Conventional wisdom has it that if you find a home equipped with the latest eco-friendly features it’s going to cost you significantly more than one without. After all, energy-efficiency and green-home technologies have become more popular with prospective home buyers in recent years. But though that’s commonly thought, new research says it’s not necessarily true. In fact, in some markets, homes with eco-friendly features such as solar panels, smart thermostats or bamboo floors don’t sell for much more than the median home price. According to the National Association of Realtors’ consumer website, for example, green homes in the Dallas metro area sell for about four percent more than the median. But in Fort Collins, Colo., there is virtually no difference in home price. Among the reasons for this is the fact that green-home features are becoming more common in markets across the country. While they’re still more prevalent in the South and West, they are becoming increasingly incorporated into homes as buyers recognize the benefits of energy-efficient systems and smart-home technology. More here.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, demand for loans to buy homes spiked 6 percent last week and is now 10 percent higher than at the same time last year. The increase was part of an overall gain in mortgage demand that may be a signal that the spring home buying season is ramping up. The improvement may have also been due to relatively flat mortgage rates from the previous week. In fact, average rates were virtually unmoved for 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances, as well as 15-year mortgages. Joel Kan, an MBA economist, told CNBC competing economic factors kept rates steady. “Rates were roughly flat compared to last week, as the downward pressure of geopolitical uncertainty offset the upward pressure of higher inflation and Fed minutes that signaled greater certainty of rate hikes this year,” Kan said. Regardless of the reason, steady mortgage rates and elevated demand are good signs for the housing market as it enters its busiest season. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.
Making big decisions quickly is not usually a recipe for success. However, in today’s housing market, that’s exactly what home buyers have to do. That’s because homes are selling faster than ever these days. In fact, according to a recent analysis, the average home took 81 days to sell last year. And that includes closing, which usually takes four to six additional weeks. In other words, since many markets have more buyers than they do available homes, houses for sale are selling fast. So what should buyers do to prepare for possible competition? Well, for starters, adjust your expectations. A recent report from Zillow found the average buyer spends just over four months searching for a home and makes two offers before successfully buying a house. That means, expect a process. Outside of that, be prepared. Get prequalified, know what you want, what you want to spend, and what your dealbreakers are. The more prepared you are, the more likely you’ll make good decisions, even if they have to be made quickly. More here.
Home builders are a good gauge of what is going on in the housing market. After all, their business depends on knowing whether or not Americans are interested in buying a house. And so, the National Association of Home Builders tracks builder confidence as a way of measuring how much demand there is for new homes today and over the next six months. In April, builder confidence dropped a point from the month before but remains high, due to expectations for the spring and summer season. “Ongoing employment gains, rising wages, and favorable demographics should spur demand for single-family homes in the months ahead,” NAHB chief economist, Robert Dietz, says. “The minor dip in builder confidence this month is likely due to winter weather effects, which may be slowing housing activity in some pockets of the country. As we head into the spring home buying season, we can expect the market to continue to make gains at a gradual pace.” In short, economic conditions are fueling Americans’ desire to buy a home and, as the buying season begins, builders expect increasing interest. More here.
Money is the top factor when it comes time to decide whether to rent or buy. After all, buying a home comes with several upfront costs that can make it a challenge if you don’t already have some money set aside. So with recent gains in the economy and job market, it’d be natural to expect that Americans are feeling more financially secure and, therefore, also more ready to buy a house. But while buyer demand has been high recently, new research from Freddie Mac shows an increasing number of renters who say they’d prefer to keep renting. Why is that? Well, one reason is the perception that buying a home has become less affordable. “Perceptions of affordability and cost continue to play an outsized role in the choices of America’s renters, as they overwhelmingly see renting as more affordable and the right choice for them – right now,” says David Brickman, executive vice president and head of Freddie Mac Multifamily. In short, Americans who rent feel their economic situation has improved but are still hesitant to buy due to a perception that homeownership is out of their reach. More here.
Pretty much anywhere you go there are parts of town that are more affordable than others. There are areas known for starter homes that attract young families and other parts where the homes come with higher price tags and significantly more square footage. Which part of town you end up buying a house in will be determined, in part, by what works for your lifestyle. But your budget and bottom line will ultimately have final say. Currently, with home prices and mortgage rates both trending upward, it may seem like there are fewer and fewer areas with affordable homes to choose from. This, however, is not entirely true. In fact, according to new numbers from ATTOM Data Solutions’ Q1 2018 U.S. Home Affordability Report, 59 percent of the 446 counties they analyzed were more affordable than their historic average. Furthermore, 27 percent of those counties actually posted a year-over-year increase in affordability – meaning prices were more affordable this year than last. Counties where this was true included Cook County (Chicago), Illinois; Harris County (Houston), Texas; Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona; Orange County, California; and Kings County (Brooklyn), New York. In short, though affordability conditions may have worsened generally, it’s always smart to look into what prices are doing in the neighborhoods that most appeal to you. More here.
After finding a house to buy and making an offer, one of the next steps in the process is to get the home professionally inspected. This is done for a couple of reasons. One, it provides the home’s buyer with necessary information about the health and upkeep of the home’s various systems. But, additionally, it can be used to negotiate a fair price for the home. For example, if you made an offer on a house, then discovered during the inspection there were issues that might mean costly repairs, your offer could then be renegotiated to account for the previously unknown problem. In short, getting the house inspected is an important protection for buyers, who likely don’t have the expertise to thoroughly evaluate things like the home’s plumbing and electrical systems. But more than just a checklist, the inspection is also a good opportunity for buyers to get to know the house they’re buying and learn more about the condition of the home and the steps they’ll need to take to maintain it. For that reason, it’s a good idea, if possible, for buyers to be present during the inspection, so they can ask questions and get tips on properly caring for their new home. More here.
Every month, Fannie Mae surveys Americans to better understand how they view the housing market, their personal finances, and the overall economy. Their Home Purchase Sentiment Index is a measure of how people around the country feel about buying or selling a home. And, according to the most recent results, they currently feel like it’s time to buy. In fact, there was a 10 percent increase in the number of respondents who said they felt like it was the right time compared to February’s survey. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s senior vice president and chief economist, says sentiment has been volatile lately. “The HPSI’s recent run of volatility continued in March, as it recovered last month’s loss and remained within the five-point range of the past twelve months,” Duncan said. “The primary driver of this month’s increase was the sizable rise in the net share of consumers who think it’s a good time to buy a home, which returned the indicator to its year-ago level.” Boosted optimism about buying a house may be due to the spring buying season or perhaps a feeling among potential buyers that affordability conditions may worsen if they wait. More here.
Mortgage rates have been increasing lately and there is an expectation that they will move higher this year. But while home prices get a lot of attention, rising mortgage rates are a little more difficult for buyers to calculate in terms of what it will cost them. Here’s some help. According to one recent model, a less than one percent increase in mortgage rates over the next year would result in a $100 increase to the typical monthly mortgage payment. But since the costs of homeownership are influenced by many different factors, this projection has to make certain assumptions about things like the rate at which home prices will increase, for example. In other words, any increase to mortgage rates will cost home buyers but just how much is difficult to calculate precisely. So what should home buyers expect? Well, since a stronger economy and improved job market make it more likely that the Fed will raise interest rates further this year, buyers should expect that mortgage rates will remain low by historical standards but continue to edge higher, taking monthly mortgage payments higher along with them. More here.