The ""Federal Reserve"":http://www.federalreserve.gov has published a new rendition of its market-gauging ""Beige Book"":http://www.federalreserve.gov/fomc/beigebook/2011/20110907/default.htm, which indicates economic activity across the country is expanding at only a ""modest pace."" Residential real estate markets were described as ""weak"" overall, however, a few districts did report ""slight improvements.""[IMAGE]
Beige Book findings are based on anecdotal commentary and observations collected by the 12 Fed districts from businesses and contacts outside the Federal Reserve. Data included in the latest version covers the reporting period from mid-July to late August.
States throughout New England experienced increases in home sales in July compared to last year, but that's coming off of weak numbers following the homebuyers' tax credit. Contacts report sellers pricing competitively in order to attract bids and buyers negotiating even lower prices. Meanwhile, listings continue to climb in the region.
""*New York District*"":http://www.federalreserve.gov/fomc/beigebook/2011/20110907/2.htm
Buffalo-area Realtors say a recent increase in pending sales suggests some firming in market conditions. An authority on New Jersey's housing industry reports the processing of foreclosures is now resuming, which is expected to lower transaction prices but increase sales activity. The markets in Manhattan and nearby Brooklyn are seeing an increasing share of foreign buyers paying cash.
Residential real estate activity in the Philadelphia district has slowed since the previous Beige Book report in July. Agents reported little traffic and have revised their plans downward for the remainder of the year. An uptick in refinances was reported, however, little of the resulting consumer savings is expected to impact housing.
The Cleveland report only included details on the market for newly constructed homes. Single-family construction remains at a low level, with purchases mainly from move-up buyer. Builders are shifting away from discounting. Bankers say applications for residential mortgages have picked up, thanks to falling interest rates.[COLUMN_BREAK]
Realtors from the Richmond region noted sales dropped considerably in recent months. A West Virginia Realtor said buyers were calling and looking for bargains, but that there were few actual sales. Most said the high-end market was suffering, but in contrast, a Realtor in the D.C. area reported properties in the $900,000 to $1.5 million price range moved quickly over the last month.
The majority of residential brokers in the Atlanta district reported sales were slightly ahead of last year's weak levels. Most of the increase came from Florida contacts, although several brokers there stated that a decline in bank-owned homes available to purchase had held sales back somewhat.
Residential real estate conditions remained weak in the Chicago district. Some traditional real estate lenders were reportedly moving into the commercial and industrial market. Contacts expressed concern that layoffs at several large banks and declining financial stock prices do not bode well for credit availability.
""*St. Louis District*"":http://www.federalreserve.gov/fomc/beigebook/2011/20110907/8.htm
Home sales continued to decline throughout most of the St. Louis district. Compared with the same period in 2010, July 2011 year-to-date home sales were down 8 percent in Memphis, 13 percent in St. Louis, 14 percent in Louisville, and 15 percent in Little Rock.
Details in the Minneapolis regional report concentrated on new construction activity. Residential construction increased from last year. Rebuilding in flood-damaged areas was a common theme.
""*Kansas City District*"":http://www.federalreserve.gov/fomc/beigebook/2011/20110907/10.htm
Activity in the Kansas City district remains weak, despite increased buyer traffic and declining home prices. Existing-home inventories rose further. Residential mortgage lenders reported fewer loans for home purchases but an increase in loan refinancing activity.
Contacts in the Dallas region said existing home sales rose slightly since the last report and inventories declined. Respondents are cautious in their outlooks, but most expect a slight improvement in sales in the second half of the year, with a slow recovery taking hold by early 2012.
""*San Francisco District*"":http://www.federalreserve.gov/fomc/beigebook/2011/20110907/12.htm
Demand for housing in the San Francisco district was little changed from existing low levels, although reports pointed to scattered signs of improvement in the entry-level and high-end segments of the region's housing markets. Demand for rental space continued to grow.