Housing market "showing signs of strain" warns Nationwide

by Steve Randall14 Dec 2017
Continued escalation of home prices is putting a strain on America’s housing market warns insurer and mortgage lender Nationwide.

In its Health of Housing Markets report, the firm says that the rapid appreciation of home prices is weakening the near-term outlook for the housing market.

"The biggest concern with regard to the housing market in 2017, especially as the year ends, is that persistent price gains are reducing affordability," said David Berson, Nationwide senior vice president and chief economist. "The housing market is still moving forward thanks to solid job gains, but it's showing signs of strain. We're watching to see if household formations, income, job, and mortgage trends can sustain the market's health."

Despite the concern, Nationwide’s outlook for the housing market remains mostly positive, although less optimistic in the fourth quarter of 2017 than in the previous three months.

Strong improvement for oil, gas regions
Housing markets in oil and gas producing areas are among the most improved in 2017 with rising housing demand supported by labor market gains.

The 10 top metro areas in Nationwide’s index are, in order: Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Iowa; Carbondale-Marion, Ill.; Philadelphia; Valdosta, Ga.; The Villages, Fla.; Canton-Massillon, Ohio; Gadsden, Ala.; Little Rock-North Little Rock, Ark.; Trenton, N.J.; and, Morgantown, W.Va.

Those at the bottom are: Rapid City, S.D.; Brunswick, Ga.; Rochester, Minn.; Sioux Falls, S.D.; New Orleans-Metairie, La.; Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas; Victoria1, Texas; Morristown, Tenn.; Waco, Texas; and, Bangor, Maine.

Underwater levels still worrying
Nationwide says that the number of homeowners that are underwater is a concern.

The sharp rise in home prices nationwide has not helped 25% of metros where prices remain below their pre-crash peaks, some are off by more than 20%.

The share of mortgages that are underwater is near 5% but closer to double figures for those in areas that are below their peak.

The top 5 markets below their peak are: Las Vegas-Henderson, Nev. (27.7 below), Bakersfield, Calif. (23.1), Fresno, Calif. (21.5), Tucson, Ariz. (20.3), and Orlando-Kissimmee, Fla. (19.7).

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