Americans will dig deeper in their pockets and shell out more cash to live near top-notch schools and in safer neighborhoods with access to retail and “artificial amenities,” according to a new study published in the Journal of Urban Economics. In analyzing 2,000 neighborhoods across the country, researchers found that home buyers are willing to potentially spend thousands of extra dollars for these amenities.
A regional funding increase of $1,000 per student in schools is associated with a $570 annual increase in what people are willing to pay for a home in the neighborhood, though “this number is likely biased from well-funded areas being nicer or having more desirable residents,” researchers note.
A neighborhood’s size, density, and “artificial amenities” — those that are created by the residents — were also found to be important, even more so than living near a natural environment such as mountains and coastlines, according to the study.
“Because artificial amenities are largely produced by local residents, they may reflect the desirability of the populations themselves,” the authors note. That means residents are willing to pay not only for the neighborhood itself but the access the neighborhood affords them to other people, jobs, and amenities, according to a study by The Atlantic. Source: “How Much Are You Willing to Pay to Live in America’s
Best Neighborhoods?” The Atlantic CityLab (June 29, 2015)
Recent home purchases are triggering major landscape projects, according to the 2015 Houzz Landscaping & Garden Trends report. This survey analyzed 1,600 home owners who completed an outdoor project in the past 12 months, or are currently working on one, or are planning a project in the future.
More than half of home owners who are updating their yards say they’re doing it to solve drought or flooding issues. Thirty-six percent of home owners surveyed say they’re reducing their existing lawn, while 16 percent are removing them altogether. In drought-ravaged California, 46 percent of home owners there said they are substituting their existing lawn for a synthetic one — twice as likely as anywhere else, per the survey.
Low maintenance spaces are a top priority, per the survey. Seventy-one percent of home owners upgrading their outdoor space say the space needs to be easy to maintain and functional, followed by perfect for entertaining and ready for the family to enjoy.
Home owners show high usage of their outdoor spaces. More than half of the home owners surveyed said they spend six or more hours in their outdoor space per week, mostly relaxing (65%); gardening (48%); and entertaining (47%).
Source: 2015 Houzz Landscaping & Garden Trends Survey (July 2015)
Pending home sales continued to make gains last month, rising to the highest level since April 2006, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings.
NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index rose 0.9 percent in May to 112.6 in May. The index is at its highest level since April 2006 when it was 113.7.
“The steady pace of solid job creation seen now for over a year has given the housing market a boost this spring,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “It’s very encouraging to now see a broad based recovery with all four major regions showing solid gains from a year ago and new home sales also coming alive.”
“Housing affordability remains a pressing issue with home-price growth increasing around four times the pace of wages,” says Yun. “Without meaningful gains in new and existing supply, there’s no question the goalpost will move further away for many renters wanting to become home owners.”
Source: National Association of REALTORS®
Home efficiency upgrades don’t equate to much energy savings over the long run?
A University of Chicago study analyzed a random sample of 30,000 low-income Michigan households that were eligible for an Energy Department home weatherization program. The study found that projected energy savings were 2.5 times greater than actual savings, but energy bills didn’t drop enough to pay for the initial cost of the upgrades.
For example, the study found that home owners saw their energy use fall by 10 percent to 20 percent after the upgrades — which could net them $2,400 in energy expenses savings. But that is less than the $5,000 the upgrades cost to install, on average.
The study’s findings could undermine state efficiency programs and call into question long-held understanding of making existing homes energy efficient.
“Paying for the more efficient appliance is still always the best decision, for your pocket book and the environment, regardless of what this study says,” says Noah Horowitz, an efficiency expert and senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, “Nothing in this study contradicts the well-documented fact that energy efficiency is the cheapest, fastest and cleanest way to reduce climate change emissions.”
Source: “Study Says Many Home Efficiency Upgrades Don’t Pay Off,” The Associated Press (June 24, 2015)
For those who have sender regret, Gmail now includes the option to take back sent e-mails. But you have to act quickly. Google announced the release of an “undo send” option, which allows users to recall a message within 30 seconds of it being sent.
Users of Google’s popular mail application will be able to unsend e-mails, for example, when you accidentally forget to attach a file or hit the “reply all” button by mistake.
The unsend feature was originally launched in 2009 but only an experimental basis. Now, the feature has been rolled out as a formal setting in Gmail on the Web, via a gear icon at the top right. Under “settings” in the drop-down menu, you’ll need to check the “enable undo send” box to use the feature. You can also select the number of seconds (among options of five, 10, 20, or 30) that you’ll have to cancel a message.
Source: “How to Unsend E-mails in Gmail,” WIRED (June 23, 2015) and “Gmail ‘Undo Send’ Option Officially Rolls Out,” Forbes (June 23, 2015)
The market share of first-time home buyers rose to 32 percent of transactions in May, matching the highest share since September 2012. A year ago, first-time buyers represented 27 percent of all buyers, NAR reports.
“The return of first-time buyers in May is an encouraging sign and is the result of multiple factors, including strong job gains among young adults, less expensive mortgage insurance and lenders offering low down payment programs,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s economist. “More first-time buyers are expected to enter the market in coming months, but the overall share climbing higher will depend on how fast rates and prices rise.”
As the supply of homes remain tight, homes are selling fast and price growth in many markets continues to teeter at or near double-digit appreciation, Yun notes. “Without solid gains in new home construction, prices will likely stay elevated – even with higher mortgage rates above 4 percent,” Yun says.
Source: National Association of REALTORS®
Good news about real estate loans! The average fixed-rate mortgages reversed course this week, falling after having soared to new highs for 2015 last week.
Freddie Mac reports the following mortgage rate averages for the week ending June 18:
- 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4 percent, with an average 0.7 point, dropping from last week’s 4.04 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.17 percent.
- 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.23 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 3.25 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.30 percent.
- 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 3 percent, with an average 0.4 point, dropping from last week’s 3.01 percent average. Last year at this time, 5-year ARMs averaged 3 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac
Sixty-five percent of recent survey respondents feel home ownership is a dream come true or an accomplishment to be proud of. But when it comes to achieving that dream, many consumers may sit on the sidelines because they’re overestimating what it takes to make it come true. So, contact us or a lender for current guidelines of home buying.
Many consumers have misperceptions about the credit score, down payment, and income requirements needed to qualify for a mortgage, according to a survey released by Wells Fargo and Ipsos Public Affairs of more than 2,000 U.S. adults. A high percentage of home owners are still unaware of recent efforts by lenders and the government to enhance the availability of credit through lower down payment programs.
Also, the survey found that consumers tend to overestimate the down payment funds needed to qualify for a home loan. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they believe a 20 percent down payment is always required, the survey showed. However, down payment options are available as low as 3 percent or no down for some loan programs.
Source: “Consumers’ Misconceptions Temper Desire for Home Ownership,” Business Wire (June 16, 2015)
Nationally, the median single-family home price is $221,000, up 10 percent from April 2014, NAR reports. The Midwest has seen some of the largest increases in home prices – climbing 11.6 percent in the past year alone. The Northeast, on the other hand, is seeing the slowest price growth regionally at 4.9 percent in the past year.
Housing affordability is down in all major regions of the U.S. from a year ago, except in the Northeast, where home price growth is moderating.
But mortgage rates are on their way up. Freddie Mac reported last week that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage set a new high for 2015, averaging above 4 percent.
“This may be a good time for return and first-time home buyers to surge back into the housing market before rates climb higher, further reducing affordability,” NAR notes.
View NAR’s latest Housing Affordability Index for a full breakdown of affordability.
Source: “Housing Affordability Index,” National Association of REALTORS® Economists’ Outlook Blog (June 12, 2015)
The gap between appraiser and home owner perceptions over the value of homes continued to widen for the fourth consecutive month in May, according to Quicken Loans’ national Home Price Perception Index. Appraisal opinions of home values were 1.15 percent lower than home owner estimates in May. The latest reading on the index marked the first time in nearly two years where appraisal opinions were lower than home owner estimates by at least 1 percent.
Still, despite the widening perception gap at a national level, appraiser opinions remain higher in the majority of metro areas examined, a report on the index notes.
“The HPPI, more than anything, is a reminder that there is no such thing as a national housing market,” says Quicken Loans Chief Economist Bob Walters. “Every city, and every neighborhood, moves in different directions based on local factors. Consumers need to remember to watch their local area closely to understand the direction their market is heading.”
Source: “Home Owner, Appraiser Home Value Opinion Continues to Widen,” Quicken Loans (June 9, 2015)