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. More here.
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.
There are many ways to gauge the housing market. You can follow home prices and mortgage rates, buyer traffic and sales, new home construction, or access to credit. But, if you’re a potential home buyer or seller, there may be no better indicator than inventory. That’s because, it’s an easy way to determine whether or not the market favors buyer or sellers. When there are too few homes for sale, buyers have to compete for available homes, which leads to higher home prices. When there are too many homes for sale, the pressure’s on sellers, who have to make sure their home is attractively priced. Typically, inventory is measured by how long it would take to sell the homes currently for sale. A six-month supply is considered a balanced market. Recently, inventory has been low. But new data shows a dramatic improvement. For example, one analysis found that the number of metropolitan areas with less than three months of available inventory has fallen to 3.1 percent from 12.6 percent last year. It also found that two-thirds of metros now have between four and eight months of remaining inventory, which is considered healthy. Overall, the numbers indicate that the housing market is far better balanced than it was during last year’s sales season. More here.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, the number of Americans requesting applications for loans to buy homes is now 13 percent higher than it was at the same time last year. The improvement comes during a week when average mortgage rates increased. In fact, rates were up 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. Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s senior vice president and chief economist, says though rates increased, they’re still lower than they were at the end of last year. “Mortgage rates inched back up last week, but remain substantially lower than they were in the second half of last year,” Fratantoni said. “As quickly as refinance activity increased in recent weeks, it backed down again in response to the rise in rates. However, this spring’s lower borrowing costs, coupled with the strong job market, continue to push purchase application volume much higher.” The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.
The typical home seller lives in their house for more than a decade before they put it up for sale. And during that 10 years, there are probably a few things they let go. So it’s no surprise that the vast majority of them feel the need to fix their place up before putting in on the market. In fact, according to one recent analysis, nearly 80 percent of home sellers complete one home improvement project before they invite potential buyers to have a look. This can include anything from a fresh coat of paint to a bathroom remodel. Fortunately, the money sellers spend sprucing up their home often helps them sell it for more than their asking price. So, if you’re thinking about selling, how much should you expect to spend on home improvement projects? Well, the national average is $6,570, though it does depend a lot on where you are. For example, in San Francisco, sellers usually spend closer to $8,000, while in St. Louis the cost is under $4,000. Wherever you are, though, it’s good to consider not only what needs to be repaired and refreshed but also which projects are most likely to provide some return on your investment. More here.
Spring is typically the season when housing market activity picks up. And this year – after a slow fall and winter that saw mortgage rates rising and affordability concerns increasing – the spring sales forecast has been a question mark. Will home buyers stay on the sidelines convinced that there are better conditions ahead or will they see declining rates and an increasing number of homes for sale as a sign that it’s a good time to buy? Well, according to Fannie Mae’s most recent Home Purchase Sentiment Index, Americans are feeling more optimistic and just in time for the market to heat up. Results show a 7 percent increase in the number of respondents who said it was a good time to buy a home and a 13 percent increase in the number who think it’s a good time to sell. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s senior vice president and chief economist, says things are trending in the right direction. “A brighter housing market outlook drove this month’s increase in the HPSI – a welcome sign from consumers as we enter the spring and summer home buying seasons,” Duncan said. “The results further corroborate the positive effect of falling mortgage rates on affordability, which we expect will help support a rebound in home sales.” More here.
No matter how much money you have, you still have to make choices about how to spend it. Spending too much on one thing means not having as much for another. This is simple budgeting. And, since your mortgage will likely be among your biggest monthly bills, you’ll want to give some thought to how much of your income you’d be comfortable putting toward it. Conventional wisdom says you shouldn’t spend more than 30 percent of your income on housing. But historically, Americans’ mortgage payments have been closer to 21 percent of their income. These days, it’s even lower. At the end of last year, the mortgage payment on a typical home required about 17.5 percent of the median income, according to a recent analysis. But that, of course, also depends on where you live. For example, the percentage you’d spend on a mortgage payment in Cleveland is about half of what the typical New Yorker spends. Wherever you are, though, giving some consideration to your household expenses, income, and prospective payment before heading out to find a house will help you avoid buying more than you can comfortably afford. More here.
There’s a long list of things you need to consider when looking for a house to buy. Whether it’s the size of the kitchen, the number of bedrooms, or just what condition its in, there’s no shortage of considerations. And, for people with dogs, a home that’s a good fit for their furry friend is definitely among them. Dogs have needs too. And, since they’re a part of the family, those needs will have an impact on which house you choose. For example, having an outdoor space – whether it’s a fenced in yard or a nearby dog park – is important for dog owners who will need a place to go for walks and exercise. A house that works in every other way may be less attractive if it lacks enough space for your pet. So what are the cities that are best for dog owners? Well, a recent analysis looked at 14,000 cities across the country and calculated their dog-friendliness by focusing in on factors like how many homes for sale had a listing mentioning dogs, walkability ratings, and the number of available dog sitters/walkers. The top 20 included places like Portland, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Houston, and Atlanta, with big metropolises like New York and San Francisco leading in walk scores. The top spot for dog friendliness, though, went to Seattle, which lead the list in pet-friendly features. More here.