First Half Review: Housing Is Doing Well!

The first half of 2016 has proven to be a boom to real estate, writes Jonathan Smoke, realtor.com®’s chief economist in his monthly column. Total home sales are up 5 percent compared to the first half of 2015 and median existing home prices are up 5 percent as of June, setting a new record. Also, a rise in equity for home owners may encourage them to consider selling.

Yet, Smoke doesn’t expect the strong market to stay this strong in the second half of the year.

“All ages have been tempted by near-record lows in mortgage rates prompted by global economic weakness and instability driving investors toward U.S. bonds,” Smoke writes in his latest column. “But even with all that demand, the market can grow only so much, because of the limited inventory of homes for sale.

“As long as [mortgage] rates do not increase substantially in a short period of time, the real estate market should remain strong,” Smoke says. “The underlying reason for higher rates is a stronger economy; so the benefits of that will offset the impact of marginally higher rates. A stronger economy, more jobs, lower unemployment, and higher wages will power demand. Higher rates will also likely help loosen credit. Those positive conditions coupled with demographic tailwinds from millennials and boomers will keep the U.S. housing market healthy and strong for at least two more years.”

Source: “Housing Had a Great First Half of 2016, But Will It Last?” realtor.com® (July 28, 2016)

How Much Space Home Buyers Really Crave

The amount of desired square footage can vary quite a bit among the different age groups, according to findings from the National Association of Home Builders’ “Housing Preferences of the Boomer Generation: How They Compare to Other Home Buyers.” For example, millennial and Gen X buyers desire the most space, at more than 2,300 square feet. Baby boomers and seniors, on the other hand, mostly would be happy with homes that are under 1,900 square feet.

NAHB’s study also found that more than half of all home buyers across all age groups would like to have a home with three bedrooms. Thirty percent of respondents say they’d prefer four bedrooms or more. Millennials and Gen X’ers are most likely to want a home with at least four bedrooms.

Take a look at the NAHB chart that shows the gap between current and desired home sizes among the various ages at:
“Housing Preferences Across Generations (Part II),” National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing (March 17, 2016)

First-Time Buyers May Face a Difficult Spring

This spring, first-time buyers may struggle to find a house. The number of homes in the lower-price market is severely limited. Inventory fell 8.2 percent in January from a year earlier for properties priced below $250,000, according to data from the National Association of REALTORS®.

“Affordability is a challenge this spring,” says Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist. Potential home buyers “would have gotten their credit in shape and they’ll have a job. But they will be frustrated because, in their market, there simply won’t be affordable homes.”

“Already facing affordability issues, this competition at the entry-level market only adds to the roadblocks slowing first-time buyers,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

Source: “First-Time House Hunters Lose in Busy U.S. Homebuying Season,” Bloomberg News (March 16, 2016)

Millennials Are Heading to Outside of Urban Areas

Millennials are leaving the city. While many millennials choose to live in urban areas as renters, when they’re ready to buy, they’re increasingly seeking single-family homes outside of urban areas, according to the 2016 National Association of REALTORS® Home Buyer and Seller study.

“The median age of a millennial home buyer is 30 years old, which typically is the time in life where one settles down to marry and raise a family,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Even if an urban setting is where they’d like to buy their first home, the need for more space at an affordable price is for the most part pushing their search further out. Furthermore, limited inventory in millennials’ price range, minimal entry-level condo construction, and affordability pressures make buying in the city extremely difficult for most young households.”

The percentage of millennials purchasing a home in an urban or central city area fell to 17 percent in this year’s survey – down from 21 percent the year prior. 10 percent purchased a multifamily home, down from 15 percent a year ago.

Source: “Millennials More Likely to Buy in Suburban Areas,” RISMedia (March 9, 2016)

Home Features ‘Most Desired by Age’

Home buyers are demanding more home features that help them save energy and keep the home organized, a new study released by the National Association of Home Builders, “Housing Preferences of the Boomer Generation: How They Compare to Other Home Buyers” reveals.

However, the generations – millennials (born 1980 or later); Gen X’ers (born 1965-1979); baby boomers (born 1946-1964); and seniors (born 1945 or earlier) – do show some differences in what home features they value the most. In a nationwide survey of more than 4,300 home buyers, NAHB pinpointed those differences and which features each generation most desires.

Home features most wanted by each generation detailed at: “Housing Preferences Across Generations (Part I),” National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing Blog (March 7, 2016), study source.

What Generation Faces the Most Financial Hurdles?

A recent Experian study finds that, among millennials (ages 19-34), generation Xers (35-49), and baby boomers, and the greatest generation (ages 50-87), generation Y has the biggest job ahead of them in terms of repairing their credit. They also have the worst credit scores of all groups combined.

“Given the significance millennials play in financial services and the credit marketplace, it is crucial to understand this influential consumer segment and how they use credit as a tool,” says Michele Raneri, vice president of analytics and business development at Experian. “While this generation may not look like they are on the right track financially, it’s important to keep in mind that credit scores are built on credit experiences, and while this generation has been slower to use credit, they have plenty of opportunities to build a positive credit history.”

Source: Experian

 

Millennials Striking Out on Their Own

In 2013, 31 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds still lived with their parents. Prior to the housing crisis, however, that percentage stood at 27 percent. If the number of 18- to 34-year-olds who live with their parents returns to pre-recession levels over the next five years that could mean an extra 400,000 young adults leaving home each year.

“[A] normalization in the share of young adults living with their parents looks set to provide a boost to household formation, underpinning the recovery in housing starts,” says Ed Stansfield, chief property economist for Capital Economics. “But unless it is also accompanied by a marked loosening in lending criteria it is unlikely to trigger a new house price boom, as house price growth will be constrained by income growth.”

“The U.S. economy is now growing strongly, with real incomes rising rapidly and mortgage credit conditions loosening,” says Stansfield. “That means more young adults will have the means to strike out on their own.”

Source: “Is Household Formation Set for a Rebound?” HousingWire (March 12, 2015)

87% of Homes Qualify for ‘Down Payment Aid’

More prospective home buyers would likely qualify for down payment assistance than they think. Indeed, more than 68 million single-family and condo households – or about 87 percent — would qualify for a down payment program available in the county where they are located, according to a new study by Down Payment Resource and RealtyTrac in an analysis that included a look at nearly 2,300 down payment programs nationwide.

“Many homebuyers, especially Millennials, haven’t fully investigated their home financing options because they are pessimistic about qualifying for a mortgage,” says Rob Chrane, president and CEO of Down Payment Resource. “Our Homeownership Program Index highlights the wide range and availability of down payment programs available to today’s homebuyers. In fact, 91 percent of the 2,290 programs in our registry have funds available to lend to eligible buyers. Plus, income limits vary depending on the market and programs extend beyond just first-time homebuyers. It’s important for buyers to research down payment programs as part of their loan shopping process.”

For a view of available down payment programs by area, visit downpaymentresource.com.

Source: “87 Percent of U.S. Homes Qualify for Down Payment Help According to RealtyTrac and Down Payment Resource Analysis,” RealtyTrac (Feb. 3, 2015)

 

The Younger Generation will Drive Down Home Sizes

Millennials will make their mark on the look of homes in the coming years as homes likely will get smaller, separate laundry rooms will become essential, and home technology will be a must, according to a panel of builders and designers speaking at the International Builder Show last week.

A growing number of first-time buyers will likely lead to smaller homes — a downsizing home trend that may start showing itself even in 2015, predicts Rose Quint, the assistant vice president of research at the National Association of Home Builders.

As younger, first-time buyers re-emerge on to the market, “they will demand smaller, more affordable homes,” Quint says. “Builders will build whatever demand calls out for.”

Seventy-five percent of millennials surveyed said they want to live in a single-family home, and 66 percent said they prefer to live in the suburbs.

Since millennials tend to be more cash-strapped than older home owners, they often seek less expensive, low-maintenance choices in a home, such as landscaping that needs less watering and mowing and larger patios instead, said Jill Waage, editorial director for home content at Better Homes and Gardens, surveys buyers on home preferences. Millennails are often very tech savvy, and increasingly are asking for ways to control their home’s heating, air conditioning, security, and lighting from their phones or tablets.

Source: National Association of Home Builders

Suburbanites Are Happiest, Poll Finds

City centers and downtowns may be growing in demand among millennials and retiring baby boomers, but a new poll says residents are still happiest in the suburbs.

Americans who live in suburban areas are the most satisfied with the place they live, according to the Atlantic Media/Siemens State of City Poll. Eighty-four percent of suburbanites rated their community as “excellent” or “good” compared to 75 percent of urban dwellers and 78 percent of rural residents, according to the poll of more than 1,600 U.S. adults.

The survey revealed some racial, economic, and generational differences in community satisfaction. For example, in urban areas, whites were significantly more likely than minorities to say they were happy with their communities as places to live. Also, younger adults in general were less likely to rate their communities as “excellent” or “good” compared to their older counterparts. Older respondents tended to hold more favorable views of the place where they live.

Home ownership also appeared to be a major predictor for how satisfied residents were with their community. In urban areas, 44 percent of home owners rated their community as “excellent” compared to 22 percent of urban renters. Among non-urban home owners, 46 percent rated their community as “excellent” compared to 31 percent of non-urban renters, the poll found.

Source: “Overall, Americans in the Suburbs Are Still the Happiest,” The Atlantic CityLab (Aug. 25, 2014)