Flood Insurance Premiums Are About to Go Up

Many homeowners and buyers in flood-prone areas will see higher flood insurance premiums starting April 1. The premium hikes, which are required by law, will be as little as 2 percent for some properties and as high as 24 percent for others. On average, the increase will be about 8 percent.

“The National Flood Insurance Program requires premiums to rise on certain classes of properties over a period of years until they’re paying the full actuarial rate on their risk,” say analysts with the National Association of REALTORS®. “The 8 percent average increase is right in the range of increases for the last couple of years, so there’s nothing unusual here. It’s just the standard rate increase.”

Learn more about the rate changes in a bulletin released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the National Flood Insurance Program.

Mortgage Rates Barely Budge This Week

After last week’s first rate drop of the year, mortgage rates showed little change this week—a welcome sign for the week’s kickoff to the spring home shopping season. But home buyers and borrowers should expect several rate increases over the next few months, economists caution.

“The Federal Reserve raised interest rates [this week]—a much-anticipated move that comes as both U.S. and global economic fundamentals continue to strengthen,” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist. “The Fed’s decision to raise interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point puts the federal funds rate at its highest level since 2008. The decision, while widely expected, sent the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury soaring.” (Read: Fed Raises Rates: What This Means for Mortgages)

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending March 22:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.45 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 4.44 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.23 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.91 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 3.90 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.44 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

More Homeowners, Appraisers Agree on Values

Homeowners and appraisers are seeing more eye-to-eye when it comes to home values. Appraised values in February were, on average, just 0.53 percent below homeowner estimates—the fifth consecutive month where the gap between the two groups has been less than 1 percent, according to the National Quicken Loans Home Price Perception Index.

When shopping for a home—or even refinancing a current mortgage—consumers should always keep the changes in their local market in mind before estimating a home’s value.”

The Home Price Perception Index chart and other data at article source: Quicken Loans

Home Loan Rates Post First Decline of 2018

Following nine consecutive weeks of increases, borrowers finally got some relief this week with mortgage rates. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage posted its first week-over-week decrease of 2018.

“Tuesday’s Consumer Price Index report indicated inflation may be cooling down; headline consumer price inflation was 2.2 percent year over year in February,” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist. “Following this news, the 10-year Treasury fell slightly. Mortgage rates followed.”

Freddie Mac reported the following national averages for the week ending March 15:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.44 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 4.46 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.30 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.90 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 3.94 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.50 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Renovations Homeowners Are Eyeing This Year

Outdoor improvements, including decks, patios, and landscaping, remained highest on owners’ to-do lists for the fifth consecutive year. Interior renovations also are popular: Nearly a third of homeowners say they plan to remodel a bathroom, and more than one in four say they plan to update their kitchen, according to a recent survey by LightStream Home Improvement

65 percent of survey respondents saying they’ll take on at least some of the work. Thirty-five percent of the group say they’ll do the entire project on their own.

Also, budgets for renovations are increasing. Forty-five percent of homeowners who are planning a renovation project say they’re willing to spend $5,000 or more—a record high for the survey. The number of respondents who plan to spend $35,000 or more doubled from 2017.

Source: “Home Improvement Ramps Up in 2018,” The LightStream blog (Feb. 27, 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)

Survey: Home Owners Worried, Buyers Excited

Consumer sentiment is following an unusual trend for a seller’s market: Home buyers are upbeat, but homeowners are less so, according to ValueInsured’s latest quarterly survey of about 1,600 consumers. Why the divergence between buyers and owners? Some homeowners may feel stuck, while buyers are anxious to jump into real estate before home prices and mortgage rates rise further.

Fifty-eight percent of homeowners surveyed say they want to sell but are holding off because they don’t want to purchase again at today’s higher prices. Fifty-nine percent of owners say they believe buyers in their area are overpaying for a home, according to the survey.

Buyers still have plenty of concerns, such as saving for a down payment and eroding housing affordability, particularly in the nation’s hottest housing markets. Some say they are ready to make some sacrifices to afford their first home.

We suggest you view charts and data at: ValueInsured Modern Homebuyer Survey

Hispanics: ‘Helping Home Ownership Rates’

For the third consecutive year, the Hispanic population is driving growth in homeownership, according to the latest State of Hispanic Homeownership Report. Hispanics’ rising populations and household formation, as well as their increased workforce participation, is behind the uptick, according to the report by the Hispanic Wealth Project and National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.

The Hispanic population in the United States increased by 1 million last year and accounted for 51 percent of U.S. population growth. Hispanics increased their homeownership rate slightly from 46 percent to 46.2 percent, or a net increase of 167,000 new-owner households in 2017. Hispanics boasted the highest workforce participation rate among any other ethnic or racial demographic at 66.1 percent, according to the report.

The three biggest obstacles facing Hispanic homeownership: Lack of inventory, recent natural disasters, and the nation’s immigration policy, according to the report.

Source: National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals

This Could Boost Millions of Credit Scores

Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion announced they will soon remove tax lien and civil judgment data from some consumer credit records. The reason for this change is that many liens and most judgments fail to include vital pieces of information. Beginning on July 1, the public records data the firms use must include these data points: the consumer’s name, address, and either a social security number or a date of birth. Existing reports that fail to comply will be struck from the consumer’s credit record and new data that does not have that information will not be added.

Credit scores are weighed carefully by lenders in making decisions about loan terms and how much consumers can borrow, and can be very important in securing a sustainable mortgage. FICO estimates the changes will cause an improvement to about 12 million consumer scores; however the boost will be modest, likely less than 20 points.

In recent months, several lawsuits brought by states have been pushing credit reporting companies to remove some categories of negative data from credit score reports, such as information related to library fines or gym memberships. But some experts fear removing negative public record information could pose a greater risk to lenders.

Source: “Reporting Change Could Raise Credit Scores, Risk,” Mortgage News Daily (March 14, 2017)

Home Buyers: Watch Out for Deed Restrictions

Deed restrictions can bring nasty surprises to homeowners looking to remodel or even when buying a home. These restrictions can limit a number of property features, such as the number of bedrooms in your home, the building height, the type of vehicles in your driveway, the fencing permitted, the type and number of trees that can be removed from a property, and even the style and color of construction materials used in a renovation (which often is intended to limit architectural variations).

During the escrow process or before making an offer, make sure you are aware of any deed restrictions—often called “restrictive covenants” — before buying to avoid problems later on. The property does not have to be part of a homeowners association to be limited by a developer rule included in a deed.

“Deed restrictions turn up during title searches and a careful reading of the current deed,” a realtor.com® article notes. Anyone who buys the property must abide by the restrictions, even if they were put in place on the land a century ago. Deed restrictions are known for being difficult to change and often take a judicial ruling to invalidate them.

Source: “Building, Buying, or Beefing Up a Home? Watch Out for Annoying Deed Restrictions,” realtor.com® (3/01/17)