Rising mortgage rates, overheating home prices, nothing for sale, pre-election jitters — the list of reasons to lose confidence in the housing market is growing.
In fact, the share of consumers who think now is a good time to buy a home fell 5 percentage points in September in a monthly housing sentiment survey (known as HPSI) by Fannie Mae. The only drop that was bigger was the share of consumers who think mortgage rates will fall.
“The decline in the HPSI over the past two months from the survey-high in July … adds a note of caution to our moderately positive housing outlook,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “The starter home tight supply and rising home prices as well as the unsettled political environment are likely giving many consumers a reason to pause or question their home purchase sentiment.”
The September employment report was mixed for housing. Wage growth is strengthening, but not as much as home price growth. Construction jobs increased, suggesting more housing supply in the future, but housing starts for single-family homes are not exactly robust. Construction spending fell in August and July’s numbers were revised down.
“A blah September jobs report gives no impetus for anything on the economy’s to do list: There’s no sign of an overheating economy that would justify a rate hike; no groundswell of construction hiring that would finally hint at a return to a normal pace of housing starts; no big wage gains that would give hope for renewed productivity gains. Just a stubbornly average report at a time when the economy is looking for a jolt of the spectacular,” wrote Redfin’s chief economist, Nela Richardson.
Pending home sales, which represent signed contracts to buy existing homes, have fallen for three straight months, according to the National Association of Realtors. Housing demand is strong, but supply is historically weak and getting weaker, as fewer homes come on the market in the fall and winter.
“Housing seems to have hit a soft patch, with residential investment likely posting a second consecutive quarterly decline last quarter despite positive labor market and mortgage rate trends,” said Duncan.