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Monthly Archives: August 2018

Housing Health A Decade After The Crash

Following the housing crash and financial crisis, there was talk that Americans may stop aspiring to homeownership and would no longer see the housing market as a sound investment and reliable creator of wealth. After all, homeowners who saw the values of their homes plummet might become leery and those who hadn’t yet bought a home may’ve considered themselves lucky. And yet, a decade down the road, the market has largely recovered and demand from buyers is running high. Lawrence Yun, the National Association of Realtors’ chief economist, says that is thanks to reforms enacted after the crash. “Over the past 10 years, prudent policy reforms and consumer protections have strengthened lending standards and eliminated loose credit, as evidenced by the higher than normal credit scores of those who are able to obtain a mortgage and near record-low defaults and foreclosures, which contributed to the last recession,” Yun says. And it’s true. Today, market conditions are fueled, not by a lack of a demand, but by a lack of enough homes to meet the high level of demand. Fortunately, Yun sees even more improvement on the horizon. In fact, his forecast for the next year includes rising inventory, moderating price growth, and more home sales as affordability conditions ease and make homeownership even more attractive to prospective buyers. More here.

Mortgage Rates Fall To Lowest Level In A Month

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances fell to their lowest level since July 20 last week. Rates for loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration and 15-year fixed-rate loans also fell, while jumbo loans saw no change from one week earlier. Joel Kan, an MBA economist, told CNBC that the rate drop was due to the fact that the Fed has signaled that they may be more cautious when considering further rate hikes this year. “Treasury yields were lower over the week, primarily driven by a release of FOMC minutes showing that Fed officials may be taking a more cautious approach to the final two expected rate hikes of 2018,” Kan said. But, despite the mortgage rate decline, the number of buyers seeking loans to buy homes did not increase. In fact, the MBA’s Purchase Index fell 1 percent from the week before, though it remains 3 percent higher than at the same time last year. Refinance activity was also down, dropping 3 percent. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential loan applications. More here.

When Will The Buyer’s Market Return?

Housing market conditions are always in flux. One year, there will be more homes for sale than there are interested buyers. And the next, there will be more buyers than available homes. If you’re thinking about entering the market, it’s good to know where things currently stand and what’s likely to happen in the coming months. That’s because it’ll determine what price you pay and for what. These days, buyer demand is outpacing inventory and, because sellers may have more than one offer to choose from, they can expect to get a higher price for their home. But, since the market is ever-changing, eventually the tide will turn. Because of this, a recent analysis asked 100 real estate economists and experts for their best guess as to when the market will once again favor buyers. Their answers varied. Mostly because where you’re looking will determine the exact conditions you encounter. For example, buyers in the Midwest may already be seeing signs of a shift, with home price increases beginning to slow due to a higher number of available homes than there are in other areas. Overall, however, respondents saw buyers regaining some leverage sometime in the next year and a half, depending on where they’re looking and what they’re looking to buy. More here.

More Evidence That Home Price Growth May Be Slowing

Over the past few years, rising buyer demand combined with a lower-than-normal number of homes for sale has led to higher home prices in markets across the country. And, though the rate at which prices have increased may differ from one market to the next, affordability conditions aren’t what they were just a few years ago. However, new data may indicate that change is on the way. That’s because there is evidence that home price growth may be starting to slow. In fact, according to one recent analysis, price increases are slowing in almost 75 percent of the nation’s largest markets, including Seattle, Orlando, Boston, Los Angeles, and Portland. In some cases, the drop has been dramatic. For example, in Seattle – last year’s fastest-appreciating market – the rate at which prices grew fell from 14.2 percent to 9.1 percent. But, though this is undoubtedly good news for buyers interested in purchasing a home, it doesn’t mean we’re headed for a buyer’s market any time real soon. That’s because, year-over-year growth is still faster than historically normal. More here.

Flat Home Sales A Sign Of Market Challenges

New numbers from the National Association of Realtors show sales of existing homes were virtually unchanged from the month before. Down 0.7 percent from June, sales were up in the West but a drop in the Northeast negated the gains. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says a lack of available homes continues to hold sales back. “Listings continue to go under contract in under a month, which highlights the feedback from Realtors that buyers are swiftly snatching up moderately-priced properties,” Yun said. “Existing supply is still not at a healthy level, and new home construction is not keeping up to meet demand.” In short, there are more buyers than there are homes for sale in many markets and it’s making it challenging for buyers this summer. Fifty-five percent of the homes sold in July were on the market for less than a month and, though inventory had been seeing modest gains, it stalled in July. That means, market conditions aren’t likely to change much in the months to come, so buyers should prepare for competition this fall and make sure to be pre-approved by a lender before heading out to look at homes. More here.

Steady Mortgage Rates Lead To Increased Demand

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates were mostly flat last week, with little movement seen across all loan categories including 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with both conforming and jumbo balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate loans. The lack of volatility in the mortgage market led to an increase in demand for both refinance and purchase loans. In fact, mortgage demand was up 4.2 percent over the week before. But Joel Kan, an MBA economist, told CNBC that, despite boosted demand last week, overall purchase application volume is still being hampered by “persistent problems of affordability and low inventory.” Still, demand for loans to buy homes is just above where it was last year at this time and buyer demand remains high – though home sales remain strongest on the higher end of the market. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

Builders Remain Confident In New Home Market

The National Association of Home Builders’ Housing Market Index measures how optimistic builders are about the new home market. Scored on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders view conditions as good than poor, the survey has been conducted for 30 years and is a good indicator of where the current new home market is and where it may be headed. In August, the index fell one point but remains high at 67. Randy Noel, NAHB’s chairman, says there are some challenges but overall builders are seeing strong demand for new homes. “The good news is that builders continue to report strong demand for new housing, fueled by steady job and income growth along with rising household formations,” Noel said. “However, they are increasingly focused on growing affordability concerns, stemming from rising construction costs, shortages of skilled labor, and dearth of buildable lots.” Three-month moving averages show the South and West have the highest level of builder confidence with each scoring in the 70s. The Northeast and Midwest score lower, but that may be due to the fact that there are more existing homes available in those regions, leading to less demand for new homes. More here.

 

Building Permit Increase A Good Sign For Prices

If you’re shopping for a house to buy, you’re probably concerned about affordability. After all, even in a buyer’s market, house hunters have an interest in getting the best deal. Which means, most prospective home buyers have an eye on home prices and where they’re headed. In today’s market, the best way to get a feel for what’s happening with home values is to look at inventory. That’s because, prices have been increasing lately due to the fact that there are more buyers than there are homes for sale. And the quickest way to slow down rising prices is to build more homes. That’s why the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s new residential construction statistics for July offer some encouraging news. According to the report, permits to build new homes are now 4.2 percent higher than at the same time last year. And, since building permits are a good indicator of future home construction, that means home builders are building more homes, which could mean a better balanced market and more choices for buyers. More here.

Do You Need An Agent To Buy New Construction?

Buying a newly constructed house from a builder is a little different than buying an older home from its owner. To start with, you aren’t able to choose from a list of upgrades and customizations when buying an existing home. You’re also entering a transaction with someone who has an attachment to the home they’re selling and probably a different set of motivations than a builder whose livelihood depends on making a profit. In other words, it can feel, to a buyer, like the process of visiting a builder’s sales office is so wholly different than buying an existing home that they may not need an experienced real estate agent to represent them. This, however, can be a mistake. After all, you’re still entering into a major financial transaction with many variables and risks. You’ll want to have someone with experience who can look after your best interests and make sure you’re getting the best deal. Otherwise, you’ll be working with a team employed directly by the builder you’re buying from. That doesn’t mean you won’t get a good deal but it does mean you’ll be the only one whose top priority is getting what you want at a fair price. More here.

 

Mortgage Rate Drop Fails To Boost Buyers

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates fell last week for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with both conforming and jumbo balances, as well as for loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration. Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, told CNBC the drop was driven by global economic events. “Strong inflation was overshadowed by ongoing trade tensions between the U.S. and China, along with concerns over Turkey’s currency situation. This helped push Treasury rates down by 3 basis points last week,” Kan said. But falling mortgage rates failed to bring more home buyers to the table. In fact, mortgage application demand for loans to buy homes was down last week. In short, Americans are interested in homeownership but may be hesitant to enter the market right now due to challenging conditions. Still, purchase application demand was just 3 percent below where it was last year at this time, when mortgage rates and prices were lower. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.