Thursday, March 3, 2011

Beige Book: Real estate activity remained sluggish in January and early February

We read the Kansas City Fed's Beige Book so you don't have to. My comments in brackets:

Real Estate and Construction
Residential real estate activity remained sluggish in January and early February, while the commercial real estate sector showed further signs of stabilization. The residential real estate sector remained hampered by falling transaction volumes and increased inventories of unsold homes. Weak sales of both new [see our analysis here] and existing homes [more on existing homes here] put further downward pressure on home prices, but real estate agents anticipated a surge in home sales this spring due to seasonal buying patterns.[True, sales in the spring always go up month-over-month, but will it rise above last year's spring? See here.] Although housing starts were flat, residential builders remained upbeat and reported a rebound in traffic. Commercial real estate activity stabilized with increased sales and leasing activity, reduced vacancy rates, [Definitely true of residential commercial. See here.] and increased absorption. [Metro Denver just had its 4th highest absorption rate in 25 years for apartments.] Nonetheless, further declines were reported in rents [Especially if adjusted for inflation.] and selling prices and developers' access to credit remained constrained. [See here for more on banks and real estate loans.] Mortgage lenders noted a continued decline in mortgage loan demand and refinance activity due to rising mortgage interest rates. In addition, mortgage lenders noted a decrease in average loan size and higher average down payments.

Bankers reported weaker loan demand, increased deposits, and an improved outlook for loan quality in the recent reporting period. Overall loan demand decreased slightly as demand for commercial and industrial loans, residential real estate loans, and consumer installment loans decreased while commercial real estate loan demand edged up. For the fourth straight survey, credit standards remained unchanged in all major loan categories. Loan quality was mostly unchanged from the previous period, while the outlook for loan quality over the next six months improved. Bankers reported increased deposits with gains in transaction and money market accounts.