Deeper Debt Isn’t Stopping Millennial Buyers

Millennials are taking out the greatest share of all new mortgages and buying homes across price ranges. But a new study also shows they’re going more into debt at an alarming rate.

Realtor.com®’s research team analyzed records for more than 3.2 million mortgages originated from January 2013 to October 2017 and divided it by age groups.

Compared to other generations, millennials are narrowing the gap in the price of homes they’re purchasing. In September, millennials obtained mortgages on homes with a median purchase price of $237,000. Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1981) purchased homes with mortgages on a median price of $280,000, and baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) purchased at $258,000.

Millennials are making down payments nearly as high as Generation Xers. The average down payment for a millennial originated mortgage is 9.1 percent. Gen X buyers have been making down payments of 11 percent, since early 2013.

Source: “Millennials Are Taking Over Real Estate—But They’re Going Deeper Into Debt Too,” realtor.com® (Dec. 5, 2017)

Mortgage Interest Rates Climb This Week

Rates are increasing, but home buyers can still snag an interest rate that is lower than a year ago.

“The 30-year mortgage rate has been bouncing around in a 10 basis point range since September. While long-term rates have been relatively steady week-to-week, shorter term interest rates have been on the rise. The spread between the 30-year fixed mortgage and the 5/1 Hybrid ARM rate was 59 basis points this week, down 43 basis points from earlier this year. With a narrower spread between fixed and adjustable mortgage rates, more borrowers are opting for a fixed product.” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Dec. 7:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.94 percent, with an average 0.5 point, increasing from last week’s 3.90 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.13 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.36 percent, with an average 0.5 point, increasing from last week’s 3.30 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.36 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Housing Trend to Watch: The ‘Surban’

Suburban and urban areas are combining to create a new kind of living style known as the “surban.” Many in the real estate industry are predicting it to be one of the hottest housing trends to watch heading into the new year.

A surban offers greater walkability to retail and restaurants from a home or apartment, but in a suburban area. It’s a blend of both suburbia and city life. Previously, urban planners dubbed these areas “mixed-use.”

The Urban Land Institute estimates that surban areas will draw at least 80 percent of new households and attract the most families over the next decade.

Source: “2018 Real Estate Trends to Watch: ‘Surban’—That Sweet Spot Between City and Suburb,” RISMedia (Dec. 4, 2017)

Home Loan Rates Sink Lower This Week

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is averaging lower than it did a year ago, and remains well below the 4 percent threshold this week.

“The market implied probability of a Fed rate hike in December neared 100 percent, helping to drive short term interest rates higher,” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist.

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

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.90 percent, with an average 0.5 point, decreasing from last week’s 3.92 percent average. Last year at this time, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.08 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.30 percent, with an average 0.5, down from last week’s 3.32 percent. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.34 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

New Homes Are Getting Smaller

Developers are continuing to shrink the size of new single-family homes, according third-quarter housing data compiled by the National Association of Home Builders. The median square footage of a single-family home was 2,378 square feet in the third quarter.

In the years following the Great Recession, builders were focused on the higher end of the market, catering to larger-sized homes. But more recently, builders have renewed their focus on the entry-level market, and NAHB predicts square footage of new homes to continue to decrease.

“Typical new-home size falls prior to and during a recession, as home buyers tighten budgets, and then sizes rise as high-end home buyers, who face fewer credit constraints, return to the housing market in relatively greater proportions,” NAHB explains at its Eye on Housing blog. “This pattern was exacerbated during the current business cycle due to the market weakness among first-time home buyers. But the recent declines in size indicate that this part of the cycle has ended, and the size will trend lower as builders add more entry-level homes into inventory.”

Source: “Declining New Home Size Trend Continues,” National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing blog (Nov. 17, 2017)

Newbie Buyers Make Smaller Down Payments

About 60 percent of first-time home buyers put down 6 percent or less on a home purchase in September. The median down payment has dropped from 6 percent to 5 percent for first-time buyers, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.

NAR conducted a survey of non-homeowners earlier this year and found that most consumers believe you need a down payment of 10 percent or 20 percent to buy a home.

“They may not be aware that these programs are available, and they may not be taking advantage of them,” Jessica Lautz, NAR’s managing director of survey research and communications, said in the latest Down Payment Report, published by the Down Payment Resource.

Thirty-two percent of first-time buyers said they saved for more than two years to have enough to buy a home. Student loan debt was the most often cited obstacle to saving. The second most cited barrier for saving was credit card debt.

Source: “The Down Payment Report,” Down Payment Resource (November 2017)

Mortgage Rates Mostly Flat This Week

Mortgage rates mostly held steady this week after posting a sizable jump last week.

“Following a strong surge last week, rates held relatively flat this week,” says Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “The 30-year mortgage rate remained unchanged at 3.94 percent.  The markets’ reaction to the upcoming announcement of the next Fed chair may impact the movement of rates in next week’s survey.”

Freddie mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Nov. 2:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages; averaged 3.94 percent, with an average 0.5 point, the same average as last week. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.54 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.27 percent this week, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 3.25 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 2.84 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

When to Drop Your Listing Price

Though low inventory is prompting buyers to raise their offers in order to beat out competitors, you still want your sellers to know: an overpriced listing will linger on the market. Buyers pay attention to time on market and may erroneously assume something is wrong with a property that has gone “stale.” Real estate pros say it’s critical to determine what time frame is considered stale in your market and drop the price of your listing before getting to that pivotal moment.

Soaring home prices may make buyers pause, but houses are still selling fast. Nationwide, the average time a home spent on the market was 34 days in September, down from 39 days a year prior, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Some sellers may be adamant about “testing the market” with a high asking price, so you should have a game plan for what to do if it backfires.

Source: “How to Know When to Drop the Asking Price on Your Home,” CNBC (Oct. 27, 2017)

Wildfire Victims Get ‘Mortgage Reprieve’

Homeowners affected by the California wildfires may be eligible to defer their mortgage payments for up to 12 months. Mortgage financing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have issued guidelines for wildfire victims with single-family mortgages.

Victims may be eligible to stop making mortgage payments in three-month intervals, up to 12 months. They also may be eligible to avoid late fees during this temporary payment break, and to not have delinquencies reported to the credit bureaus.

Mortgage servicers have been authorized by Fannie and Freddie to suspend or reduce a homeowner’s mortgage payments immediately for up to 90 days without any contact from the homeowner if the servicer believes the homeowner has been affected by the disaster. For any additional payment forbearance of up to 12 months, homeowners will need to reach out to their lenders. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac provide disaster relief information.

Also, HUD’s Section 203(h) program provides FHA insurance to disaster victims who have lost their homes and now face the task of rebuilding or buying another home. Borrowers with FHA-approved lenders may be eligible for 100 percent financing, including closing costs.

Source: “HUD Announces Disaster Help for Wildfire Victims,” Napa Valley Register (Oct. 19, 2017); “Fannie Mae Reminds Homeowners and Servicers of Mortgage Assistance Options for Areas Affected by California Wildfires,” Fannie Mae (Oct. 13, 2017); “Freddie Mac Confirms Disaster Relief Policies Amid California Wildfires,” Freddie Mac (Oct. 13, 2017)

Home Lot Sizes Shrink to New Low

Lot sizes on new single-family homes have reached a new record low. New homes sold in 2016 had a median lot size of 8,562 square feet, or slightly under one-fifth of an acre.

The median lot size fell to under 8,600 square feet in 2015, according to the Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction data. Lot sizes have continued to shrink since then.

Location plays a big role. For example, the median lot size in the New England region is nearly twice as large as the national median, exceeding a third of an acre.

On the other hand, the Pacific region—where densities are often high and developed land is more scarce—has the smallest lots. Half of the lots in the region are under 0.15 acres.

US regional differences map at: “Lot Size Is at a Record Low,” National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing blog (Oct. 3, 2017)