Buying a house is a major financial transaction no matter where you live. But just how big the transaction is largely depends on where you’re buying. From one neighborhood to the next, affordability conditions can change. And when comparing metropolitan areas, that change can be even more drastic. For example, a recent analysis of metro areas looked at median incomes and median home prices in an effort to determine the country’s most affordable cities. The results show that Detroit is the most affordable city in the country. In Detroit, a family can purchase the area’s median-priced home while earning just $26,690 per year. And, since the area’s median income is $56,339, buying a home is well within reach. Detroit joins cities like Rochester, Buffalo, and Dayton on the most affordable list. On the flip side, San Francisco was ranked as the least affordable metro. In San Francisco, the median-priced home is $1.42 million, which means you’d need to earn $265,000 per year in order to comfortably afford to buy. More here.
After spiking at the end of last year, mortgage rates have spent most of this year falling. Now they’re, once again, a motivating factor for potential home buyers. But they’re also good for existing homeowners. So much so that Fannie Mae’s latest outlook sees a refinance boom ahead. “Mortgage rates are approaching their lowest level in recent decades, and as they have moved lower, more and more homeowners are finding incentive to refinance,” Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s senior vice president and chief economist, said. “We estimate that 35 percent of outstanding mortgages are now ‘in the money,’ meaning borrowers may realize significant cost savings by refinancing; as such, we expect the share of refinance originations to grow through the remainder of the year.” However, though favorable rates are helping to increase refinance activity, the purchase mortgage market may not see the same boost. That’s because, a lower-than-normal number of homes available for sale means hopeful home buyers may have difficulty finding a home to buy unless inventory picks up. More here.
Home builders have a unique perspective on the housing market. Their business depends on knowing when and where people will be looking for homes. Because of this, they have to be able to read where the market is headed. That’s why the National Association of Home Builders conducts a monthly survey measuring their confidence in the market for newly built homes. In August, the NAHB’s index scored a 66 on a scale where any number above 50 means more builders see conditions as good than poor. In short, home builders are feeling confident because of rising demand and lower mortgage rates. And, according to the index component gauging expectations for the next six months, they expect things to remain largely positive, despite remaining affordability concerns. Robert Dietz, NAHB’s chief economist, says interest in new homes is particularly strong among buyers looking for a smaller more affordable home. “Although affordability headwinds remain a challenge, demand is good and growing at lower price points and for smaller homes,” Dietz said. More here.
The latest Housing Trend report from the National Association of Realtors’ consumer website is a mix of good and bad news. For example, the report shows that the number of Americans who feel now is a good time to buy a house has risen. Driven by falling mortgage rates, more potential home buyers are hitting the market. But while that’s good news – as it means affordability conditions have improved and it’s motivating buyers – it also puts pressure on inventory levels. Inventory refers to the number of homes available for sale. Right now, inventory is lower than normal in many markets, though it has seen improvement. In fact, there’ve been 10 months of consecutive growth, which has helped balance the market, slow price increases, and give buyers more choices. But, if the number of interested buyers increases at a faster rate than the number of homes for sale, it could reverse that trend and cause price increases to accelerate. This is an important factor to keep an eye on, as it will determine what conditions prospective buyers and sellers encounter when it’s time for them to make a move. More here.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates fell across all loan categories last week, 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 drop brought rates to their lowest level since November 2016 and caused a surge in refinance activity. In fact, the Refinance Index was up 37 percent from the previous week and 196 percent higher than the same week one year ago. Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, says refinance activity – which is more responsive to rate fluctuations – has spiked the past two weeks. “In just the last two weeks, rates have decreased 15 basis points and the refinance index has increased more than 50 percent, reaching its highest level since July 2016,” Kan said. But while low rates have motivated homeowners to refinance, they’ve also boosted loans to buy homes. Last week, demand for purchase applications was 12 percent higher than last year at the same time. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.
For most buyers, finding a house that doesn’t require a major renovation is a priority. After going through the buying process, moving, and settling in, few of us want to immediately get started on a huge home improvement project. But even if the house you buy is in perfect shape, it’ll require maintenance. Eventually, you may even want to make some changes, redo the bathroom, or remodel the kitchen. According to one recent survey from Freedom Debt Relief, 69 percent of homeowners plan on renovating their home in the next five years. That means, the majority of homeowners will be taking on a home improvement project in the near future. But how will they pay for it? The survey’s results show nearly 75 percent of them plan on taking on debt to do it. Michael Micheletti, director of corporate communications for Freedom Debt Relief, says homeowners should think carefully before funding their home projects with debt. “Homeowners would be wise to save as much as possible, and look at their overall financial position before taking on even more debt – debt that could disrupt their bigger financial picture,” Micheletti said. More here.
Work is a fact of life. For the vast majority of us, it’s unavoidable. After all, unless you’re independently wealthy, you probably need to work for a living. And if you do, you most likely want to live fairly close to where you do it. But do most people work where they want to live or live where they found work? Well, according to one new study, 81 percent of survey respondents said they moved because they found a new job. That means, for most movers, finding somewhere to live close to the office was part of the reason they changed their address. Among these movers, the top industries they relocated to work in were technology, finance and insurance, education, medical and health care, and manufacturing. Conversely, the share of movers who said they found somewhere to live, then looked for a job, came in at 62 percent. But what is the wisest move for you? Well, that depends. However, if you’re considering moving for a job, you should know that 25 percent of survey participants who moved for work said they regretted relocating for a job. More here.
Competition can sometimes be fun. But shopping for a house to buy isn’t one of those times. When it comes to buying a home, competition usually leads to stress and disappointment. That’s why data from one new national report is good news for potential home buyers. According to the report, the housing market is far less competitive than it was last year at this time. In fact, bidding wars are at their lowest point since 2011. Additionally, today’s buyer is less than half as likely to face a competing offer than they were at this time last year. And the year-over-year decline in bidding wars was significant. Last July, nearly half of buyers faced competition when making an offer. This July, the share of buyers facing competition was just 11.2 percent. That’s encouraging, of course. However, the amount of competition you face will depend on the market you’re shopping in. Hot markets like San Francisco, San Diego, and Boston still have a fair amount of competition, although they’re still far less competitive than they were last summer. More here.
Americans are feeling financially confident and it’s good news for the housing market, according to the latest Home Purchase Sentiment Index from Fannie Mae. The survey – which measures consumers’ perceptions of buying and selling a home, job security, mortgage rates, prices, etc. – hit a new high in July. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist, says it’s due to favorable mortgage rates and increased job confidence. “Consumer job confidence and favorable mortgage rate expectations lifted the HPSI to a new survey high in July, despite ongoing housing supply and affordability challenges,” Duncan said. “Consumers appear to have shaken off a winter slump in sentiment amid strong income gains. Therefore, sentiment is positioned to take advantage of any supply that comes to market, particularly in the affordable category.” In other words, Americans are feeling good about their income and may be ready to buy. In fact, the survey found a 3 percent month-over-month increase in the number of respondents who said now was a good time to buy a house. More here.
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 largely brought on by the beginning of a trade war with China. Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s senior vice president and chief economist, said lower rates will likely spur refinance activity. “The Federal Reserve cut rates as expected last week, but the bigger influence on the financial markets was the beginning of a trade war with China. The result was a sharp drop in mortgage rates which will likely draw many refinance borrowers into the market in the coming weeks,” Fratantoni said. Rates for 30-year fixed-rate loans fell to their lowest level since November 2016 and, as a result, refinance activity was up 12 percent from one week earlier. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.