Recent falls in the stock market and growing concerns over the cloud hanging over the U.S. economy has prompted more home buyers to cancel real estate deals or continue to sit on the sidelines, analysts say.
The National Association of REALTORS® said in a recent report that home buyer cancellations in the last two months increased about 10 percent from a year earlier. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says the increase is due to low appraisals that do not match the mortgage amount, “overly stringent” lending standards, as well as waning buyer confidence.
“The typical home buyer gets rattled when confronted with economic turmoil,” says Stan Humphries, Zillow.com’s chief economist. “The type of fear we’re seeing could substantially worsen the housing market.”
Stock market declines are denting many buyers’ pocketbooks. “A lot of people have seen their down payments for a home disappear in the stock market,” Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH Associates, told Bloomberg News. “It served as a reinforcement to the hunker-down mentality that a lot of home buyers already had.”
Some home buyers who still have the means to buy are waiting for prices to fall even further too, says Jim Hamilton, with Lyon Real Estate.
“People are watching the stock market as a major indicator of what’s going on in the economy,” Hamilton told Bloomberg News. “Buyers are beginning to think that if they wait, they’re going to get a better deal in a few months.”
Despite borrowing costs at record low levels, applications for mortgages to purchase homes continues to fall. In fact, for the week ending Aug. 12, mortgage applications to buy dropped to a 13-month low, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was hoping to revive demand for housing by lowering interest rates and vowing to not raise key rates until 2013. Rates have been below 5 percent for more than two weeks but have failed to spark more buying.
“Low mortgage rates are only helpful to home buyers who aren’t paralyzed with fear after watching their 401(k) disappear,” says Mark Goldman, a lecturer at the Corky McMillin Center for Real Estate at San Diego State University. “For now, people see the stock market as a casino table.”