Mortgage rates fell for a second straight week amid signs of economic improvement. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the benchmark 30-year home-loan rate declined to 3.04% this week from 3.13% last week. At this time last year, the long-term rate was 3.31%.
The distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is fueling optimism that Americans will increasingly return to the ways they used to shop, travel and work before the pandemic. That would be a welcome change for companies that own office buildings and hotels, or those that lease space to restaurants, bars, department stores and other retailers. But even as the U.S. economy appears set to roar back to life this year, as many economists now predict, demand trends for commercial real estate could take longer to recover as businesses reassess their post-pandemic needs.
The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes last month fell by the most since last year's virus outbreak sent the economy into freefall. The National Association of Realtors' index of pending home sales tumbled 10.6% to 110.3 in February, its lowest level since May of last year.
States have reportedly failed to spend millions of federal dollars to help renters avoid eviction. Burdensome requirements, poorly administered programs and landlords refusing to cooperate meant tens of thousands of tenants never got assistance. Some states also shifted funding away from rental relief, fearing they'd miss a year-end mandate to spend the money — a deadline that got extended.
U.S. home prices increased at the fastest pace in seven years in January as the pandemic has fueled demand for single-family houses even as the supply for such homes shrinks. The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, released Tuesday, rose 11.1% in January from a year earlier. That's the biggest gain since March 2014. Prices rose in all 20 cities, and the 12-month increase was larger for all cities in January than in the previous month.
Sales of previously occupied U.S. homes slowed last month as rising prices and a dearth of homes for sale kept some would-be buyers on the sidelines. The National Association of Realtors said Monday that existing homes sales in February fell 6.6% from January to a seasonally adjusted rate of 6.22 million annualized units. Sales were up 9.1% from February last year, before the pandemic upended the economy and temporarily held up home sales last spring.
Sales of new homes plunged 18.2% in February as severe winter weather in many parts of the country and a lack of supply took a toll on the housing industry. Sales of single-family homes dropped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 775,000 last month, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday, the slowest sales pace since May of last year.
With former President Donald Trump’s tax returns finally in hand, a team of New York prosecutors led by a newly hired former mob-buster is sending out fresh subpoenas and meeting face-to-face with key witnesses, scrutinizing Trump's business practices in granular detail.