Sept 19 - Housing numbers continue to show strength as the Federal Reserve prepares to launch its $40 billion a month bond purchase program, but will lowering mortgage rates really lure Americans to buy a home or refinance a mortgage? Bobbi Rebell reports.
The numbers are starting to add up for the U.S. housing market. New data show home resales rose last month to their highest rate in more than two years. Prices are higher than a year ago- and the supply of homes on the market is falling. And groundbreaking for new homes, also on the rise. And 30-year mortgage rates hit another all time low- 3.72 percent. All coming on the heels of the Fed's recent decision to spend $40 billion a month to buy mortgage-backed securities, to push down interest rates and spur demand. Standard & Poor's Beth Ann Bovino: SOUNDBITE: BETH ANN BOVINO, U.S. DEPUTY CHIEF ECONOMIST, STANDARD & POOR'S RATINGS SERVICES (ENGLISH) SAYING: "People are starting to feel a little bit richer just from the result of the announcement. Now in terms of the lower interest rates, that also helps in terms of whether they are going to do new borrowing at cheaper levels or refinance their homes and get a little bit more cash back." That cash back is key. On a 30 year, $100,000 mortgage, taking the rate from 5 percent down to 4 percent will save a family $60 dollars a month. If they feel good about their jobs and the economy- Bovino says there's a good chance they might go out and spend that extra cash. But that assumes they can get a loan or refinance, because banks have become more conservative in lending. David Stevens heads the Mortgage Bankers Association. SOUNDBITE: DAVID STEVENS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, MORTGAGE BANKERS ASSOCIATION (ENGLISH) SAYING: "As all these rules get finalized and implemented in the marketplace with certainty about what those rules mean and how to originate loans within those guidelines I would expect credit standards to ease somewhat but we should never expect to go back to the mistakes- to the environment, the unregulated environment that existed during the peak boom years." Consumers too have changed. Millions have not taken advantage of historically low rates that have been available for some time- not wanting to make a move with so much uncertainty about the labor market and their own economic well being. Bobbi Rebell, Reuters.