Rates Hover Near 2-Year Lows

Lower mortgage rates are proving to be a boon for home shoppers.

“While the continued drop in mortgage rates has paused, home buyer demand has not,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “This is evident in increased purchase activity and loan amounts, indicating that home buyers still have the willingness and capacity to purchase homes. Today’s low rates, strong job market, solid wage growth, and consumer confidence are typically important drivers of home sales.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending June 20:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.84%, with an average 0.5 point, up from last week’s 3.82% average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.57%.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.25%, with an average 0.4 point, falling from last week’s 3.26% average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 4.04%.
Source: Freddie Mac

Flood Insurance Extension

The Financial Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a five-year extension to the National Flood Insurance Program, the nation’s largest flood insurer. The bill also includes a mandate to improve the country’s flood maps.

Federal law requires the purchase of flood insurance for a federally backed mortgage in special flood hazard areas designated by FEMA. Private flood insurance is also available in many high-risk areas, but the NFIP may be the only option for some.

The bill will now go before the full House for approval. The Senate must be then approve it to bring it to President Donald Trump.

‘New Frontier’ for ‘Healthy’ Homes

Indoor air quality is one of the top five environmental risks to public health, researchers say. After all, most people spend 90% of their time indoors, whether in homes, office buildings, or other structures. Ventilation is the “new frontier for making houses healthy,” Carl Seville of SK Collaborative, a green building consulting and certification firm, told Forbes.com in a recent article.

There’s reason for the added attention. Recent studies have shown indoor air is polluted with lead, dust mites, radon, pests, carbon monoxide, pet dander, mold, and secondhand smoke, according to the National Environmental Education Foundation. Ventilation in the form of bathroom fans and kitchen range hoods can help remove some of the bad air from homes. Older homes, however, may be prone to leaks of these pollutants.

Source: “Why You Should Take Home Ventilation Seriously,” Forbes.com (May 28, 2019)

Planning for Home Ownership?

When is the right time to purchase your first home? The answer differs across age groups, family pressures and life goals.

One in five parents say they expect their child to own a home by age 25, yet this doesn’t match up to reality. Younger adults tend to feel the most pressure to own a home, but they’re still waiting on their own time terms, according to a new survey from Porch.com, a home remodeling website. Porch.com surveyed nearly 1,000 individuals, ages of 18 to 81.

“Purchasing a home is one of the most complex and expensive decisions most of us make, so it’s easy to see how not choosing the right style, location, or size can invoke criticism from relatives,” the report notes. “Of the three generations, millennials felt the least amount of pressure from relatives when it came to housing choices, whereas both baby boomers and Gen Xers felt slightly more judged.”

Source: “Exploring Generational Differences in Life Goals,” Porch.com (June 4, 2019)

Homeowners may ‘Benefit from Refinancing’

A recent sharp drop in mortgage rates hasn’t unlocked savings just for those looking to purchase a home—homeowners may also benefit. About 5.9 million borrowers could see their rates drop by at least 75 basis points by refinancing their mortgages, according to Black Knight, a mortgage software and analytics firm. That is up by 2 million in the past month alone.

That’s the largest population of eligible borrower candidates in nearly three years for savings. The savings could add up to about $271 per month per borrower.

The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.94% in the latest week.

Home Buyers: Going to the Exurbs

In their search for affordability, home buyers are taking their house hunts further out from the city limits. Exurbs are the outskirts of major metro areas that lie beyond the suburbs. Many offer more land and greater affordability in new-home construction.

Single- and multifamily activity in the exurbs makes up only a small share of permit activity across the country, but their quarterly growth rates reached a new high in the first quarter of 2019, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ new Home Building Geography Index. Single-family permit activity has posted a 5.6% year-over-year growth rate, which is higher than that for large metro areas and suburbs, the index reveals.

Source: “Exurbs Grow During a Weak First Quarter per NAHB HBGI,” National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing blog (May 28, 2019)

Consider Adding a ‘Granny Flat’

Home improvement professionals say they’re fielding more inquiries from homeowners about adding accessory dwelling units—often nicknamed “granny flats.” A fifth of remodeling contractors say they undertook projects over the last year to create an ADU by converting an existing space, and a similar number say they created an ADU by building a new addition to a property, according to a new survey released by the National Association of Home Builders.

ADUs are smaller units added to a property, and they can be pricey to build. Only 6 percent of remodeling contractors report completing an ADU project for less than $25,000. Three-fourths say ADU projects cost at least $50,000, and 28 percent report projects costing at least $150,000.

Source: “Many Remodelers Are Now Creating ADUs,” National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing blog (May 22, 2019)

Who Needs to Downsize?

A growing number of baby boomers are choosing not to downsize in retirement. Instead, they’re opting to remain in the homes where they raised their children, USA Today reports. But their reluctance to move is contributing to low inventory across the country, says realtor.com® Chief Economist Danielle Hale.

Baby boomers “have refused to follow what the traditional expectations were,” Barbara Risman, a sociology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told USA Today. Baby boomers, mostly between the ages of 54 to 73, are working longer and, therefore, putting retirement off longer than previous generations. Their millennial children increasingly are living at home with them and staying well into adulthood.

For baby boomers who do plan to move, 43% say they want their next home to be the same size as their current one. Twenty-two percent say they want their next home to be even larger, according to a January surveyof 50- and 60-year-olds by Del Webb.

Home Loan Interest Rates Update

Home buyers saw mortgage rates edge lower again this week, with rates remaining well below year ago levels.

“While signals from the financial markets are flashing caution signs, the real economy remains on solid ground with steady job growth and five-decade low unemployment rates, which will drive up home sales this summer,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

Freddie Mac reported the following national averages for the week ending May 16:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.07 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 4.10 percent average. A year ago, 30-year rates averaged 4.61 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.53 percent, with an average 0.4 point, falling from last week’s 3.57 percent average. A year ago, was 4.08 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Multiple Refinance Problems

It can be financially harmful to borrowers and investors to repeatedly refinance their mortgages, warns Ginnie Mae, a government-backed firm that guarantees government mortgage bonds. That’s why the institution is taking steps to crack down on the practice of “churning,” where lenders push borrowers to refinance their home loans over and over again. Homeowners may be drawn to the idea of lowering their monthly mortgage payments, but multiple refinances can lead to more lender fees and a higher bill in the end.

Ginnie Mae started to take action against individual lenders last year when their activity suggested they were pushing refis on borrowers, even when they wouldn’t benefit from it. Ginnie Mae is honing in on mortgages where borrowers pull cash out of their home during a refinancing. The loan then results in more than 90% of value.

Source: “Ginnie Mae Moves to Crack Down on Repeated Refinancers,” The Wall Street Journal (May 3, 2019) [Log-in required.]