January Expected to Be ‘Hot for Home Shoppers’

The busy home-shopping season will start early in January this year, according to forecasters. The month of January in recent years has tended to have the second-most listing views across the year (just 1% below February), according to realtor.com® data.

With sub-4% mortgage rates, low unemployment, and higher wages, industry insiders are expecting a bustling winter real estate season.

Source: “New Analysis: January Home Shopping Is Getting More Popular,” The Mortgage Reports (Dec. 31, 2019)

3 Housing Trends Emerging This Spring

The spring tends to be real estate’s most active season of buying and selling. So what housing trends are emerging right now that you should be aware of? The Street recently took a look at three trends it sees as getting bigger this spring:

1. Inventories are favoring the seller. With a limited number of homes for sale across the country, home sellers have the upper hand as home buyers are forced to compete for limited inventories. Inventories of less expensive “starter homes,” in particular have dropped, which is making it difficult for first-time buyers to break into the market. Home buyers need to be ready to act when they see a home they want.

2. More buyers may consider a new home. Some home buyers may seek greater alternatives to limited inventories and consider building a home and buying new. Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist with Trulia, says there’s a 10-year high for homes being bought off of a plan alone. “Why? The inventory of existing homes continues to fall,” he notes.

3. Buying is cheaper than renting. Seven in 10 respondents of a recent Freddie Mac survey believe it’s cheaper to pay rent than a monthly mortgage on a home. Saving for a down payment may a big hurdle for many. However, studies show that buying trumps renting in 98 of the 100 largest metros in the nation.

Source: “3 Real Estate Trends to Watch This Spring,” The Street (April 20, 2016)

First-Time Buyers May Face a Difficult Spring

This spring, first-time buyers may struggle to find a house. The number of homes in the lower-price market is severely limited. Inventory fell 8.2 percent in January from a year earlier for properties priced below $250,000, according to data from the National Association of REALTORS®.

“Affordability is a challenge this spring,” says Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist. Potential home buyers “would have gotten their credit in shape and they’ll have a job. But they will be frustrated because, in their market, there simply won’t be affordable homes.”

“Already facing affordability issues, this competition at the entry-level market only adds to the roadblocks slowing first-time buyers,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

Source: “First-Time House Hunters Lose in Busy U.S. Homebuying Season,” Bloomberg News (March 16, 2016)

Fewer Home Buyers Are Now Paying All-Cash

The share of home buyers using all-cash to pay for their real estate transactions dropped to the lowest level since November 2009, according to a new report by RealtyTrac. Nearly 25 percent of all single-family home and condo sales in May were all-cash purchases, down from 30 percent a year ago.

The percentage of cash sales is nearing a long-term average that goes back to January 2000 of 24.8 percent. Cash sales are below the peak of 42.2 percent in February 2011.

As such, housing markets are transitioning from an “investor-driven, cash-is-king market to one more dependent on traditional buyers,” says Daren Blomquist, at RealtyTrac.

Source: “All-Cash Share of U.S. Home Purchases in May Drops to Lowest Level Since November 2009,” RealtyTrac (July 1, 2015)

The Younger Generation will Drive Down Home Sizes

Millennials will make their mark on the look of homes in the coming years as homes likely will get smaller, separate laundry rooms will become essential, and home technology will be a must, according to a panel of builders and designers speaking at the International Builder Show last week.

A growing number of first-time buyers will likely lead to smaller homes — a downsizing home trend that may start showing itself even in 2015, predicts Rose Quint, the assistant vice president of research at the National Association of Home Builders.

As younger, first-time buyers re-emerge on to the market, “they will demand smaller, more affordable homes,” Quint says. “Builders will build whatever demand calls out for.”

Seventy-five percent of millennials surveyed said they want to live in a single-family home, and 66 percent said they prefer to live in the suburbs.

Since millennials tend to be more cash-strapped than older home owners, they often seek less expensive, low-maintenance choices in a home, such as landscaping that needs less watering and mowing and larger patios instead, said Jill Waage, editorial director for home content at Better Homes and Gardens, surveys buyers on home preferences. Millennails are often very tech savvy, and increasingly are asking for ways to control their home’s heating, air conditioning, security, and lighting from their phones or tablets.

Source: National Association of Home Builders

FHFA’s Dramatic Easing of Mortgage Standards

Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt said FHFA will release guidelines “in the coming weeks” to allow increased lending to borrowers with down payments as low as 3 percent. FHFA, which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, also will help lenders who sell loans to the mortgage giants by easing standards on borrowers who don’t have perfect credit profiles. The move is expected to help open up the credit box to first-time buyers, self-employed borrowers, borrowers who have had recent job switches, and borrowers who faced financial hardship during the recession.

FHFA said it will clarify to lenders when it will force buy-back loans that were issued based on inaccurate information. FHFA acknowledges that it failed to provide lenders with enough clarity in the past. That caused lenders to get cautious with lending after facing a flood of high-dollar settlements from loans they issued that later turned sour.

“We know that this issue has contributed to lenders imposing credit overlays that drive up the cost of lending and also restrict lending to borrowers with less than perfect credit scores or with less conventional financial situations,” Watt said. Addressing such issues are “critical to ensuring that there is liquidity in the housing-finance market and to providing access to credit for borrowers.”

Source: “Regulator Unveils Plan to Spur Lending by Fannie, Freddie,” Los Angeles Times (Oct. 20, 2014) and “Fannie-Freddie Clarify Buyback Rules in Bid to Ease Credit,” Bloomberg (Oct. 20, 2014)

Rising Home Prices Press Down Affordability

While housing affordability rose from January to February in some select markets, it’s lower year-over-year as home prices continue to rise while wages stay mostly stagnant, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ latest Housing Affordability Index. The index is based on median home prices, family incomes, and average mortgage interest rates.

The median single-family home price is $189,200, up 9 percent from year-ago levels. Mortgage rates have also been on the rise, up a full percentage point from year-ago levels. Meanwhile, income levels have risen 1.9 percent in the past year.

Affordability is up slightly from a month ago in the Northeast and Midwest, while the West and South saw a minor drop in February month-over-month, according to NAR’s index. However, affordability is down in all regions from year-ago levels. The West has seen the largest decline in affordability in the past year, due to a 17 percent price gain.

Source: “Latest Housing Affordability Data,” National Association of REALTORS®’ Economists’ Outlook blog (April 11, 2014)

Rising Mortgage Rates ‘Chip Away at Affordability’

The majority of housing markets remain affordable,  but rising mortgage rates and rising housing prices are causing more families to have to stretch financially, according to Freddie Mac’s U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook for December.

According to Freddie Mac’s report, more than 70 percent of the nation’s housing stock remained affordable to the typical family in the third quarter at a 4.4 percent interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. However, that percentage decreases to about 63 percent at a 5 percent mortgage rate;  55 percent at a 6 percent interest rate; and 35 percent at a 7 percent interest rate.

Rising mortgage rates and rising housing prices over the past six months are making it more challenging for the typical family to purchase a home without stretching beyond their means, especially in the Northeast and along the Pacific Coast,” says Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Like most, we expect mortgage rates to rise over the coming year, so it’s critical we start to see more job gains and income growth in the coming year. This will help to keep payment-to-income ratios in balance — an important factor not only for first-time buyers but for sustaining homeownership levels among existing owners.”

Source: Freddie Mac

 

 

Source: Freddie Mac

Older Home Buyers Less Willing to Compromise?

Older home shoppers are more picky in their home purchases than younger buyers, according to a survey of nearly 94,000 recent home buyers and sellers.

About half of the those surveyed who were age 58 and older say they made no compromises during their recent home purchase. On the other hand, only 28 percent of the youngest home buyers surveyed said they didn’t compromise, according to the survey conducted by the National Association of REALTORS®.

For the most part, younger home buyers reported having to compromise on price, lot size, distance from job, and style of home.

“First-time buyers are starry-eyed and have no idea what they really need. They might want a five-bedroom and never use two of them,” says Stephen Melman, director of economic services for the National Association of Home Builders. Those in their 50s “are better than most housing consumers at knowing what they want — and won’t be shy.”

After all, many older home buyers have already purchased a home in the past, so they may know more about what they want and don’t want in their next home.

Source: “The Older the Home Buyer, the Pickier,” The Wall Street Journal (Sept. 30, 2013)

Repeat Buyers: ‘Backbone of Housing Recovery’

The growing ranks of repeat home buyers accounted for 54 percent of existing-home sales in June, up from 49 percent just one year prior, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Meanwhile, first-time buyers — who usually account for 40 percent of the market share — shrank to 29 percent in June. A lack of lower-priced homes and strict lending requirements are edging some first-time buyers out of the market. Therefore, call a local lender for loan information and qualification guidelines.

“What we’re seeing are these buyers who’ve waited around and who have finally realized this is a good time to move,” says David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders. “They will feed the demand until our economy gets a little more solid.”

Rising home prices are increasing household wealth and pushing more home owners to sell, either to trade up for bigger properties or to use the greater equity in their homes to put down a larger down payment for a comparable home, Bloomberg reports.

Source: “Home Sales Buoyed by Repeat Buyers,” Bloomberg (Aug. 11, 2013)