The banner headline is … US existing home sales declined 4.6% MoM in December. But that isn’t the interesting news. The interesting news is the mystery of the missing housing inventory. While various pundits told us that inventory would be returning … it isn’t. And the median price of existing home sales is up 14.85% YoY with insane Fed stimulus still in play.
That was December. What will January bring with rising mortgage rates? Freddie Mac’s 30-year commitment rate rose to 3.56% today.
When will housing inventory for sale start to increase? Probably about the same time The Fed ACTUALLY starts raising interest rates and paring back on the monetary stimulus.
How about real estate investment trusts? The NAREIT all-equity index rose by 35.6% YoY while inflation rose at 6.8%. The S&P 500 index rose 28.9% YoY.
Of course, the NAREIT all-equity index has a beta of 1.276.
How about the NCREIF All-property commercial real estate index? For Q3, the NCREIF property index rose by 5.22%, less than the most recent inflation reading of 6.8%.
So for the past year, housing has beaten the pants-off inflation, REITs have earned a higher return than inflation, and the NCREIF index seems to be rising slower than inflation (but with its lag problems, I anxiously await the Q4 numbers which should be higher.
The inventory of existing homes for sale in the US is extremely low. The lack of available inventory to buy is helping drive home prices through the roof.
Available inventory for purchase peaked back in the 2007-2008 period during the dreaded housing bubble in the US. But inventory for sale has declined ever since. Why?
I think it has something to do with the aging of the US population. Look at this chart of Existing Home Sales Inventory against the growth 65+ years old.
Perhaps households 65+ are resisting moving to states like Florida and Arizona as they had in the past, leaving them stationary in their dwelling.
Another reason for the bewildering lack of inventory is the growth of the HECM (Home Equity Conversion Mortgage) that allows elderly households to drain the equity in their home rather than have to sell to utilize it. But HECMs have not taken-off sufficiently to explain the mystery of the missing inventory.
So we know that housing inventory is very low and we know that the number of Americans 65 and over is increasing. But we do not know the reason for the decline in inventory.
This is a time even unlike the disastrous housing bubble of the 2000s that led to the financial crisis and Great Recession. Even during the housing bubble years, we still had positive REAL mortgage rates: Bankrate 30Y Fixed rate – CPI YoY. But today we have even FASTER REAL home price growth and NEGATIVE mortgage rates!
And yes, REAL home price growth is 14.34% YoY while REAL hourly earnings growth is -0.79%.
The University of Michigan consumer survey came out today and buying conditions for housing improved to 75. Which means that more people were negative than positive due to skyrocketing home prices.
With negative 30Y mortgage rates and rising apartment rents, is it time to buy? Just remember what happened to Leon in Blade Runner.