In October, the housing market experienced a larger-than-expected decline in new home sales. This can be attributed to the significant increase in mortgage rates, which reached their highest level in 23 years. The seasonally adjusted annual rate of contract signings dipped to 679,000, down from a revised 719,000 in September. Economists had anticipated a 5.1% decrease, with preliminary estimates projecting around 721,000 sales.
Impact of Rising Mortgage Rates
Rapidly-rising mortgage rates had a profound impact on potential home buyers. According to Freddie Mac, rates surged close to 8% in October. This sharp increase led to a decrease in buyer demand and ultimately contributed to the decline in new home sales. Unlike homeowners selling their properties, builders have the ability to offer incentives to maintain sales volume. However, this approach was not sufficient to offset the negative effects of the soaring mortgage rates.
The decline in new home sales is particularly noteworthy considering that sales were nearly 18% higher compared to the same period last year. Despite this positive year-on-year growth, the impact of the highest mortgage rates witnessed in over two decades cannot be overlooked. Homebuyers were discouraged by the significant increase in borrowing costs, resulting in the fall in sales volume.
Overall, October's new home sales data highlights the detrimental effects of escalating mortgage rates on the housing market. As rates continue to soar, potential buyers face increasing challenges in affording and securing new homes.
Housing Market Update
The housing market has experienced contrasting trends in recent months. While sales of existing homes have reached their lowest point in 13 years in October, there is hope that the decline will not continue. Pending home sales, which provide a more accurate representation of new home sales based on contract signings, are expected to have also decreased in October.
However, builders may find some relief in the situation, as mortgage rates have actually been declining. This is in stark contrast to the previously rising rates seen earlier this year. Market participants are predicting lower inflation and a more relaxed monetary policy in 2024, leading to a drop in mortgage rates. In fact, according to Freddie Mac, mortgage rates fell to 7.29% last week, marking the lowest level since late September.
While it remains uncertain whether the decrease in rates will significantly boost buyer activity during the typically slower time of year, it does offer a glimmer of hope. There is optimism that contract signings and home sales will stabilize in the coming months.
Stay tuned for the release of the pending home sales data, expected to be announced on Thursday.
Builder Shares Down in Morning Trading
The iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF (ticker: ITB), which tracks home builders and related industries, experienced a slight downturn of 0.5% in morning trading. This dip occurred shortly after 10:30 a.m.
For more information, please contact Shaina Mishkin.
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