Mortgage Professionals Should be Optimistic About the Future

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Th e M Rep o RT | 57 O r i g i nat i O n s e r v i c i n g a na ly t i c s s e c O n da r y m a r k e t ANALYTICS Department the latest local eDition ANALYTICS Fed ends year on High note with Optimistic Beige Book Policymakers amend economic Phrasing as housing indicators show widesPread imProvement. WASHINGTON D.C. // Federal Reserve officials have released their final summary of economic conditions in 2014, ending the year on an upbeat note with reports of continued growth. In its latest Beige Book—a catalog of economic reports from contacts across all 12 Fed districts—the central bank noted, "national economic activity continued to expand in October and November." Missing from its latest phrasing is the Fed's usual qualifier, which typically describes growth as "modest to moderate." The change could signal a more optimistic outlook from policymakers, who voted in October to end the central bank's most recent round of quantitative easing and who are now faced with the prospect of raising interest rates. The report found that contacts in many districts "remained optimistic about the outlook for future economic activity." Contacts reported improvements across all economic segments in most districts, though indicators were mixed regionally. In the housing arena, both construction and real estate activity expanded overall, with a "fair amount of variation" across sectors. Homebuilding increased on balance across the country, though the multifamily side of the market remained stronger than the single-family side in several districts. Of particular note, the Dallas district saw an increase in construction-related lending, with strength reported in loans for both single-family and multifamily projects. About half of the districts reported an increase in home sales, according to the Fed, though that also leaned more toward the multifamily sector in many districts. Home prices were little changed in most regions, excepting the Richmond, Atlanta, Dallas, and San Francisco districts. On the financing side, lending held steady or increased across most areas, with a few dis- tricts reporting more aggressive competition on loan pricing and terms and an easing in lending standards. Home mortgage lending was up in a number of regions, "reflecting a mix of new mort- gages, refinancings, and home equity lines of credit," the Fed said. However, the environment remains tough for first-time homebuyers, particularly in the Cleveland and Richmond districts, where hopeful borrow- ers continued to face challenges qualifying for a loan. The Fed also added that contacts in the Boston area were optimistic that the new qualified residential mortgage (QRM) rule would help boost lending volumes. Other economic signs were similarly encouraging. In the labor market, employment gains over the previous two months were widespread across the nation, though contacts in some districts reported continued difficulties filling roles in skilled positions. Hiring plans increased in New York, Chicago, and St. Louis, according to the Fed, while firms in Kansas City and Dallas reported difficulties retaining key workers as labor market conditions strengthened. Bay state Home sales see First increase in months Both the median home Price and single-family sales volume inch uP modestly in massachusetts. MASSACHUSETTS // Massachusetts home sales rose slightly in October, outpacing year-ago sales for the first time in four months, according to an industry report. Single-family home sales in the state totaled 4,404 in October, marking a 1.4-percent increase over October 2013's total of 4,345, the Boston-based Warren Group reported recently. It was the first annual increase recorded since June. The firm's update corresponds with the latest data from the National Association of Realtors, which showed existing-home sales increasing nationally year- over-year in October for the first time in 2014. "It is encouraging to see home sales inch their way up in October, after declines in seven of the previous 10 months," said Timothy M. Warren Jr., CEO of the Warren Group. "These numbers reflect sales from late- summer house hunting." Year-to-date, home sales in the Bay State were down 2.7 percent as of October, totaling 41,140 compared to 42,270 during the same timeframe the year prior. The state's median selling price for single-family homes also increased slightly, gaining 2.1 percent over the year to hit $320,000. Year-to-date, the me- dian selling price statewide rose 2.3 percent to $332,525. "For a year now, the entire market has been pretty flat," Warren said. "We have seen modest increases and modest de- creases in both median prices and sales volume, but no big swings." Federal Reserve officials have released their final summary of economic conditions in 2014, ending the year on an upbeat note with reports of continued growth.

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