Builders build the homes we buy and live in but they also serve another important purpose. They are a good barometer for where the real estate market is heading. After all, it’s their business to determine whether or not people are buying homes. So when builders are confident, there’s likely a good reason. According to the National Association of Home Builders’ most recent Housing Market Index, the reason this month is mortgage rates. The NAHB’s index measures builder confidence on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders view conditions as good than poor. In January, it increased two points to 58. Randy Noel, NAHB’s chairman, says it’s because there’s been a decline in mortgage rates over the past several weeks. “The gradual decline in mortgage rates in recent weeks helped to sustain builder sentiment,” Noel said. “Low unemployment, solid job growth, and favorable demographics should support housing demand in the coming months.” In other words, builders expect buyer demand to remain high going into this spring’s sales season. More here.
Spring is the busiest season for home buyers. So, naturally, there’s a lot of analysis of buying conditions as it approaches. Things like mortgage rates, the economy, prices, for-sale inventory, and buyer demand can all be used to get a feel for how busy or slow the season will be. One early sign came with this week’s Applications Survey from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The survey measures mortgage rate movement and also demand for refinance and home purchase loans. The most recent results show a significant surge in demand over the previous week. In fact, total mortgage loan demand was up 13.5 percent from one week earlier and requests for loans to buy homes was 11 percent higher than at the same time last year. Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s senior vice president and chief economist, said the spike might be a hopeful sign. “Uncertainty regarding the government shutdown, slowing global growth, Brexit, a more patient Fed, and a volatile stock market continued to keep rates from increasing,” Fratantoni said. “The spring home buying season is almost upon us, and if rates stay lower, inventory continues to grow, and the job market maintains its strength, we do expect to see a solid spring market.” More here.
When surveyed, Americans who currently don’t own a home consistently say they’d like to buy one someday. For example, the National Association of Realtors’ Housing Opportunities and Market Experience survey asked non-homeowners whether homeownership is part of their American Dream and 75 percent of respondents said it was. Which means, there are a lot of people who’d like to buy a home. So what are the main factors that influence their decision to buy now or wait? Well, it may come as no surprise that money leads the list. Most non-homeowners, when asked why they don’t currently own a home, said they couldn’t afford a mortgage. Other reasons included needing the flexibility that comes with renting and a lifestyle that wasn’t compatible with ownership. Similarly, when asked what might spur a future decision to buy, respondents said that having more money would motivate them to purchase a home. But an improved financial situation wasn’t the only thing that could encourage them to buy. An almost equal number of respondents said a lifestyle change like marriage or retirement might push them to pursue homeownership. More here.
Everybody knows buying a house is a major financial commitment. But you’re also committing your time. After all, if you’re purchasing a home, you’re likely thinking about staying awhile. But how long should you expect to live in the home you buy? Well, according to new numbers from First American, the length of time the average homeowner spends in their house is growing. In fact, it’s risen 10 percent in just the past year. Mark Fleming, First American’s chief economist, says there are a couple of reasons for this. “Just prior to the housing downturn in 2007, homeowners typically stayed in their homes for four years,” Fleming says. “In the aftermath of the housing market crash (2008-2016), median homeowner tenure increased to approximately seven years. Many people remained in their homes because their mortgage balances exceeded their property values during this time, so they would have lost money by selling their homes.” In the ensuing years, Americans who bought homes did so at a time when mortgage rates were at historic lows, giving them a reason to stay put longer. Combined those factors pushed median tenure length to 10 years by September of last year. That means, if you’re buying a house today, you may want to ask yourself whether it’ll still be the right house for you in a decade. More here.
Affordability conditions over the past few years have been largely held in check by low mortgage rates. Potential home buyers could absorb higher home prices, since job market improvement had them feeling confident in their income and rates were still hovering near historic lows. But though the most recent data shows rates have fallen over the past few weeks, last year brought the first significant increase since the housing crash. This has caused new concern about affordability. So how concerned should buyers be? Well one way to put current conditions in perspective is to look at what has been normal historically. The numbers show that, since 1970, mortgage rates have generally been much higher than they are today. In fact, during the ’70s, they ranged between 7 and 10 percent. In the early 1980s, they surged to almost 19 percent before settling back down. Since then, they’ve generally been between 6 and 10 percent until 2009. In other words, today’s mortgage rates are still well below historic norms, even with the past year’s increase. More here.
A recent survey asked 100 real estate economists and experts for their housing market predictions. And though they had varied views on topics like mortgage rates, home values, and who will be most active in the market in years to come, they almost unanimously agreed on just one thing. A full 88 percent of responding panelists said they expect that the homeownership rate would be higher in five years than it is now and an almost equal amount said it will be improved in just two years. Why is this important? Well, following the foreclosure crisis and housing crash, the homeownership rate – which had peaked in 2006 – began to fall. And while it fell just 6 percent from its high, and only 2 percent from its historical average, it was a reflection of growing uncertainty among Americans. In short, buying a house, which had traditionally been seen as part of achieving the American dream, had lost some of its appeal. Since then, however, both the homeownership rate and housing market confidence have begun to rebound. And, according to the survey, an influx of first-time home buyers over the next five years will help further improvement. More here.
Having a good idea what your home is worth is important for a couple of reasons. As a homeowner, knowing how much equity you have in your house can be useful when weighing your options with regard to refinancing or home equity loans. As a potential home seller, it’s even more important. That’s because, setting a fair price for your home will make a big difference in how it’s received by potential buyers. It can also save you some disappointment when it’s officially appraised. Since appraisers base the value of your home on what similar homes in the area have recently sold for, their estimation is going to reflect market conditions and won’t take into account your personal attachment to the property. For homeowners who have an inflated perception of their home’s worth, this can lead to disappointment. Fortunately, new numbers show that today’s homeowner has a fairly realistic view of home values. In fact, appraisal values in December were just 0.45 percent lower than what homeowners expected. This is an improvement over a couple of years ago, when homeowners believed their homes were worth nearly 1.5 percent more than their appraisal. More here.
For many years following the housing crash, home buying conditions were excellent. Home prices had plummeted and mortgage rates were at historic lows. It was a buyer’s market and a good deal for anyone who could take advantage. Unfortunately though, since prices had fallen so far, many homeowners who may have wanted to make a move couldn’t without selling their house for much less than they’d paid for it. But these days, those same homeowners have seen their home’s value rebound and maybe even exceed what it was before the crash. That means, though buying conditions aren’t what they were then, conditions have improved significantly for homeowners who are looking to sell. According to Fannie Mae’s monthly Home Purchase Sentiment Index – which measures Americans’ feelings about the housing market, economy, and their personal financial situation – survey respondents have noticed. The most recent results show an increase in the number of respondents who said it was a good time to sell. The flip side, of course, is that a decreasing number also said it was a good time to buy. More here.
That mortgage rates moved higher last year isn’t news to anyone that’s been thinking of buying a home. It seemed, just as home price increases started to slow, mortgage rates heated up. But, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s final Weekly Applications Survey of 2018, mortgage rates ended the year trending downward. The now weeks-long decline continued over the final two weeks of December and has now dropped rates to their lowest level since September of last year. But, though rates fell, demand for mortgage applications was also down. Joel Kan, MBA’s vice president of economic and industry forecasting, says demand for loans may have been affected by the government shutdown. “Even with lower borrowing costs, both purchase and refinance applications decreased over the two-week holiday period, as both conventional and government applications dropped,” Kan said. “Part of the decline in mortgage applications was possibly because of the government shutdown, as concerns over delays in FHA application processing times likely contributed to the weakness in activity.” Whatever the case, the fact that mortgage rate increases have cooled off is encouraging news for prospective buyers. More here.
Living close to family and friends is a priority for most home buyers. It consistently ranks high on the list of things buyers say they want in their next place. For that reason, most of us tend to stay close to home. But that’s not to say there aren’t Americans looking to make a move that takes them a bit further away. In fact, there are many reasons someone might want to shop for a home outside of their immediate neighborhood, including a new job opportunity or retirement. But where are the most popular destination for out-of-state movers? Well, according to United Van Lines 42nd Annual National Movers Study, Vermont is the state with the highest percentage of inbound moves. But though the Northeastern state leads the list, most of the states seeing a high percentage of out-of-state migration are in the South and West. States like Oregon, North Carolina, Nevada, Washington, South Dakota, and Arizona are attracting more Americans than location in the Midwest and Northeast. Michael Stoll, an economist and professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, says there are reasons these places are more popular. “The data collected by United Van Lines aligns with longer-term migration patterns to southern and western states, trends driven by factors like job growth, lower costs of living, state budgetary challenges, and more temperate climates,” Stoll said. More here.