Comeback of ‘Split-Level Homes’

The split-level home—with its rooms on multiple floors—was all the rage in the 1970s, but you don’t see the style as much in contemporary homes. However, that may soon change. Google searches are revealing the split-level home is more in demand.

While the open floor plan is hot, more homeowners have been showing some desire to separate spaces more lately. The split-level blueprint allows for more separation between downstairs and upstairs than other home designs, and also allow for more separated noise and activity between family rooms and bedrooms. It’s also gaining popularity among multigenerational households.

Source: “Surprise! Split-Level Homes Are Becoming Popular Again—and I Know Why,” Apartment Therapy (Oct. 20, 2019)


Blame Housing If Recession Hits?

Economists say that if the country goes into recession, it won’t be the real estate market’s fault. While a slowdown in housing was largely blamed for the Great Recession, economics this time around does not correlate with weakness in the real estate sector.

In fact, it’s the opposite: The housing market has gotten a boost this fall, with more robust existing-home sales and an uptick in new-home construction. Buyers are being drawn to the market by lower mortgage rates, housing analysts say. “Housing is a critical sector because it acts as a multiplier by touching a wide swath of industries, from construction to financial services to home-improvement and appliance sales,” NBC News reports.

Mortgage applications have been on the rise since interest rates have decreased in recent weeks. The lower rates are giving home buyers an average of about $50,000 more in “purchase ability,” Todd Teta, chief product officer at ATTOM Data Solutions, told NBC. “It allows people to buy more home. That is meaningful on an absolute dollar basis for a lot of buyers.”

Source: “Recession Coming? Don’t Blame Housing,” NBC News (Oct. 8, 2019)

HUD Expands Affordable Housing

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced this week that it is allocating $112 million to expand the supply of permanent affordable housing to low-income people with disabilities. Funding is available through the Section 811 program.

About half of the new funding will go toward the development of new supportive housing for people with disabilities. About $37 million also will go toward rental assistance, through eligible housing agencies.

“Very simply, we need more permanent supportive housing to assist people living with disabilities,” says HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “The funding will support existing developments and, for the first time in nearly a decade, help to produce new affordable housing at a time we need it the most.”


Senior Housing Wealth Surges

Homeowners 62 and older are feeling richer thanks to homeownership. Senior housing wealth grew by 0.5%, or $32 billion, in the second quarter, on top of a cumulative $7.17 trillion reached in the first quarter of 2019, the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association reports.

Rising home prices are helping to make more homeowners accumulate home wealth at a faster rate. Overall, U.S. homeowners of all ages with a mortgage have seen their equity rise to an all-time high in the first half of 2019, increasing by 4.8% year over year, according to CoreLogic’s recent Home Equity Report. The average homeowner has gained $4,900 in home equity between the second quarter of 2018 and the second quarter of this year, according to the report.

Home Loan Rates Hold Firm

Home buyers looking for a purchase loan and homeowners who want to refinance are responding well to low mortgage rates. “While mortgage rates generally held steady this week, overall mortgage demand remained very strong, rising over 50% from a year ago thanks to increases in both refinance and purchase mortgage applications,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Oct. 3:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.65%, with an average 0.6 point, up slightly from last week’s 3.64% average. Last year, 30-year rates averaged 4.71%.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.14%, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 3.16% average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 4.15%.
  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 3.38%, with an average 0.4 point, unchanged from last week’s average. A year ago, they averaged 4.01%.
Source: Freddie Mac

Mortgage Rates Recede Last Week

September has proven to be the most volatile month for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage since March. Average weekly movement on rates has fluctuated 11 basis points in that time, Freddie Mac reports. This week, mortgage rates fell after posting the largest uptick in nearly a year last week.

Freddie Mac reported national averages for the week ending Sept. 26:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.64%, with an average 0.6 point, falling from last week’s 3.73% average. Last year at this time, rates averaged 4.72%.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.16%, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 3.21% average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 4.16%.
  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 3.38%, with an average 0.4 point, falling from last week’s 3.49% average. A year ago,  ARMs averaged 3.97%.
Source: Freddie Mac

Home Ownership Market Survey

Low mortgage rates are fueling more favorable opinions on home buying. Nearly two-thirds of Americans—or 63%—believe now is a good time to buy a home, shows the National Association of REALTORS®’ newly released Housing Opportunities and Market Experience Survey, reflecting more than 2,700 consumer responses from the third quarter. Thirty-four percent in the third quarter said they “strongly” believe now is a good time to buy, which is down slightly from the previous quarter.

NAR’s Chief Economist Lawrence Yun offers a cautionary response to the favorable findings. “The fact that slightly fewer are expressing strong intensity compared to recent prior quarters is implying some would-be buyers have concerns about the direction of the economy,” Yun says. Fewer of the respondents—52%—believe the U.S. economy is improving. Millennials tended to be the most pessimistic about the direction over the economy.

Older consumers with higher incomes tended to be the most optimistic over the prospects of homebuying. The silent generation (those born between 1925 and 1945) were the most upbeat about buying at 75%, followed closely by older baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1954) at 72%, the study showed. Further, 72% of consumers with incomes of $100,000 felt now is a good time to buy compared to 54% of consumers with incomes under $50,000.

Source: “2019 Q3 Homeownership Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) Survey,” National Association of REALTORS® (Sept. 23, 2019)

Home Loan Rates Increase

Mortgage rates jumped dramatically this week but stand to dip some in the near future after the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates Wednesday. However, despite the uptick, rates remain historically low, Freddie Mac reports.

“Home buyers flocked to lenders with purchase applications, which were up 15 percent from a year ago, and residential construction permits increased 12 percent from a year ago to 1.4 million—the highest level in 12 years. While there was initially a slow response to the overall lower mortgage rate environment this year, it is clear that the housing market is finally improving due to the strong labor market and low mortgage rates,” says Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sam Khater.

Freddie Mac reported the following national averages for the week ending Sept. 19:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.73%, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 3.56% average. Last year at this time, they averaged 4.65%.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.21%, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 3.09% average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 4.11%.
Source: Freddie Mac



Flood Insurance Extension Likely

Congress is expected to extend the National Flood Insurance Program before it expires Sept. 30, but less clear is when Congress will turn to meaningful program reforms the National Association of REALTORS® and other housing groups have advocated for years.

Outdated federal flood maps—some of which haven’t been updated in more than 40 years, housing experts warn—may be influencing homeowners not to seek proper flood insurance if they falsely believe they don’t live in a high risk floodplain. NAR has long called on reforming the maps, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency uses to assess flood risk and crisis response.

Source: ‘Too Many People Are in Denial.’ FEMA Urges Homeowners to Buy Flood Insurance,” McClatchy Company (Sept. 12, 2019)

Record Rates by Year’s End?

By the end of this year, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage could drop to 3.3%, which would put this popular loan product near its lowest average since Freddie Mac began tracking back data 48 years.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS®, made the prediction after seeing the latest Labor Department report last week, showing a slowing job market. “The economy is clearly weakening, and the employment conditions show a lagging indicator,” Yun says. “The soft job gains in August assures that the Federal Reserve will be cutting interest rates.”