Buying a newly constructed house from a builder is a little different than buying an older home from its owner. To start with, you aren’t able to choose from a list of upgrades and customizations when buying an existing home. You’re also entering a transaction with someone who has an attachment to the home they’re selling and probably a different set of motivations than a builder whose livelihood depends on making a profit. In other words, it can feel, to a buyer, like the process of visiting a builder’s sales office is so wholly different than buying an existing home that they may not need an experienced real estate agent to represent them. This, however, can be a mistake. After all, you’re still entering into a major financial transaction with many variables and risks. You’ll want to have someone with experience who can look after your best interests and make sure you’re getting the best deal. Otherwise, you’ll be working with a team employed directly by the builder you’re buying from. That doesn’t mean you won’t get a good deal but it does mean you’ll be the only one whose top priority is getting what you want at a fair price. More here.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates fell last week for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with both conforming and jumbo balances, as well as for loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration. Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, told CNBC the drop was driven by global economic events. “Strong inflation was overshadowed by ongoing trade tensions between the U.S. and China, along with concerns over Turkey’s currency situation. This helped push Treasury rates down by 3 basis points last week,” Kan said. But falling mortgage rates failed to bring more home buyers to the table. In fact, mortgage application demand for loans to buy homes was down last week. In short, Americans are interested in homeownership but may be hesitant to enter the market right now due to challenging conditions. Still, purchase application demand was just 3 percent below where it was last year at this time, when mortgage rates and prices were lower. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.
As everyone knows, real estate is mostly about location. What $500,000 buys you in one neighborhood will be far different than what it affords you in another. Put another way, your money will go a lot farther in the Midwest than it will on the West Coast. Which is why a recent analysis showing a growing number of cities where the median home value is $1 million or more isn’t quite what it initially seems. Though it’s true that the number of million dollar cities has doubled over the past five years and that, within a year, there will likely be 23 more, a closer look at where these cities are will help explain the numbers. That’s because most of those new million dollar cities are located in areas that are already among the most expensive in the country. For example, more than half of the new metros added will be in the areas surrounding major cities like Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Jose. Which means, while it still represents an increase in home values across the country, the growing number of million-dollar metros doesn’t necessarily reflect an acceleration in home price increases. More here.
It wasn’t long ago that the housing market suffered a foreclosure crisis. Homeowners saw their home values drop and were in the unfortunate position of owing more on their mortgage than their home was worth. Today, however, home prices have rebounded and, in some markets, surpassed previous highs. One sign of that recovery can be found in ATTOM Data Solutions’ Q2 2018 U.S. Home Equity & Underwater Report. The numbers show that there are far more homeowners who are equity rich – which ATTOM defines as owing 50 percent or less on your home’s estimated market value – than there are homeowners who are underwater. Daren Blomquist, senior vice president with ATTOM, says though there are more equity rich homeowners, the gains aren’t necessarily evenly distributed. “Nationwide the number of equity rich homeowners is more than twice the number of seriously underwater homeowners, but the gap between home equity haves and have-nots persists because home appreciation is certainly not uniform across local markets or even within local markets,” Blomquist said. More here.
You can tell a lot about the way an area grew by the age of its homes. The pace of suburban sprawl, for example, can be mapped just by observing the way homes get newer as you get further from the city’s center. Houses built in the 1920s give way to homes from the ’50s and ’60s and so on. But that’s not all you can learn from paying attention to the collective age of the country’s housing stock. You can also tell a lot about the housing market’s ups-and-downs. One example can be found in a recent analysis from the National Association of Home Builders. According to the NAHB, the median age of owner-occupied homes is now 37 years, which is up from 31 years in 2005. In fact, more than half of our homes were built before 1980 and 38 percent were built before 1970. In other words, America’s homes are getting older. But why? One reason is that there have been fewer new homes built over the past decade, mostly due to the housing crash and financial crisis. That has caused an increase in the median age of the housing stock. It also has caused a boost to the remodeling industry, as older homes require more renovations to keep up with new technology and features desired by home buyers. More here.
The current real-estate market suffers from a lack of inventory. Fewer available houses for sale has led to higher prices and more competition for the homes that are on the market. Part of the reason for this is fewer new homes were being built in the years following the housing crash. But what about current homeowners? Why haven’t more Americans been selling their homes and trading up in recent years? Well, according to Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s senior vice president and chief economist, affordability conditions may have something to do with it. Their most recent Home Purchase Sentiment Index found high home prices to be the most commonly cited reason for why Americans felt it was a good time to sell but not as good a time to buy. “A contributing factor to the low supply of existing homes for sale is that current owners are reluctant to trade up in a rising price market,” Duncan said. “Additionally, the shares of consumers citing favorable mortgage rates as a reason why it’s a good time to buy or sell a home both dropped to fresh survey lows.” But though trade-up buyers have been hesitant to sell, recent data has shown an uptick in the overall number of homes available to buy, which could indicate that things are beginning to change. More here.
The value of a particular house has to do with many different factors. The condition of the house, the location, the school district, supply, demand, and the surrounding neighborhood’s amenities are among some of the most well known. But a recent analysis has pinpointed another, less well known, factor that may help push prices upward. According to the study, areas that have stricter land-use regulations – such as density laws and permit review times – have seen much larger increases in home values compared to areas with less restrictive regulations. What does this mean? Well, it’s fairly simple. In areas where builders have a more difficult time building new homes because of local laws and procedures, fewer new homes get built. And, during times when there are a lower-than-normal number of existing homes available for sale, that can cause price increases to accelerate, as there will be more buyers than homes for sale. However, it’s important to note that the areas with the strictest land-use regulations also tend to be major coastal cities, where available lots are already hard to come by. In other words, there are a lot of factors that go into how a home is priced and the rate at which its value rises or falls. More here.
Naturally, home builders need to keep up with what buyers want. If they’re building homes without incorporating the features home buyers desire, they won’t be in business very long. And that’s why it’s good to check in with builders if you’re curious about the latest home design trends. For example, according to one recent survey conducted by home builder Ashton Woods, buyers no longer prefer an all-white kitchen. In fact, today’s home buyer is more likely to choose natural wood cabinets, with white cabinetry coming in second followed by distressed wood. Other trends cited in the survey include buyers’ desire for hobby rooms and home offices. Hobby rooms that provide a space for homeowners to pursue their favorite past time were named by 76 percent of participants, who said they’d pay extra for a home with a bonus space. Offices were similarly popular with large majorities of respondents. Today, we can work almost anywhere and that includes our homes. So it comes as no surprise that home builders are seeing an increase in the number of buyers who want a home office in their next house. Overall, respondents expressed a desire for customization, with two thirds saying they’d choose a builder who offers options over one that doesn’t. More here.
Your financial health isn’t really about how much money you make. It’s more about how much you have left over once you’ve paid all your bills. After all, if you make $1 million a month but also spend $1 million, you’re still struggling financially. And no one likes worrying about money. For that reason, a recent analysis took a look at the 50 biggest cities in the country and – based on household income, home prices, and cost of living – tried to determine where homeowners were able to live most comfortably. Fortunately, the results show that in 44 of the 50 cities included the average homeowner had money leftover at the end of the month. But surprisingly, the hardest places for Americans to put away a little extra cash weren’t necessarily the most expensive places to live. In fact, cities in the Midwest and South were among the toughest, rather than pricier areas on the coasts. For example, Detroit, Memphis, New Orleans, and Cleveland were four of the six cities where residents showed a negative balance. Philadelphia also made the list. The number one spot, however, was Miami, where a high cost of living and a low median income make it a tough place to save. More here.
Home buyers this year have faced higher prices, more competition, and rising mortgage rates. In short, it’s been a challenging year. But that’s not to say it isn’t a good time to buy a house. There are many reasons to be optimistic about homeownership, in fact – and a few that put current conditions in perspective. Take mortgage rates, for example. According to Freddie Mac, the long term average is 8.16 percent, which means today’s rates are still low historically. Also, home equity is increasing. In fact, it’s up 13% year-over-year. And rising home equity means today’s homeowners are seeing their investment grow. There is also evidence that market conditions may begin to improve. For one, new home construction has been making gains and that means more homes for buyers to choose from. It also means buyers should begin to see prices moderate and competition wane, as more new homes are built to meet today’s high level of buyer demand. In short, there are a lot of good reasons to be optimistic about buying a house this year, despite market challenges. More here.