"Pricing is still reacting to demand outstripping supply, and until we see an increase in inventory, you're going to continue to see price increases that will be higher than what has been anticipated," added Smith.
Bad weather has had a big impact on new supply so far in 2014. That could mean that pent-up sellers will explode onto the market once temperatures begin to rise this spring. That is the big hope, but by no means a guarantee. The mortgage market has been a big wet blanket adding to all the recent snow and ice.
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But a thaw in credit could be coming. The latest monthly report from the Mortgage Bankers Association on credit availability found it had increased in January, at least a little.
"Overall, mortgage lenders and investors slightly expanded credit offerings in January on net, but this represented the combination of two divergent trends," said Mike Fratatoni, chief economist at MBA. "First, the market continues to adapt to the new QM [Qualified Mortgage] regulation by eliminating products that do not fit inside of the QM box. This tightening is being offset, both in the market for higher balance loans, where lenders continue to loosen terms for jumbo loans, and in the refi market, where more lenders are offering streamline refinance programs."
Buyer and seller perceptions of credit availability are also improving, according to a new report from mortgage giant Fannie Mae. A majority of consumers now believe that it is getting easier to get a mortgage, the first time in the Fannie Mae survey's three-and-a-half-year history.
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"The gradual upward trend in this indicator during the last few months bodes well for the housing recovery and may be contributing to this month's increase in consumers' intention to buy rather than rent their next home," noted Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's chief economist in a release.
Consumers in the survey also, however, expected home price gains to ease. It all throws a big wild card in the air for the spring market, historically the most busy season for home buying and selling.
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