Statistics are showing questionable numbers recently in regards to the housing market. One month reports are up, the next reports are down. It has become difficult to follow as one wonders whether these stats should even be considered. According to the latest data, the housing recovery is not evident in the new home sales number which fell much more than expected. The Commerce Department reported that sales of new homes fell 8.4% in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 350,000 which is the biggest drop since February, 2011. These numbers are well below what economists consider a healthy market, which is an annual rate of 700,000.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, homebuilder confidence rose by 6 points in July, which is the fastest rate and biggest gain since September, 2002. While housing starts were up 2.6% in June according to the U.S. Census Bureau and HUD, building permits for privately owned housing units fell 3.7% from May. In the midst of all of this data, the National Association of Realtors reported that the median existing home price for all housing types rose 7.9% from a year ago due to low inventory.

Since mortgage refinances are soaring these days, it is quite obvious that people are staying where they are and with what they have. The Mortgage Bankers Association's Market Composite Index showed that mortgage refinance applications for the week ending June 20th hit their highest level in over three years and increased 2% on a seasonally adjusted basis. Refinance applications accounted for 81% of all loan applications while purchase applications fell 3% on an adjusted basis from the previous week. With major refinance programs now available, HARP and the FHA streamline refinance, it is no surprise that homeowners are taking advantage of these options to put more money in their own pockets instead of purchasing homes.

While housing numbers may be appearing to improve, they are no where near what they used to be during the housing boom. Many homes have not yet been placed on the market for fear that an abundant supply will push home prices way down. Home sellers, who are holding off until values increase, are refinancing instead. Home purchases go hand in hand with jobs, as people find jobs or move their employment location, homes get sold in one area and purchased in another. The absence of jobs, in particular new jobs, is ultimately stifling the housing market. According to the Labor Department, while unemployment rates fell in 11 states and Washington, D.C., it remained unchanged in 12 states and increased in 27 states last month. Employment, and the lack of, remains a major issue in the U.S. and is keeping the national unemployment rate at 8.2%. Even Fed Chief Bernanke testified that economic growth is slow, in fact, too slow to reduce unemployment. When home building, home starts and new home sales are strong, jobs are being created in the construction sector which employs a very high amount of consumers.

Looking at these numbers from another angle, the lack of mortgage financing for home purchases is also adding to the equation. The strict guidelines that are being enforced in order to obtain mortgage approval, are keeping many consumers from making a home purchase. While there are online websites that help borrowers obtain the necessary mortgage, some consumers are either hesitant or just don't look to find them. Existing homeowners are not moving up to newer or bigger homes, but instead are refinancing to save some money in the interim. Through all of the peaks and valleys with housing statistics, this part of the economy is somewhat stagnant at this time. While it is during the spring and summer months that business should be picking up, the numbers are showing the reality which is disappointing for this time of year. The best that anyone can do right now is refinance if they are a homeowner, through a traditional mortgage refinance, HARP or FHA streamline, whichever applies and move to lower mortgage rates, save money, once again build equity and ride out the storm.

FreeRateUpdate.com surveys more than two dozen wholesale and direct lenders' rate sheets to determine the most accurate mortgage rates available to well qualified consumers at a standard 0.7 to 1% point origination fee.

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