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Which housing markets gained and which waned so far in 2014?

Beige Book: Southwest, South sailed; Northeast and Midwest not so much

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Economic activity increased in most regions of the country since the previous Federal Reserve Beige Book release March 5.

Reports on residential housing markets varied. Notably, the word “weather” was mentioned 103 times in the 18,000-plus word document – or about once every 200 words.

Home prices rose modestly and inventory levels remained low. Residential construction increased in several districts; only Cleveland, St. Louis, and Minneapolis reported a decrease.

Loan demand strengthened since the previous Beige Book. Credit quality improved in the Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, and Kansas City Districts. New York and Dallas reported especially strong increases.

New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Richmond cited the inclement weather as a factor reducing home sales and therefore mortgage borrowing.

Reports on residential housing markets varied.

Home sales in Kansas City strengthened since the last survey period due in part to seasonal factors and improved weather conditions. Moreover, in the Dallas District single-family home sales remained healthy, with some contacts reporting a seasonal pickup in demand over the past six weeks.

Residential real estate improved in Richmond, with further strengthening in Northern Virginia. New York housing markets continued to be mixed, while severe winter weather hampered sales activity. Chicago reported that home sales and new listings declined, though brokers attributed this primarily to cold weather and were optimistic that activity would improve in coming months.

Atlanta brokers reported homes sales were mixed and contacts attributed areas of softness to higher home prices, limited inventory, and higher mortgage rates. The pace of home sales varied across the San Francisco District.

Some contacts in California noted an uptick, while contacts from Washington observed a more sluggish pace. Home sales declined across most of the largest metro areas of the St. Louis District, and Minneapolis residential real estate market activity decreased since the previous report. In most Districts, inventory levels remained limited and residential home prices rose modestly.

Residential construction grew at a moderate pace in the Boston and San Francisco Districts, while New York, Philadelphia, and Atlanta reported modest growth. In the Chicago District, a decline in single-family construction was accompanied by growing demand for new apartment projects as residential rents continued to increase.

Richmond single-family home construction grew slowly. In the Kansas City District, builders reported moderate growth in the number of housing starts and expected an increase in buyer traffic and prices in the coming months.

In contrast, residential construction declined in Cleveland, St. Louis, and Minneapolis. Multifamily construction remained strong in the New York, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and San Francisco Districts. The Minneapolis District reported that overall residential construction activity decreased and that the value of residential permits fell in March.

Click below for a detailed report on the housing markets in the Fed's regions.

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