US home sales rise in October

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans bought homes in October at the briskest pace this year, a sign that the sluggish housing market is turning around.

Sales of existing homes rose 1.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.26 million last month, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday. That’s up from a revised pace of 5.18 million in September. October marked the first month in 2014 when sales increased compared to a year ago, registering a 2.5 percent gain.

Still, the Realtors project that 2014 sales will fall below 2013 levels.

“Continued gains in existing home sales are going to be difficult,” said Ted Wieseman, an analyst at Morgan Stanley.

Home sales slumped through much of 2014 after a three-year rally in the wake of the recession and the implosion of the housing market. Harsh winter weather crippled sales at the beginning of 2014, just as tight credit, rising home prices and essentially flat incomes increasingly limited the number of buyers who could afford a home.

At the same time, investors are backing off properties to either rent out or renovate and resell.

Over the past 12 months, the share of homes being bought by investors has slipped to 15 percent from 19 percent, according to the Realtors. As the real estate market has mended from the recession, the opportunity has eroded for investors to profit from buying homes at steep discounts.

Just 4 percent of the single-family houses sold in the third-quarter were flipped by investors, who frequently bought distressed properties on the cheap, fixed them up and put them back on the market, according to a report released Thursday by housing data firm RealtyTrac.

Flipping accounted for 5.6 percent of sales during the same period in 2013. Its share nearly reached 10 percent in 2012.

Not counting renovation costs and other expenses, investors made on average a 36 percent return_$75,900_on each home they flipped. That profit margin fell from 37 percent last year. But unlike recent years when flippers bought at a discount and sold the homes at a discount compared with the broader market, sales are now at a 6 percent premium, suggesting that their repairs are more extensive than in the past.

“The flippers aren’t just slapping on a fresh coat of paint and rolling out new carpets,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

Median home prices rose 5.5 percent over the past 12 months to $208,300, according to the October sales report.

First-time buyers have yet to return to the market, representing just 29 percent of sales last month. This group historically accounts for 40 percent of sales.

The time on the market is also steadily increasing. It took 63 days on average to sell a home last month versus 44 days in June during the height of the summer buying season.

The Realtors estimate that 4.94 million existing homes will be sold this year, down 3 percent from 5.09 million in 2013. Analysts say sales of roughly 5.5 million existing homes are common in a healthy real estate market.

October sales improved in the Northeast, Midwest and South compared to the previous month, but purchases declined in the West.

The uptick in activity caused the inventory of homes on the market to slip to 5.1 months. When the supply of homes for sale falls beneath 5 months, it usually signals accelerating price growth.

Home prices have been increasing at a much faster clip than incomes, hurting affordability and causing sales to drag. Prices increased 5.6 percent in September compared with a year ago, real estate data provider CoreLogic reported. While the pace of appreciation has slowed this year, it still is almost three times greater than the approximately two percent increase in average wages tracked by the Labor Department.

Lower mortgage rates in recent weeks have improved affordability, though sales have yet to rise substantially. Average 30-year mortgage rates have been hovering around 4 percent, down nearly half a percentage point since January.

Still, other reports suggest that home sales could improve in 2015.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo index rose to 58 this month, up from 54 in October, a sign that sales of newly-built homes should continue to improve over the next six months. Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good rather than poor.

Separately, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday that applications for building permits rose 4.8 percent in October to 1.08 million, evidence that construction activity could increase next year.

NAR’s got plenty of free ‘.realtor’ domains left to give away

The National Association of Realtors is ready to give away 500,000 free “.realtor” domains to members, and realtor.com will host agents’ profile pages for them at no charge. But nearly a month after NAR opened up the .realtor domain rush, only about 5 percent of the trade group’s 1 million  members have claimed their own free, custom URL.

NAR opened up “priority registrations” for members to stake claims to .realtor domains a year ago, and started issuing them on Oct. 23. Members can sign up for more than one .realtor domain, but must pay a domain fee for the extras, which is $39.95 per year per domain.

All told, almost 50,000 Realtors have claimed a free domain, and more than 85,000 .realtor sites have been registered, according to NAR spokeswoman Sara Wiskerchen.

While NAR still has 450,000 free domains to give away, .realtor is already the fourth most popular new “generic top-level” domain approved by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, according to Domain Name Wire.

Those who obtain .realtor domains must follow business rules set out by NAR, which, among other requirements, dictate that members’ first, last or full names must be part of the domain.

Those restrictions — and the lack of appeal of a website address tied to an agent’s name, rather than a .com address attached to a geographic location — prompted St. Paul, Minnesota, broker and Inman columnist Teresa Boardman to pass.

“I think I’ll just stick with my .com domains,” Boardman wrote last month. “I can have domain names like StPaulRealEstateBlog.com and StPaulCondolife.com and StPaulPhotos.com and several others that don’t include my name, or the words sell or sold. The domain names are more about real estate, not about me.”

But Bryn Kaufman, principal broker and creator of OahuRE.com, thinks that if enough Realtors create agent profile pages with .realtor domains, that could turn Google into a powerful tool for consumers to track down local agents.

“Most likely, the [agents] with the most closed sales, the most reviews, and that have been around the longest will come up on Page 1″ of Google search results, Kaufman wrote on the GeekEstate blog.

Until recently, top-level domains had been restricted to a handful of familiar domains like “.com,” “.net” and “.org.” But since ICANN began allowing firms to apply to manage new domains, .realtor is one of hundreds that are coming online.

As NAR made clear in applying to ICANN to create and manage the new domain, registration of .realtor domains will be restricted to members of NAR and the Canadian Real Estate Association.

NAR is making .realtor domains free for one year for the first 500,000 of its more than 1 million members who sign up. CREA is offering .realtor domains free for a year to the first 10,000 members who claim their domain.

 

Profile

GIF of a new realtor.com agent profile page, which is tied to a .realtor domain.

Those who get a .realtor domain can attach it to any site, but NAR makes it easy for members to direct it to their realtor.com profile pages, which are free.

During the .realtor claim process, NAR prompts its members to select one of three options for each domain they register, Wiskerchen said. They can choose to attach the domain to their free realtor.com profile website, to redirect the domain to an existing Web address or to use the .realtor domain as the primary Web address for a hosted site.

“If they (choose the realtor.com profile), they’ll receive an email with instructions to activate their profile site and direct their .realtor domain there,” Wiskerchen said. Members can change up how their domain works at any time by logging back into the system on NAR, she said.

Once members tie their .realtor domain to the realtor.com profile page, content from their blogs and social media will begin automatically showing up on the profiles, according to a video on NAR’s site describing the .realtor claim process. The profiles will also showcase the Realtors’ realtor.com listings, showings and closed transactions as well as client recommendations.

Realtor.com teased the new version of its agent profiles back in May, but has yet to formally announce the new profiles. An agent’s listing data would only show up on the profile with the agent’s permission, realtor.com’s senior director of product management, Ernie Graham, told Inman at the time.

NAR member Cinthia Ane chose to tie her .realtor domain to her realtor.com profile. See it here.

In conjunction with the rollout of the .realtor domain, NAR partnered with website developer Placester to give members with a .realtor domain six months of free hosting and a free website design, Wiskerchen said.

Currently, just brokers and agents can sign up for .realtor accounts, but beginning in 2015 NAR will begin allowing Realtor organizations such as state and local Realtor associations, association multiple listing services, affiliated institutes, societies and councils, and NAR strategic business partners to register a .realtor domain.

MLSs and associations that help promote the .realtor domain to their members will be eligible to receive a free .realtor domain for up to five years. An application form for MLSs and associations, available now, details marketing requirements.

In October, NAR won the right to manage the .realestate top-level domain. Details and pricing of the new domain are expected in the second quarter of 2015.

The domain .homes has been assigned to DERHomes LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dominion Enterprises, which owns Homes.com and ForRent.com, among many other brands.

PulteGroup (PHM) Stock Gaining Today on Strong October Home Sales

NEW YORK (TheStreet) –PulteGroup
(PHM) shares are up 1.4% to $21.24 in trading on Thursday as the U.S. home builder benefits from high October existing home sales numbers.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported a 1.5% rise in existing homes sales to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.26 million in October, the first month this year where the number was higher than the same period last year.

“Sales activity in October reached its highest annual pace of the year as buyers continue to be encouraged by interest rates at lows not seen since last summer, improving levels of inventory and stabilizing price growth,” said the NAR. 

Must Read: Warren Buffett’s 25 Favorite Stocks

STOCKS TO BUY: TheStreet Quant Ratings has identified a handful of stocks that can potentially TRIPLE in the next 12 months. Learn more.

TheStreet Ratings team rates PULTEGROUP INC as a Buy with a ratings score of A-. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

“We rate PULTEGROUP INC (PHM) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company’s strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures and solid stock price performance. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had sub par growth in net income.”

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • PHM’s revenue growth has slightly outpaced the industry average of 7.1%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 0.8%. This growth in revenue does not appear to have trickled down to the company’s bottom line, displayed by a decline in earnings per share.
  • The current debt-to-equity ratio, 0.40, is low and is below the industry average, implying that there has been successful management of debt levels.
  • Looking at where the stock is today compared to one year ago, we find that it is not only higher, but it has also clearly outperformed the rise in the SP 500 over the same period, despite the company’s weak earnings results. Turning our attention to the future direction of the stock, it goes without saying that even the best stocks can fall in an overall down market. However, in any other environment, this stock still has good upside potential despite the fact that it has already risen in the past year.
  • PULTEGROUP INC has experienced a steep decline in earnings per share in the most recent quarter in comparison to its performance from the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. We feel it is likely to report a decline in earnings in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, PULTEGROUP INC increased its bottom line by earning $6.74 versus $0.53 in the prior year. For the next year, the market is expecting a contraction of 84.0% in earnings ($1.08 versus $6.74).
  • The gross profit margin for PULTEGROUP INC is rather low; currently it is at 23.73%. Regardless of PHM’s low profit margin, it has managed to increase from the same period last year. Despite the mixed results of the gross profit margin, PHM’s net profit margin of 8.81% compares favorably to the industry average.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: PHM Ratings Report

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Joseph Croce receives RCE designation from National Association of Realtors


By Contributed Report


Posted Nov. 21, 2014 @ 2:01 am


Previously Owned U.S. Home Sales Increase to One-Year High

The U.S. economic expansion, now in its sixth year, shows no sign of flagging as home sales climb, factories pump out more goods and the labor market strengthens.

Existing homes sold at a 5.26 million annual pace in October, the most since September 2013, the National Association of Realtors reported today in Washington. Manufacturing in the Philadelphia region surged this month, fewer Americans filed claims for jobless benefits last week and a gauge of the outlook for the next six months beat forecasts, other data showed.

“It’s all encouraging,” said Kathleen Bostjancic, a financial-market economist at Oxford Economics in New York. “All the data are lining up on the strong side, indicating the economy is accelerating.”

Retailers such as Best Buy Co. (BBY) are getting a lift as an improving job market and the cheapest gasoline prices in four years boost consumer confidence heading into the holiday-shopping season. The reports bear out forecasts from Federal Reserve policy makers, who last month predicted that the global slowdown would have a “quite limited” effect on the U.S.

The Standard Poor’s 500 Index rose, paced by rallies among retailers and energy companies. The SP 500 climbed 0.1 percent to 2,050.8 at 12:56 p.m. in New York.

The U.S. data helped reverse a drop in equity futures earlier in the day after reports showed economies abroad were weakening. A purchasing managers’ index for factories and services in the euro area unexpectedly dropped in November to the lowest level in 16 months, according to London-based Markit Economics. In China, a factory gauge fell this month to a six-month low.

Fed Minutes

Minutes of the Fed’s Oct. 28-29 meeting issued yesterday showed officials discussed global economic developments, which ultimately didn’t figure in their post-meeting statement. While policy makers “pointed to a somewhat weaker economic outlook and increased downside risks in Europe, China, and Japan,” they judged that the impact on the U.S. economy is “likely to be quite limited.”

Purchases of previously owned U.S. homes last month climbed 1.5 percent from a revised 5.18 million pace in September, the real-estate agents’ group said. It was the fifth consecutive month that the sales pace topped 5 million. Prices also climbed, the group said.

Employment growth and mortgage rates near historic lows are helping stir buying interest that will probably continue to underpin the economy.

‘Healthier’ Market

“This is much healthier than we’ve seen over the last year or so,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James Associates in St. Petersburg, Florida, who projected a 5.25 million pace of sales. “We’re still a long way from recovery, but we’re on our way.”

The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 78 economists called for a 5.15 million pace of resales, with estimates ranging from 5.05 million to 5.27 million. September’s figure was revised from a previously reported 5.17 million.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s factory index jumped to 40.8 in November, the highest since 1993, the branch of the central bank reported. Readings greater than zero signal growth. The orders gauge surged to the highest level since 1988.

Other manufacturing data today was less ebullient. The Markit Economics preliminary index for this month decreased to a 10-month low of 54.7. A reading greater than 50 indicates expansion. The slowdown was paced by a drop in exports that probably reflects weakening economies elsewhere.

Fewer Claims

Today’s news on the labor-market front was more upbeat. Jobless claims fell by 2,000 to 291,000 in the week ended Nov. 15 from an upwardly revised 293,000 in the prior period, according to the Labor Department. It was the 10th straight week the number of applications for unemployment benefits has been lower than 300,000, which hasn’t happened since 2000.

The drop in claims “bodes well in terms of payroll growth,” said Gregory Daco, lead U.S. economist at Oxford Economics. “We’re seeing good prospects and a strong trend.”

The recent drop in claims was among reasons the index of leading economic indicators rose last month. The Conference Board’s gauge of the outlook for the next three to six months climbed 0.9 percent in October, the most since July, the New York-based group said today.

The trend in the index “points to continued economic growth through the holiday season and into early 2015,” Ken Goldstein, an economist at the Conference Board, said in a statement. “This is consistent with our outlook for relatively good, but not great, consumer demand over the near term.”

Increasing Sales

Richfield, Minnesota-based Best Buy, the world’s largest electronics chain, posted a surprise sales gain last quarter amid demand for high-definition televisions.

Even after its biggest increase in same-store sales in more than four years, Best Buy said revenue this quarter will be little changed. Chief Financial Officer Sharon McCollam cited hurdles such as heavy discounting this holiday season and a potential shipping disruption from labor negotiations at West Coast ports.

“The promotional environment is already intense, a little bit more intense than last year,” Chief Executive Officer Hubert Joly said on a conference call.

American consumers are getting a lift from falling fuel costs. The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas was $2.85 as of Nov. 19, its lowest level since November 2010, according to AAA, the largest U.S. auto club.

Sentiment Firms

Consumer sentiment advanced last week to the highest level since January 2008 as Americans grew more optimistic about their financial well-being and the buying climate, according to another report today. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index (COMFCOMF) climbed to 38.5 in the period ended Nov. 16 from 38.2 the week before.

“The biggest point for consumers is it’s going to be a little bit easier with those gasoline prices coming down,” said Anika Khan, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, North Carolina. “I’m optimistic.”

The drop in energy prices kept the U.S. cost of living little changed last month, according to Labor Department data also issued today. No change in the consumer-price index followed a 0.1 percent increase in September. Core costs, which strip out food and fuel, rose 0.2 percent in October, the biggest gain in five months.

Rising costs for rents, airline fares, hotel rooms and furniture show the slowing in overseas growth that is helping restrain fuel prices and overall inflation isn’t rippling through the economy. Some Fed policy makers have been among those predicting that cooling price pressures will prove temporary as the U.S. economy strengthens.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lorraine Woellert in Washington at lwoellert@bloomberg.net; Victoria Stilwell in Washington at vstilwell1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Carlos Torres at ctorres2@bloomberg.net Vince Golle

Fannie Mae Expects Modest Economic Growth in 2015

Fannie Mae U.S. Economy

Despite slower economic growth in recent months following a strong showing in mid-2014, Fannie Mae‘s Economic and Strategic Research Group said in a report released Thursday that it still expects 2015 to be a slightly better year overall economically in the U.S.

The group’s current forecast was based on continued improvements in employment, income, and consumer and business spending. The group predicted that economic growth will come in at 2.5 percent for 2015, which is a slight improvement over the 2.1 percent predicted for 2o14.

“The pace of growth around the middle of the year was well above trend, driven by an unsustainable rebound after a weak first quarter, and we anticipate that the fourth-quarter numbers will presage a more modest pace for 2015,” Fannie Mae chief economist Doug Duncan said. “We are still seeing some conservatism on the part of consumers, who remain hesitant to take on significant credit and mortgage debt in the wake of the economic downturn. However, recent data show that their confidence is growing amid strengthening employment numbers and household incomes, which we expect to continue next year and eventually drive stronger consumption.”

Duncan said the housing market “continues to grind its way upward” and that due to muted fundamentals, he does not expect the market to have a breakout performance in 2015. Duncan predicted the state of the housing market and mortgage industry in 2015 will be similar to that of 2014 based on Fannie Mae’s current view of home sales, housing starts, and price trends, which is largely unchanged from the research group’s previous forecast.

“Homebuilding activity improved during the third quarter due primarily to the multifamily segment, which we expect to grow further next year, but the single-family segment has been relatively flat for some time,” Duncan said. “Although interest rates still are relatively low, the temporary burst in refinance activity appears to have subsided, and we expect that the market will turn more toward the purchase market in 2015.”

BRIEF: Fannie Mae says people feeling better about personal finances

Local News

Richland magistrate recognized as state’s longest-serving

FHFA Director: "Significant challenges remain" for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

In his first appearance before Congress as the first acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Mel Watt, started by giving an update on Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks. He spoke before the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Wednesday morning.

The update is not totally positive, but Watt delivered the remarks with the balanced caution that has come to define his term so far. See the HousingWire magazine exclusive August 2014 profile of Watt for more insight into his personal character.

[Note: More coverage on his remarks today to come on HousingWire.com]

Under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, Watt reminded the Senators, the FHFA is responsible for overseeing and regulating Fannie, Freddie and the FHLBanks to ensure that the entities operate in a safe manner and serve as a reliable source of liquidity and funding for the housing industry.  

 “While conservatorship of the Enterprises has helped stabilize their financial condition and the mortgage market, significant challenges remain,” Watt said in the hearing.

“Serious delinquencies have declined but remain historically high compared to pre-crisis levels, and counterparty exposure remains a concern,” he added.

“While the risks from the Enterprises’ mortgage-related investment portfolios are declining as their volume shrinks, revenues from these portfolios are also shrinking. And both Enterprises continue to work on maintaining the effectiveness and efficiency of their operational and information technology infrastructures,” he continued.

Both government-sponsored enterprises posted positive third-quarter earnings:

  • Fannie Mae reported net income of $3.9 billion for the third quarter of 2014 and comprehensive income of $4 billion.  The GSE reported a positive net worth of $6.4 billion as of September 30, 2014 resulting in a dividend obligation to Treasury of $4 billion, which the company expects to pay in December 2014.
  • Freddie Mac posted a net income of $2.1 billion for the third quarter 2014, marking the twelfth consecutive quarter of positive earnings. This is compared to $1.4 billion in second quarter of 2014. bComprehensive net income came in at $2.8 billion, significantly up from $1.9 billion in the second quarter of 2014.

Watt reiterated the 2014 Strategic Plan for the Conservatorships of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which includes three goals.

  • Maintain, in a safe and sound manner, foreclosure prevention activities and credit availability for new and refinanced mortgages to foster liquid, efficient, competitive and resilient national housing finance markets.
  • Reduce taxpayer risk through increasing the role of private capital in the mortgage market.
  • Build a new single-family securitization infrastructure for use by the Enterprises and adaptable for use by other participants in the secondary market in the future. 

Fannie-Freddie Clarify Buyback Rules in Effort to Spur Lending

As part of a broader U.S. effort to
persuade banks to make more home loans, Fannie Mae and Freddie
Mac (FMCC)
have released rules clarifying the types of practices that
would trigger penalties for lenders.

The changes announced today by the government-owned finance
firms specify when lenders would be asked to buy back flawed
loans that were issued based on inaccurate data or
misrepresentations of borrowers’ qualifications. They were
written after the companies and their regulator reached an
agreement with banks on the details.

President Barack Obama’s administration is pushing to
unlock tight credit after banks were forced to buy back billions
of dollars of loans issued before mortgage markets collapsed.
Resistance by banks has kept first-time homebuyers and others
with weaker credit out of the real-estate market.

“There are qualified borrowers who are not being served in
today’s market,” Andrew Bon Salle, a Fannie Mae (FNMA) executive vice
president, said in a statement. “With this clarity, lenders
should have greater confidence in lending to Fannie Mae’s full
credit standards and making mortgages available to more
borrowers.”

Under the new rules, which are retroactive to January 2013,
lenders won’t be asked to repurchase loans with data
inaccuracies or misrepresentations of buyers’ qualifications
unless the flaws are significant and apply to multiple loans.
Evidence of fraud could also trigger a buyback request.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which have been under U.S.
conservatorship since 2008, buy mortgages and package them into
bonds on which they guarantee principal and interest payments.

The clarifications “will not impact the credit standards
of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, but they will provide greater
certainty for all parties, facilitate greater liquidity and
increase access to credit without compromising safety and
soundness,” Melvin L. Watt, director of the Federal Housing
Finance Agency
, said in a statement.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Clea Benson in Washington at
cbenson20@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Jesse Westbrook at
jwestbrook1@bloomberg.net
Gregory Mott

Capitol Report: Fannie cuts mortgage-rate outlook, but home buyers may not bite

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch)—Mortgage-finance giant Fannie Mae cut its outlook Thursday for home-loan rates in 2015, but cheap monthly payments may do little to bump up residential sales, experts said.

The federally controlled mortgage buyer’s latest housing-market forecast pegged the rate for the popular 30-year fixed-rate mortgage next year at about 4.3%—a drop of two-tenths of a percentage point from Fannie’s prior forecast for the rate in 2015.

While lower rates translate into smaller monthly loan payments, making homeownership more affordable, Fannie

FNMA, -0.41%

 didn’t adjust its forecast for next year’s total home sales.

“The housing market continues to grind its way upward, but we don’t expect a breakout performance in 2015 as the fundamentals remain somewhat muted,” said Doug Duncan, Fannie’s chief economist. “We believe that mortgage activity in 2015 will be very similar to 2014.”

There are (at least) three remarkable mortgage-market trends that are shaping home sales, and some of them are working against each other. First, rates are super low. The latest weekly reading from Freddie Mac

FMCC, -1.25%

 showed that the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage recently hit 3.99%—a sixth consecutive week of near-4% readings—far below an average of more than 7% over the past three decades.

“This period of low interest rates is extraordinary,” said Susan Wachter, a housing-finance expert at the University of Pennsylvania.

Second, rates have remained in a fairly narrow band for some time. Over the past three years, the rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has ranged from about 3.35% to almost 4.49%. If Fannie’s Duncan is right, the market won’t see rates climb much higher next year from recent levels.

But another year of low rates may not have much of a positive psychological impact on prospective home buyers, said David Crowe, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders.

“The relatively lower rates after the spikes of the early 80s did stimulate buying,” Crowe said. “This time around, the low rates are still not as low as they [recently] were so the relative advantage is not as great.”

Third, both Wachter and Crowe noted a persistent block for low mortgage rates supporting home sales: Strict credit standards are keeping many families from getting mortgages, and the situation may not dramatically improve soon.

“The current situation is much more driven by the availability of mortgage credit than the cost,” Crowe said.

In the wake of the financial crisis, lenders erected high standards to avoid another meltdown. While there been some easing in recent years, access to mortgage credit remains far below pre-bubble levels that experts say are sustainable.

Federal regulators are working to grow mortgage originations by making it clear to lenders when they will be on the hook for loans that go bad. Fannie and Freddie are also working on programs that will enable borrowers to get loans with very low down payments.

But analysts expect these efforts, while offering marginal support to originations, won’t lead to a surge in loans. As Democrats and Republicans in Congress battle over, well, pretty much everything, there’s still tremendous uncertainty over the future of Fannie, Freddie and the mortgage market. Further, economists say a labor market that produces consistent, healthy jobs growth is key to ramp up home sales.

It is also worth noting that sales of new homes are recovering much more slowly than sales of existing homes. Buyers typically pay more for a new than a previously owned homes. Also, companies say it is taking time to rebuild the labor and market infrastructure needed to construct new homes.

The sales pace of new single-family homes in September was down about 34% from the average rate over the prior three decades. Meanwhile, the sales pace of previously owned single-family homes was about 12% faster than the 30-year average.