Re-Acceleration in Home Prices

Good news for sellers: Home prices are on the rise. But buyers should brace for higher prices.

Nearly all—93%—of the largest metros in the U.S. saw home prices rise in the third quarter over the past year. A shortage of homes for sale, combined with higher demand, continues to push home prices higher, according to the latest quarterly report from the National Association of REALTORS®, released Thursday.

While the majority of metros saw higher prices in the third quarter, a few markets did register lower prices, notably in areas long-known for high costs. Single-family median home prices moderated in the third quarter in markets such as San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. (–4.6%); San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif. (–2.5%); and San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif. (–0.8%).

Mortgage Rates Reverse Course

Following three consecutive weeks of increases, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage posted a drop this week. “The improvement in sentiment has been one of the main drivers behind the surge in equity prices and will provide a halo effect to consumer spending heading into the important holiday shopping season,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

Freddie Mac reports the following nationwide averages for the week ending Nov. 7:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.69%, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 3.78% average. Last year at this time, they averaged 4.94%.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.13%, with an average 0.4 point, dropping from last week’s 3.19% average. A year ago, they averaged 4.33%.
Source: Freddie Mac

Home Design Trends for 2020

From shiny kitchen cabinets to wooden ceiling beams, several home design trends aim to liven up neutral interiors in the new year. Home remodeling website Houzz recently asked designers to chime in about what design trends they expect to grow more popular over the next few months. Here are a few of their trends.

High-gloss kitchen cabinetry. Flat-panel cabinets with a high-gloss finish are gaining popularity. The shinier finish bounces light around the space. Also, the flat-panel design gives a modern look that makes the cabinets appear like they’re receding.

Wooden beams. More attention in home design is being placed on dressing up the home’s fifth wall. Wood ceiling beams are one way to do that.

Brass accents. Kitchen designs are incorporating more black or dark kitchen cabinets paired with brass or gold hardware for a visual pop.

Source: “10 Design Trends Coming to a Home Near You,” Houzz.com (Oct. 29, 2019)

Open House? Avoid This Mistake!

Besides staging, cluttering, and stowing away jewelry or valuables, home sellers are overlooking the need to tuck prescription drugs away from medicine cabinets and drawers, they say. A recent article at realtor.com® warns of the dangers and calls out specific medications like Oxycontin, attention deficit disorder medications like Concerta and Adderall, depression and anxiety medications like Zoloft and Xanax, and sleep aids like Ambien for being targets of open house vandals. Some over-the-counter cough suppressants or heartburn medications also may be at risk of being swiped.

“If you’re getting ready to show your home, walk around the house thinking like a stranger,” realtor.com® notes in the article. “What’s easy to pick up? What might be easy to sell? This is a great guideline for medications, but also for hiding any valuables in your home. Think about wine, perfume bottles and expensive lotions.”

Source: “The One Thing Home Sellers Forget to Hide Before an Open House,” realtor.com® (Nov. 5, 2019)

‘Zombie’ Foreclosures Lurking?

More than 1.5 million—or 1.5% of U.S. single-family homes and condos—were vacant in the fourth quarter of 2019 , according to a new report from ATTOM Data Solutions. Marking improvements, but so-called “zombie” foreclosures are still plaguing some markets.

Despite an ongoing housing shortage, several markets are still dealing with zombie foreclosures. These are homes that have been vacated by the owners and remain vacant while lingering in the foreclosure process. The percentage of zombie properties was at 2.96% in the fourth quarter, down from 3.2% in the third quarter.

Mortgage Rates Rise This Week

For the third consecutive week, the interest rate for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased. The rise came despite the Federal Reserve cutting its key benchmark rate for the third time this year.

“Purchase activity continues to show strength, indicating obvious homebuyer demand,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “However, the lack of housing supply remains a major barrier to not just the housing market but the overall economic recovery.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national rates for the week ending Oct. 31:

30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.78%, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 3.75% average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.83%.

15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.19%, with an average 0.6 point, rising from last week’s 3.18% average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 4.23%..

Source: Freddie Mac

Growth of the Backyard Bungalow

Accessory dwelling units are popping up in more backyards, CNBC reports. These standalone housing units are either serving as rentals to generate extra income for homeowners or extra space for aging parents or adult children who move back home. The growing interest in ADUs has sparked changes to local and state zoning rules to allow for more construction. Some communities are even pointing to ADUs as a solution for a lack of affordable housing.

“ADU is still, for the most part, an affluent homeowner product, meaning you have to have cash on hand to take this on,” Steve Vallejos, CEO of Prefab ADU, told CNBC. His company’s most popular ADU model is a 288-square-foot home that costs about $105,000 to build. ADUs are “addressing financing, it’s addressing standardizing products within cities, and then also it’s creating partner relationships with contractors, architects, and even other builders,” Vallejos says. “There are many different scenarios that people look into based on income, lot size, different zoning rules—so we build ADUs that start at about 150 square feet up to 1,200 square feet.”

Home Loan Rates Increased

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was on the rise last week, leaping to a 12-week high. But rates are still well below year-ago levels.

“The outlook for a favorable resolution to the trade dispute between the U.S. and China is still unclear, introducing some volatility into financial markets and the benchmark 10-year Treasury yield,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Mortgage rates are following suit but are near historic lows, while mortgage applications to purchase a home remain higher year over year.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Oct. 24:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.75%, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 3.69% average. Last year at this time, they averaged 4.86%.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.18%, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 3.15% average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 4.29%.
Source: Freddie Mac

Facebook Pledges $1 Billion Toward Affordable Housing

Facebook has become the latest company to pledge money to help ease a housing crisis that critics blame big tech for. The social media giant on Tuesday said it would allocate $1 billion in grants, land, and loans to generate more affordable housing in California’s Bay Area. The funds will be used to build an estimated 20,000 housing units for middle- to low-income households.

In June, Google pledged $1 billion in land and money to build homes to help to ease the housing crisis in the East Bay area. It also vowed to build at least 20,000 homes in the Bay Area with that money. In January, Microsoft pledged $500 million toward affordable housing in Seattle.

The companies are looking to add affordable housing around their campuses. Facebook will use the money to generate more housing over the next decade.

California boasts some of the highest salaries, but the highest state poverty levels.

Source: “Facebook Pledges $1 Billion to Ease Housing Crisis Inflamed by Big Tech,” The New York Times (Oct. 22, 2019)

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)