Stronger than expected housing data let mortgage rates slightly higher last week. Existing Home Sales rose 6.8% in March and total housing inventory dropped to an eight-month supply. First-time buyers accounted for 44% of existing home sales in March, and distressed homes accounted for 35% of sales. Sales have been above year-ago levels for nine straight months, and inventory has trended down from year-ago levels for 20 straight months. March New Home Sales were even better, jumping 26.9% from February to the highest monthly rate since last July. This marked the largest single-month increase in new home sales since 1963. The South and Northeast posted the strongest gains, with sales in the South rising 43.5%, 35.7% in the Northeast, 4.3% in the Midwest and 5.7% in the West. The chief economist of the National Association of Realtors credited the federal homebuyer tax credit for the strong March housing data. Currently, the 30-Year Fixed sits at 4.750% (4.898% APR) and the 15-Year Fixed is at 4.250% (4.504% APR). There is a Fed meeting on Wednesday this week, and we will also see first-quarter Gross Domestic Product numbers on Friday.
The Census Bureau today released its Residential Vacancies and Homeownership data for the first quarter of 2010. Homeownership in the US declined to 67.1% in the first quarter of 2010, equaling the rate recorded during the first quarter of 2000. The recent number is 0.2% lower than one year ago. The rate hit its all time high mark of 69.2% in both the second and fourth quarters of 2004. Seniors continue to have the highest rates of ownership while the greatest decrease is among the youngest homeowners. The current rate of 80.6% is among the highest rates recorded in the last five years by persons over the age of 65 while the rate of homeownership for persons under 35 years of age was 38.9%, the lowest recorded for that age group in the five years for which the census provided data.