News Column

The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, Richard Mize column

August 30, 2014

By Richard Mize, The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City

Aug. 30--Did you feel it? It measured minus 1.9.

No, not some kind of upside-down earthquake. A teeny change in home prices in the Oklahoma City area:

Prices dropped 1.9 percent in the second quarter of the year, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Do not be alarmed.

That's one particular index tracking certain properties -- those bought with conventional mortgages sold to or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, therefore conforming to Fannie's and Freddie's underwriting guidelines. That means a loan limit of $417,000 in most of the country, including here.

But a slight drop seems to fit the housing slowdown across the country last spring, and it seems to fit, or at least it doesn't grossly violate, the story here: This year is not last year, not in sales or construction.

For sales, it's a case of a slowdown in the rate of growth, which, like figuring percent change, can cause headaches. In a nutshell, sales -- those handled by Realtors -- still increased here, but not as much as last year.

Through July, sales were up 2.58 percent compared with the first seven months of last year, and up 12.07 percent compared with the same period in 2012. That includes pre-owned homes as well as new homes bought from builders using a Realtor.

Supply is being steadily absorbed. The inventory of homes available through Realtors dropped to 4.2 months by July 31. That means if sales held exactly steady and no more houses went on the Multiple Listing Service, it would take 4.2 months for all to be sold.

Inventory is lowest for houses priced $125,001 to $200,000, at 3.3 months; and for those priced $75,001 to $125,000, at 3.4 months, according to the Realtors.

Home construction is off of last year's post-recession pace, down 8.9 percent at the end of July compared to the same period last year across Oklahoma City, Edmond, Midwest City, Moore and Norman. The cities issued a combined 2,867 permits the first seven months of 2014, according to the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association.

Back to prices: The median price of all homes sold by Realtors here at the end of July was $155,000, up 1.3 percent compared with July 2013.

It's at odds with the Federal Housing Finance Agency's decrease of 1.9 percent, but remember why: The local stats include all prices, including those higher than the conforming loan limit, as well as cash purchases. Demand for upscale homes here is on the increase with the strong economy -- and cash purchases have been up on investor demand for midscale houses for rentals.

The federal home price index is better, I think, for gauging trends where most of us live, in houses with mortgages backed by the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.


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Source: Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City)

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