Mortgage Applications Surge

Home buyer demand hit its highest level in 11 years, as January continues to shape up to be a hot month for the housing market. Weekly mortgage applications jumped 30% for the week ending Jan. 10, a sign that home buyers are emerging, the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted index shows. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage decreased to its lowest level since September, averaging 3.87%, the MBA reports.

Applications for home purchases, a gauge of home buying activity, jumped 16% last week, reaching the highest level since 2009.

Source: “Weekly Mortgage Applications Soar 30% as Homebuyer Demand Hits the Highest Level in 11 Years,” CNBC (Jan. 15, 2020) and “Falling Mortgage Rates Set Off a Stampede of Borrowing,” MoneyWise (Jan. 15, 2020)

Mortgage Rates Drop

“Mortgage rates fell to the lowest level in thirteen weeks, as investors sought the quality and safety of the U.S. Treasury fixed income markets,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist. “The drop in mortgage rates, combined with the strong labor market, should propel a continued rise in homebuyer demand.”

News Facts:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.64 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending January 9, 2020, down from last week when it averaged 3.72 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.45 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.07 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.16 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.89 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

New Home Loan Limits Take Effect

The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s new loan limits for 2020 have gone into effect; Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are operated by the FHFA, began backing larger loans last week when the new year started. The cap on Fannie and Freddie loans has increased to $510,400 from 2019’s $484,350 limit.

View a breakdown of loan limits by county for Fannie and Freddie.

The Federal Housing Administration also increased its loan limit to $331,760, which is a $17,000 increase from 2019. In about 70 designated high-cost counties, the FHA’s 2020 loan limit has climbed to $765,600, a $40,000 increase from 2019. Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have higher limit ceilings than the rest of the country, the FHA says. Those areas have a 2020 FHA loan limit of $1,148,400.

View a breakdown of loan limits by county for the FHA.

Source: “FHA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Are All Now Backing Larger Loans,” HousingWire (Jan. 2, 2020)

Home Loan Interest Rates Rise

“The modest uptick in mortgage rates over the last two months reflects declining recession fears and a more sanguine outlook for the global economy,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Due to the improved economic outlook, purchase mortgage applications rose fifteen percent over the same week a year ago, the second highest weekly increase in the last two years. Given the important role residential real estate plays in the economy, the steady improvement of the housing market is a reassuring sign that the economy is on solid ground heading into next year.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Nov. 14:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.75%, with an average 0.6 point, rising from last week’s 3.69% average. Last year at this time, they averaged 4.94%.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.2%, with an average 0.5 point, rising rom last week’s 3.13% average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 4.36%.
  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 3.44%, with an average 0.4 point, rising from last week’s 3.39% average. A year ago, they averaged 4.14%.
Source: Freddie Mac

Which Home Security System?

Consumers show preferences for certain types of security options, according to Safehome.org, a home security survey. For example, the group of consumers who say they feel safe were two times more likely to have a front door security system, the survey found. Professionally monitored security systems help many consumers feel safe, but certain demographics felt more at ease with other features. For example, baby boomers prefer security cameras around the property, men surveyed felt most safe with guns, and renters and homeowners in rural areas felt safest with an entry keypad with a security code and alarm.

About a third of consumers surveyed with a home security system use a variety of accessories, including door sensors and security keypads. Thirty percent of those surveyed also chose all-in-one security systems, which usually consist of live streaming cameras, motion sensors, arming and disarming functionality, and sirens.

Source: “Security in the Home,” Safehome.org (2019)

“I Want to Buy a Home” Report

Many non-owners—those renting or living with someone else—are eager to buy a home. But their current financial situation is what is mostly holding them back.

The newly released “2019 Profile of Buyers and Sellers” report contained a new section this year, including a survey about non-owners and their views on home ownership. NAR released the report during the 2019 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Francisco this week.

But the main reason they aren’t buying yet is because they can’t afford to make the jump into ownership. “Making the largest financial purchase in one’s life relies on the financial strength to do so,” the report notes. Seventy-five percent of non-owners surveyed say they believe home ownership is part of the American dream. Eighty-one percent of non-owners say they want to own a home in the future.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®’

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)