Kroll Bond Ratings Agency is swimming against the current as of Monday, saying in a client note that there are signs home prices and the housing economy will be growing.
The year is off to a bad start for housing in terms of housing starts, completions and permits. Existing home sales tumbled in January, and mortgage applications have been spiraling downward in February, giving away most of the gains made in January.
Kroll isn't worried.
“After showing considerable weakness last summer, single-family home prices in most metro areas around the U.S. have started to rise again,” Kroll says.
Kroll bases its position on November indices and 12-month forward projections published by Weiss Residential Research.
“Zip code level measures of home price appreciation, such as the home price index published by Black Knight Financial Services, show U.S. residential home prices decelerating (+ 0.1% in November vs. 4.5% a year ago),” Kroll says. “Whereas this past October we reported that home prices were decelerating, the WRR asset-level price indices now suggest that HPA actually accelerated into the end of 2014.”
Long-range, the bulk of housing analysts expect home prices to grow around 5%, plus or minus a percentage point.
“The uptick in prices may be a function of falling interest rates or even an increase in investor activity, but it is interesting to note that property prices are rising even as mortgage lending stagnates,” Kroll notes.
KBRA notes that the connection between interest rates, new mortgage originations and prepayments seems to have broken down.
“Even as yields on Treasury and agency securities have fallen, new loan applications and loan origination volumes are flat to down, especially for purchase mortgages,” Kroll says. “Low interest rates are making home prices rise, but is not spurring mortgage lending.”