The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) published its weekly report of mortgage application activity this morning. Applications are higher for the week of Jan 3, up from last week's 13-year low.
While only a single data point, it's a good early sign for the Spring housing market, though the 4-week "Purchase" index (applications for purchase vs refinancing) is downward sloping for the past year.
Homebuyers generally look for mortgage approvals first, and most experienced REALTORS require some type of pre-approval, so maybe this is the first sign of the spring seasonal bounce. From an email exchange this morning with a Scottsdale-based mortgage banker:
The good realtors will always connect a prospective home buyer with a mortgage loan officer prior to looking at homes if they haven't already received a pre-approval. There are some realtors, that will show homes first. For the most part, I believe the consumer is getting pre-qualified either on their own or through the realtor prior to looking at homes.
Here's a 5-year chart of Zillow's List Price index through 12/19/13.
Listing prices are an excellent indicator of future transaction prices, and so far, listing prices haven't nudged higher (though listing prices are 7.7% higher YoY through mid-December.)
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.