This Week in Real Estate

February 8, 2021

Home prices finish out 2020 by surpassing expectations as low supply continues to drive the market. Meanwhile, the rush to take advantage of historically low interest rates causes mortgage applications to spike at the end of January. We take a closer look at the top real estate market news This Week in Real Estate.

Home Prices Topple Expectations, Surging at the End of 2020. National home prices increased 9.2% year over year in December 2020, according to the latest CoreLogic Home Price Index (HPI) Report. Home price growth in 2020 started off at a modest 4.3% rate in the first quarter, but as the pandemic limited supply throughout 2020, home price growth picked up, ending the year with an increase of 8.3% for the fourth quarter. CoreLogic analyzes four individual home-price tiers that are calculated relative to the median national home sale price. Home price growth accelerated for all four price tiers in 2020 to the highest rates since 2013 for the two middle-price tiers and since 2006 for the high- and low-price tiers. The lowest price tier increased 13% year over year in December 2020, compared with 11% for the low- to middle-price tier, 10.4% for the middle- to moderate-price tier, and 9.5% for the high-price tier. 

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Mortgage Applications Spike 8 Percent in Late January. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s latest Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending January 29, 2021, U.S. mortgage applications increased 8.1 percent from one week earlier. The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 8.1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. The Refinance Index increased 11 percent from the previous week and was 59 percent higher than the same week one year ago. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 8 percent compared with the previous week and was 16 percent higher than the same week one year ago. “After increasing for three consecutive weeks, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate dropped 3 basis points to 2.92 percent. The one-week reversal in the recent upswing in rates drove an increase in both conventional and government refinance activity, as borrowers continue to lock in these historically low rates. MBA’s refinance index hit its highest level since March 2020 and jumped 60 percent year-over-year,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. 

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* Residential Construction Spending Grew by 11.8% in 2020. Residential spending, which increased significantly on a percentage basis in the public sector although the dollar amount remained relatively small, was an aggregate of $616.169 billion for the year, an 11.8 percent increase from 2019. Residential spending on behalf of the private sector in December was at an annualized rate of $691.000 billion, with $365.032 billion accounted for by single-family construction. Another $91.369 was spent on constructing units in building with five or more. The months total residential construction was at a rate that was 3.1 percent higher than in November and 20.7 percent higher year-over-year. Single family spending was 5.8 percent and 23.5 percent higher than the two earlier periods. public sector spending on residential construction rose significantly in 2020 to a total of $8.576 billion. This is a 32.1 percent change from the $6.493 billion spent in 2019. 

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