Existing home sales declined slightly in January 2018, according to the LegalShield Law Index, a collection of five indices tracking multiple key economic indicators published monthly by LegalShield, an online membership-based provider of legal services. Meanwhile, LegalShield reports foreclosure starts continuing to decrease.
Each monthly LegalShield Law Index tracks factors such as housing starts, foreclosure starts, and consumer confidence, compiling indices based on LegalShield’s proprietary data culled from their client base. According to LegalShield, “The LegalShield Law Index is based on data collected through LegalShield’s provider law firms in all 50 states … [and] based on intakes for more than 1.6 million memberships (including individuals and small businesses), providing a window into the experiences of families and businesses across the country at any given point in time.”
After a surge in November, LegalShield’s latest Real Estate Index dropped by 0.2 points in January 2018, settling in at 100.3 (the baseline of 100 corresponds to numbers from January 2002). This is 2.7 percent below the January 2017 numbers. This can be compared to the December 2017 data on existing-home sales from the National Association of Realtors, which showed a 3.6 percent slip in December 2017. “Overall, demand for homes remains robust, but housing inventories have declined for thirty-one consecutive months, causing prices for existing homes to rise nearly 6 percent compared to a year ago,” reports the Real Estate Index. “In spite of headwinds, 2017 was the best year for home sales in over a decade, with sales finishing the year up 1.1%. However, recent changes to the tax code may marginally discourage homeownership in the coming year, which could lead to slower home sales.”
The LegalShield Housing Activity Index, which tracks housing starts, increased 1.8 points to 111.5, after having remained relatively flat for the past six months. “While we don’t anticipate a huge rebound in housing construction activity in the near-term, there are signs that homebuilders are starting to overcome some of the headwinds they faced last year,” said James Rosseau, LegalShield’s Chief Commercial Officer. “The housing sector will be a key wildcard to watch for the U.S. economy in 2018.”
On the foreclosure front, the LegalShield Foreclosure Index dropped by 5.6 points to 59.9 in January, which put it nearly 20 percent below levels from January 2017. The Foreclosure Index continued to follow the same general trend lines as the MBA’s quarterly National Delinquency Survey, maintaining historically low foreclosure rates. The Foreclosure Index says “a recent surge in long-term interest rates has driven mortgage rates to their highest levels since 2014, which could lead to increased financial stress for homeowners with an adjustable-rate mortgage. For the time being, however, foreclosures are likely to remain muted, as the LegalShield Foreclosure Index—which is calibrated to provide an early warning signal to the market of an impending rise in foreclosure activity—points to minimal foreclosure activity in the next 2-3 months.”