Will Your Next Home Be Bigger Or Smaller?

Over the past 40 years, the typical new home has grown about 1,000 square feet. It seems, for American homeowners, their current home is always smaller than the home they hope to one day buy. But is that always the case? Well, not according to a recent survey from Trulia. Sure, the results show just 32 percent of homeowners say they’d move into a house the same size as the one they currently own. But whether that’s because they feel their house is too big or too small depends on some other factors. Generally, older homeowners and people currently living in homes larger than 2,000 square feet say they’d prefer to downsize, while younger buyers and those living in smaller homes dream of a bigger house. Most of that makes perfect sense. For example, older homeowners may prefer a smaller house due to the maintenance and upkeep issues that a bigger home presents. But when the number of people who say they’d prefer a smaller house rises along with the square footage of their current home, it suggest that there may be, in fact, a point when a house has more space than necessary, regardless of your age. In short, though new homes may keep getting bigger, whether or not you want one probably has more to do with the size of your family, your financial situation, and future life goals. More here.

Americans Feel Good About The Housing Market

Each month, Fannie Mae uses the results of their National Housing Survey to determine Americans’ views about housing market conditions and their personal economic outlook. The resulting Home Purchase Sentiment Index breaks down consumers’ responses about the state of their financial prospects, whether or not they feel it is a good time to buy or sell a house, and whether they think home prices and mortgage rates will rise or fall. In February, the index hit a new high and saw five of its six components increase. In fact, the number of respondents who said now was a good time to buy a house was up 11 percent, while 7 percent more participants said it was a good time to sell than did the month before. Increasing optimism was especially noticeable among younger buyers, according to Fannie Mae’s senior vice president and chief economist, Doug Duncan. “Millennials showed especially strong increases in job confidence and income gains, a necessary precursor for increased housing demand from first-time home buyers,” Duncan said in a press release. “Preliminary research results from our team find that millennials are accelerating the rate at which they move out of their parents’ homes and form new households.” More here.

What New Homeowners Say They’d Do Differently

Buying a house is no small purchase. So you definitely don’t want to find yourself regretting your choice after you’ve signed the papers and settled in. But though we all know it’s an important decision and one to be taken seriously, a lot of new homeowners say they’d do things differently if they had the chance to go through the buying process all over again. This is especially true for younger buyers, according to a new survey from NerdWallet. In fact, outside of baby boomers, a majority of recent buyers said they had regrets. So what are the main things that recent buyers said they’d change if they could? Well, nearly 30 percent of participants said they’d save more money before beginning the buying process. This is likely true for a number of reasons. Among them, the most obvious is the down payment. Though you don’t need to have a 20 percent down payment, the less you invest upfront the more you’ll pay on a monthly basis. In other words, the more you save, the better. Respondents also said they’d have done more research before buying a house. Buyers said they wished they had learned more in advance about both getting a mortgage and the home buying process. More here.

The Absolute Best Time To List Your Home

Though it’s commonly said that spring is the most popular time for home buyers to begin looking at houses, a new analysis has narrowed it down even further. In fact, the Zillow Group Report on Consumer Housing Trends pinpointed the best two weeks of the year to list a house. The study found that homes listed between May 1st and 15th sold nine days faster than the average listing. Additionally, homes that were listed during that time frame sold for 1 percent above average. However, you may not be able to expect the same success if you’re selling a house in an area with a warmer climate. That’s because, regions where the weather doesn’t change as drastically from season to season will see less variation in sale price. According to Zillow’s chief economist, Dr. Svenja Gudell, there’s one possible reason homes listed near the end of April or beginning of May do so well. “Many home buyers who started looking for homes in the early spring will still be searching for their dream home months later,” Gudell said. “By May, some buyers may be anxious to get settled into a new home – and will be more willing to pay a premium to close a deal.” The report also found that homes listed on a Saturday got 20 percent more views in their first week than those listed earlier in the week. More here.

Mortgage Rates Mixed In Latest Survey

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates were up and down last week. For example, rates for 30-year fixed-rate loans with conforming balances fell, while jumbo loans moved up slightly. On the other hand, mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration saw a decline and rates for 15-year fixed-rate loans were unchanged from the week before. But despite the fact that rates remained within a fairly steady range last week, demand for mortgage applications was down overall. Refinance activity fell to an eight-year low – mostly due to mortgage rates moving higher over the past few months. At the same time, purchase activity is 3 percent higher than it was at the same time last year, though down from the week before. In other news from the MBA, mortgage credit availability increased for the fifth consecutive month in January. That’s good news for prospective buyers. When lending standards are easing, it makes it more likely that qualified home buyers will be approved for a loan. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

Home Price Index Shows Continued Gains

Home prices were up 5.6 percent year-over-year, according to the latest results from the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Indices. Considered the leading measure of U.S. home values, the index found prices relatively flat month-over-month but up on an annual basis. Seattle, Portland, and Denver reported the sharpest increases but, in total, eight of the 20 included cities saw greater gains than they did over the same period one year earlier. David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, says home prices have fully recovered after years of volatility. “With the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index rising at about 5.5 percent annual rate over the last two-and-a-half years and having reached a new all-time high recently, one can argue that housing has recovered from the boom-bust cycle that began a dozen years ago,” Blitzer said in a press release. “The recovery has been supported by a few economic factors: low interest rates, falling unemployment, and consistent gains in per-capita disposable personal income.” Blitzer added that continued personal income and employment gains could boost demand for housing even further this year. More here.

Pending Home Sales Rise In December

When a buyer signs a contract to purchase a home, it is referred to as a pending sale because it usually takes a few weeks before the transaction closes and the house is considered officially sold. Since most of these transactions end in a sold house, the National Association of Realtors tracks them as a way of predicting the number of final sales that will be seen in coming months. In December, the NAR found pending sales up 1.6 percent from the month before. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says the year ended on a high note. “Pending sales rebounded last month as enough buyers fended off rising mortgage rates and alarmingly low inventory levels to sign a contract,” Yun said. “The main storyline in the early months of 2017 will be if supply can meaningfully increase to keep price growth at a moderate enough level for households to absorb higher borrowing costs.” Yun also points out that home sales figures vary depending on the price of the house. For example, sales of homes above $250,000 were up 10 percent over the year before in December. By comparison, sales of homes under $100,000 fell 11.6 percent. This indicates that there are more homes for sale at the higher end of the market than there are at more affordable levels. However, an expected increase in the number of new homes built this year could help balance the market, offering buyers more choices and helping to moderate future price increases on existing homes. More here.

House Payment Less Than Rent In Most Markets

An analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that a monthly house payment – including mortgage, property taxes, and insurance – is more affordable than rent in 66 percent of the 540 counties included in the report. The 2017 Rental Affordability Report, released by ATTOM Data Solutions, shows that buying a house remains an affordable choice for Americans in most markets. Daren Blomquist, senior vice president of ATTOM, says that can change quickly, however. “While buying continues to be more affordable than renting in the majority of U.S. markets, that equation could change quickly if mortgage rates keep rising in 2017,” Blomquist said. “In that scenario, renters who have not yet made the leap to homeownership will find it even more difficult to make the leap this year.” Still, rent is rising faster than home prices in nearly 40 percent of U.S. housing markets, which could make the choice between buying and renting a close call even with higher mortgage rates. To gauge the affordability of renting versus buying, the report compared fair market rent on a three-bedroom property to the monthly house payment on a median-priced home in the 540 counties with more than 900 home sales. More here.

Home Buyers Not Deterred By Higher Rates

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, mortgage rates increased last week but, despite higher rates, so did demand for mortgage loan applications. In fact, the number of Americans requesting applications for loans to buy homes was up 6 percent from the week before, reaching its highest level since last June. Lynn Fisher, MBA’s vice president of research and economics, said wage growth may be softening the effects of higher interest rates. “Although it is still early in the home buying season, purchase activity remains on par with a year ago, suggesting that recent wage growth of nearly 3 percent is helping to offset the increase in interest rates,” Fisher told CNBC. “This trend is also consistent with other reports of home buying activity.” Still, higher rates have slowed refinance activity, which was essentially flat from the week before. That may be due to the fact that mortgage rates rose for the first time this month and were up across all loan categories – including 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances, 15-year loans, and loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration. The MBA’s survey has been conducted weekly since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential loan applications. More here.

Existing Home Sales Have Best Year Since 2006

In 2016, sales of previously owned homes reached their highest level in 10 years, according to new estimates from the National Association of Realtors. A combination of low mortgage rates and an improving economy helped push sales higher than the year before. Still, they remain about 1 million short of where they were in 2006. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says conditions were favorable for most of the year but December sales declined from the month before. “Solid job creation throughout 2016 and exceptionally low mortgage rates translated into a good year for the housing market,” Yun said. “However, higher mortgage rates and home prices combined with record low inventory levels stunted sales in much of the country in December.” In fact, sales were down 2.8 percent from November, though they remain 0.7 percent higher than they were a year earlier. Still, lower-than-normal inventory levels mean prices could continue to see upward pressure unless more homeowners put their homes up for sale or new home construction ramps up this year. Also in the report, home prices rose 4 percent from December 2015 and inventory has now fallen year-over-year for 19 consecutive months. More here.