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Housing Sentiment Regains Momentum

Last month, there was an uptick of 3.3 points to 77.5 in the Fannie Mae (FNMA/OTCQB) Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI), according to FannieMae.com. That’s a rebound following a slight drop in July and builds on the rise in May and June.

Month over month, there was a spike in five of the six HPSI components, with a more upbeat attitude in homebuying and selling conditions among consumers. A caveat: a slightly grimmer perspective in terms of an anticipated acceleration in home price. The HPSI slumped 16.3 points year over year.

There was a rise from 53% to 59% among the percentage of respondents who were bully on buying a home now. The percentage of those who weren’t similarly onboard headed the other way, slumping from 38% to 35%. The upshot: a hike of 9% in the net share of Americans who embrace the idea of investing now in a home.

On the other side of the equation, the percentage of those who think the time’s right to sell a home parachuted from 45% to 48%; the percentage who think it’s wise to slam the brakes on selling fell from 48% to 44%. Consequently, there was a 7% uptick in the net share of those who believe the time’s right to sell.

“The HPSI rose modestly in August, recovering the ground it lost in July,” said Doug Duncan, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist. The HPSI’s recovery was driven by near-record low mortgage rates that helped restore much of consumers’ positivity on whether it is a good time to buy a home, while also improving the good-time-to-sell sentiment, he continued. “The August survey was conducted as consumers continue to face uncertainty regarding schools’ and businesses’ reopening plans and as the CARES Act $600-per-week income supplement expired.”

Meantime, those who expect a leap in home prices in the next 12 months fell off this month from 35% to 33%; conversely, there was a rise from 23% to 26% among the percentage of respondents who think prices will decelerate. Remaining fixed at 34% was the share of those who think prices will stay the

Daniel McCue, Senior Research Associate at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, said the housing industry might help lead us out of today’s pandemic-induced recession.  That’s unlike the role it played in the Great Recession that started in 2008.

While housing was more of a barrier than a balm in the last economic recovery, it is more typical for the housing industry to serve as a source of strength during an economic recovery. In fact, this has been the case in nearly every recession over the past five decades, according to McCue.

In most economic recessions, declining interest rates lead to homebuying and homebuilding, which then lead to spending on consumer goods.

In a typical year, residential construction makes up 4% of GDP. However, construction contributed an average of 18% growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) in each year following a recession from 1970 until the Great Recession.

After the Great Recession, home construction made up more than its typical share, rising 2 percentage points.

About Author: Chuck Green

Chuck Green has contributed to the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune and others covering various industries, including real estate, business and banking, technology, and sports.

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