Desperate Buyers ‘Snag Homes Sight Unseen’

Some home shoppers are feeling hopeless this spring and making competitive moves in order to get a home. They’re reportedly rushing to making offers without seeing homes first, bidding well above the asking price, or waiving inspections entirely to get sellers to find their offer the most alluring.

Record low supplies of homes for sale are driving up prices across the country.

As for sellers, they may find some big profits when they do sell. “It’s going to have the feel of a hot market” with multiple offers and bidding wars, says Lawrence Yun, the chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS®. Still, Yun expects sales to be flat compared to a year ago due to the shortage of homes for sale as well as reduced affordability for many house hunters.

Source: “Home Buying Market so Brutal, Some Home Buyers Make Offer Sight Unseen,” USA Today (April 5, 2018)

Home Loan Interest Rates Just Got Higher

“Optimistic testimony on Capitol Hill from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell sent Treasury yields higher as Powell stated his outlook for the economy has strengthened since December,” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist.

“We think strength in the economy and pent-up housing demand should allow U.S. housing markets to post modest growth this year even with higher mortgage rates,” Kiefer says.

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

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.43 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 4.40 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.10 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.90 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 3.85 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.32 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

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

Mortgage Applications Finally Edge Up Again

A brief pause in the rise of interest rates helped buoy mortgage application volume last week, following several weeks of declines. Total mortgage applications for home purchases and refinancings rose 2.7 percent compared to the previous week, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported Wednesday. Applications, however, are 2.4 percent lower than a year ago.

The bulk of last week’s increase was driven by home buyers. Mortgage applications to purchase a home rose 6 percent during the week, and are 3 percent higher than a year ago, the MBA reports.

Meanwhile, refinance applications dropped 1 percent for the week and are down nearly 10 percent from a year ago. Interest rates were lower a year ago, and refinance applications tend to be more rate-sensitive.

Source: “Mortgage Applications Rise 2.7 Percent as Rates Take a Brief Breather From Surge,” CNBC (Feb. 28, 2018)

More Buyers Gamble With Sight-Unseen Offers

Thirty-five percent of home buyers who purchased a home in November and December said they made an offer on the home without seeing it first in person, according to a newly released survey of more than 1,500 home purchasers conducted by the real estate brokerage Redfin. That is up from 33 percent in May 2017 and from 19 percent in June 2016.

By age group, millennial home buyers are the most likely to make an offer on a home without visiting it first, at 45 percent, researchers found. Younger adults may be more comfortable with relying on information they find online about properties for sale and the neighborhoods, researchers note.

For buyers who can’t see the property in person first, some real estate professionals are relying on FaceTime video call tours or 3-D virtual tour programs to give them a better idea of the interiors.

Source: “Sight-Unseen in 2017: 35% of Homebuyers Bid on a Home Before Seeing it in Person,” Redfin (Feb. 26, 2018)

Mortgage Rates Still Climbing, Not Fading!

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage shows little signs of stopping its gradual move upwards week to week. This marks the seventh consecutive week for higher mortgage rates, the highest since April of 2014, and rates continue to be at a four-year high.

“Mortgage rates have followed U.S. Treasury’s higher in anticipation of higher rates of inflation and further monetary tightening by the Federal Reserve. Following the close of our survey, the release of the [Federal Open Market Committee] minutes for February 21, 2018, sent the 10-year Treasury above 2.9 percent. If those increases stick, we will likely see mortgage rates continue to trend higher.” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

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

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.40 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 4.38 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.16 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.85 percent, with an average 0.5 point, increasing from last week’s 3.84 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.37 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Home Equity Loans allow Interest Deduction?

Taxpayers can continue to deduct the interest they pay on home equity loans when the funds are used for home improvements, the IRS confirmed in a statement on Wednesday. The status of home equity deductions has been in question following the limits on the mortgage interest deduction included in recent tax reform legislation passed in December.

In its statement, the IRS said despite the restrictions on mortgages, taxpayers can, in most cases, still deduct interest on home equity loans, a home equity line of credit, or a second mortgage.

The tax law,  the interest on a home equity loan used for building an addition to an existing home would generally be deductible. But interest on the same loan used to pay personal living expenses, like credit card debt, would not be.

The IRS offered scenario’s and details in describing how the new tax law works in these reference sources: IRS; “IRS Says Interest on Home Equity Loans Can Still Be Deducted,” Accounting Today (Feb. 21, 2018); National Association of Home Builders

Higher Rates Could Raise Housing Costs 15%

If mortgage rate forecasts pan out, home buyers might see their mortgage payments grow by 15 percent this year, according to a new analysis by CoreLogic, a real estate data firm.

CoreLogic economists predict that mortgage rates will increase by about 0.85 percentage points between November 2017 and November 2018. The median sales price of a home is projected to increase 2.6 percent in real terms over that same period.

Based on that, CoreLogic researchers predict that the inflation-adjusted typical mortgage payment will increase from $804 in November 2017 to $910 by November 2018, a 13.3 percent year-over-year gain. In nominal terms, CoreLogic researchers say the typical mortgage payment’s year-over-year increase would be 15.5 percent.

Source: “Forecast Suggests Homeowners’ ‘Typical Mortgage Payment’ Could Rise Over 15 Percent this Year,” CoreLogic Insights Blog (Feb. 15, 2018)

‘Tiny Homes’ May Have a Wider Buyer Pool

A new survey confirms that consumers are definitely intrigued by smaller homes, often described as less than 600 square feet. More than half of adults recently surveyed–or 53 percent—said “yes” or “maybe” when asked if they would ever consider the possibility of buying such a small home, according to a recent study by the National Association of Home Builders. That means a majority of adults would consider moving into a tiny home at some point in the future, the NAHB notes.

Younger generations tend to find tiny homes more appealing than older age groups. More than half of millennials and Generation X members said they were open to the idea of a tiny home. However, only 45 percent of baby boomers and 29 percent of seniors said they’d be willing to entertain the idea.

But local zoning laws may curtail the prevalence of just how big the tiny-home movement gets. However, there has been a recent momentum among some local jurisdictions to relax some of those restrictions.

Source: “Tiny Homes Have Potential Buyers,” National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing blog (Feb. 7, 2018)

Climbing Mortgage Rates at 4-Year High

Mortgage rates continued to inch higher this week, marking the sixth consecutive week for borrowing cost increases for home shoppers.

“Wednesday’s Consumer Price Index report showed higher-than-expected inflation; headline consumer price inflation was 2.1 percent year-over-year in January, two-tenths of a percentage point higher than the consensus forecast,” explains Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Feb. 15:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.38 percent with an average 0.6 point, rising from last week’s 4.32 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.15 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.84 percent, with an average 0.5 point, increasing from last week’s 3.77 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.35 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac