ETF Trends
ETF Trends

Homebuilder exchange traded funds may enjoy a more long-term growth spurt as loan data reveal first-time homeowners have not been jumping into the market yet.

Over the past year, the SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (NYSEArca: XHB) rose 13.2% and the iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF (NYSEArca: ITB) gained 10.8%.

In 2014, only 25% of new home buyers took out residential house loans with less than 3% down, the lowest level in a decade, which suggests that first-time buyers have not been supporting the housing recovery, reports Quentin Fottrell for MarketWatch.

“It may seem like a lot but the average over the past 11 years has been 33%,” Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, said in the article.

First-time buyers are among the most likely to acquire loans with low down payments since they have less capital to put down. Blomquist points out that the government has been promoting low down payment loans to encourage first-time buyers, and many new home owners can receive loans with below 3% down through assistance programs.

Recently, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac introduced 3% down payment loans while the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also lowered insurance premiums that low-down-payment borrowers have to pay. [Lower Down Payments Could Stimulate Homebuilders ETFs]

“A lot of first-time home buyers don’t have a lot of money to put down or else they would be participating in this market more,” Blomquist added. “If first-time home buyers don’t return to the market in greater numbers, it signifies a shift where a primary avenue of building wealth for middle-class Americans — homeownership — is no longer as readily available.”

Global real estate investor Barry Sternlicht also argues the U.S. residential housing market looks like a value investment for Americans and cheaper energy costs could bolster consumer confidence, reports Matthew J. Belvedere for CNBC.

“It’s cheaper to buy a house and finance it, than it is to rent in many markets,” Sternlicht said in the CNBC article.

However, if interest rates were to shot up, the higher mortgage rates could dampen demand for new homes. [Rising Mortgage Rates Could Stifle Homebuilder ETFs’ Rally]

SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF

For more information on the housing market, visit our homebuilders category.