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Posted 01/31/2017

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Pending Home Sales Foreshadow Strong 2017 Housing Market

NAR Pending Home Sales December 2016

Pending Home Sales Report Predicts Housing Market Growth

Home buyers are out in force, buying up homes just as fast as they come on-market -- and it's making it harder to find good deals on housing.

According to the National Association of REALTORS¬ģ, the December 2016¬†Pending Home Sales Index posted above its benchmark value of 100 for the 32nd straight month.

A home sale is "pending" once it's under contract between a buyer and a seller.

It's not surprising that contract signings remain high. With today's mortgage rates lingering just above 4.0%; and with rents rising and lenders loosening mortgage guidelines, today's housing market favors home buyers in a big way.

Low- and no-down payments remain popular, and new programs such as the¬†HomeReady‚ĄĘ mortgage¬†make it even easier to get mortgage-qualified.

Given today's market conditions, the best deals in housing may be the ones you find today. By this time next year, home prices and interest rates may be higher -- and so might your rent.

Click to see today's rates (Feb 22nd, 2017)

Pending Home Sales Index: A Different Indicator Type

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) is a monthly report, published by the National Association of Realtors¬ģ (NAR). It measures homes under contract, and not yet closed.

The Pending Home Sales Index is different from most housing market metrics.

Unlike traditional metrics which measure how housing performed in the past, the Pending Home Sales Index forecasts how housing will perform in the future.

The Pending Home Sales Index is forward-looking.

The index tallies U.S. homes recently under contract to project future, closed home sales. This is possible because the National Association of REALTORS¬ģ knows that 80% of homes under contract "close" within 2 months of contract.

In December, the Pending Home Sales Index read 109.0 -- up 1.7 points from November's reading, marking the index's 32nd straight month above its baseline reading of 100.

Beating the baseline is a big deal.

When the Pending Home Sales Index crosses 100, it's an indication that U.S. homes are going to contract at a faster pace than during 2001, the first year in which the index was published.

2001 is generally considered a good year for U.S. housing. The current market, then, by comparison, is exceptional.

Results for the Pending Home Sales Index, mixed by region:

  • Northeast Region :¬†-1.2% from the year¬†prior
  • Midwest Region :¬†-3.4%¬†from the year¬†prior
  • South Region :¬†+0.5%¬†from the year¬†prior
  • West Region :¬†+5.0%¬†from the year¬†prior

For today's renters, it's an excellent time to consider buying a home.

Click to see today's rates (Feb 22nd, 2017)

Two Popular Loan Types That Help Buyers

Today's housing market is getting a nice boost from more home buyers who are getting mortgage-approved.

According to a recent report from loan software company Ellie Mae, about 3-in-4 home purchase loan applications were approved and "closed" in December. This means the applicant successfully completed the loan process and purchased a home.

In 2014, only sixty percent of applications made it to closing.

Two major loan programs contributed to the high numbers: conventional and FHA.

FHA loans

The same report showed that buyers used FHA for nearly a quarter of all home purchases.

FHA is even more popular among younger home buyers. A related Ellie Mae study showed that loan applicants born between 1980 and 1999 use an FHA loan about 40 percent of the time.

First-time and repeat home buyers alike gravitate toward FHA because of its flexibility. It requires just 3.5 percent down and accommodates buyers with credit scores down to 580.

Home buyers can use FHA as a 100% loan. A buyer can secure a downpayment gift from a relative, employer, approved non-profit, or even long-standing friend.

FHA requires modest mortgage insurance premiums (MIP) that total about $70 per month for every $100,000 borrowed. FHA MIP cost is not more expensive for buyers with lower credit, as is the mortgage insurance that comes with conventional loans.

Applicants with a credit score below 660 may find that FHA yields a cheaper monthly payment. And, home buyers can cancel their FHA mortgage insurance premium via a refinance when their home gains adequate equity.

Conventional loans

A conventional loan is one that is approved to guidelines set forth by mortgage agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

This loan type makes up more than 60 percent of the market according to Ellie Mae.

Conventional mortgages do not require a 20 percent downpayment, as many home buyers assume. Buyers can put as little as three percent down with the Conventional 97 program or the newer HomeReadyTM loan.

Buyers with larger down payments often choose an 80/10/10 piggyback loan. The home buyer opens a primary mortgage for 80 percent of the purchase price, a ten percent second mortgage, the puts ten percent down.

This loan structure allows the buyer to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI) while making a reduced downpayment.

Conventional loans are the first choice among many home buyers because they come with low rates and can beat FHA in monthly cost for well-qualified applicants.

What Are Today's Mortgage Rates?

Across the country, homes are going to contract quickly. Demand from buyers is huge and, because of today's low rates and rising rents, the pool of potential buyers has stayed strong.

Take a look at today's real mortgage rates. Your social security number is not required to get started, and all quotes come with instant access to your live credit scores.

Click to see today's rates (Feb 22nd, 2017)

The information contained on The Mortgage Reports website is for informational purposes only and is not an advertisement for products offered by Full Beaker. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not reflect the policy or position of Full Beaker, its officers, parent, or affiliates.

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2017 Conforming, FHA, & VA Loan Limits

Mortgage loan limits for every U.S. county, as published by Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)