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ADA, OKLAHOMA— LegalShield today released its May Economic Stress Index, a collection of leading indicators of household and small business economic and financial health in the United States. Two of its subindices, the LegalShield Housing Construction and Housing Sales Indices, both increased for the third consecutive month to new highs.
LegalShield states it continues to receive and resolve an unprecedented volume of requests for attorney reviews of mortgage and commercial real estate contracts submitted by members.
The report comes at a good time just as new inflation numbers have come in as well as tomorrows FED report. Commodities as well as AEC indices Bylt tracks have tanked downward Monday and Tuesday on worrying inflation data. Markets over the past week seem to have been trending downward as contractors and developers have stood firm, canceling, holding, or postponing projects rather then pay current market materials prices. The data also signals that we may just be witnessing a summer recession on commodities that could spring right back as fall construction season starts approach.
The LegalShield Economic Stress IndexTM is the only index of its kind that accurately reflects current economic conditions and future trends in demand for various legal services. LegalShield index is composed of five sub-indices – Consumer Stress, Bankruptcy, Foreclosure, Housing Construction, and Housing Sales – that were developed using the company’s proprietary data over the last 16 years. Each time a provider law firm receives a member request for services in any of the 50 states, the request is logged as a “intake” in one of roughly 70 distinct areas of law (e.g. real estate, LLC formation, etc.). The company receives an average of 185,000 monthly intakes from its over 1.8 million memberships, which include individuals and small businesses, a statistically significant sample size.
Although the LegalShield Foreclosure Index increased slightly in May, it remains historically low. “Over two million homeowners in the US are still in forbearance plans, and another nearly two million families, although not in forbearance, are at least 90 days delinquent on paying their mortgages as of April” said Jeff Bell, LegalShield CEO
The LegalShield Housing Construction Index increased to a new all-time high of 146.7 in May. As LegalShield members identified potential home sites, they consulted with network attorneys on issues such as lot approvals, zoning laws, ordinances, covenants, building codes, permits, and plans. Prior to initiating the construction phase, members retained attorneys to review contractor agreements and strengthen their protections regarding the scope of work, the timing of the work, payment terms, warranties, and dispute resolution, among other things.
While strong demand for housing and low inventories should keep housing construction strong by historical standards, supply chain constraints may continue to delay projects and may cause construction activity to slow in comparison to earlier this year.
May saw a 5.5-point increase in the LegalShield Housing Sales Index to 121.1, the highest level on record.
The most remarkable aspect of this index’s activity is that the company’s mortgage document service recently achieved its three highest readings ever (the highest coming in March). Existing-home sales are expected to remain robust through the end of the year, though rising prices may exacerbate affordability constraints.
Keybridge LLC, a Washington, D.C.-based boutique economic and public policy consulting firm, is responsible for compiling and analyzing the LegalShield data independently and developing the accompanying economic narrative.
You can download a PDF of LegalShield’s complete April Economic Stress Index here.