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Housing Double Dip a Done Deal

Everybody take a nice long look at today's Pending Home Sales Indexfrom the National Association of Realtors, because it's just about the last positive picture we're going to see for a while.

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Yes, the index rose even more than expected, as buyers rushed in to take advantage of the home buyer tax credit.

And yes, those numbers will show up in Existing Home Sales in May and June, but then look out.

This index is based on contracts signed in August, and that's how the credit was set up; you had to sign your contract by April 30th and close by June 30th in order to get your $8000 if you're a first time buyer and $6500 if you're a move up buyer.

And then came May, traditionally the height of the spring housing season.

Mortgage applications to purchase a home began to sink. Now, four weeks later, mortgage purchase applications are down nearly 40 percent from a month ago to their lowest level since April of 1997. Yes, you can argue that a larger-than normal share of buyers today are all cash, but those are largely investors.

That means real organic buyers are exiting in droves.

"With another week of historically low mortgage rates, the trend from the prior three weeks continued, as refinance applications increased while purchase applications dropped. Purchase applications are now almost 40 percent below their level four weeks ago, while the refinance share, at 74 percent, is at its highest level since December," said Michael Fratantoni, MBA's Vice President of Research and Economics.

And then the Realtors' chief economist, Lawrence Yun, after touting the numbers and telling all of us how much home equity was "preserved" by the tax credit stabilizing prices ($900 billion), throws water on his own numbers:

“A big concern surfacing recently is insufficient time to close the deal at the settlement table. Under normal circumstances, two months would be enough time from contract signing to settlement date,” Yun said.

“However, the recent housing cycle has brought long delays related to the short sales approval process by banks, and from ongoing appraisal issues. There could be a sizable number of homebuyers who responded to tax credit incentives, but may encounter problems meeting the settlement deadline by June 30.”

So now the NAR is asking Congress to provide flexibility on the deadline for closing.

Let's see how that goes over, as the government continues to try to find the back door out of the housing market.

Questions? Comments? RealtyCheck@cnbc.com

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  • Diana Olick serves as CNBC's real estate correspondent as well as the editor of the Realty Check section on CNBC.com.

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