Rates Hit Pause, Consumers Rush to Lock In?

A slight dip in interest rates last week brought more homeowners and home buyers to the mortgage market. More homeowners were quick to refinance before interest rates rise again, and home buyers were able to lock in lower rates during the week.

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that total mortgage application volume—which includes for refinancings and home purchases—rose 3.1 percent last week on a seasonally adjusted basis. Mortgage applications, however, still remain 8.5 percent below a year ago.

Additional data at: “Weekly Mortgage Applications Rise as Rates Briefly Fall Back,” CNBC (Nov. 15, 2017)

Newbie Buyers Make Smaller Down Payments

About 60 percent of first-time home buyers put down 6 percent or less on a home purchase in September. The median down payment has dropped from 6 percent to 5 percent for first-time buyers, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.

NAR conducted a survey of non-homeowners earlier this year and found that most consumers believe you need a down payment of 10 percent or 20 percent to buy a home.

“They may not be aware that these programs are available, and they may not be taking advantage of them,” Jessica Lautz, NAR’s managing director of survey research and communications, said in the latest Down Payment Report, published by the Down Payment Resource.

Thirty-two percent of first-time buyers said they saved for more than two years to have enough to buy a home. Student loan debt was the most often cited obstacle to saving. The second most cited barrier for saving was credit card debt.

Source: “The Down Payment Report,” Down Payment Resource (November 2017)

When to Drop Your Listing Price

Though low inventory is prompting buyers to raise their offers in order to beat out competitors, you still want your sellers to know: an overpriced listing will linger on the market. Buyers pay attention to time on market and may erroneously assume something is wrong with a property that has gone “stale.” Real estate pros say it’s critical to determine what time frame is considered stale in your market and drop the price of your listing before getting to that pivotal moment.

Soaring home prices may make buyers pause, but houses are still selling fast. Nationwide, the average time a home spent on the market was 34 days in September, down from 39 days a year prior, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Some sellers may be adamant about “testing the market” with a high asking price, so you should have a game plan for what to do if it backfires.

Source: “How to Know When to Drop the Asking Price on Your Home,” CNBC (Oct. 27, 2017)

Hispanic Homeownership Surges

Hispanics are increasingly making up what’s considered the typical American home buyer, Curbed.com reports. Latinos are expected to make up 52 percent of new home buyers between 2010 and 2030, largely driven by the country’s 14.6 million Latino millennials.

“The fact is the majority of Latinos want to be home owners and will make up half of all new home buyers in the next 20 years,” Scott Astrada, director of federal advocacy at the Center for Responsible Lending, told NBC. “They have a central place in the housing market and finance system.”

Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies’ “State of the Nation’s Housing” study predicts minorities overall will drive three-quarters of the gains in U.S. households. Latinos will likely account for one-third of those increases alone.

Source: “Booming Hispanic Homeownership Helping Fuel U.S. Housing Market,” Curbed.com (Sept. 5, 2017)

Report: Kids Have Big Say in Real Estate

Buyers with children put more weight on the neighborhood, local schools, and size of homes when shopping for the right property, according to the 2017 Moving With Kids report, produced by the National Association of REALTORS®.

The neighborhood, in particular, has a big influence on home buyers with children under the age of 18. Forty-nine percent of buyers who have children consider the neighborhood based on the quality of the school district, and 43 percent choose a neighborhood by the convenience to schools.

Sellers with kids also have unique needs. One notable need is that they usually have to sell their homes faster. Twenty-six percent of owners with children under the age of 18 sold their home urgently compared to 14 percent of owners with no children at home. The main reasons for selling a home for sellers with children were that the home was too small or they faced a job relocation or a change in their family situation.

Source: “2017 Moving With Kids,” National Association of REALTORS® (Aug. 21, 2017)

A Cruel Season for Home Buyers

Typically, the housing market starts to slow in late summer, and prices drop slightly. But so far this year that hasn’t been the case.

“Homes are not selling faster than last July, but faster than last year’s peak months,” says Javier Vivas, manager of economic research at realtor.com®. “However, quick sales don’t necessarily mean more sales, particularly when there isn’t enough inventory, as is the current case. Home prices also remain stubbornly high, failing to show hints of the usual seasonal cool down. Low and moderately priced homes are being snatched up especially quickly, keeping many would-be buyers from being able to get into the market.”

“In this market, home buyers have to move fast, yet high prices and low inventory are slowing down even the most earnest of house hunters,” Nela Richardson, Redfin’s chief economist, told CNBC. “Faced with a low supply of homes for sale and extremely competitive conditions, many home buyers are struggling to make it to the offer stage.”

Source: “Housing Demand Strengthens Through Summer, But Here’s Why Some Buyers Are Giving Up,” CNBC (Aug. 2, 2017)

Is Calif.’s Housing Crisis Spinning Out of Control?

California has a severe lack of affordable homes and apartments for middle-class families, The New York Times reports. Their median cost of a home has surged to $500,000—double the national cost.

“The extreme rise in housing costs has emerged as a threat to the state’s future economy and its quality of life,” The New York Times reports. “It has pushed the debate over housing to the center of state and local politics, fueling a resurgent rent control movement and the growth of neighborhood ‘Yes in My Back Yard’ organizations, battling long-established neighborhood groups and local elected officials as they demand an end to strict zoning and planning regulations.”

The state has introduced 130 housing measures this year. Among one of the most recent actions, the Senate approved a bill to crack down on communities that have delayed or derailed housing construction proposals. The bill would restrict the ability to use zoning, environmental, and procedural laws to kill projects that may be considered “out of character” with the neighborhood. The bill is expected to be voted on again later this summer.

Source: “The Cost of a Hot Economy: A Severe Housing Crisis,” The New York Times (July 17, 2017)

The Real Costs of Tiny Homes

The tiny home movement—homes that often fall within the 100- to 400-square-foot range—is becoming more trendy as owners are drawn to the homes’ minimalism and sliced costs. But buyers may not want to count on cutting their savings by purchasing a tiny home.

A tiny home usually has more costs up front. If you build it yourself, the average cost is about $23,000, according to The Tiny Life. This usually doesn’t include the land price, so buyers will need to pay more to purchase a plot of land or lease land for the home. Additionally, about 68 percent of tiny home owners don’t have a mortgage at all, compared to just 29.3 percent of buyers of traditional homes.

Tiny-home living promotes less spending on utilities as an added perk, but buyers will need to watch those upfront payments as well. Tiny homes often use alternate forms of energy, such as propane, solar energy, or composting. Even for a tiny house, a solar-power system can cost about $8,000, according to The Financial Times.

Source: “Tiny House Living: How Much Money Can You Really Save?” CheatSheet.com (July 11, 2017)

Renters Admit They Favor Home Ownership

Seventy-two percent of renters “prefer” or “strongly prefer” to own a home rather than rent one, according to the latest SCE Housing Survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Nearly 56 percent of renters view homeownership as a “good investment,” the survey finds.

The majority of renters favor homeownership, despite expressing concerns about their ability to one day afford a home. However, they do believe it’s getting easier to qualify for a mortgage. Sixty-five percent of renters say qualifying for a mortgage is “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult,” but that is gradually declining. Twenty percent of renters view qualifying for a mortgage as “somewhat easy” or “very easy,” which is up from 15 percent in 2015.

Source: “Home Price Growth Expectations to Increase: Renters Perceive Easier Access to Mortgage Credit,” Federal Reserve Bank of New York (May 11, 2017)

Owners: Be Smart When Financing Renovations

The number of homeowners who are planning to take on home improvement projects or repairs this year is expected to increase 6.7 percent, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. As more owners look to remodel, they should be weighing how to fund their renovations.

Homeowners may be using credit cards, even though they intend to pay for the balance as soon as it’s due, because they want the benefits of getting airline miles or other rewards from using the credit card, says Todd Nelson LightStream’s business development officer. But for those who don’t intend to pay the credit card off right away should realize the interest rates are usually in double digits and is not tax-deductable.

An option is a home equity line of credit, the interest may be tax-deductible and there are few upfront frees. Another consideration may be a cash-out refinance is another option, where borrowers refinance for more than what they owe on the property and then take the difference out in cash. However, processing fees and closing costs are involved.

Source: “More Homeowners Pay for Repairs With Credit Cards,” realtor.com® (April 26, 2017)