Friday, September 26, 2014

Economic Indicators are Trending Up; "Op Window" is Closing

Many market analysts are mildly bullish on the numbers coming out of the marketplace as we enter the final quarter of 2014. For me personally as a Realtor®, this was my strongest year ever. I enjoyed sales that were even better than the pre-crash heyday of the mid-2000s. Low interest rates and improving consumer confidence has made conditions for real estate ripe over the last two years. In 2011 through the middle of 2013 the first time home buyer segment was roaring. Prices were still a little depressed and rates were low so people that had been long priced out of the market saw a rare opportunity to own real estate. Economic recovery and confidence has led to a spill over into the middle and upper end markets.

Looking forward; the strong potential for the economy to swing into a more robust growth could lead to rising interest rates. If the rates get too high, they can have a negative effect on real estate sales and appreciation can slow. The "op window" for many buyers may be closing. Prices have swollen over the last two years by nearly 20%. If rates were to get closer to the 30 year average and settle in at 6%-6.5%, many entry level buyers will find themselves priced out. A strong economy is a good thing and even higher interest rates are worth having when strong job growth and higher incomes are part of the equation. Right now, buyers are in the open window of opportunity. They can lock in a low interest rate that can save them tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the loan before the improving economy drives prices and rates up.

Fear and uncertainty are what keep people from buying real estate. But no matter what, people need a place to live and buying right now for many people is just as affordable as renting. As the economic conditions improve the cost to own will rise faster than the cost of rent and that window will close as well. It is a good time to buy and a good time to sell.  

This was published by Kiplinger this month:

By David Payne

The economy looks better than was previously thought: Look for about 3.5% growth at an annual rate in the third quarter, driven by motor vehicle sales, business equipment, exports and nonresidential construction. A likely upward revision of second-quarter growth to near 5.0% after a dismal first quarter (a -2.1% growth rate) is also likely. In the fourth quarter and into 2015, growth should settle down to a 3.0% rate. That would mean average GDP this year would be about 2.2% over the average for 2013.

Setting the stage for more sustained growth in coming months: After wringing out inflation, disposable income grew at a strong 4.0% annualized rate from December 2013 through July 2014. Consumer confidence is at its highest level since before the recession. Motor vehicle sales in July hit their highest level in over eight years. An index of manufacturing activity points to strongly expanding output. New orders for business equipment have climbed 13 percent at an annual rate since May, indicating strength in business investment spending. Plus, hiring is on the rise, layoffs are scarce (indicated by a very low rate of initial unemployment claims since May), and retail sales have rebounded.

And growth may accelerate more dramatically through 2015. Improving business confidence could push investment growth back up. Consumer spending and confidence remain below what would be considered normal levels by the standards of past economic expansions. As job growth returns and consumers feel more secure, more robust income and spending increases may well be triggered, pushing second-half growth over the expected 3% pace. While that happening in what remains of this year is an outside chance, it’s a good bet that in 2015 such a virtuous cycle will kick in.

There is a slight possibility that rising interest rates next year could have a mild depressive effect, knocking growth down from an above-average (better than a 3%) rate to a simply average (2.5%) pace. For now, however, we expect that the likely small increase of a quarter- or half-percentage point in rates won’t have much impact on GDP growth.

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