Economic reports released today show that activity in two sectors of the housing market dropped to its lowest levels in more than a year, providing some of the latest evidence that elevated mortgage rates and home prices may have slowed the pace of the real estate recovery.
“Housing is not about to collapse into another bust, but it is due for a pause after a strong rebound since the first half of 2012,” wrote David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, explaining the thrust of the reports.
For the week ending Feb. 14, a seasonally adjusted purchase index from the Mortgage Bankers Association hit its lowest level since September 2011, the trade group said today. On an unadjusted basis, demand for purchase loans for the week dropped 17 percent from the same week a year before.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported today that housing starts in January hit a 17-month low, falling 7 percent year over year to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 573,000, a figure that dovetails with the National Association of Home Builders’ finding yesterday that builder confidence plunged in February.
Other indicators also point to a slowdown. Pending home sales and existing-home sales have trended down in recent months, though one of the few brights spots in recent housing data are new-home sales, which grew at a fast clip in January.
Some trade groups and analysts have said that the unusually cold weather has contributed to weakening activity in the housing market.
Senior Director, Coldwell Banker New Homes Division
With over 200 condominium, townhome and loft projects successfully marketed
“Fewer properties for sale with such remarkably low interest rates make it a great time to sell but a more difficult time to buy”