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Monthly Archives: June 2016

Mortgage Rates At Lowest Level In A Year

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, the average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances fell to its lowest level since January 2015 last week. Rates also dropped for loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, loans with jumbo balances, and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages. Michael Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist, told CNBC rates moved lower based on May’s job report and concern about economic volatility overseas. “Markets reacted to the weaker than anticipated job market report by recalibrating their expectations regarding the Fed’s next move. Additionally, global investors concerned about the potential for Brexit and its implications have once again led to a flight to safety, driving down Treasury yields,” Fratantoni said. “As a result, conventional mortgage rates dropped to their lowest levels since 2015 last week, while FHA rates dipped to their lowest level since 2013.” But despite favorable rates, demand for mortgage applications declined, falling 2.4 percent from one week earlier. Analysts say the fact that demand dropped last week has little to do with mortgage rates and is more likely a reflection of the fact that buyer demand is outpacing the supply of homes available for sale this spring. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

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Outlook Finds Lenders Feeling Optimistic

Applying for a loan is often the first step a buyer makes toward becoming a homeowner. And, because lenders are a buyer’s first stop, they’re often the first to notice which way the housing market is trending. For this reason, Fannie Mae conducts a quarterly survey that gauges current mortgage activity and how optimistic lenders feel going into the next quarter. According to the results of the most recent survey, mortgage lender sentiment has rebounded after seeing declines in previous quarters. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s senior vice president and chief economist, says lenders are feeling more optimistic but still cautious. “Key survey sentiment indicators suggest that lenders remain cautiously optimistic in their market outlook,” Duncan said. “The outlook for purchase demand growth over the next three months returned to levels similar to last year, while the outlook for refinance demand and profit margin improved moderately versus last year’s levels. Additionally, the trend toward easing of credit standards appears to be tapering off, as the vast majority of lenders, around 90 percent, reported plans to keep their credit standards about the same.” More here.

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Gov’t Scorecard Tracks Housing Health

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development releases their Housing Scorecard each month in an effort to track key housing market data and the results of the government’s foreclosure mitigation programs. The comprehensive report covers new and existing home sales, mortgage rates, prices, foreclosures, and more. In May, the scorecard once again found encouraging signs that the market has improved. For example, new home sales hit an eight-year high in April, rising 23.8 percent over one year earlier. At the same time, sales of previously owned homes also rose due to solid gains in the Midwest and Northeast. The gains are significant as it is evidence that there remains a high level of buyer demand, despite affordability concerns caused by higher prices and fewer homes available for sale this spring. Part of the reason for that may be because mortgage rates remain near three-year lows. Historically low mortgage rates have been helping ease the effects of sharp price increases and they continue to entice interested buyers. Also in the report, foreclosure starts and completions fell again in April, continuing a long, downward trend caused, in part, by rising home values. Still, despite the encouraging signs, the report cautions that there is still work to be done to help the housing market and underwater homeowners who are still struggling. More here.

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Older Homeowners Hold Key To The Future

There are more than 67 million current homeowners over the age of 55 in America today. That represents two-thirds of the nation’s home equity and a significant slice of the country’s existing housing stock. Whether these homeowners decide to move sometime soon or plan to stay in their current home through their retirement will have a big impact on the housing market, affordability, mortgage demand, and the homes that are available to younger, aspiring home buyers in the coming years. Because of this, Freddie Mac has launched a new survey aimed at uncovering baby boomers’ thoughts about homeownership and their plans for the future. According to the results, 63 percent of these homeowners say they’d prefer to age in place and large majorities say they are very satisfied with their homes, communities, and quality of life. But though the number who say they’d like to stay where they are is big, so is the number that say they’d like to move again. In fact, nearly 40 percent of respondents said they plan to move at some point in the future – that’s roughly 27 million Americans. Whether or not these homeowners do or don’t move, however, the only thing for sure is that their decision will have a lasting impact on the residential real-estate market for years to come. More here.

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New Homes Now 61% Bigger Than 40 Years Ago

In 2015, the median size of a completed single-family home was 2,467 square feet, according to new numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual Characteristics of New Housing. That’s 61 percent larger than it was 40 years ago and 11 percent bigger than a decade ago. And, in addition to the extra square footage, today’s new homes are also packed with more features than they used to have. For example, more than 90 percent of new homes built last year had air conditioning and at least two bathrooms. By comparison, a little less than half of the new homes built in 1975 had air conditioning and only 60 percent of them had two bathrooms. But along with becoming bigger, new homes have also climbed in price. In fact, the median sales price of new single-family homes sold last year was $296,400. That sets a new record and partly explains the reason why first-time home buyers have had difficulty finding affordable homes this spring. With the average new home selling for around $300,000, buyers looking for an affordable, starter home in many markets are limited to choosing from previously owned homes – as the majority of new homes are priced beyond their budget. Also in the report, among new homes built last year, 47 percent had four or more bedrooms, more than half were two stories, and a majority had two-car garages. More here.

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Home Loan Demand Spikes As Buyers Return

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, mortgage application demand bounced back from a big drop two weeks ago, surging 9.3 percent last week. The increase included a 7 percent gain in refinance activity and a 12 percent spike in the number of Americans requesting applications for loans to buy homes. Still, industry analysts say demand for home purchase applications should be stronger considering the high level of buyer interest and mortgage rates that remain historically low. Last week, the average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances fell slightly. At the same time, average rates were up for loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration and unchanged for mortgages with jumbo balances. Michael Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist, told CNBC that despite expectations that the Fed would raise rates this month, May’s week jobs report may change that. “Given the weak employment report for May, we think it is unlikely that the Fed will raise rates in June,” Fratantoni said. “However, as other economic data are pointing to continued economic growth, we do expect that they will increase rates following their July meeting.” For now, though, average mortgage rates remain near three-year lows and are lower than they were at the same time last year. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

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Rising Incomes Help Hopeful Home Buyers

The current housing market is a mixed bag. On the one hand, mortgage rates remain near record lows. At the same time, home price increases are causing affordability concerns. Additionally, home buyer demand is high but the number of homes available for sale is low. Because of this, recent results of Fannie Mae’s monthly Home Purchase Sentiment Index have been volatile. In March, sentiment hit an 18-month low. Then, according to the most recent release, it reached an all-time survey high in May. Partly, the increase in optimism was due to a 7 percent jump in the number of Americans who said their income was significantly higher than it was a year ago. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s senior vice president and chief economist, says rising incomes and low mortgage rates could help home buyers facing higher prices and fewer choices. “Continued home price appreciation has been squeezing housing affordability, driving a two-year downward trend in the share of consumers who think it’s a good time to buy a home,” Duncan said. “The current low mortgage rate environment has helped ease this pressure, and fewer than half of consumers expect rates to go up in the next year. While the May increase in income growth perceptions could provide further support to prospective home buyers as the spring/summer home buying season gains momentum, the effect may be muted by May’s discouraging jobs report.” More here.

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Competition Climbs Among Buyers’ Worries

A new survey of home buyers found the number who say their main concern is competition has nearly doubled since last November, rising from 11 to 19 percent in just seven months. But despite how quickly competition has emerged among buyers’ worries, it still trails affordability – which topped the list at 26 percent. Still, a lower-than-usual number of homes available for sale and high buyer demand means competition is increasingly a problem for home shoppers – and especially those on a budget. A bidding war can put buyers in the position of having to decide whether to break their budget or lose their chosen house. And the issue is especially pronounced on the lower end of the market where many first-time home buyers are searching for a starter home and a way out of high rents. “Though enticed by high rents and low mortgage rates to begin a home search, first-time buyers face a number of obstacles in today’s competitive market,” said Nela Richardson, chief economist for Redfin, who conducted the survey. “In many cities, starter homes have seen the largest price increases because the supply of affordable homes on the market is so low and the demand for these homes is so high.” Fortunately, the spring and summer sales season usually entices more current homeowners to put their homes up for sale, which could provide buyers some needed relief in the coming months. More here.

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Could A Lack Of Lots Be Driving Prices Up?

When thinking of buying a home, few buyers consider the number of buildable lots in their area. However, builders say a shortage of available lots is keeping them from putting up more new homes. And at a time when the number of homes available for sale is already low, that isn’t good for buyers. That’s because, more new homes on the market would help slow down price increases, improve affordability, and provide buyers with more choices. According to a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders, 64 percent of builders say the supply of lots in their market is “low” or “very low.” That’s the highest it’s been since the NAHB began tracking lot availability in 1997. Robert Dietz, NAHB’s chief economist, says the problem is growing. “We have monitored lot availability for the last two decades, and it is clear that the scarcity of building lots is growing,” Dietz said. “Whether due to land use policy, geographic constraints or other regulatory constraints, the lack of lots for residential construction will have negative impacts on housing affordability in many markets.” Regionally, the West had the highest number of builders reporting a low number of lots, at nearly 40 percent. In the South, 23 percent of builders said lot supply was low, compared to 18 percent in both the Midwest and Northeast. More here.

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Homeownership Month Promotes Benefits Of Buying

Since the financial crisis and housing crash, the real estate market has made a lot of progress. The job market has improved, millions of mortgage modifications helped struggling homeowners keep their homes, home prices have recovered, and interest rates remain near record lows. As part of National Homeownership Month, the Department of Housing and Urban Development hopes to – not only reflect on that progress – but also promote the benefits of owning a home. “A home is the place where we raise our children, establish roots in a community, and plan our future,” HUD secretary Julian Castro said. “The opportunity to be a homeowner should be open to those ready and able to buy a home. As the housing market continues its recovery we must ensure that responsible homeowners have access to credit to make their dreams of homeownership a reality.” Despite the fact that homeownership continually ranks among Americans’ top goals and is still thought of as a vital part of achieving the American Dream, the nation’s homeownership rate is 63.5 percent – just above a 48-year low and well below its 2004 peak of nearly 70 percent. Still, strong buyer demand this spring is further evidence that, given the opportunity, most Americans want to become homeowners. More here.

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