The average loan size lenders issued to borrowers in the past three months grew by $20,000, suggesting a thaw in mortgage lending, Capital Economics said Wednesday.
While the report, which was released by Capital Economics analysts Paul Dales, Paul Diggle and Amna Asaf, stopped short of calling the good news a full lending recovery, Dales said, "it may be an early sign that buyer confidence is improving."
In 2012, the average amount of a mortgage went from around $215,000 to $235,000 according to the chart below:
The higher loan amounts are not the only positive economic indicator highlighted by the research firm.
Capital Economics reported a 20% drop in visible home inventory over the past 18 months, resulting in a situation where a months' supply of unsold homes is now at a level where existing home sales can support current prices. At the same time, Capital Economics believes there are currently 3.9 million homes in the nation's shadow inventory.
Even though employment numbers fell below the average analyst's expectation of 200,000 new jobs in March, Capital Economics is more optimistic with the current three-month new jobs average sitting at 212,000 positions.
"We are not too alarmed by the 120,000 rise in payroll employment in March, which was exactly half the 240,000 gain in February," Dales wrote. "Just as the unusually mild weather meant that employment grew at a faster rate than the underlying trend in the previous few months, it may now be growing at a slower rate than the underlying trend."
Even though mortgage rates grew slightly in March, Capital Economics said the uptick will have little effect on housing activity since prices still remain affordable and undervalued.
The researchers believes there are signs in the market of a price bottom, but said significant home price gains are not expected in the near term since tighter lending restrictions are prohibiting a boom in real estate activity.