According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates were up last week across all loan categories, including 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate loans. The increase comes after a brief period of decreases driven by concerns about the global economy. Joel Kan, an MBA economist, told CNBC those concerns remain. “Despite lingering uncertainty over a potential trade war, investors moved away from Treasurys, pushing yields up for the week,” Kan said. “Overall mortgage application activity declined as rates rose, but government applications increased, driven largely by increases in FHA applications, reflecting stronger demand by first-time home buyers.” The increase in government loans could be an encouraging sign that younger buyers are returning to the market, after several years where first-time buyers were less active than historically normal. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.
There are many factors that play a role in determining whether you’re able to qualify for a mortgage. Credit standards are one of them. But unlike your income or debts, they aren’t as easy to keep up with. They are important, though, so here’s what you need to know. Credit standards refer to the requirements lenders use to determine whether or not you qualify for a loan. When credit standards are tight – as they were following the financial crisis and housing crash – potential buyers have to reach a higher financial standard in order to be deemed creditworthy. When they loosen, the opposite is true and buyers will have an easier time obtaining a mortgage. Because of the role they play in determining whether buyers are approved or not, Fannie Mae’s Lender Sentiment Survey takes the pulse of lenders across the country to determine whether standards have been loosening or tightening lately. Generally speaking, standards have eased since the financial crisis. The survey’s most recent results, though, show little movement from the previous quarter. More here.
Affordability is the top concern for potential home buyers entering the summer season. That’s not a surprise. With prices and mortgage rates up, it’s natural that Americans who are hoping to buy might be leery when seeing news of rising housing costs. But, though affordability conditions are challenging in some markets, buyers may have some misconceptions that are adding unnecessary stress and anxiety. For example, according to the results of one recent survey, potential home buyers see saving for a down payment as the biggest obstacle preventing them from buying a house. But, at the same time, they overestimate the amount of money they’ll need to put down in order to buy. The survey found 58 percent of participants said they are planning for a 20 percent down payment. But though that may be the recommended down payment amount, it isn’t required. The National Association of Realtors, for example, found that the median down payment for first-time buyers has been at 6 percent for the past three years. In other words, though home buyers are right to take seriously the costs and responsibilities of becoming a homeowner, they may want to explore all of their options before deciding they can’t afford to buy. More here.
There are a lot of things you need to set money aside for when you’re getting ready to buy a house. You have to have money for a down payment, closing costs, and moving expenses but you also need to consider how much you’ll need for any future home maintenance. Buying a home means you’re on the hook for any repairs and renovations you need along the way – and you will inevitably run into issues at some point, whether it’s a clogged toilet or a leaky faucet. When it happens, you can pay someone else to fix it or try doing it yourself. Naturally, though, these costs can add up, if you call in a contractor for every loose hinge or minor leak. So it’s a good idea for homeowners to do as much of their own work as possible. And, these days, it’s easier than ever to find how-to videos, tips, and information that can help you become handier around the house. Minor repairs can be surprisingly easy, once you have the right tools and some know-how. So, if you’d like one less thing to save for, start by brushing up on your home improvement skills. More here.
Depending on your plans, the fact that home prices have been increasing lately could be good or bad. After all, current homeowners who are looking to sell a house will feel much differently about higher prices than a first-time buyer who has to save for a down payment. This reality is reflected in the most recent Home Purchase Sentiment Index from Fannie Mae. The index – which measures Americans’ perception of the housing market and economy – reached a new all-time high in May, backed by spiking confidence among potential sellers. In fact, the number of participants who said now was a good time to sell a house is up 14 percentage points over the same time last year. But Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s senior vice president and chief economist, says that the optimism about selling has a flip side. “The HPSI edged up to another survey high in May, bolstered in part by a fresh record high in the net share of consumers who say it’s a good time to sell a home,” Duncan said. “However, the perception of high home prices that underlies this optimism cuts both ways, boosting not only the good-time-to-sell sentiment but also the view that it’s a bad time to buy, and presenting a potential dilemma for repeat buyers.” More here.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates fell last week across all loan categories, bringing rates to their lowest level in six weeks. Rates were down for 30-year fixed-rate loans with conforming and jumbo balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages. The drop brings some relief to spring home buyers, who have been contending with higher prices and rising rates since the start of the season. Once again this week, rates were reacting to concerns about the global economy. “Concerns over Italy’s political turmoil, and questions about possible imposition of trade tariffs by the U.S. on its major trade partners, pushed Treasury rates lower this week,” Joel Kan, an MBA economist, told CNBC. Whatever the reason for the drop, it was good news for both buyers and homeowners looking to refinance, with the total level of mortgage application demand up 4 percent over the previous week. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.
First-time home buyers are an important demographic when it comes to the health of the housing market. Because they’ve historically accounted for about 40 percent of home sales, they garner a lot of attention from experts, economists, and analysts hoping to gauge how the market is doing and where it’s headed. In recent years, first-time buyers have been less active than usual. The financial crash and recession led to a long period where Americans of typical home-buying age did not have the economic stability or job security to feel comfortable pursuing homeownership. Then, even after economic conditions began to improve, a lack of affordable, starter homes kept many younger Americans on the sidelines. This year, conditions are still challenging but new numbers from Freddie Mac show things may finally be changing. That’s because, first quarter results show that first-time buyers accounted for 46 percent of new mortgages during the early part of this year. That’s the largest quarterly share since 2012 and an indication that young Americans are finally becoming more active in the real-estate market. More here.
Between the time an offer is accepted and the deal is closed, a home’s sale is typically referred to as pending. That’s because, there’s a chance, during this period, that the sale won’t go through, as there are a number of hurdles yet to clear. The buyer’s loan and financing have to be finalized and steps like the home inspection and appraisal can also alter the terms of the deal or end it altogether. In short, buying a home is a major transaction and there’s usually a few weeks between the contract signing and closing. For that reason, the National Association of Realtors tracks pending home sales each month, as they can be a good indicator of what future home sales will look like. According to their most recent report, pending sales fell 1.3 percent in April, with most regions flat from the month before. The slight decline was mostly due to a drop in the Midwest. Still, the report is an indication that inventory levels in much of the country are holding sales back. With a fewer-than-normal number of homes for sale, buyers are having more difficulty locating the right house and, as a result, the number of home sales has not matched the level of demand. More here.
When you buy a house, you’re also buying the surrounding neighborhood. And, depending on your lifestyle and wishlist, the neighborhood may be even more important to you than the actual home you’re buying. After all, most of your life happens outside your home. So your proximity to schools, shopping, healthcare, recreation, and nature will have a large effect on how much you enjoy living in a particular house. In short, finding your dream house in the wrong neighborhood could make it a nightmare. Unconvinced? Well, a recent survey of Americans found large majorities who said the feel of a neighborhood was important when deciding where to live. In fact, 80 percent said the surrounding neighborhood had to fit their personality and an almost equal amount said they’d consider moving if they found they didn’t like their new neighborhood. In other words, when shopping for a new house, be sure to spend as much time considering the area around it as you do the areas inside it. It could even work out to be a better idea to find a smaller house in a great location than a big house somewhere you may grow to dislike. More here.