An Artificial Lawn Isn’t Maintenance-Free

Artificial grass, which comes in multiple textures, finishes, and colors, can give homeowners a low-maintenance alternative to natural lawns. But it has pros and cons.

Artificial grass doesn’t need watering and remains green all year, which is a big selling point for homeowners. It works well in most climates, particularly dry climates, but it’s not totally maintenance-free. For example, you’ll need to rinse an artificial lawn to clear it of dirt and debris. Also, you’ll need to “groom your lawn to fluff the blades of grass and keep it from becoming matted,” Rob Turley, general manager at Custom Turf in Finleyville, Pa., told realtor.com®.

Artificial lawn materials can be pricey and require special equipment to install, costing between $8 to $20 per square foot, Turley says. Natural grass costs about $0.25 per square foot, for comparison.

Source: “Is Artificial Grass Right for Your Yard? 5 Factors to Consider,” realtor.com® (July 23, 2018)

‘Extra Time to Find the Right Home’ for Buyers

Mixed economic data this week prompted mortgage rates to remain in mostly a holding pattern, says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Manufacturing output and consumer spending showed improvements, but construction activity was a disappointment,” Khater says. “This meant there was no driving force to move mortgage rates in any meaningful way, which has been the theme in the last two months. That’s good news for price-sensitive home shoppers, given that this stability in borrowing costs allows them a little extra time to find the right home.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending July 19:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.52 percent this week, with an average 0.5 point, dropping slightly from last week’s 4.53 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.96 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4 percent this week, with an average 0.4 point, falling from last week’s 4.02 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.23 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Ideal Age for First-Time Home Buyers

Apparently the magic number for first-time home buyers is 28. That’s the average age that most Americans think a person should be when they buy their own home, according to a new Bankrate.com report conducted  last month among a sample of 1,001 respondents.

This may be a bit optimistic in practice, at least for buyers in today’s market. The National Association of REALTORS®’ 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers found the median age of first-time buyers was 32 years old for the second year in a row.

The Bankrate study did find some differences in opinion between genders and regions of the country. While a quarter of men think people should strive to buy their first home by age 25, just 12 percent of women say the same.

Source: “Americans reveal ideal ages for financial milestones,” (July 18, 2018) Bankrate.com

The Cost of Selling Without a Real Estate Agent

You’ve heard of buyer’s remorse; but without your market expertise and sales skills to back them up, sellers who choose to sell their home on their own just may experience “seller’s regret” when they see how much less they get for their properties. FSBOs earn an average of $60,000 to $90,000 less on the sale of their home than sellers who work with a real estate agent, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Here’s the breakdown:

  • All agent-assisted homes: $250,000 (median selling price)
  • All FSBO homes: $190,000
  • FSBO homes when buyer knew seller: $160,300

Homeowners seem to be hearing the message: Only 8 percent of sellers last year—an all-time low—chose to sell their home themselves, according to NAR’s 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. That figure has been falling since 2004, when 14 percent of homeowners sold their own homes.

Source: “Selling Your Home Solo to Save Money? You’ll Actually Make Less Than You Think,” National Association of REALTORS® Economists’ Outlook blog (July 9, 2018)

Mortgage Rates Continue to Slide This Week

Mortgage rates this summer have been dropping the past few weeks after sharp rises this spring. “A record number of people quit their job last month, most likely for a new opportunity with higher wages and better benefits,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “This positive trend, along with these lower mortgage rates, should increasingly give some previously priced-out prospective home buyers the financial wherewithal to resume their home search.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending July 12:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.53 percent for the week, up from last week’s 4.52 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.03 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.02 percent this week, up from last week’s 3.99 percent average. A year ago, 15-year fixed-rates averaged 3.29 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Delayed Ownership and Wealth Disparities

Millennials aren’t purchasing homes on the same timelines as previous generations, and that has some economists worried. The homeownership rate for millennials was 37 percent in 2015, which is about eight percentage points lower than Generation X and baby boomers when they were at the same age between 25 to 34, according to a new report released by the Urban Institute.

Economists point to several factors for millennials’ delay into homeownership, including their delays to get married (being married increases probability of owning a home by 18 percentage points), rising student debt, delayed child bearing, and increasing rents that are making it more difficult to save for a down payment.

But the Urban Institute’s report notes that such delays into ownership are sparking concern. Less educated young adults are falling further behind in homeownership, the report notes. The gap in homeownership rates between the more educated versus the less educated population has grown significantly, increasing from 3.3 percent to 9.7 percent between 1990 and 2015. “Less educated millennials could be falling behind homeownership because of their unstable incomes and rising rents,” the report notes.

Source: “Millennial Homeownership,” Urban Institute (July 11, 2018)

Mortgage Rates Fall to 3-Month Low

Mortgage rates were back down across the board again this week, offering some temporary relief to home buyers. Rates posted a rapid increase throughout most of the spring but have recently reversed course, declining in five of the past six weeks to the lowest average since April.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending July 5:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.52 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 4.55 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.96 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.99 percent, with an average 0.4 point, falling from last week’s 4.04 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.22 percent.
  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 3.74 percent, with an average 0.3 point, falling from last week’s 3.87 percent average. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.21 percent.
Source:

Falling Mortgage Rates Offer Affordability Relief

Mortgage rates declined this week, marking the fourth drop in the past five weeks, Freddie Mac reports.

“The decrease in borrowing costs is a nice slice of relief for prospective buyers looking to get into the market this summer,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Some are undoubtedly feeling the affordability hit from swift price appreciation and mortgage rates that are still 67 basis points higher than this week a year ago.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending June 28:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.55 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 4.57 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.88 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.04 percent, with an average 0.5 point, which is unchanged from a week ago. Last year at this time, 15-year rates averaged 3.17 percent.
  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 3.87 percent, with an average 0.3 point, rising from last week’s 3.83 percent average. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.17 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Will Driverless Cars Change Home Values?

The era of autonomous vehicles is coming, but what influence could that have on your home? Autonomous vehicles could usher in greater car sharing among families and neighbors. The car drops off a passenger and then goes to pick up another. Since the vehicles are self-driving and will come when called upon, they may not even need to be parked at home and could be parked in a remote lot. Ride sharing services may grow to become a normal option for homeowners.

“A decrease in car ownership/leasing will likely translate to a decrease in the need for garage space,” says Justin Thompson, a columnist at Forbes.com . “Two-car homes could become one-car homes, rendering the two-car garage obsolete.” “The impact of an increase of this magnitude on home values would certainly have far-reaching economic effects,” Thompson notes. “Increased living area square footage, a rise in home value, additional property tax revenue, and more revenue from permitting fees is an impressive list of benefits.”

Mortgage Rates Near Highest Averages of Year

Mortgage rates were back on the rise, increasing to their second highest level this year. The move follows the Federal Reserve’s vote on Wednesday to raise its federal fund rate by 25 basis points.

“The good news is that the impact on consumer budgets will be smaller than past rate hike cycles,” says Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist Sam Khater. “That is because a much smaller segment of mortgage loans in today’s market are pegged to short-term rate movements. The adjustable rate mortgage share of outstanding loans is a lot smaller now—8 percent versus 31 percent—than during the Fed’s last round of tightening between 2004 and 2006.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages with mortgage rates for the week ending June 14:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.62 percent, with an average 0.4 point, up from last week’s 4.54 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.91 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.07 percent, with an average 0.4 point, rising from last week’s 4.01 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.18 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac