Choosing a house to buy takes a little bit of vision. After all, it’s easy to know what you want in a home today, but more difficult to know for sure what you’ll want years from now. Things change and your life will undoubtedly take some unexpected twists and turns. But just how long should you expect to live in the house you buy? Well, according to ATTOM Data Solutions’ Q1 2019 U.S. Home Sales Report, homeowners who sold in the first quarter of this year had lived in their home an average of 8.05 years. For comparison, that’s close to double what it was prior to the housing crash, when homeownership tenure averaged 4.21 years. In short, you’re likely going to spend close to a decade in the house you buy. That means, home buyers need to be thinking of, not only what they need from a house today, but also what they hope and plan for over the next several years. More here.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates increased 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 continues an upward trend that has caused some hesitation among borrowers, especially those looking to refinance. Michael Fratantoni, MBA’s senior vice president and chief economist, says rates have risen over the past three weeks due to fewer geopolitical concerns and a stronger U.S. economy. “Borrowing costs have recently drifted higher because of ebbing geopolitical concerns, as well as signs of strengthening in the U.S. economy, including the recent data pointing to robust retail sales,” Fratantoni said. “The strong economy and job market is keeping buyer interest high, but rising mortgage rates could add pressure to the budgets of some would-be buyers.” Still, though rates are up from where they were a few weeks ago, they remain low by historical standards and even from where they were at the end of last year. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications.
New home sales increased 4.5 percent in March, beating economists’ expectations and hitting a 16-month high. The data, from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is more evidence that home buying conditions are becoming more favorable just as buyer demand heats up for the season. The combination of a strong job market and low mortgage rates is encouraging buyers and helping steady a housing market that went through its ups-and-downs last year. And, since new-home sales gains build confidence in the market, three consecutive months of improvement may help spur builders to build even more new homes. As it is, growing inventory has led to a 9.7 percent drop in the median sales price of a new house, according to the March report. Overall, the latest new home sales data is encouraging, as the market for newly built homes plays a vital role in balancing supply and demand and keeping affordability conditions manageable for buyers. More here.
The spring home sales season is underway and there’s no better proof than new numbers from the National Association of Realtors. According to their most recent existing home sales report, 47 percent of homes sold in March were on the market for less than a month. Additionally, the average number of days properties remained on the market was 36 days, down from 44 days the month before. That’s a significant drop and evidence that buyer demand is heating up and homes are selling more quickly. But, despite the fact that homes are selling faster, the overall sales numbers were down from February. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says that’s to be expected after the previous month’s sales surge. “It is not surprising to see a retreat after a powerful sales surge in the prior month,” Yun said. “Still, current sales activity is underperforming in relation to the strength in the job market. The impact of lower mortgage rates has not yet been fully realized.” In other words, though buyer demand may be increasing and homes are selling quickly, the market should be doing even better. One reason it’s not is low inventory. However, that may be changing. In fact, the number of homes available for sale in March was up 2.4 percent from last year.
When it comes time to decide what type of home you want to buy, there’s a lot to go over. Beyond even the financial considerations, prospective home buyers have to make choices about the style of house, the size, number of rooms, the yard, storage, etc. Then they have to prioritize their wants and needs based on just how important they are and whether any of them are dealbreakers. Because there are so many factors, it’s no small thing when a sizable share of home buyers express an interest in the same feature. That’s why it’s significant that a recent survey of Realtors conducted by the National Association of Realtors found that 70 percent of participants said promoting energy efficiency in a home’s listing was somewhat or very valuable. In short, it means a lot of buyers agree that green and energy-efficient features are important to them. It’s no surprise why. Beyond the benefits to the environment or sustainability, energy efficiency means lower utility bills. And there are few home buyers who won’t like the sound of that. More here.
Fannie Mae’s Economic and Strategic Research Group releases a monthly forecast detailing what lies ahead for the economy and housing market. And though their most recent release says the overall economy will slow this year, their outlook for the housing market is encouraging for potential home buyers and sellers. That’s because the group sees stability ahead. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist, says there are a number of factors that should make market conditions more favorable this year. “On housing, the recent dip in mortgage rates to their lowest level in over a year – combined with wage gains and home price deceleration – supports our contention that home sales will stabilize in 2019,” Duncan said. “The greatest impediment to both sales and affordability continues to be on the supply side, as new inventory, particularly among existing homes, is being met quickly by strong demand – as evidenced by the already thin months’ supply hitting a new one-year low.” In other words, conditions will be less volatile than they were last year but ultimately depend on how many homes are available for sale. If new home construction and listings can keep up with demand, it’ll help keep prices steady and the market manageable for buyers. More here.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates rose last week but the increase didn’t stop home buyers. In fact, demand for purchase loan applications rose 1 percent and reached their highest level in 9 years. Requests for loans to buy homes are now 7 percent higher than at the same time last year. Despite the improvement, however, overall mortgage application demand was down from the week before, as refinance activity was slowed by higher rates. Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, said the decline is no surprise. “With mortgage rates up for the second week in a row, it’s no surprise that refinancings slid 8 percent, and average loan sizes dropped back closer to normal levels,” Kan said. “Purchase activity remained strong and increased slightly, reaching its highest level since 2010. The spring buying season continues to be robust.” The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications.
Home builders are on the frontline of the housing market. Their business depends on knowing what buyers want and when they want it. That’s why the National Association of Home Builders tracks builder confidence in the market for newly built homes. When builders are optimistic about buyer demand, they build more homes, which helps balance the market and makes conditions better for all home buyers. The results of the NAHB’s most recent survey shows builders are confident in the market and reporting solid demand. In fact, on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders view conditions as good than poor, April’s Housing Market Index scored a 63. But, despite the strong showing, Robert Dietz, NAHB’s chief economist, says a shortage of construction workers and buildable lots is causing housing costs to rise. “Ongoing job growth, favorable demographics, and a low-interest rate environment will help to modestly spark sales growth in the near term,” Dietz said. “However, supply-side headwinds that are putting upward pressure on housing costs will limit more robust growth in the housing market.” More here.
In a perfect world, we’d all be able to buy a home that fulfills our wish list, is in great condition, and already has our preferred fixtures, features, and finishes. Of course, that isn’t the way things work. Buying a house requires compromise and, in some cases, a good strategy for how to fix the things you don’t like about a home you’re otherwise crazy about. Fortunately, if recent data is any indication, today’s home shoppers understand this and are realistic about their chances of finding the perfect home. For example, according to a new survey, nearly 60 percent of respondents said they’d consider a home that needs renovating and would be willing to spend more than $20,000 to get the job done. There are a number of reasons for the increasing number of home shoppers looking for a fixer-upper. For one, the limited number of entry-level homes for sale means buyers have to consider homes they may not have if they had more options. But beyond that, the popularity of home renovation TV shows and the fact that those who are considering a fixer-upper believe they’ll see a return on their investment also contribute to buyers’ willingness to take on a project. More here.
After finding a house to buy and having your offer accepted, the home buying process really kicks into gear. There are several steps that have to be cleared before a pending sale is completed and your loan has closed. For example, this is the time when the home will be inspected and appraised. It is also the period during which the financial side of the transaction will be finalized. This takes time, as anyone who’s been through the process before knows. But what about first-time home buyers? How long should they expect between making an offer and getting their keys? Well, according to Ellie Mae’s Millennial Tracker, the average time it took millennial borrowers to close conventional purchase loans in February was 44 days, which was slightly higher than the previous month. Joe Tyrrell, executive vice president of strategy and technology for Ellie Mae, says time to close is increasing as the share of home purchase loans grows. “The percentage of purchase loans is on the rise with millennials continuing to enter the home buying market for their first or maybe even second purchase,” Tyrrell said. “The increase in days-to-close we saw in February is relative to the percentage increase in purchases versus refinances, as purchases typically take longer to close.” More here.