What Are The Best Cities For Dogs?

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.

Mortgage Rate Drop Stirs Up Demand

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates fell last week 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. The decline was significant and caused demand for loan applications to surge. In fact, refinance activity was up 39 percent week-over-week and purchase demand rose 3 percent from one week earlier. Demand for loans to buy homes is now 10 percent higher than at the same time a year ago. Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, said some loan types have seen rates drop to their lowest levels in more than a year. “There was a tremendous surge in overall applications activity, as mortgage rates fell for the fourth week in a row – with rates for some loan types reaching their lowest levels since January 2018,” Kan said. News of favorable rates comes at the right time for potential spring home buyers and will help relieve some of the affordability concerns that caused buyer traffic to slow last fall. More here.

Younger Buyers Buying More Multi-Generational Homes

Where you are in life will determine what type of home you shop for when it comes time to buy a house. For example, first-time home buyers – because they tend to be younger and at the beginning of their careers – buy smaller homes and then trade up to a bigger house when they make more money, have more children, etc. But societal changes affect your choice of home as well. How? Well, a recent survey from the National Association of Realtors provides an answer. Their 2019 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study found that Gen X home buyers have recently surpassed younger baby boomers as the generation most likely to buy a multi-generational home. And, the majority of them did so because their adult children had either moved back in with them or never left home. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says there are some obvious societal factors driving this trend. “The high cost of rent and lack of affordable housing inventory is sending adult children back to their parents’ homes either out of necessity or an attempt to save money,” Yun said. But though it may seem like a negative development, it does provide younger millennials who live with their parents the ability to save for homeownership and gain some financial stability before buying their first house. More here.

New Home Sales Hit An 11-Month High

New numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development show new home sales reached an 11-month high in February. In fact, sales rose 4.9 percent over the previous month, beating economists’ expectations and rising above numbers from last year at the same time. There was also a revision to January’s estimate, which added nearly 30,000 sales to initial reports. Regionally, new home sales surged in the Midwest and Northeast, while remaining relatively flat in the South and West. Overall, the numbers were encouraging, as it shows home buyers are returning to the market after rising mortgage rates slowed activity last fall. Since then, however, rates have retreated and, according to recent data, buyers have taken notice and demand for homes is increasing. If softening prices and steady mortgage rates continue through the spring and summer season, home buyers can expect to find improved affordability conditions and a better balanced market. Also in the report, the median sales price of new homes sold in February was $315,300, which is a 3.6 percent drop from last year. More here.

Majority Of Buyers Say Prices Have Hit Their Peak

As home prices have recovered over the past several years, prospective buyers have become increasingly concerned about affordability conditions. After all, buying a home is a major financial commitment and getting less house for your money isn’t ideal. But things may be changing. In fact, a recent survey of active home shoppers found that a majority think prices may have hit their peak. According to the results, 56 percent of respondents said they don’t expect prices to climb any further. That’s good news for buyers, as slowing prices and steadier mortgage rates would help improve affordability conditions. But though home shoppers were confident that prices wouldn’t go much higher, they also expressed concern that a recession was on its way – with 30 percent of participants expecting it to begin sometime next year. Danielle Hale, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors’ consumer website – who commissioned the survey – says home shoppers may be expecting a recession but it hasn’t made them pessimistic about the housing market. “When the U.S. enters its next recession, it is unlikely that the housing market will see a sharp nationwide downturn,” Hale said. “The same record low inventory levels that have made buying a home so difficult recently, will likely protect home prices in the next recession.” More here.

Contracts To Buy Homes Stall In February

Contracts to buy homes fell 1 percent in February from the month before, according to new numbers from the National Association of Realtors. The decline follows a strong showing in January and was primarily felt in the Midwest, where pending sales activity fell 7.2 percent. The South and West saw increases. Pending sales are important because they track contracts, not closings. That means, they can be a good indicator of what home sales numbers will look like a month or so from now. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says February’s decline isn’t a concern but sales have fallen behind last year’s pace. “In January, pending contracts were up close to 5 percent, so this month’s 1 percent drop is not a significant concern,” Yun said. “As a whole, these numbers indicate that a cyclical low in sales is in the past but activity is not matching the frenzied pace of last spring.” But while February buyers weren’t as active as last year at the same time, conditions are settling and could bring out more buyers as the season moves along. In fact, Yun says he doesn’t anticipate any interest rate increases from the Fed this year, which should keep mortgage rates favorable and help take some pressure off home buyers. More here.

Falling Mortgage Rates Kick Season Into Gear

According to the Mortgage Bankers Associations Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates were down across all loan categories last week, including rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with both conforming and jumbo balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate loans. The decline coincided with a surge in demand for mortgage applications. In fact, refinance activity was up 12 percent over the previous week and the purchase index rose 6 percent. Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, says the spring season is off to a good start. “The spring buying season is off to a strong start,” Kan said. “Rates dropped across all loan types, and the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is now more than 70 basis points below last November’s peak. The average loan size increased once again to new highs for both purchase and refinance loans, as borrowers with – or seeking – larger loans tend to be more reactive to the drop in rates.” The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

Which Home Projects Bring Biggest Return?

If you’re a prospective home seller, you’re probably thinking about upgrades, renovations, and remodeling projects. Making your home appealing to buyers is important when it’s time to sell. But how do you choose which projects are smartest for your money? Well, according to a recent analysis, there are some easy answers. For example, though kitchens are one of the more important rooms in the house, they aren’t necessarily the best place to start upgrading. Why? Well, because they’re so central to the way we live, they also involve a lot of individual preferences. Which means, potential buyers may not agree with your choices. And, since it’s an expensive job that may not help lure buyers, it doesn’t offer much bang for your buck. A better route is to go with exterior projects like landscaping or new paint. They’re less expensive but go a long way. Also, a modest bathroom update. Replacing the toilet, tub, sink, and fixtures can make your home more appealing to buyers and won’t break the bank. More here.

Some Big Homes Are Having Trouble Selling

Like anything else, residential architecture is affected by the popular trends of the day. But unlike most other things, homes last a very long time. So houses built to fit the lifestyle of people living in the 1940s and ’50s are still being bought and sold in 2019. Now, in most cases, an older home’s quirks are considered charming or even sought after by buyers. But what about homes whose time period is unpopular? Well, according to one recent article, this can be a problem. For example, in the early 2000s, mini-mansions were the fad and baby boomers – with easy access to credit – built huge houses intending to live out their retirement in dream homes equipped with all of the day’s most popular features. But now, those homes are beginning to hit the market and are having trouble selling. Why? For one, today’s buyers prefer smaller more modern homes rather than the lavish, ornate styles popular earlier this century. Another problem is the size. Since they are big and located in desirable areas, these homes are expensive and, in most cases, too expensive for most buyers. Unfortunately, it looks like the problem will grow, as baby boomer homeowners grow older and look to sell their current homes in favor of downsizing. More here.

Home Sales Surge In February, Up Nearly 12%

New numbers from the National Association of Realtors prove home buyers are excited to get the spring season started. With a nearly 12 percent increase in the number of previously owned homes sold compared to the month before, February was the largest month-over-month improvement since 2015. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says there’s a combination of factors helping push home sales upward. “A powerful combination of lower mortgage rates, more inventory, rising income, and higher consumer confidence is driving the sales rebound,” Yun said. And though home prices were 3.6 percent higher than they were at the same time last year, inventory was also up. If the improvement continues, it’ll help moderate future price increases. Yun says more new home construction is needed. “For sustained growth, significant construction of moderately priced homes is still needed,” he said. “More construction will help boost local economies and more home sales will help lessen wealth inequality as more households can enjoy in housing wealth gains.”According to Yun, the typical homeowner accumulated nearly $9,000 in housing equity over the past 12 months. More here.