Home Loan Interest Rates are ‘Pressing Higher’

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage reached its highest average since December 2016, Freddie Mac reports. This is the fifth consecutive week that mortgage rates have been on the rise, increasing borrowing costs for home shoppers heading into the spring buying season.

Following a turbulent Monday, financial markets settled down with the 10-year Treasury yield resuming its upward march. Mortgage rates have followed,” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist. “Will higher rates break housing market momentum? It’s too early to tell for sure.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Feb. 8:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.32 percent, with an average 0.6 point, rising from last week’s 4.22 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.17 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.77 percent, with an average 0.5, up from a 3.68 percent average last week. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.39 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Don’t Panic Over Stock Market Mayhem

The housing market likely won’t be deeply affected by the sharp decline in stocks over the last two days because underlying economic fundamentals remain strong, says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS®. Jobs are being created, workers are seeing wage gains, and there’s no recession on the horizon.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index fell by more than 4 percent Monday, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined nearly 5 percent. As of late Tuesday, the S&P was down by almost 1.2 percent since the first of the year, although that comes after a year of double-digit gains.

One metric to watch is long-term bond rates, which historically have gone up as stocks go down. That link, however, hasn’t been as strong in the past few years. Investors tend to increase demand in bonds as an alternative to stocks, driving up yields, which can lead to higher mortgage rates. Since the start of the year, the average rate on a 30-year mortgage has risen, from 3.95 percent to 4.22 percent, according to Freddie Mac. That’s still low by historical standards.

—REALTOR® Magazine

Fed Move Doesn’t Suppress Mortgage Rates

The Federal Reserve may have voted to leave its short-term interest rates unchanged this week, but that didn’t stop lenders from moving up mortgage rates. Average mortgage rates are continuing an upward trend in 2018.

“The Federal Reserve did not hike rates this week, but the market views future hikes as a near certainty,” says Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist at Freddie Mac. “The expectation of future Fed rate hikes and increased borrowing by the U.S. Treasury is putting upward pressure on interest rates.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Feb. 1:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.22 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 4.15 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.19 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.68 percent, with an average 0.5 point, increasing from last week’s 3.62 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.41 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Home Buyers Don’t Grasp ‘Mortgage Basics’

Many Americans begin looking for a home to buy without understanding the fundamentals of applying for a mortgage or what it takes to qualify for one, according to a new survey by Ally Home, a direct-to-consumer mortgage business.

Ninety-two percent of the more than 2,000 U.S. adults who responded to the survey admit they don’t know how much mortgage they can afford. Further, most say they’re confused about “rates” versus “points,” and only a third have a general idea of what their average closing costs might be. Only 8 percent are aware that the maximum debt-to-income ratio is usually 43 percent; most respondents believe it’s significantly lower or don’t know at all.

Ally Home is touting its free Mortgage Playbook, a resource that covers the basics of applying for a home loan. The book uses sports jargon to outline the mortgage application process, covering topics such as how to improve your financial fitness prior to applying for a loan, how to evaluate rate and points options, and how loan rates are determined.

Source: Ally Financial

‘Hemp Homes’ Spark Building Industry Interest

Hemp structures date back to Roman times. But now, some builders want to bring it back to their markets, since it’s known for being a fast-growing, sustainable product.

“Mixing hemp’s woody fibers with lime produces a natural, light concrete that retains thermal mass and is highly insulating,” The New York Times reports. “No pests, no mold, good acoustics, low humidity, no pesticide. It grows from seed to harvest in about four months.”

To clarify, industrial hemp is not the same as the product that can give you a buzz. It contains only 0.3 percent of the substance THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol.

Hemp is more widely used across the globe as insulation to fill walls and roofs and under floors in wood-framed buildings. It becomes stucco-like in appearance, it’s more like drywall than concrete so it can’t be used for a foundation.

Source: “High Times Beckon for Using Hemp to Build Houses,” The New York Times (Jan. 29, 2018)

Cash Sales Soar to Post-Recession High

Cash sales accounted for 8 percent of new-home sales in the fourth quarter of 2017, matching a high that has not been seen since 2014, the National Association of Home Builders reports on its Eye on Housing blog. Cash sales make up an even larger share of existing-home sales—about 20 percent in December, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

Cash hardly makes up the bulk of financing options for buyers, however. The share of new homes financed with conventional mortgages has dropped slightly from 73.2 percent to 72.7 percent. In the fourth quarter of 2017, 12.9 percent of new-home buyers used FHA loans. The share of sales financed with FHA-backed mortgages has dropped 4 percentage points since reaching a peak in the second quarter of 2015.

Source: “Cash Sales Tie Post-Recession High,” National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing blog (Jan. 26, 2018)

Millennials Are Saving More Than You Think

Millennials have been stereotyped as a generation that lacks savings or money management skills. But the data isn’t backing that up.

Sixteen percent of millennials ages 23 to 37 have $100,000 or more in savings, which is double the number of young people who had that much stowed away in 2015, a newly released survey from Bank of America shows. Nearly half—or 47 percent—have $15,000 saved, up from 33 percent in 2015.

63 percent of millennials surveyed say they are saving, compared to 64 percent of Generation X and 75 percent of baby boomers. Fifty-four percent of millennials say they have a budget; 60 percent say they “feel financially secure.” The top priorities for their savings: in case of an emergency (64%), retirement (49%), and buying a house (33%).

Source: “2018 Better Money Habits Millennial Report,” Bank of America (Winter 2018) and “Millennials: 1 in 6 Now Have $100,000 Socked Away,” USA Today (Jan. 23, 2018)

Have We Seen the Last of 3% Mortgage Rates?

Average interest rates rose for the second consecutive week for the first time since last summer, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage shot above 4 percent, Freddie Mac reports in its weekly survey.

“This is the highest weekly average for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage since May of 2017,” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist. “Inflation is firming, the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book indicates broad-based economic growth, and labor markets are tightening. This means upward pressure on long-term rates, like the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, is building.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Jan. 18:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.04 percent, with an average 0.6 point, up from last week’s 3.99 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.09 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.49 percent, with an average 0.5 point, increasing from last week’s 3.44 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.34 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Builders Reveal Top 10 Biggest Concerns

Homebuilding is still falling short in many markets in alleviating the shrinking inventories of homes for sale. But builders are blaming the construction shortfall on several factors.

Builders revealed the following top 10 “significant” increases in cost problems they expect to face in 2018, according to the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo Housing Market Index:

  1. Cost/availability of labor: 84%
  2. Building material prices: 84%
  3. Cost/availability of developed lots: 62%
  4. Impact/hook up/inspection or other fees: 60%
  5. Local/state environment regulations and policies: 45%
  6. Inaccurate appraisals: 42%
  7. Federal environment regulations and policies: 42%
  8. Difficulty obtaining zoning/permit approval: 42%
  9. Gridlock/uncertainty in Washington making buyers cautious: 42%
  10. Development standards (parling, setbacks, etc.): 38%

Source: “Building Materials Prices and Labor Access Top Challenges for 2018,” National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing blog (Jan. 16, 2018)

‘Aging in Place’ Begins Early: Report

Homeowners are getting older, and to continue on in their current house, improvements are necessary.

Homeowners at an earlier stage, aged 55-75, are also making modifications, but not necessarily due to aging concerns (though they are, fortuitously, ideal for just that). These include adding automated features like a programmable thermostat or voice activation, and, in bathrooms, grab bars and higher toilets. According to a HomeAdvisor report. The most common remodels, the report shows:

 

  • Add Lever-Style Doorknobs
  • Add Pull-Out Shelves
  • Add a Smart Fire Detection System
  • Add a Smart Security System
  • Replace Stone/Tile With Carpet/Wood

Other key improvements to consider, the report shows:

  • Lighting
  • Modifications in Shower (Bench, threshold)
  • Moving Master Bedroom to First Floor
  • Ramps
  • Wider Doorways

Source: HomeAdvisor