Fed Move Doesn’t Suppress Mortgage Rates

The Federal Reserve may have voted to leave its short-term interest rates unchanged this week, but that didn’t stop lenders from moving up mortgage rates. Average mortgage rates are continuing an upward trend in 2018.

“The Federal Reserve did not hike rates this week, but the market views future hikes as a near certainty,” says Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist at Freddie Mac. “The expectation of future Fed rate hikes and increased borrowing by the U.S. Treasury is putting upward pressure on interest rates.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Feb. 1:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.22 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 4.15 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.19 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.68 percent, with an average 0.5 point, increasing from last week’s 3.62 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.41 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Home Buyers Don’t Grasp ‘Mortgage Basics’

Many Americans begin looking for a home to buy without understanding the fundamentals of applying for a mortgage or what it takes to qualify for one, according to a new survey by Ally Home, a direct-to-consumer mortgage business.

Ninety-two percent of the more than 2,000 U.S. adults who responded to the survey admit they don’t know how much mortgage they can afford. Further, most say they’re confused about “rates” versus “points,” and only a third have a general idea of what their average closing costs might be. Only 8 percent are aware that the maximum debt-to-income ratio is usually 43 percent; most respondents believe it’s significantly lower or don’t know at all.

Ally Home is touting its free Mortgage Playbook, a resource that covers the basics of applying for a home loan. The book uses sports jargon to outline the mortgage application process, covering topics such as how to improve your financial fitness prior to applying for a loan, how to evaluate rate and points options, and how loan rates are determined.

Source: Ally Financial

‘Hemp Homes’ Spark Building Industry Interest

Hemp structures date back to Roman times. But now, some builders want to bring it back to their markets, since it’s known for being a fast-growing, sustainable product.

“Mixing hemp’s woody fibers with lime produces a natural, light concrete that retains thermal mass and is highly insulating,” The New York Times reports. “No pests, no mold, good acoustics, low humidity, no pesticide. It grows from seed to harvest in about four months.”

To clarify, industrial hemp is not the same as the product that can give you a buzz. It contains only 0.3 percent of the substance THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol.

Hemp is more widely used across the globe as insulation to fill walls and roofs and under floors in wood-framed buildings. It becomes stucco-like in appearance, it’s more like drywall than concrete so it can’t be used for a foundation.

Source: “High Times Beckon for Using Hemp to Build Houses,” The New York Times (Jan. 29, 2018)

Cash Sales Soar to Post-Recession High

Cash sales accounted for 8 percent of new-home sales in the fourth quarter of 2017, matching a high that has not been seen since 2014, the National Association of Home Builders reports on its Eye on Housing blog. Cash sales make up an even larger share of existing-home sales—about 20 percent in December, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

Cash hardly makes up the bulk of financing options for buyers, however. The share of new homes financed with conventional mortgages has dropped slightly from 73.2 percent to 72.7 percent. In the fourth quarter of 2017, 12.9 percent of new-home buyers used FHA loans. The share of sales financed with FHA-backed mortgages has dropped 4 percentage points since reaching a peak in the second quarter of 2015.

Source: “Cash Sales Tie Post-Recession High,” National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing blog (Jan. 26, 2018)

Millennials Are Saving More Than You Think

Millennials have been stereotyped as a generation that lacks savings or money management skills. But the data isn’t backing that up.

Sixteen percent of millennials ages 23 to 37 have $100,000 or more in savings, which is double the number of young people who had that much stowed away in 2015, a newly released survey from Bank of America shows. Nearly half—or 47 percent—have $15,000 saved, up from 33 percent in 2015.

63 percent of millennials surveyed say they are saving, compared to 64 percent of Generation X and 75 percent of baby boomers. Fifty-four percent of millennials say they have a budget; 60 percent say they “feel financially secure.” The top priorities for their savings: in case of an emergency (64%), retirement (49%), and buying a house (33%).

Source: “2018 Better Money Habits Millennial Report,” Bank of America (Winter 2018) and “Millennials: 1 in 6 Now Have $100,000 Socked Away,” USA Today (Jan. 23, 2018)

Have We Seen the Last of 3% Mortgage Rates?

Average interest rates rose for the second consecutive week for the first time since last summer, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage shot above 4 percent, Freddie Mac reports in its weekly survey.

“This is the highest weekly average for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage since May of 2017,” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist. “Inflation is firming, the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book indicates broad-based economic growth, and labor markets are tightening. This means upward pressure on long-term rates, like the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, is building.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Jan. 18:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.04 percent, with an average 0.6 point, up from last week’s 3.99 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.09 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.49 percent, with an average 0.5 point, increasing from last week’s 3.44 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.34 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Foreclosed Homes Dip to 12-Year Low

Foreclosures hit a 12-year low in 2017, and the distressed properties remain increasingly difficult to find in many markets. Foreclosure filings in 2017—which include default notices, scheduled auctions, and bank repossessions—dropped to the lowest level since 2005.

Foreclosure starts are at a new record low nationwide. Lenders started the foreclosure process on 383,701 properties in 2017, down a whopping 82 percent from a peak of more than 2 million in 2009. That marks a new all-time low for foreclosure start data since ATTOM Data Solutions began collecting such data in 2006.

Source: DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS | THURSDAY, JANUARY 18, 2018

Builders Reveal Top 10 Biggest Concerns

Homebuilding is still falling short in many markets in alleviating the shrinking inventories of homes for sale. But builders are blaming the construction shortfall on several factors.

Builders revealed the following top 10 “significant” increases in cost problems they expect to face in 2018, according to the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo Housing Market Index:

  1. Cost/availability of labor: 84%
  2. Building material prices: 84%
  3. Cost/availability of developed lots: 62%
  4. Impact/hook up/inspection or other fees: 60%
  5. Local/state environment regulations and policies: 45%
  6. Inaccurate appraisals: 42%
  7. Federal environment regulations and policies: 42%
  8. Difficulty obtaining zoning/permit approval: 42%
  9. Gridlock/uncertainty in Washington making buyers cautious: 42%
  10. Development standards (parling, setbacks, etc.): 38%

Source: “Building Materials Prices and Labor Access Top Challenges for 2018,” National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing blog (Jan. 16, 2018)

‘Aging in Place’ Begins Early: Report

Homeowners are getting older, and to continue on in their current house, improvements are necessary.

Homeowners at an earlier stage, aged 55-75, are also making modifications, but not necessarily due to aging concerns (though they are, fortuitously, ideal for just that). These include adding automated features like a programmable thermostat or voice activation, and, in bathrooms, grab bars and higher toilets. According to a HomeAdvisor report. The most common remodels, the report shows:

 

  • Add Lever-Style Doorknobs
  • Add Pull-Out Shelves
  • Add a Smart Fire Detection System
  • Add a Smart Security System
  • Replace Stone/Tile With Carpet/Wood

Other key improvements to consider, the report shows:

  • Lighting
  • Modifications in Shower (Bench, threshold)
  • Moving Master Bedroom to First Floor
  • Ramps
  • Wider Doorways

Source: HomeAdvisor

 

 

Retirees Still Face Years of Mortgage Payments

Fewer retirees own their home free and clear, as 32 percent of homeowners ages 60 to 70 say it will take them more than another eight years to pay off their mortgage, according to American Financing’s Retirement and Mortgages survey.

However, many say they intend to age in place, with 64 percent indicating they plan to remain in their current home. Seventy-one percent say they would prefer to make home renovations rather than move, even if a health issue affected their mobility and comfort at home. However, 48 percent say they are unsure what they would do if their retirement funds ran low, making modifications questionable?

“With so many older Americans carrying mortgage debt with them later in life—and many expressing uncertainty about their financial future—this could very well prove to be an increasing concern among retirees,” according to American Financing’s report. It highlights several options for retirees, such as refinancing a mortgage or reverse mortgages. The report showed that only 19 percent of respondents knew what a reverse mortgage is.

Source: “Does Your Mortgage Retire With You?” American Financing (2018)