Builders Report 15% Jump in Mortgage Purchase Applications

The housing market appears to be warming up as new data point to a possible 7% in increase in home sales for the month of March.

A Mortgage Bankers Association survey of homebuilders and their mortgage subsidiaries found that applications to buy new homes jumped 15% last month from a February survey on an unadjusted basis.

Based on the new survey, "MBA estimates that there were 46,000 new homes sold in March, an increase of 7% from 43,000 in February," the trade group said Tuesday.

The Census Bureau is slated to report new home sales for March on April 23. In February, new home sales fell 3.3% from the prior month.

Economists at Wells Fargo Securities are also expecting a pickup in sales this spring. But they are warning that builders are "less optimistic" about the outlook due to shortages of building lots and skilled workers along with a low level of new homes for sale.

"Although these obstacles may hamper sales of lower-priced homes, our new home sales forecast remains largely unchanged," the Wells Fargo Securities economists wrote in their April 9 Housing Chartbook.

The group is forecasting 2014 new home sales will total 510,000, up 19% from 429,000 in 2013.

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