Mortgage Rates Rise for the First Time in Weeks

July 23, 2020

Don’t let the headline fool you. We are still experiencing historically low rates and an incredibly vibrant market for home purchases here in the SF Bay Area. In fact, recently, there has been a lot of discussion and speculation on the numbers of people leaving the Bay Area for places outside California, in general. A recent study by Zumper suggest otherwise. According to the study, “…if you look at where people in San Francisco are searching to move on their site, in April and May 2020, the San Francisco Bay Area metro was still the #1 most searched for area, taking up 72% of total searches. This was followed by Sacramento, Los Angeles, Sonoma County and Seattle-Tacoma, showing that people seem to want to stay in California and definitely on the West Coast if they can.”

The migration report goes on to say:

Southern California cities are interested in moving to Phoenix and Las Vegas & Vice Versa

Looking at both inbound and outbound searches for the Southern California cities on the map, Phoenix and Las Vegas were the top recurring out-of-state cities. There is a mutual migration relationship between these areas and perhaps since Southern California, Phoenix, and Las Vegas all tend to be warm most of the year, renters in those cities who were itching to move are looking for similarly tempered environments.

Bay area cities mostly want to stay in state with 2 exceptions

Meanwhile, for our Bay Area cities, while most inbound and outbound searches were within California, the 2 exceptions were the Chicago and New York City metro areas. It seems if Bay Area residents were to move out of California, they would be the most interested in living in or around other large, metropolitan areas.

Reno ties southern and northern California together

The most amount of out-of-metro inbound searches to Reno came from cities in both southern and northern California, in particular Sacramento, San Francisco, and Los Angeles metros. The interest in moving to Reno was a common migration thread that tied this state together.

Housing Demand Continues to Rebound

While housing demand continues to rebound, the month-long swoon in economic activity has caused the 10-year Treasury benchmark to drop. In the short-term, this means the demand will continue on the back of near record low mortgage rates. However, the most recent consumer spending data has been pointing to slow growth since mid-June. The concern is that the pause in economic activity will cause unemployment to remain elevated which will lead to longer-term labor market distress.

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Week of July 20th, 2020 in Review

The economic calendar was relatively quiet, with unemployment numbers and housing reports dominating the headlines.

The news regarding jobless claims continues to reflect the pandemic’s ongoing impact on the labor sector, as another 1.416 million people filed for unemployment benefits for the first time during the week ending July 18. This was about 100,000 claims higher than last week’s number of 1.3 million first-time filers. Continuing claims, which measure people continuing to receive benefits, did improve significantly – at least, the headline figure did. There’s more to the story, as noted below.

A plethora of housing reports were also released, with June’s Existing Home Sales surging 20.7% from May, marking the largest one-month increase ever. Inventory of existing homes continues to remain a challenge for buyers, however, down 18.2% compared to June of last year. New Home Sales also rose much higher than expected in June, up 13.8% from May.

Lastly, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) released their House Price Index, which measures home price appreciation on single-family homes with conforming loan amounts. While home prices fell 0.3% from April to May, they are still up 4.9% compared to May of last year.

Initial Jobless Claims Rise in Latest Week

Another 1.416 million people filed for unemployment benefits for the first time during the week ending July 18, an increase of about 100,000 people from the previous week’s number of 1.3 million. California (+292K), Florida (+105K) and Georgia (+120K) saw the largest gains.

Continuing claims improved significantly from 17.304 million to 16.197 million, but there is much more to this headline number because the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Claims are not captured.

PUA Claims reflect people like gig workers and contractors who usually would not be approved for unemployment benefits. These claims, again which are separate and in addition to the headline claims, totaled 975,000 in the latest week. Continuing PUA Claims did improve slightly from 14.2 million to 13.18 million but they are still significant.

All told, the total number of people receiving some type of benefits improved slightly from 32 million to 31.8 million. Based on the total number of people receiving benefits, divided into the labor force of 160 million, there is likely a 20% unemployment rate.

Home Sales Surge in June

The National Association of REALTORS (NAR) reported that sales of existing homes jumped 20.7% in June, which was the largest one-month jump ever, albeit still slightly beneath expectations. The report measures closings in the month of June and likely represents buyers shopping for homes in April and May.

Sales were down 11.3% year over year, but this is a big improvement from the -27% annual reading we saw in May’s report. First-time home buyers made up 35% of home sales, up from 34%.

Inventory remains tight, as there were only 1.57 million units for sale, down 18.2% when compared to June of last year. The median home price was reported at $295,300, up 3.5% year over year.

“The sales recovery is strong, as buyers were eager to purchase homes and properties that they had been eyeing during the shutdown,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “This revitalization looks to be sustainable for many months ahead as long as mortgage rates remain low and job gains continue.”

Meanwhile, New Home Sales, which measure signed contracts on new homes, also came in strong, up 13.8% from May to June. This was much stronger than the 4% gain anticipated. Sales are now up 7% when compared to June of last year, which is quite an impressive amount especially given the pandemic.

Nationally, the median new home price increased 5.8% year over year to $329,300, while the majority of homes that sold were between $200,000 and $300,000. Here’s what the median home price looks like here in the San Francisco Bay Area:

Peninsula CitiesEast Bay Cities
Daly City$1,130,000Alamo$2,000,000
South SF$1,100,000Danville$1,566,000
Brisbane$1,436,500San Ramon$1,150,000
San Bruno$1,200,000Lafayette$1,580,000
San Mateo$1,550,000Moraga/Canyon$1,450,000
Belmont$1,800,000Union City$921,000
Foster City$1,800,000Hayward$705,000
San Carlos$1,910,000Castro Valley$880,000
Redwood City$1,638,500Newark$920,000
Redwood Shores$2,100,000San Leandro$705,000
Menlo Park$2,400,000San Lorenzo$710,000
Union City$925,000
Oakland All$805,000San Francisco (All)$1,600,000
Select Zip Codes (within Oakland):Select Neighborhoods or Districts (within SF):
94705 (Claremont Hills)$1,850,000Pacific Heights$5,700,000
94618 (Rockridge)$1,560,000Marina$3,115,000
94611 (Lakeshore/Grand Ave.)$1,460,000Noe, Eureka & Cole Valleys$2,495,000
94610 (Montclair)$1,250,000Richmond District/Lone Mtn$2,000,000
94609 (Temescal)$1,172,500St. Francis Wood$3,232,500
94602 (Glenview/Oakmore)$1,010,000Forest Hill$2,200,000
94608 (NOBE)$850,000Potrero Hill$1,867,000
94601 (Fruitvale)$599,000Bernal Heights$1,600,000
94603 (South Oakland)$496,000Miraloma Park$1,512,500
Sunset District$1,500,000

An Update on Home Appreciation

There was news on home appreciation from the Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Index, which measures home price appreciation on single-family homes with conforming loan amounts.

Home prices fell 0.3% from April to May, but they are still up 4.9% compared to May of last year. However, May’s 4.9% year-over-year reading is a bit lower than the reported 5.5% annual gain in April and 5.9% in March.

What to Look for This Week

The last week of July brings a full slate of economic data, beginning Monday with Durable Goods Orders for June. We’ll get a sense of how consumers are feeling with July’s Consumer Confidence reading on Tuesday, plus there’s housing news with May’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index. June’s Pending Home Sales figures follow on Wednesday.

Wednesday also brings the statement from the latest Federal Open Market Committee meeting, which always has the potential to move the markets.

On Thursday, all eyes will be watching for the latest Initial Jobless Claims numbers, along with the first look at Gross Domestic Product for the second quarter. The market is expecting -35% GDP in the second quarter, following -5% in the first quarter.

Finally, on Friday we’ll get an update on the Fed’s favorite inflation reading with June’s Personal Consumption Expenditures. Also look for June’s Personal Income and Personal Spending figures along with July’s Consumer Sentiment Index and Chicago PMI (which measures manufacturing in that region).

We’ll also keep an eye on rising tensions between the U.S. and China, as well as details regarding a new stimulus package throughout the week.

Technical Picture

The Fed’s ongoing purchases of Mortgage Backed Securities remain a stabilizing force in the markets, though they did cut back their purchases last week from $4.4 billion to $3.4 billion per day. Mortgage Bonds have been trading sideways over the past two weeks, testing overhead resistance a few times but failing to break through. Every time the 103.219 ceiling was tested, or close to being tested, Bonds have been pushed lower. Mortgage Bonds remain in the middle of a wide range between the aforementioned ceiling and support at the 25-day Moving Average, meaning they are susceptible to price swings.

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