Market Shifting to Home Buyers’ Favor

A housing market defined by rapidly rising home prices, bidding wars, a lack of inventory, and sellers with the upper hand in negotiations may be changing. “The signs are pointing to a market that’s shifting toward buyers,” says Danielle Hale, realtor.com®’s chief economist. “But in most places, we’re still a long way from a full reversal.”

After all, home sales aren’t exactly tanking. Prices for existing homes were up 4.6 percent from a year ago in the National Association of REALTORS®’ latest housing report. The median home list price in August was up 7 percent from last year.

While these numbers are still higher than last year, economists point to a slowing growth in the percentage jumps. Last year, median home list prices increased by 10 percent from the previous year and by 9 percent the year before that.

Mortgage Interest Rates ‘Mostly Holding Steady’

Mortgage rates haven’t been this stable since the fall of 2016. Rates did inch up this week, but only slightly and are still offering prospective buyers a window of opportunity, says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

The recent slowdown in price appreciation in several markets, mixed with these steady mortgage rates, is “good news” for many prospective buyers who may have been priced out earlier this year. “Given the strength of the economy, it is possible for home sales to pick up even more before year’s end,” Khater says. “The key factor will be if affordably priced inventory increases enough to continue this recent trend of cooling price appreciation.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Aug. 30:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.52 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 4.51 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.82 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.97 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 3.98 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.12 percent.
Source: “Mortgage Rates Tick Up,” Freddie Mac (Aug. 30, 2018)

Too Much Income Devoted to Making Rent

Renters are struggling to catch a break. In seven of the largest U.S. cities, the average household would need to make at least six figures to comfortably afford the rent on a two-bedroom apartment, according to a new study by SmartAsset, a personal financial website. SmartAsset researchers looked at how much it takes to afford average rental rates in the nation’s 25 largest cities.

Households that spend more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing are considered “cost burdened” by most economists. SmartAsset researchers found rents in California’s largest cities took some of the biggest bites out of American’s paychecks. Four California cities ranked in the top 10 on the list: San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Diego.

A separate study, recently released by PropertyShark and RentCafe, found that if renters could save enough for a down payment they may fare better as homeowners. Renters in more than half of the 50 cities in the study could barely make it until payday, while in 44 of the 50 cities tracked, homeowners were projected to be able to save money each month.

Delayed Ownership and Wealth Disparities

Millennials aren’t purchasing homes on the same timelines as previous generations, and that has some economists worried. The homeownership rate for millennials was 37 percent in 2015, which is about eight percentage points lower than Generation X and baby boomers when they were at the same age between 25 to 34, according to a new report released by the Urban Institute.

Economists point to several factors for millennials’ delay into homeownership, including their delays to get married (being married increases probability of owning a home by 18 percentage points), rising student debt, delayed child bearing, and increasing rents that are making it more difficult to save for a down payment.

But the Urban Institute’s report notes that such delays into ownership are sparking concern. Less educated young adults are falling further behind in homeownership, the report notes. The gap in homeownership rates between the more educated versus the less educated population has grown significantly, increasing from 3.3 percent to 9.7 percent between 1990 and 2015. “Less educated millennials could be falling behind homeownership because of their unstable incomes and rising rents,” the report notes.

Source: “Millennial Homeownership,” Urban Institute (July 11, 2018)

Will Driverless Cars Change Home Values?

The era of autonomous vehicles is coming, but what influence could that have on your home? Autonomous vehicles could usher in greater car sharing among families and neighbors. The car drops off a passenger and then goes to pick up another. Since the vehicles are self-driving and will come when called upon, they may not even need to be parked at home and could be parked in a remote lot. Ride sharing services may grow to become a normal option for homeowners.

“A decrease in car ownership/leasing will likely translate to a decrease in the need for garage space,” says Justin Thompson, a columnist at Forbes.com . “Two-car homes could become one-car homes, rendering the two-car garage obsolete.” “The impact of an increase of this magnitude on home values would certainly have far-reaching economic effects,” Thompson notes. “Increased living area square footage, a rise in home value, additional property tax revenue, and more revenue from permitting fees is an impressive list of benefits.”

Homeowner Equity Growth Streak Continues

Homeowners with a mortgage saw their equity rise 13.3 percent year over year, according to CoreLogic’s Home Equity Report for the first quarter of 2018, released Thursday. The average homeowner gained $16,300 in home equity between the first quarter of 2017 and the first quarter of 2018. That is the highest growth in home equity in four years.

Western states saw the largest uptick in home equity. California homeowners gained $51,000 on average in home equity, while Washington homeowners saw about $44,000 on average, in equity.

Source: “Homeowner Equity Report,” CoreLogic (June 7, 2018)

 

Home Loan Interest Rates Update!

“Mortgage rates so far in 2018 have had the most sustained increase to start the year in over 40 years,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Through May, rates have risen in 15 out of the first 21 weeks (71 percent), which is the highest share since Freddie Mac began tracking this data for a full year in 1972.”

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

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.66 percent, with an average 0.4 point, rising from last week’s 4.61 percent average. A year ago, 30-year rates averaged 3.95 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.15 percent, with an average 0.4 point, rising from last week’s 4.08 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.19 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Legislation to Ease Restrictions on Small Banks

The U.S. House passed a bipartisan bill on Tuesday that will roll back some of the strict rules placed on thousands of small- and medium-sized banks enacted as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law.

The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act contains several provisions that could ease mortgage credit through reduced regulatory burdens on smaller community banks and credit unions. The bill also contained several other provisions related to housing. For example, it would require Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to evaluate and consider credit innovations, like adopting alternative credit scoring models. Currently, the mortgage giants’ credit scoring models do not take into account factors such as whether borrowers have paid their rent or utility bills on time. It also gives the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection the authority to regulate Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, loans and requires lenders to corroborate a homeowners’ ability to repay the loans that are levied as tax assessments on their homes.

The bill now heads to President Trump for his final signature.

Source: National Association of REALTORS® and “Congress Approves First Big Dodd-Frank Rollback,” The New York Times (May 22, 2018)

 

Seniors’ Growing Debt Casts Retirement Doubts

The percentage of families in which the head of household is 75 or older and carrying debt grew by 60 percent between 2007 and 2016, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. In 2016, nearly 50 percent of such families had debt; the average debt was $36,757. Meanwhile, the average monthly Social Security check is $1,404, and more than 40 percent of single adults receive more than 90 percent of their income from Social Security alone, according to government data. Many may find Social Security payouts aren’t sufficient to maintain their lifestyle and pay off debt.

“To pay off the debt, you’re going to have to give up some living standards,” says Craig Copeland, a senior associate with the Employee Benefit Research Institute. For some homeowners, that may mean having to relocate to a place where the cost of living is less expensive. “They may be able to move into a retirement community, where there may be a better social aspect than living in a house in the suburbs with a bunch of young people,” Copeland says. “Or they may have to move in with a relative or friend to share living expenses.”

Source: “Growing Debt Among Older Americans Threatens Their Retirement,” CNBC (April 4, 2018)

Household Net Worth Reaches Record High

Americans are feeling richer. Household net worth neared $100 trillion in the final quarter of last year, falling into record territory, according to new data released by the Federal Reserve on Thursday. Rising stock markets and property prices were attributed to the jolt in the fourth quarter. (Household net worth is the value of all of a consumer’s assets, like stocks and real estate, minus any liabilities like mortgage and credit card debt.)

Household net worth increased more than $2 trillion last quarter to a record $98.7 trillion in the final three months of last year, according to the report. Households in the U.S. saw their net worth increase to nearly seven times their disposable personal income in 2017.

More at source: “U.S. Household Net Worth Pushes Further Into Record Territory,” The Wall Street Journal (March 8, 2018) [Log-in required.] and “Stock Market Lifts U.S. Household Wealth to $98.7 Trillion,” The Associated Press/USA Today (March 8, 2018)