When it comes to buying a house, most people focus first on what’s going on inside the house. The size of the kitchen, the number of bedrooms, closets, storage, etc., are all top concerns. But, according to a recent survey from the National Association of Realtors, access to outdoor recreation is nearly as important to most home buyers. Respondents listed benefits such as better health, an appreciation of nature, and a greater sense of community among the reasons they believed it was important to be close to outdoor features. And it wasn’t a small number, either. There were large majorities that said outdoor recreation was either very or somewhat important to them. In fact, 56 percent of participants said it was very important and an additional 30 percent said it was somewhat important. Not surprisingly, there was a slight difference depending on where respondents lived. For example, in the West, 65 percent of those surveyed said outdoor recreation was very important to them, while just 51 percent felt the same way in the Midwest. Still, it’s clearly something to think about when searching for a home to buy – whether you’re buying a home by the water or just looking for something close to a neighborhood park. More here.
Just after last year’s election, average mortgage rates began increasing. The rise was largely seen as a sign of things to come. However, rates have now begun dropping from their post-election highs. In fact, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates for 30-year fixed-rate loans with conforming loan balances are now at their lowest level since last November. Lynn Fisher, MBA’s vice president of research and economics, told CNBC last week’s drop was largely related to the French election. “The drop was driven by continued investor concerns about the French election, though Sunday’s first-round voting results apparently have alleviated some investor fears,” Fisher said. Whatever the case, falling mortgage rates boosted the number of homeowners seeking to refinance. The MBA’s refinance index rose 7 percent from the previous week. The purchase index, which measures the number of prospective borrowers applying for loans to buy homes, was unchanged from the week before. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.
New estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development show new home sales at an 8-month high in March. Sales were 5.8 percent above February’s rate and 15.6 percent higher than at the same time last year. The March results were the second best reading since 2008 and easily surpassed economists’ expectations. That’s encouraging news for the start of the spring season and could help boost the number of new homes that get built this year. And, at a time when inventory is low, that’s important. As more new homes are built there will be more options available for buyers, which will help balance the market and moderate price increases. That’s why new home construction is a closely watched indicator of the health of the overall housing market. In other words, whether you’re in the market for a new home or not, the new home market will have an affect on your home search. Also in the report, the median sales price of new homes sold in March was $315,000, which is a jump from the month before but only 1.2 percent above one year ago. At the current sales pace, there was a 5.2-month supply of new homes available for sale at the end of the month. More here.
No two paths to homeownership are exactly the same. There are too many variables for that to be true. But though there are many different paths, there are a few common factors that play a role when first-time buyers decide to purchase a house. According to a recent survey from Bank of America, the first – and most obvious – factor is money. Just over half of respondents said having the financial means to purchase a home is what would ultimately be the decider. But though money is an undeniable factor, not all of the main motivators were financial. In fact, 40 percent of participants said it was a desire to have a place to call their own that would make them buy a home. A steady job and realizing money spent on rent would be better used toward a mortgage came in third and fourth on the list. Marriage is also a big influencer, with 22 percent of respondents saying getting married is what led them to consider buying a house. Finally, thinking mortgage rates and home prices were favorable was cited by 19 percent of first-time buyers. Repeat buyers, by comparison, had a very different list. In their case, needing more space and favorable rates and prices came in second and third. However, having the financial means also ranked first among current owners looking to buy. More here.
New data from the National Association of Realtors shows sales of previously owned homes rose 4.4 percent in March and are now at their fastest pace since February 2007. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said the gains were led primarily by increases in the Northeast and Midwest but the overall results are encouraging. “The early returns so far this spring buying season look very promising as a rising number of households dipped their toes into the market and were successfully able to close on a home last month,” Yun said. “Although finding available properties to buy continues to be a strenuous task for many buyers, there was enough of a monthly increase in listings in March for sales to muster a strong gain.” According to Yun, as long as inventory continues to rise, so will sales. Last month, inventory was up nearly 6 percent but, despite the improvement, it still lags behind last year’s levels. And, because there are fewer properties for sale in many markets, homes are selling more quickly this spring. In fact, the typical home was on the market for just 34 days and nearly half of all homes sold in March were on the market for less than a month. More here.
The real estate market is constantly evolving. What is true one day may not be the next. For example, this past winter many forecasts for the upcoming spring season predicted buyers might be scared off by rising interest rates and a lack of homes for sale. However, now that spring has arrived, mortgage rates have come down a bit and the housing market has been among the strongest sectors of the economy. For example, Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research Group’s latest housing forecast notes both a stronger-than-usual February and the prospects for a good spring. “February fared better than other hard economic indicators partly due to the warm winter weather, and the ESR group expects that a seasonal uptick in listings going into the spring selling season will help alleviate extremely tight inventory,” the group’s latest release reads. In other words, despite higher rates and low inventory, the housing market performed well in February and trends going forward indicate conditions may be even more favorable now. As more homeowners put their homes up for sale, buyers will find improving conditions for a spring home search. More here.
At the end of last year, spiking mortgage rates had many analysts concerned that rates would continue to increase and cause home buyers to sit out the spring buying season. But, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, rates are actually heading in the opposite direction. In fact, last week’s survey found rates down for the second consecutive week and at their lowest level since last November. Rates fell for 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages. But despite the decline, demand for mortgage applications was down from the previous week. Michael Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist, told CNBC rates haven’t yet fallen low enough to lure many homeowners to refinance but purchase activity, though down from the week before, should start to pick up from here. “We do expect a pickup in purchase activity through the remainder of the spring season,” Fratantoni said. “With a strong job market and signs of continuing economic growth, we are forecasting roughly 9 percent growth in purchase origination volume for 2017 relative to 2016.” The MBA has been conducting their weekly survey since 1990. It covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.
Whenever the topic of millennial home buyers comes up, the assumption is that they’re all searching for urban lofts and using the latest tech to find them. In other words, the next generation of home buyers isn’t interested in the old way of doing things. However, survey after survey seems to contradict those assumptions. In fact, recent surveys have found millennials are far more traditional than most assume. For example, a recent survey of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 found large majorities said they’d prefer to work with a local real-estate agent and lender as opposed to online services when searching for a house to buy. Doria Lavagnino, co-founder and president of CentSai, the company behind the survey, says younger buyers want the comfort and reassurance of a recommendation from someone they trust. “Buying a home for the first time is daunting, and working with a local agent – particularly an agent referred by a parent or friend – could provide peace of mind.” The survey also found a majority of respondents said they plan to buy in the next two years and – among those who said they don’t plan on buying – nearly 70 percent said it’s because they can’t afford to, rather than because they prefer to rent. More here.
When builders feel confident, they build more homes. And, as more homes are built, the housing market becomes more balanced. In other words, how builders feel about the market for new homes is an important factor in whether prices rise or fall and what buyers and sellers can expect from their local real estate market. Because of this, the National Association of Home Builders conducts a monthly survey of builders and ranks their responses on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders view conditions as good than poor. Because builders’ views are considered an important barometer, the index is closely watched by industry experts. In April, the NAHB’s index scored a 68, proving builders remain optimistic. Granger MacDonald, NAHB’s chairman, says that though there was a slight dip from March, builders are still confident. “Even with this month’s modest drop, builder confidence is on very firm ground, and builders are reporting strong interest among potential home buyers,” MacDonald said. How many new homes are built this year will have a significant affect on affordability conditions and how favorable conditions are for prospective home buyers.
According to the Survey of Consumers conducted by the University of Michigan, Americans are feeling more optimistic about economic conditions. In fact, Richard Curtin, Survey of Consumers chief economist, says optimism is at its highest point since 2000. “The Current Economic Conditions Index rose to its highest level since 2000 and nearly reached its all-time peak of 121.1 set in 1999,” Curtin said in the most recent release. So how will all that optimism affect the housing market this year? A lot depends on builders and current homeowners. So far this year, buyer demand has been high and the number of homes available for sale has been lower than usual. As economic confidence builds, however, builders may start building more new homes to meet the growing demand. Current homeowners could also decide that it’s a great time to sell a house and put their home up for sale. If this happens and inventory begins to climb, the market will become more balanced, prices will begin to moderate, and home sales will increase. In other words, as long as Americans are feeling confident about their financial situation, there’s a good chance they’ll be thinking about a move. More here.