Mortgage Rates Ease for Second Week

Borrowers had slightly more relief with mortgage rates again this week. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate dipped again, averaging 4.53 percent, Freddie Mac reports.

“The stability in borrowing costs comes despite the highest core inflation rates since 2008 and turbulence in the currency markets,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Unfortunately, this pause in rates is not leading to increasing home sales.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Aug. 16:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.53 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 4.59 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.89 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.01 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 4.05 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.16 percent.
Source: “Mortgage Rates Step Back,” Freddie Mac (Aug. 16, 2018)

5M Renters Have Fallen Prey to Online Scams

More than 43 percent of renters say they’ve found online rental listings that seemed fraudulent, and more than 5 million say they’ve actually been scammed—sometimes to the tune of thousands of dollars—according to a new report released by rental website ApartmentList.com.

The survey revealed that the most common scam is a “bait-and-switch” one, where a different property is advertised than the one that is actually available. The scammer is often able to collect a deposit or get a lease signed for the fake property. Another common scam is the “hijacked ad,” where a scammer takes a home that is legitimately for sale and poses as a fake landlord to collect funds. Apartment List also warns of a growing scam in which a listing property that is already leased is posted online. The scammer then attempts to collect application fees or security deposits from an unsuspecting consumer.

Source: “Ready to Rent a Home? Beware of These New Scams,” CNBC (Aug. 9, 2018)

Dip in Rates Provides ‘Stability’ for Home Sales

Borrowers saw a little relief from recent increases. Mortgage rates dropped slightly this week, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaging 4.59 percent, Freddie Mac reports. “This stability is much needed for home sales, which have crested because of the multiyear run up in prices, tight affordable inventory, and this year’s higher rates,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

Home prices are still climbing and rates are up from 3.90 percent a year ago. “Some prospective buyers are definitely feeling an affordability crunch,” Khater says.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Aug. 9:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.59 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 4.60 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.90 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.05 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 4.08 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.18 percent.
Source: “Mortgage Rates Inch Backward,” Freddie Mac (Aug. 9, 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.

The Kitchen New-Home Buyers Want

New-home buyers now rank all-white kitchens—once the most in-demand aesthetic—as their second choice, below natural wood cabinetry, according to a new survey from homebuilder Ashton Woods. Respondents to the survey, who are prospective buyers planning to purchase in the next 10 years, picked distressed wood cabinetry as their third most popular choice.

They also said living space is more important to them than bedroom size. Sixty-one percent say they would trade a larger bedroom in order to get a larger living area. Hobby rooms and home offices are also on their priority list, with 67 percent of respondents saying they want an office in their next home.

Source: “Here’s What Buyers of Newly Constructed Homes Want,” The Washington Post (July 26, 2018)

An Artificial Lawn Isn’t Maintenance-Free

Artificial grass, which comes in multiple textures, finishes, and colors, can give homeowners a low-maintenance alternative to natural lawns. But it has pros and cons.

Artificial grass doesn’t need watering and remains green all year, which is a big selling point for homeowners. It works well in most climates, particularly dry climates, but it’s not totally maintenance-free. For example, you’ll need to rinse an artificial lawn to clear it of dirt and debris. Also, you’ll need to “groom your lawn to fluff the blades of grass and keep it from becoming matted,” Rob Turley, general manager at Custom Turf in Finleyville, Pa., told realtor.com®.

Artificial lawn materials can be pricey and require special equipment to install, costing between $8 to $20 per square foot, Turley says. Natural grass costs about $0.25 per square foot, for comparison.

Source: “Is Artificial Grass Right for Your Yard? 5 Factors to Consider,” realtor.com® (July 23, 2018)

‘Extra Time to Find the Right Home’ for Buyers

Mixed economic data this week prompted mortgage rates to remain in mostly a holding pattern, says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Manufacturing output and consumer spending showed improvements, but construction activity was a disappointment,” Khater says. “This meant there was no driving force to move mortgage rates in any meaningful way, which has been the theme in the last two months. That’s good news for price-sensitive home shoppers, given that this stability in borrowing costs allows them a little extra time to find the right home.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending July 19:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.52 percent this week, with an average 0.5 point, dropping slightly from last week’s 4.53 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.96 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4 percent this week, with an average 0.4 point, falling from last week’s 4.02 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.23 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Ideal Age for First-Time Home Buyers

Apparently the magic number for first-time home buyers is 28. That’s the average age that most Americans think a person should be when they buy their own home, according to a new Bankrate.com report conducted  last month among a sample of 1,001 respondents.

This may be a bit optimistic in practice, at least for buyers in today’s market. The National Association of REALTORS®’ 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers found the median age of first-time buyers was 32 years old for the second year in a row.

The Bankrate study did find some differences in opinion between genders and regions of the country. While a quarter of men think people should strive to buy their first home by age 25, just 12 percent of women say the same.

Source: “Americans reveal ideal ages for financial milestones,” (July 18, 2018) Bankrate.com

The Cost of Selling Without a Real Estate Agent

You’ve heard of buyer’s remorse; but without your market expertise and sales skills to back them up, sellers who choose to sell their home on their own just may experience “seller’s regret” when they see how much less they get for their properties. FSBOs earn an average of $60,000 to $90,000 less on the sale of their home than sellers who work with a real estate agent, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Here’s the breakdown:

  • All agent-assisted homes: $250,000 (median selling price)
  • All FSBO homes: $190,000
  • FSBO homes when buyer knew seller: $160,300

Homeowners seem to be hearing the message: Only 8 percent of sellers last year—an all-time low—chose to sell their home themselves, according to NAR’s 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. That figure has been falling since 2004, when 14 percent of homeowners sold their own homes.

Source: “Selling Your Home Solo to Save Money? You’ll Actually Make Less Than You Think,” National Association of REALTORS® Economists’ Outlook blog (July 9, 2018)

Mortgage Rates Continue to Slide This Week

Mortgage rates this summer have been dropping the past few weeks after sharp rises this spring. “A record number of people quit their job last month, most likely for a new opportunity with higher wages and better benefits,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “This positive trend, along with these lower mortgage rates, should increasingly give some previously priced-out prospective home buyers the financial wherewithal to resume their home search.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending July 12:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.53 percent for the week, up from last week’s 4.52 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.03 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.02 percent this week, up from last week’s 3.99 percent average. A year ago, 15-year fixed-rates averaged 3.29 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac