Freddie Mac: Housing Market Inching Closer to Stability

Freddie Mac Multi-Indicator Market IndexFollowing a slower than expected summer, the U.S. housing market made up some ground in September as most major indicators inched closer to stability.

Freddie Mac released its latest Multi-Indicator Market Index (MiMi), revealing a 0.5 percent uptick in September to a reading of 74.4 after months of slight declines. The most recent improvement puts the index a few points short of the lower threshold for a market considered to be in “stable” territory.

According to Freddie Mac, three of the four major indicators tracked in the index saw improvements in September, led by a 1.2 percent gain in the gauge of labor health to 94. The components measuring payment-to-income ratios and the proportion of mortgage payments made on time also edged up, rising 0.8 percent to 72.7 and 0.5 percent to 66.6, respectively.

Meanwhile, the already weak picture of home purchase applications deteriorated further, falling 0.8 percent to 64.1. As refinances have fallen off from their surge of the last few years, purchase applications have failed to close the gap, resulting in a more anemic mortgage market compared to the housing recovery’s early years.

As of September’s index reading, 14 states and the District of Columbia were in a stable range, with North Dakota (96.5), Washington, D.C. (94.3), Wyoming (91.1), Montana (91.0), and Hawaii (89.3) leading the rest. That compares to 13 states in August’s report.

“Following a similar trend from last month more states and metros continued to show improvement from the very slow summer months,” said Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist at Freddie Mac.

As with the last few reports, only six of the nation’s top 50 metro areas were in a stable range: San Antonio (91.3), Austin (87.6), Salt Lake City (84.4), Houston (84), Los Angeles (83.5), and New Orleans (82).

Meanwhile, a handful of struggling states—including Nevada, which ranks lowest in stability with a MiMi value of 54.6—saw significant improvement over the month, with growth topping 1 percent and climbing as high as 2 percent in some places.

Of note in the September release: California finally returned to its historical stable range of housing activity for the first time in six years. The long-struggling state still has its challenges, however.

“[W]hile the state has made a strong comeback, we already see one of its four indicators elevated and showing that the typical family continues to have to stretch to buy a median priced house, especially in the Los Angeles metro area,” Kiefer said. “That said, far fewer homeowners are delinquent on their homes, the employment situation continues to improve and even purchase applications are beginning to turn around.”

Author: Tory Barringer December 1, 2014

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