Relief in Cooling Housing Market?

The housing market is showing several signs of slowing, providing a much-needed break for potential buyers who have been waiting to jump into the market. Existing-home sales were 2.4 percent lower in the third quarter than a year ago, and the drop comes at a time when many areas are starting to see an uptick in new listings.

Home prices in many markets are no longer rising by double digits—or even single digits—annually. But with a strong economy and low unemployment, the housing dip is more of a rebalancing of the market than a sign of a downturn.

Source: “Cooling Down of Housing Market Could Be Good News for Buyers,” The Washington Post (Nov. 14, 2018)

The Makings of a Buyer’s Market

Buyers are pulling back. Home prices have been rising too much relative to income for many would-be buyers to keep pace. Since 2011, the U.S. median home price has risen 55 percent while wages are up only 18 percent. Now, the Federal Reserve has become more aggressive against inflation; with several short-term interest rate increases over the past year. A monthly mortgage payment on a typical home today is $1,136, up from $639 in 2011.

And confidence is down. Only 38 percent of consumers today strongly believe it’s a good time to buy, down from 43 percent last year, and the numbers are lower for renters who don’t have equity to tap for a down payment.

With buyers stepping back a bit, inventory is no longer falling. New-home construction is increasing and more homeowners are considering listing. A recent survey NAR conducted shows 50 percent of consumers strongly indicate it is a good time to sell, compared to only 28 percent just two years ago. Most home sellers will also be buyers. With inventory expected to grow, prices will stop rising so fast. That’s a healthy adjustment. Buyers can soon resume their search for the American dream.

Source: magazine.realtor/news-and-commentary/economy/article/2018/10/the-makings-of-a-buyer-s-market?

Homes with Patios now Popular

More new homes are being built with patios, as homeowners show a greater craving for more outdoor space. About 58.6 percent of new single-family homes started in 2017 included a patio, according to an analysis by the National Association of Home Builders. That makes patios more common than decks (23.8 percent), but still shy of the popularity of porches (64.7 percent).

The Annual Builder Practices Survey, conducted by Home Innovation Research Labs, shows that the average size of a patio on a new home is about 260 square feet. Poured concrete is the most often material used for the surface, followed by concrete pavers, natural stone, and brick pavers.

Read more ideas about getting the most out of a patio space: That Small Backyard Can Still Be a Selling Point and 5 Biggest Yard and Patio Staging Mistakes

Mortgage Rate Update!

“Rising rates paired with high and escalating home prices is putting downward pressure on purchase demand,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “While the monthly payment remains affordable due to the still low mortgage rate environment, the primary hurdle for many borrowers is the down payment.”

Freddie Mac reports these national averages for the week ending Oct. 11:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.90 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 4.71 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.91 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.29 percent, with an average 0.4 point, rising from last week’s 4.15 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.21 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Foreclosures Sink to 13-Year Low

Foreclosures are disappearing from most community listings. Foreclosure filings—default notices, scheduled auctions, or bank repossessions—fell 6 percent in the third quarter, dropping to the lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2005. Foreclosure activity in the third quarter is now 36 percent below the pre-recession average of 278,912 properties with foreclosure filings, according to ATTOM Data Solutions’ latest report.

Properties that were foreclosed in the third quarter are seeing a slightly shorter process. The foreclosure process is averaging 713 days, which is down from 899 days a year ago. The states with the longest average timelines for foreclosed homes are Hawaii (1,491 days); Indiana (1,295 days); Florida (1,177 days); Utah (1,170 days); New Jersey (1,137 days); and New York (1,092 days).

Buyers Should ‘Ask After a Home Inspection’

After an inspector has finished a home report, buyers may feel overwhelmed by any flaws that might have been found. That’s why it’s important they take the opportunity to learn more so that they can move forward confidently in the transaction.

A recent article at realtor.com® recommends home buyers ask their inspector clarifying questions like: “I don’t understand this; what does it mean?” or “Is this a major or minor problem?” and “Do I need to call in another expert for a follow-up?”

If the inspector identifies a potentially major problem, consumers will want to follow up whether they should call an additional expert in to investigate further. For example, consumers may need to bring in an electrician to take a closer look at potential electrical issues that were flagged or a roofer if a roofing problem is suspected. Those specialists can then give an idea of the cost to fix it, which the real estate agent can take to the seller to request a concession, if the seller doesn’t want to fix it prior to the sale.

Source: “Home Inspection’s Complete? Here’s What You Must Ask Afterward,” realtor.com® (Oct. 9, 2018)

Market Shifting to Home Buyers’ Favor

A housing market defined by rapidly rising home prices, bidding wars, a lack of inventory, and sellers with the upper hand in negotiations may be changing. “The signs are pointing to a market that’s shifting toward buyers,” says Danielle Hale, realtor.com®’s chief economist. “But in most places, we’re still a long way from a full reversal.”

After all, home sales aren’t exactly tanking. Prices for existing homes were up 4.6 percent from a year ago in the National Association of REALTORS®’ latest housing report. The median home list price in August was up 7 percent from last year.

While these numbers are still higher than last year, economists point to a slowing growth in the percentage jumps. Last year, median home list prices increased by 10 percent from the previous year and by 9 percent the year before that.

Labor Shortages Push Up Construction Costs

Builders are being forced to raise home prices and are having a more difficult time meeting project deadlines because of the ongoing labor shortage in the construction industry, according to the latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. Eighty-four percent of builders say they have had to pay higher wages to subcontractor bids, 83 percent say they have had to raise home prices, and 73 percent say they can’t complete projects on time without more manpower. The number of builders reporting labor and subcontractor shortages reached a record high in July.

“The steepest upward trend has been in the share of builders saying the labor/subcontractor shortages are causing higher home prices, which increased by 22 percentage points between 2015 and 2018—to the point where it is now nearly tied with higher wages/sub bids as the most widespread effect of the shortages,” NAHB reports on its Eye on Housing blog. The survey also shows other effects of the labor shortage, such as builders saying that, in some cases, they’ve been forced to turn down projects.

Source: “Housing Market Index (HMI),” National Association of Home Builders/Eye on Housing (September 2018)

Mortgage Interest Rates ‘Mostly Holding Steady’

Mortgage rates haven’t been this stable since the fall of 2016. Rates did inch up this week, but only slightly and are still offering prospective buyers a window of opportunity, says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

The recent slowdown in price appreciation in several markets, mixed with these steady mortgage rates, is “good news” for many prospective buyers who may have been priced out earlier this year. “Given the strength of the economy, it is possible for home sales to pick up even more before year’s end,” Khater says. “The key factor will be if affordably priced inventory increases enough to continue this recent trend of cooling price appreciation.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Aug. 30:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.52 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 4.51 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.82 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.97 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 3.98 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.12 percent.
Source: “Mortgage Rates Tick Up,” Freddie Mac (Aug. 30, 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)