July 2011 Market Update
The U.S. housing market has shown increased stability in home sales during 2011 compared to the previous year. The trend has been an upward one since the expiration of the tax credit last summer. Home prices have softened, particularly earlier this year, due to a higher-than-normal number of distressed sales. However, both the percentage of distressed sales and the amount of time they spend on the market has decreased in recent months, a positive sign for the market moving forward. In fact, prices have steadily followed a positive monthly trend since February. Mortgage defaults have also declined lately.
While interest rates continue to break new record lows, the number of buyers who are able take advantage of these savings is restricted by tougher underwriting standards for mortgages. 40% of the banks surveyed by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency tightened lending standards for mortgages within the past year. In his second press conference, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke stated that a quicker foreclosure process and additional home price stabilization are key to boosting confidence in the market and bolstering a more robust recovery in the housing sector.
As the economy improves, stimulus efforts by the government and the Fed will most likely continue to wind down, which typically spurs rising interest rates to keep inflation in check. Although inflation has been the source of recent concern, the Fed appears confident it will remain in check for the near term. Meanwhile, buyers continue to benefit from historically favorable buying conditions, and sellers are encouraged by increased market stability.