At a recent luncheon of the St. George Chapter of the Women’s Council of Realtors, Vardell Curtis, Chief Executive Officer of the Washington County Board of Realtors, talked about real estate trends and forecasts. The following are some of the highlights of Vardell’s presentation:
Pending home sales have risen for three consecutive months, reflecting the broad impact of the home buyer tax credit and favorable housing affordability conditions. The forward-looking indicator rose 6 percent to a level of 110.9 based on contracts signed in April, from an upwardly revised 104.6 in March, and is 22.4 percent higher than the same month last year. The tax stimulus, combined with improved consumer confidence and low mortgage interest rates, are contributing to the surging sales. The housing market has to get back on it’s own feet and now appears to be in a good position to return to sustainable levels even without government stimulus, provided the economy continues to add jobs.
“The economy grew at a slower rate than originally reported in the first three months of the year, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which suggest inflation will remain tame in the near term,” stated Frank Nothaft, chief economist for Freddie Mac. He continued by saying, “As a result, mortgage rates held at historic levels this week. In fact, rates on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages set another record low for the third week in a row.”
It remains a very attractive time to refinance a mortgage or buy a new home or foreclosed property, while recognizing that one in four U.S. homeowners is “underwater” on their mortgages...owing more than the home is worth. Mortgage rates could move higher later this year if global investor anxiety declines.
The Utah market is rebounding slowly. While some sectors of Utah’s economy are slowing heading toward the rebound track, real estate is still not there yet. And some local analysts predict it may be a while before it finally finds its way back onto the road to stability. The commercial real estate market may not even begin to recover until next year.
On the residential side, declining home values have pushed housing prices back to much more affordable levels. The lower end of the market (under $300,000) is recovering. We’ve probably seen a bottom or very close to a bottom in that part of the market. The middle part of the market is “a little bumpy” with the higher end “going to remain in a mess for some time to come.” There is just too much high-end real estate in the state….and we just don’t have people with the incomes and fundamentals that can support those higher payments.
Prices on the more expensive unsold inventory are falling more dramatically – on a percentage basis—than any other segment of the housing market. Eventually, the market could see more foreclosures or sort sales as those properties are no longer financially viable for their owners.
According to newly released data from CoreLogic on foreclosures for the St. George area, the rate of foreclosures among outstanding mortgage loans is 4.24 percent for the month of April, an increase of 1.04 percentage points compared to April 2009 when the rate was 3.2 percent. Foreclosure activity in St George is higher than the national foreclosure rate which was 3.20 percent for April 2010, representing a 1.04 percentage point difference.
Perhaps the best news for Washington County is progress in the residential housing market. Sales are booming as the market continues to adjust to more realistic prices. In addition, preliminary data for the first two months of 2010 shows approved home permits almost doubled the number permitted for the same months in 2009. Information courtesy of Vardell Curtis, CEO, WCBR