anticipate raising rates any time soon.

The stars have aligned. The door to recovery is now wide open.

The September Home Price Index tracked by Lender Processing Services showed a 3.6% year-over-year increase since last September. In addition, the index rose 4.9% since the beginning of the year.

California and New York led the states with a 0.4% month-over-month increase, and Washington, D.C. led metros with a 0.6% increase from August. The largest monthly increases in the home price index took place in Arizona, Washington, D.C., Georgia, Delaware and Maryland, with Arizona holding the largest year-to-date increase at 14.4% since January.

In mortgage rates, we continue to see fantastic borrowing rates for home buyers. Average rates on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage hit a new low of 3.31% last week, and average rates on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage also hit a new record low of 2.63%, Freddie Mac said in its latest weekly report.

In its quest to use monetary policy to help the recovery, the Federal Reserve board indicated at its
November meeting that it would not be raising rates in the foreseeable future. In fact, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested that the Fed will keep trying to push down long-term interest rates through
2013.

As we enter 2013, inventory will be of concern in many markets that have struggled to keep up with demand. But things will be looking up next year in most markets. In fact, Daren Bloomquist of RealtyTrac said at a housing symposium in San Francisco this month that underwater homeowners are more likely to sell as prices rise next year, which will help inventory
levels.

At the same symposium, Ken Rosen, an economics professor at UC Berkeley, declared housing is in recovery mode now and through next year, though he’s not anticipating a boom in sales.

Things to watch next year will be jobs and income levels, both of which have the strongest impact on housing than any other indicator.

The forecast, overall, is looking optimistic for real estate. Some markets, like ours here in Silicon Valley are already enjoying near-peak activity and pricing. Others are just starting to pull themselves up. Either way, 2013 is going to be a solid year for housing.

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