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Falling mortgage rates and strong employment drove consumer confidence in housing to a record high in July, according to a monthly index from Fannie Mae. At the same time, bidding wars eased thanks to lower demand in some of the hottest markets.
Of the index's five components, "confidence about not losing job" and "mortgage rates will go down" rose the most. The gains come despite a very low supply of homes for sale and affordability challenges.
Mortgage rates dropped dramatically this spring, down from a high of around 4.5% at the start of this year to 3.85% at the end of July, according to Mortgage News Daily.
But rates have fallen even further this week, and the economic concerns driving those rates lower could actually hurt housing sentiment going forward.
Tensions over the escalating trade war with China and falling bond yields around the world have caused a sell-off in the U.S. stock market.
"Consumers appear to have shaken off a winter slump in sentiment amid strong income gains. Therefore, sentiment is positioned to take advantage of any supply that comes to market, particularly in the affordable category. However, recent financial market events following when the survey data were collected could weigh on consumer views looking ahead," said Fannie Mae's chief economist, Doug Duncan.
As of July, more consumers said it was a good time to buy a home and fewer said they expected home prices to go up over the next year, according to the survey.
Home price gains have been moderating this year and bidding wars actually fell to the lowest rate since 2011, according to a new report from Redfin, a real estate brokerage. Just 11% of offers written by Redfin agents faced a bidding war in July, down from more than 45% a year ago.
"On a local level, it's noteworthy that some of 2018's fiercely competitive markets—San Jose, Seattle, Los Angeles—have seen their bidding war rates plummet the most year over year," said Daryl Fairweather, Redfin's chief economist. "Home prices in these expensive markets have also been falling annually. Overall, I expect homebuyer demand to strengthen in the second half of the year as the housing market continues to stabilize, but we may not see a big pop in bidding wars until early next year."
San Diego was the second most competitive market in July, with 21% of Redfin offers facing competition. Boston came in second at 16%, followed by Los Angeles (16%), Philadelphia (14%) and Denver (14%).
Miami was the least competitive market in July, with just over 1% of offers facing competition. Houston, New York, Dallas and Las Vegas also saw lower than average competition.
While the housing market may be less competitive overall, supply at the entry level is still extremely tight, and prices there continue to rise faster than the rest of the market. That is why there is such strong rental demand right now, as first-time buyers are sidelined. More Americans in July did say now is a good time to sell a home, which could possibly help supply, but homebuilders are still operating well below demand.