The Housing Market Is Outperforming Forecast

The housing market has been off to a roar this spring. In fact, the market is performing so strongly that the National Association of REALTORS® has upgraded its forecast for the year.

At the start of the year, home sales were expected to match last year’s pace due to higher mortgage rates and diminishing affordability. But the market is hardly slowing down, notes Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. He now predicts existing-home sales to rise by 3.5 percent, and home prices likely will increase 5 percent this year.

“With no imminent threat of a recession, the housing market’s strong first quarter sets the foundation for continued gains the rest of the year,” Yun writes.

Source: “First Quarter GDP May Be Cool, But Housing Market Downright Balmy,” The Hill (May 1, 2017)

Owners: Be Smart When Financing Renovations

The number of homeowners who are planning to take on home improvement projects or repairs this year is expected to increase 6.7 percent, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. As more owners look to remodel, they should be weighing how to fund their renovations.

Homeowners may be using credit cards, even though they intend to pay for the balance as soon as it’s due, because they want the benefits of getting airline miles or other rewards from using the credit card, says Todd Nelson LightStream’s business development officer. But for those who don’t intend to pay the credit card off right away should realize the interest rates are usually in double digits and is not tax-deductable.

An option is a home equity line of credit, the interest may be tax-deductible and there are few upfront frees. Another consideration may be a cash-out refinance is another option, where borrowers refinance for more than what they owe on the property and then take the difference out in cash. However, processing fees and closing costs are involved.

Source: “More Homeowners Pay for Repairs With Credit Cards,” realtor.com® (April 26, 2017)

Poll: More Expect Home Prices to Keep Rising

Sixty-one percent of U.S. adults believe home prices in their local area will rise over the next 12 months, the highest percentage since Gallup began collecting such data in 2005. Marking a difference between 2008 and 2012, when one-third of Americans believed home prices would increase.

Residents in the western region of the U.S. are the most optimistic, with nearly three-quarters of residents saying they expect price increases compared to slightly more than half of Midwestern and Eastern residents, according to the Gallup poll. With mortgage rates sitting below 4 percent, consumers may have more incentive to act now before home prices rise even more.

Sixty-seven percent of U.S. adults say now is a good time to purchase a home, which is down slightly from the 2012-to-2014 period when at least 70 percent said so. Unsurprisingly, homeowners (74 percent) are more likely than renters (56 percent) to say it’s a good time to purchase a home, according to the poll. Higher home prices and declining views of homeownership may be behind the dip in those who say it’s a good time to buy, Gallup researchers note.

Source: “More in U.S. Expect Local Home Values to Rise,” Gallup.com (April 24, 2017)

More Homeowners Tackle Renovation Projects

Homeowners are sprucing up their properties and undertaking more remodeling and repair projects, according to a recent study.

The Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity, released by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, shows an annual growth in home improvement and repair expenditure this year that will remain above its long-term trend of 5 percent. Index authors, however, foresee a steady decline from 7.3 percent in the first quarter to 6.1 percent by the first quarter of 2018.

The National Association of Home Builders’ Remodeling Market Index also showed an increase in the first quarter of 2017, marking the highest reading in activity since 2015. The NAHB’s index shows that more remodelers are reporting that activity is higher now compared to the prior quarter. “A milder than usual winter has led to increased remodeling activity and a positive outlook for spring,” says Dan Bawden, the chairman of NAHB Remodelers. “Remodelers are seeing stronger market conditions with customers more willing to spend money on both small and large projects.”

—Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Survey: Outdoor Kitchens Making a Comeback

A few years ago, outdoor kitchens were considered a hot amenity. In a December 2015 survey by the National Home Builders Association, builders indicated that outdoor kitchens would be one of the least likely features to be added to new single-family homes in 2016. But now, architects say homeowners and prospective buyers are showing resurgent demand for outdoor cooking spaces, according to the American Institute of Architects’ most recent Home Design Trends Survey.

“Homeowners continue to find ways to add value to their homes by creating more functional space, which is apparent in the rise in popularity of outdoor kitchens,” says Kermit Baker, chief economist of the AIA. “Kitchens have become a hub for the home. Now homeowners want to bring some of that activity to their outside space.”

Many buyers will even pay a premium for outdoor kitchens, according to a realtor.com® survey last year. Researchers found that buyers were willing to pay up to 26 percent more for a home with an outdoor kitchen compared to a similar home without one in the same ZIP code.

When it comes to indoor kitchens, homeowners continue to eye certain upgrades, with the most desired being a charging station or computer area, a double island, high-end appliances, and sensory faucets, according to AIA.

Source: “Outdoor Kitchens: Still on the Way Out?” RISMedia (April 15, 2017) and “Are Outdoor Kitchens on the Outs?” RISMedia (March 17, 2016)

Mortgage Rates Set a New 2017 Low This Week

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage continues to drop this week, setting a new low for 2017, Freddie Mac reports in its weekly mortgage market survey. For the fourth consecutive week rates have fallen.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending April 13, 2017:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.08 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 4.10 percent average. A year ago, 30-year rates averaged 3.58 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.34 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling slightly from last week’s 3.36 percent average. Last year at this time, 15-year rates averaged 2.86 percent.
  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 3.18 percent, with an average 0.4 point, falling from last week’s 3.19 percent average. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 2.84 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Owners Question Appraised Values: Too Low?

Homeowners say their homes are worth more than what appraisers say they’re worth, and the gap between the values is growing, according to Quicken Loans’ latest Home Price Perception Index.

Appraisals, on average, were 1.77 percent lower than what homeowners expected, according to the index. This marks the fourth consecutive month in which the gap between homeowner estimates and appraiser opinions has widened.

That said, appraisals are showing higher values than what homeowners expected in some of the hottest housing markets, mainly on the West Coast, according to the index reading for March.

Source: Quicken Loans

‘Mortgage Rates Surprise’ They Near 2017 Low!

tThe 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped lower for the third consecutive week and neared its low for 2017, Freddie Mac reports in its weekly mortgage market survey.

“After three straight weeks of declines, the 30-year mortgage rate is now barely above the 2017 low. Next week’s survey rate may be determined by Friday’s employment report and whether or not it can sustain the strength from earlier this year.” says Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

Freddie Mac reported the following national averages for the week ending April 6, 2017:

30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.10 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 4.14 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.59 percent.
15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.36 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 3.39 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 2.88 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Study: Millennials Hold Off on Big Life Choices

Baby boomers and millennials have different attitudes when it comes to marriage, children, and home ownership. Researchers with the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University compared adults who were 25 to 34 years old in the 1980’s with those who are in that age group today. One difference they found is that millennials are getting married later in life. In 1980, two-thirds of 25- to 34-year-old’s were married; in 2015, just two in five were married.

Because baby boomers were more likely to get married younger, they generally left their parents’ home much earlier than millennials. Americans in their late 20s and early 30s who live with their parents or grandparents have more than doubled since 1980, notes researcher Lydia Anderson. In 1980, only 9 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds were living with parents or grandparents compared to 22 percent in 2015.

Millennials are also putting off having children and buying a home. Plus, lag behind baby boomers when it comes to marriage, children, and home ownership, they are more likely to obtain a college degree, the study notes.

Source: “Young Americans Are Killing Marriage,” Bloomberg (April 4, 2017)

Home Prices Blamed for Student Loan Defaults

The housing crisis may also have sparked the increase in student loan default rates, according to a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The study says the drop in home prices during the Great Recession also coincided with a 24 to 32 percent rise in student loan default rates. Researchers looked at administrative student loan data along with ZIP code home price data for about 300,000 student loan borrowers in repayment.

Last year, more than 1 million federal student loan borrowers defaulted on their debt.

“The huge rise in student loan defaults is on everybody’s minds and the question is what’s the cause of this rise?” says Holger Mueller, one of the authors of the paper and a professor of finance at New York University’s Stern School of Business. “What we want to do is point to another very important source of default risk and that’s just the labor market.”

Source: “Why Lower Prices Lead to Higher Student Loan Default Rates,” MarketWatch (April 1, 2017)