There are a lot of different factors that play a role in determining whether or not you can buy a house and how much house you should buy. Current mortgage rates, home prices, your personal debt, income, and financial situation can all factor into your decision. That means, calculating whether or not now is the right time for you to pursue homeownership requires thinking a little bit about each. For example, home buyer demand remains elevated despite reports of affordability challenges in markets across the country. Why is that? Well one explanation is that a stronger job market has helped Americans feel more secure in their financial situation, which has made them willing to take on the commitments that come with buying a house and becoming a homeowner even with recent price and rate increases. In fact, according to one recent survey, the number of Americans who want to buy was up nearly 5 percent in January – which is typically a slow month for home sales. In other words, Americans feel more confident in their jobs and it’s fueling enthusiasm for buying a house. More here.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, demand for mortgage applications fell 4.1 percent last week from the week before. But though there was another increase in average mortgage rates, the decline was not seen as solely a reaction to higher rates. In fact, the drop was seen, at least partially, as a response to volatility in the stock market last week. Joel Kan, an MBA economist, told CNBC he still expects activity to grow as we enter the spring season. “Refinance activity is continuing along a floor, while the drop in purchase may be related to short term stock market jitters,” Kan said. “We still expect activity to pick up as we make our way into early spring.” Spring is traditionally the season when the housing market heats up and potential buyers start looking for homes to buy. This year, the spring buying season is expected to be particularly busy, with some saying home buyers are even trying to get a jump on competition by hitting the market earlier than usual. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.
A “bedroom community” refers to a suburb outside a major metropolis where the majority of residents commute to the city for work. These town have a number of characteristics that identify them but, according to new research from NeighborhoodScout, they are also known for safety. In fact, these suburban cities topped their most recent list of the nation’s safest cities. Andrew Schiller, CEO of NeighborhoodScout, says bedroom communities combine features that are attractive to home buyers. “We continue to see bedroom communities, which are within large metro areas and near major urban centers like Boston, Chicago, and New York, make the top of our list,” Schiller says. “These safe communities within the urban/suburban fabric of America’s largest metropolitan areas often combine access to high-paying jobs in the urban center, decent schools, and a high quality of life. This access to opportunity increases home values, with the result often being lower crime.” Cities in the Northeast topped the list, including Ridgefield, CT, which was named the country’s safest city. More here.
Equity is among the main arguments in favor of homeownership. After all, as you pay your mortgage each month, you are, in essence, putting away money that you will be able to draw from should you ever sell your house or take out a home equity loan. In short, homeownership can act as a type of forced savings account. The results of the Federal Reserve’s most recent Survey of Consumer Finances provides some evidence of this. According to the survey, homeowners over the age of 55 held $10.6 trillion in residential equity, which accounts for 67% of the $15.8 trillion total equity for all primary residences in the U.S. In other words, older homeowners – who are more likely to have owned their home for an extended period of time – have built up a lot of equity, either through paying off their mortgage over time or through price appreciation. Either way, for those homeowners, owning a home has provided a financial asset that can benefit them in retirement. For example, research shows buyers in age-restricted communities often don’t take out a mortgage – since they are able to use the equity they’ve acquired as a source of a down payment. More here.
Without the benefit of two incomes, single home buyers face some added challenges when looking to buy a house. For one, it takes longer to save for a down payment. In fact, according to a new analysis, married or partnered couples can save a 20 percent down payment on the typical home in less than five years. For single home buyers, it takes closer to 11 years. Add to that, single home buyers are more likely to be looking for a smaller, affordable home – which is precisely the type of house that is currently in highest demand. Zillow senior economist, Aaron Terrazas, says two incomes helps with savings but also with increasing the number of homes available to buy. “Single buyers typically have more limited budgets, which means they are likely competing for lower-priced homes that are in high demand,” Terrazas said. “Having two incomes allows buyers to compete in higher priced tiers where competition is not as stiff.” Of course, your individual financial situation and local market conditions will ultimately determine how much you’ll need to save and how much competition you’ll face for available homes. But single, married, or otherwise, it’s best to be as prepared as possible before heading out to look for a house to buy. More here.
As spring approaches, there’s always an increase in the number of Americans who express interest in buying or selling a house. For many reasons, spring is traditionally the season when the housing market heats up. So, it’s no surprise that Fannie Mae’s most recent monthly measure of Americans’ feelings about the housing market shows an increase in optimism. In fact, the number of survey respondents who said now was a good time to buy a house rose 3 percent from the month before and the number who feel it’s time to sell rose to a new survey high. In other words, interest is high. But, according to Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist, it’s difficult to say yet how the market will perform this year. “Results may continue to fluctuate over the coming months as consumers sort out the implications of the newly passed tax legislation on their household finances,” Duncan said. However, with high interest from buyers and sellers, and a growing economy, early signs point to a busy spring for the housing market. More here.
Naturally, as home prices have increased, so too has the amount of profit homeowners see when they sell their home. Now, according to new numbers from ATTOM Data Solutions, homeowner profits have reached their highest point in more than 10 years. In fact, according to their Q4 2017 U.S. Home Sales Report, the average home seller profit has reached 29.7 percent return on investment compared to the original purchase point. Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM, says now is the most profitable time to sell in years but homeowners aren’t moving as often as they used to. “It’s the most profitable time to sell a home in more than 10 years yet homeowners are staying put longer than we’ve ever seen,” Blomquist said. “While home sellers on the West Coast are realizing the biggest profits, rapid home price appreciation in red state markets is rivaling that of the high-flying coastal markets and producing sizable profits for home sellers in those middle-American markets as well.” More here.
If you look at just about any reading of the current housing market, you’ll find that there are a lot of Americans interested in buying a home right now. Whether it’s because of pent-up demand that built up in the years following the housing crash or a drive to buy now while mortgage rates are still well below their historical norm, the fact is buyer demand is high. The most recent National Association of Realtors’ Pending Home Sales Index provides more evidence of this. That’s because the index – which measures the number of signed contracts to buy homes – ended the year with its third consecutive monthly increase. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says the housing market has started the year with a little bit of momentum. “Another month of modest increases in contract activity is evidence that the housing market has a small trace of momentum at the start of 2018,” Yun said. “Jobs are plentiful, wages are finally climbing and the prospect of higher mortgage rates are perhaps encouraging more aspiring buyers to begin their search now. More here.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates moved higher for the second consecutive week last week. Rates were up across all loan categories, including 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year loans. Joel Kan, an MBA economist, told CNBC that rates are being driven higher by economic conditions. “Rates moved higher last week driven by concerns over a weaker U.S. dollar, signs of more robust growth and rising rates abroad, and moderately strong fourth-quarter domestic growth,” Kan said. With rates rising, there was a decline in mortgage application demand. The number of homeowners looking to refinance and potential buyers requesting applications for loans to buy homes both saw a drop, with total demand falling 2.6 percent from the week before. However, mortgage rates still remain low by historical standards – though there is a belief that, with a strengthening economy, interest rates could rise further this year. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.