Hot Home Trend: Bamboo Everything!

Bamboo is making its way into more home interiors. From flooring, window treatments to wall accents, furnishings and more, this sustainable material is popping up everywhere.

Some designers are making bamboo their go-to material, which RISMedia recently highlighted in the article “4 Reasons Why Bamboo Is Taking Home Décor by Storm.”

Bamboo is widely available and more affordable than many other wood products. Bamboo is traditionally considered a type of wood flooring, but it’s actually not a wood at all, but a grass. And at growth rates of three to five feet per year, bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on Earth, which means it’s widely available for spicing up interiors.

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Deeper Debt Isn’t Stopping Millennial Buyers

Millennials are taking out the greatest share of all new mortgages and buying homes across price ranges. But a new study also shows they’re going more into debt at an alarming rate.

Realtor.com®’s research team analyzed records for more than 3.2 million mortgages originated from January 2013 to October 2017 and divided it by age groups.

Compared to other generations, millennials are narrowing the gap in the price of homes they’re purchasing. In September, millennials obtained mortgages on homes with a median purchase price of $237,000. Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1981) purchased homes with mortgages on a median price of $280,000, and baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) purchased at $258,000.

Millennials are making down payments nearly as high as Generation Xers. The average down payment for a millennial originated mortgage is 9.1 percent. Gen X buyers have been making down payments of 11 percent, since early 2013.

Source: “Millennials Are Taking Over Real Estate—But They’re Going Deeper Into Debt Too,” realtor.com® (Dec. 5, 2017)

Mortgage Interest Rates Climb This Week

Rates are increasing, but home buyers can still snag an interest rate that is lower than a year ago.

“The 30-year mortgage rate has been bouncing around in a 10 basis point range since September. While long-term rates have been relatively steady week-to-week, shorter term interest rates have been on the rise. The spread between the 30-year fixed mortgage and the 5/1 Hybrid ARM rate was 59 basis points this week, down 43 basis points from earlier this year. With a narrower spread between fixed and adjustable mortgage rates, more borrowers are opting for a fixed product.” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Dec. 7:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.94 percent, with an average 0.5 point, increasing from last week’s 3.90 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.13 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.36 percent, with an average 0.5 point, increasing from last week’s 3.30 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.36 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Housing Trend to Watch: The ‘Surban’

Suburban and urban areas are combining to create a new kind of living style known as the “surban.” Many in the real estate industry are predicting it to be one of the hottest housing trends to watch heading into the new year.

A surban offers greater walkability to retail and restaurants from a home or apartment, but in a suburban area. It’s a blend of both suburbia and city life. Previously, urban planners dubbed these areas “mixed-use.”

The Urban Land Institute estimates that surban areas will draw at least 80 percent of new households and attract the most families over the next decade.

Source: “2018 Real Estate Trends to Watch: ‘Surban’—That Sweet Spot Between City and Suburb,” RISMedia (Dec. 4, 2017)

Home Loan Rates Sink Lower This Week

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is averaging lower than it did a year ago, and remains well below the 4 percent threshold this week.

“The market implied probability of a Fed rate hike in December neared 100 percent, helping to drive short term interest rates higher,” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Nov. 30:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.90 percent, with an average 0.5 point, decreasing from last week’s 3.92 percent average. Last year at this time, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.08 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.30 percent, with an average 0.5, down from last week’s 3.32 percent. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.34 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

FHFA Raises Conforming Home Loan Limits

The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced it will raise its conforming loan limit on Jan. 1, 2018. Mortgage financing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will allow maximum conforming loan limits for mortgages in most parts of the U.S. to be $453,100.  “El Dorado County, CA.” will be $517,500.

For 10 years, the FHFA had set the conforming loan limit in most places at $417,000. But as home prices started rising, the FHFA bumped up the conforming loan limit in 2017 to $424,100. As prices continued to move higher this year, the FHFA has raised limits again for 2018.

The Housing and Economic Recovery Act requires the conforming loan limit of the government-sponsored entities to be adjusted each year to reflect any changes in the average U.S. home price.

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency

New Homes Are Getting Smaller

Developers are continuing to shrink the size of new single-family homes, according third-quarter housing data compiled by the National Association of Home Builders. The median square footage of a single-family home was 2,378 square feet in the third quarter.

In the years following the Great Recession, builders were focused on the higher end of the market, catering to larger-sized homes. But more recently, builders have renewed their focus on the entry-level market, and NAHB predicts square footage of new homes to continue to decrease.

“Typical new-home size falls prior to and during a recession, as home buyers tighten budgets, and then sizes rise as high-end home buyers, who face fewer credit constraints, return to the housing market in relatively greater proportions,” NAHB explains at its Eye on Housing blog. “This pattern was exacerbated during the current business cycle due to the market weakness among first-time home buyers. But the recent declines in size indicate that this part of the cycle has ended, and the size will trend lower as builders add more entry-level homes into inventory.”

Source: “Declining New Home Size Trend Continues,” National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing blog (Nov. 17, 2017)

Lift in Housing Starts Indicates Inventory Relief

Housing starts neared their postrecession high in October, with expectations that the new-home market will soon provide much-needed inventory relief, the Commerce Department reports.

Starts, which reflect combined totals within the single-family and multifamily sectors, jumped 13.7 percent in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.29 million. That’s the highest reading for new-home production since October 2016, when starts had reached a high of 1.33 million.

Starts for single-family homes in October increased 5.3 percent last month, reaching a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 877,000. They are now up 8.4 percent from a year ago. Multifamily starts surged nearly 37 percent, reaching 413,000 units in October after a weak September production report.

 

Source: National Association of Home Builders

Rates Hit Pause, Consumers Rush to Lock In?

A slight dip in interest rates last week brought more homeowners and home buyers to the mortgage market. More homeowners were quick to refinance before interest rates rise again, and home buyers were able to lock in lower rates during the week.

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that total mortgage application volume—which includes for refinancings and home purchases—rose 3.1 percent last week on a seasonally adjusted basis. Mortgage applications, however, still remain 8.5 percent below a year ago.

Additional data at: “Weekly Mortgage Applications Rise as Rates Briefly Fall Back,” CNBC (Nov. 15, 2017)

Newbie Buyers Make Smaller Down Payments

About 60 percent of first-time home buyers put down 6 percent or less on a home purchase in September. The median down payment has dropped from 6 percent to 5 percent for first-time buyers, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.

NAR conducted a survey of non-homeowners earlier this year and found that most consumers believe you need a down payment of 10 percent or 20 percent to buy a home.

“They may not be aware that these programs are available, and they may not be taking advantage of them,” Jessica Lautz, NAR’s managing director of survey research and communications, said in the latest Down Payment Report, published by the Down Payment Resource.

Thirty-two percent of first-time buyers said they saved for more than two years to have enough to buy a home. Student loan debt was the most often cited obstacle to saving. The second most cited barrier for saving was credit card debt.

Source: “The Down Payment Report,” Down Payment Resource (November 2017)