Latest Data Shows Housing Clash

Lower mortgage rates are prompting higher demand from home buyers to buy, but they aren’t finding enough homes for sale. Mortgage rates last week reached the lowest average since November 2016.

“July’s data highlight tension in the housing markets between buyers eager to take advantage of lower mortgage rates and potential sellers concerned about slowing price growth,” says George Ratiu, realtor.com®’s senior economist. “The decline in newly listed properties suggests that some would-be sellers are stepping back from the market, during the peak buying season, when most people are searching for their next home.”

July saw flat inventory growth, which realtor.com® researchers say could lead to inventory declines much sooner than originally anticipated. Newly listed properties were down 7% in July compared to a year ago, realtor.com® reports.

Source: realtor.com®

If You Don’t Like Home Prices, Blame the Labor Shortage

A shortage of subcontractors continues to hit the new-home market, placing upward pressure on home prices, according to the latest reading from the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. The index asked builders about specific shortages they’re facing among 15 different occupations.

The labor shortage over the past year has meant builders have had to pay higher wages to attract subcontractors and have faced greater difficulty in completing projects on time. Seventy-five percent of builders surveyed say the shortages have also translated into higher home prices.

Subcontractors index at article source: “Labor Shortages Still Hurting Affordability,” National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing blog (Aug. 5, 2019)

Reversal in Home Sales Slump

Home sales appear poised to reverse their downward trend, as contract signings in each of the four major U.S. regions rose in June, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ latest Pending Home Sales Index. The West saw the highest increase in contract signings last month, according to NAR’s report.

Contract signings are now up 1.6% year over year, ending a 17-month streak of annual decreases. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun sees the increase as the likely start of a lasting trend for home sales in the coming months. “Job growth is doing well, the stock market is near an all-time high, and home values are consistently increasing,” Yun says. “When you combine that with the incredibly low mortgage rates, it is not surprising to now see two straight months of increases.”

Hispanics Home Buyers Gaining

Hispanics are posting the largest homeownership gains of any ethnic group, new Census Bureau data shows. The wave of growth is a far cry from four years ago when the Hispanic homeownership rate reached a 50-year low. Since then, ownership among this segment has risen 3.3 percentage points.

Hispanics comprise 18% of the U.S. population, yet they accounted for nearly 63% of new U.S. homeowner gains over the past decade, according to the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.

While the Hispanic ownership rate grows, ownership rates among blacks plunged to the lowest levels on record in the first quarter of this year, Census data shows. Economists note this is the first time in 20 years where Hispanics and blacks—the two largest racial minorities in the U.S.—are no longer following the same path when it comes to homeownership rates.

Source: “Wave of Hispanic Buyers Shores Up U.S. Housing Market,” The Wall Street Journal (July 15, 2019) [Log-in required.]

Home Loan Interest Rates Inch Up

After three weeks of mostly staying steady, average mortgage rates rose this week. Rates still remain at multiyear lows, keeping borrowing costs low for those shopping for homes this summer.

“Despite this slight increase in rates, home buyers are taking advantage of the multiyear low rates in droves, which is evident in the consistently higher refinance and purchase application volumes. The improvement in housing demand should provide sufficient momentum for the housing market and economy during the rest of the year,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

Freddie Mac reported the following national averages for the week ending July 18:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.81%, with an average 0.6 point, up from last week’s 3.75%. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.52%.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.23%, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 3.22% average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 4%.
Source: Freddie Mac

Build More Homes or Get Fined?

In a move to address the housing shortage, some California cities may start to face some stiff penalties if they don’t start building more homes. Under a new bill, cities could face fines up to $600,000 per month if they don’t build more homes for their residents.

A court can find a city or county in violation of state laws that set targets for how much housing a community needs to build for its population needs.

If found in violation, local governments would have a year to comply before the fine kicks in. Following six months of fines, the court could even take over a local government’s authority over its housing plans, according to the bill.

Survey: ‘Senior Housing Demand’

Investors are eyeing senior housing and plan to increase their buying within the sector over the next 12 months, according to the CBRE U.S. Seniors Housing & Care Investor Survey. Sixty-two percent of investors surveyed say they intend to increase the size of their portfolios with elderly living segments over the next year.

“Senior housing demand should remain at relatively healthy levels through 2019, given expected steady economic growth and lower mortgage rates,” says Jeannette Rice, Americas head of multifamily research at CBRE. “Demographic trends are positive for the asset class, with the baby boomers nearing the traditional age for senior housing and nearly 9,000 turning 70 every day this year.”

Source: “Report: Investors Plan to Increase Spending on Senior Housing,” Real Estate Weekly (July 10, 2019)

Survey: Renters Rely Heavily on Web Reviews of Landlords

Consumers largely depend on online reviews and ratings websites when deciding where to rent a property, according to the 2019 Renter Insight & Digital Engagement survey, based on a survey of more than 1,000 adults who are searching for a rental.

“It is imperative that U.S. property owners and managers carefully monitor and evaluate their online reputation if they wish to remain competitive in today’s dense real estate market,” says Aaron Clifford, senior vice president of marketing at Binary Fountain, an online reputation management platform, that commissioned the study.

Sixty-four percent of renters said they used online reviews to search for a rental property at the beginning of their search, the study found. Most read between one and 10 reviews before making a decision on a rental property. Further, 85% of respondents said they looked at online ratings and reviews even after a friend or family member recommended a property.

Source: Binary Fountain and “More Renters Going Online to Rate Their Landlord,” Real Estate Weekly (June 28, 2019)

Gov. Probe Into Creating More ‘Affordable Housing’

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to ease or, in some cases, eliminate rules that have been blamed for blocking greater construction of affordable housing. Home building is near its lowest level in 60 years, contributing to a nationwide housing shortage that has pushed home prices up and hurting affordability.

Trump announced that a newly created initiative called the White House Council on Eliminating Barriers to Affordable Housing Development will use federal programs to find ways to encourage local governments to allow for more building. The council, which will be chaired by Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, will also conduct a study to quantify the effect of regulations on the housing market and economy.

Source: “Trump Administration to Take on Local Housing Barriers,” The Wall Street Journal (June 25, 2019) [Log-in required.]

Rates Hover Near 2-Year Lows

Lower mortgage rates are proving to be a boon for home shoppers.

“While the continued drop in mortgage rates has paused, home buyer demand has not,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “This is evident in increased purchase activity and loan amounts, indicating that home buyers still have the willingness and capacity to purchase homes. Today’s low rates, strong job market, solid wage growth, and consumer confidence are typically important drivers of home sales.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending June 20:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.84%, with an average 0.5 point, up from last week’s 3.82% average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.57%.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.25%, with an average 0.4 point, falling from last week’s 3.26% average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 4.04%.
Source: Freddie Mac