- There’s no doubt about it: homeowners love their homes, and that feeling has become even more important over the past year.
- The vast majority of homeowners say they’re emotionally attached to their home and that it has kept them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Owning a home provides a sense of safety, security, and accomplishment. Let’s connect to move your homeownership goals forward today.
As vaccines are administered and travel resumes, many of us are beginning to plan for those long-awaited vacations we missed out on over the past year. Some households are focusing their efforts on buying a vacation home rather than staying in a hotel, too. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports:
“Second homes (i.e., homes sold to buyers who are not going to occupy the home year-round, but use it as a vacation home, investment property, etc.) account for 15 percent of new single-family home sales.”
It’s not surprising that there’s an increase in demand for vacation homes. The majority of Americans are realizing they prefer to be around small groups, as shown in a recent survey from The Harris Poll:
“Social distancing taught consumers new things about how they like to socialize; (75%) said, ‘during COVID social distancing I realized I preferred smaller social gatherings at home or at friends’ place.’”
Not only are vacation homes seen as a potentially more pandemic-friendly way to travel and socialize, but they can also serve as an extended home-away-from-home. With more Americans being given the option to continue working remotely or retire earlier than expected, vacation homes can be used year-round. The NAHB explains:
“Remote work arrangements have made it possible for some wealthier Americans to move to alternate locations that are not just small, suburban shifts from within their current metro area. More fundamentally, second home demand may also be benefitting by an acceleration of retirement plans, as well as stock market gains.”
The demand for vacation homes has increased and will continue to rise as we head into summer. If you own a house in a destination area and have thought about selling, now is a great time to take advantage of today’s high buyer interest. Let’s connect to discuss your opportunities in our local market.
A recent Survey of Consumer Finances study released by the Federal Reserve reveals the net worth of homeowners is forty times greater than that of renters. If you’re wondering if homeownership is a good investment, the study clearly answers that question, and the answer is yes.
Do Americans believe a home is a better investment than stocks?
In a post on the Liberty Street Economics blog, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York notes that 93.3% of Americans believe buying a home is definitely or probably a better investment than buying stocks.
The data show how strongly Americans believe in homeownership as an investment. That belief is warranted. The Liberty Street Economics blog put it best by saying:
“Housing represents the largest asset owned by most households and is a major means of wealth accumulation, particularly for the middle class.”
Over the past year, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to reflect on what we consider most important in our lives. The place we call home is one of the biggest things many of us are reevaluating. George Ratiu, Senior Economist at realtor.com, shares:
“The very nature of the pandemic, through the health implications, social distancing, and need to isolate, has really brought a central focus on the importance of home for most Americans…In a sense, it has elevated real estate markets as a centerpiece of our lives.”
For some, this has spurred an interest in making a move to a home that better suits our changing needs. In a recent study on today’s homebuyer preferences, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) states:
“When asked more specifically how the pandemic may have impacted their preference for home size…21% or about 1 out of every 5 buyers, do want a larger home now as a direct result of the health crisis, while another segment – 12% – would prefer a smaller one instead.”
While you might expect more time at home to lead to a need for more space, it’s interesting that a significant portion of homeowners actually want less. For those who own larger homes right now and have a desire to move, today’s housing market is full of opportunities. Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com, explains:
“In a real estate market that is tipped in the favor of sellers, boomers and older homeowners are really the ones holding the cards…Those who are selling homes can use the profits to help them buy new ones.”
As a homeowner today, you likely have equity that can be put toward the purchase of your next home. With the equity growth homes have seen over the past year, you may have more than you think, which can help significantly as you make a move into your next home. According to a report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR):
“Home sellers cited that they sold their homes for a median of $66,000 more than they purchased it. Sellers 22 to 30 years gained the least at $33,400 in equity compared to sellers 66 to 74 years gained $100,000 in equity as they likely had lived in their homes for a longer period of time.”
Despite the benefits of growing home equity, some homeowners are still hesitant to move and could be considering remodeling or making changes to their current space instead. However, if you’ve thought about aging in place rather than downsizing, you may want to reconsider. The U.S. Census Bureau points out:
“Of the nation’s 115 million housing units, only 10% are ready to accommodate older populations.”
If your house is no longer the best fit for your evolving needs, it may be time to put your equity to work for you and downsize to the home you really want.
Today’s housing market favors homeowners who are ready to sell their houses and make a move. If you’re thinking about downsizing this year, let’s connect to discuss your options in our local market.
There has been a lot of discussion as to what will happen once the 2.3 million households currently in forbearance no longer have the protection of the program. Some assume there could potentially be millions of foreclosures ready to hit the market. However, there are four reasons that won’t happen.
1. Almost 50% Leave Forbearance Already Caught Up on Payments
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), data through March 28 show that 48.9% of homeowners who have already left the program were current on their mortgage payments when they exited.
- 26.6% made their monthly payments during their forbearance period
- 14.7% brought past due payments current
- 7.6% paid off their loan in full
This doesn’t mean that the over two million still in the plan will exit exactly the same way. It does, however, give us some insight into the possibilities.
2. The Banks Don’t Want the Houses Back
Banks have learned lessons from the crash of 2008. Lending institutions don’t want the headaches of managing foreclosed properties. This time, they’re working with homeowners to help them stay in their homes.
As an example, about 50% of all mortgages are backed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). In 2008, the FHFA offered 208,000 homeowners some form of Home Retention Action, which are options offered to a borrower who has the financial ability to enter a workout option and wants to stay in their home. Home retention options include temporary forbearances, repayment plans, loan modifications, or partial loan deferrals. These helped delinquent borrowers stay in their homes. Over the past year, the FHFA has offered that same protection to over one million homeowners.
Today, almost all lending institutions are working with their borrowers. The report from the MBA reveals that of those homeowners who have left forbearance,
- 35.5% have worked out a repayment plan with their lender
- 26.5% were granted a loan deferral where a borrower does not have to pay the lender interest or principal on a loan for an agreed-to period of time
- 9% were given a loan modification
3. There Is No Political Will to Foreclose on These Households
The government also seems determined not to let individuals or families lose their homes. Bloomberg recently reported:
“Mortgage companies could face penalties if they don’t take steps to prevent a deluge of foreclosures that threatens to hit the housing market later this year, a U.S. regulator said. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) warning is tied to forbearance relief that’s allowed millions of borrowers to delay their mortgage payments due to the pandemic…mortgage servicers should start reaching out to affected homeowners now to advise them on ways they can modify their loans.”
The CFPB is proposing a new set of guidelines to ensure people will be able to retain their homes. Here are the major points in the proposal:
- The proposed rule would provide a special pre-foreclosure review period that would generally prohibit servicers from starting foreclosure until after December 31, 2021.
- The proposed rule would permit servicers to offer certain streamlined loan modification options to borrowers with COVID-19-related hardships based on the evaluation of an incomplete application.
- The proposal rule wants temporary changes to certain required servicer communications to make sure borrowers receive key information about their options at the appropriate time.
A final decision is yet to be made, and some do question whether the CFPB has the power to delay foreclosures. The entire report can be found here: Protections for Borrowers Affected by the COVID-19 Emergency Under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), Regulation X.
4. If All Else Fails, Homeowners Will Sell Their Homes Before a Foreclosure
Homeowners have record levels of equity today. According to the latest CoreLogic Home Equity Report, the average equity of mortgaged homes is currently $204,000. In addition, 38% of homes do not have a mortgage, so the level of equity available to today’s homeowners is significant.
Just like the banks, homeowners learned a lesson from the housing crash too.
“In the same way that grandparents and great grandparents were shaped by the Great Depression, much of the public today remembers the 2006 mortgage meltdown and the foreclosures, unemployment, and bank failures it created. No one with any sense wants to repeat that experience…and it may explain why so much real estate equity remains mortgage-free.”
What does that mean to the forbearance situation? According to Black Knight:
“Just one in ten homeowners in forbearance has less than 10% equity in their home, typically the minimum necessary to be able to sell through traditional real estate channels to avoid foreclosure.”
The reports of massive foreclosures about to come to the market are highly exaggerated. As Ivy Zelman, Chief Executive Officer of Zelman & Associates with roughly 30 years of experience covering housing and housing-related industries, recently proclaimed:
“The likelihood of us having a foreclosure crisis again is about zero percent.”
- If your house is feeling a little cramped with the addition of adult children or aging parents, it might be time to consider a move-up into a multigenerational home that better suits your changing needs.
- With benefits that include a combined homebuying budget and shared caregiving duties, an increasing number of households are discovering the value of a multigenerational home.
- With such high demand for houses today, now is a great time to sell so you can upgrade to a multigenerational home that may better suit your evolving needs.
A Fannie Mae survey recently revealed some of the most highly-rated benefits of homeownership, which continue to be key drivers in today’s power-packed housing market. Here are the top four financial benefits of owning a home according to consumer respondents:
- 88% – a better chance of saving for retirement
- 87% – the best investment plan
- 85% – the chance to be better off financially
- 85% – the chance to build up wealth
Additional financial advantages of homeownership included in the survey are having the best overall tax situation and being able to live within your budget.
Does homeownership actually give you a better chance to build wealth?
No one can question a person’s unique feelings about the importance of homeownership. However, it’s fair to ask if the numbers justify homeownership as a financial asset.
Last fall, the Federal Reserve released the Survey of Consumer Finances, a report done every three years, with the latest edition covering through 2019. Their findings confirmed that homeownership is a clear financial benefit. The survey found that homeowners have forty times higher net worth than renters ($255,000 for homeowners compared to $6,300 for renters).
The difference in net worth between homeowners and renters has continued to grow. Here’s a graph showing the results of the last four Fed surveys:The above graph only includes data through 2019, but according to CoreLogic, the equity held by homeowners grew by $26,300 over the last twelve months alone. That means the gap between the net worth of homeowners and renters has probably widened even further over the last year.
Some might argue the difference in net worth may be due to homeowners normally having larger incomes than renters and therefore the ability to save more money. However, a study by First American shows homeowners have greater net worth than renters regardless of their income level. Here are the findings:Others may think homeowners are older and that’s why they have a greater net worth. However, a Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University report on homeowners and renters over the age of 65 reveals:
“The ability to build equity puts homeowners far ahead of renters in terms of household wealth…the median owner age 65 and over had home equity of $143,500 and net wealth of $319,200. By comparison, the net wealth of the same-age renter was just $6,700.”
Homeowners 65 and older have 47.6 times greater net worth than renters.
The idea of homeownership as a direct way to build your net worth has met the test of time. Let’s connect if you’re ready to take steps toward becoming a homeowner.
Last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a very encouraging jobs report. The economy gained 916,000 jobs in March – well above expert projections of 650,000 to 675,000. The unemployment rate fell again and is now at 6%.
What does this mean for you?
Our lives are deeply impacted by our nation’s economy. The better the economy is doing overall, the better most individuals in the country will do as well. Here’s a look at what four experts told the Wall Street Journal after reviewing last week’s report.
Michael Feroli, JPMorgan Chase:
“The powerful tailwind of the reopening of economic activity appears to be gathering force; while the level of employment last month was still 8.4 million positions below that which prevailed before the pandemic, it is reasonable to expect that a majority of those lost jobs will be recouped in coming months.”
Mike Fratantoni, Mortgage Bankers Association:
“We fully expect that this pace of job gains will continue for months, and anticipate that the unemployment rate, now at 6%, will be well below 5% by the end of the year.”
Paul Ashworth, Capital Economics:
“With the vaccination program likely to reach critical mass within the next couple of months and the next round of fiscal stimulus providing a big boost, there is finally real light at the end of the tunnel.”
Jason Schenker, Prestige Economics:
“People are getting back to work and the vaccine isn’t just inoculating the population, it’s clearly inoculating the economy.”
What does this mean for residential real estate?
Today, the biggest challenge for homebuyers is the lack of homes currently for sale. With listing inventory down 52% from a year ago, bidding wars are skyrocketing. As a result, home prices are climbing.
One answer to this challenge is to build more homes to satisfy the demand. The latest jobs report gives hope for new housing construction, and therefore brings hope to buyers as well. Here’s what three industry economists said about the increase in construction jobs revealed in the report:
“Construction jobs boomed in March, one of the largest monthly gains ever. This raises the prospect for more home building and more inventory reaching the market in the upcoming months. The housing market has been hot with fast rising home prices but has been constrained by a lack of supply. By hiring more workers and building more homes, home prices will move to a manageable level to give more Americans a shot at ownership.”
“Great jobs report for a housing market in an inventory crisis. Residential construction building jobs increased 3.9% from pre-2020 recession peak in Feb. 2020. The construction industry remains a labor-intensive industry. We need more hammers at work to build more homes.”
“Good job numbers in March for residential construction. 37,000 gain from Feb to March. 3.03 million total employment for home builders and remodelers, and up 49,100 from Jan 2020.”
An improving economy with a falling unemployment rate will benefit households across the country, as well as the overall housing market.
In a sellers’ market, some homeowners might be tempted to try to sell their house on their own (known as For Sale By Owner, or FSBO) instead of working with a trusted real estate professional. When the inventory of homes for sale is as low as it is today, buyers are eager to snatch up virtually any house that comes to market. This makes it even more tempting to FSBO. As a result, some sellers think selling their house will be a breeze and see today’s market as an opportunity to FSBO. Let’s unpack why that’s a big mistake and may actually cost you more in the long run.
According to the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers published by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 41% of homeowners who tried to sell their house as a FSBO did so to avoid paying a commission or fee. In reality, even in a sellers’ market, selling on your own likely means you’ll net a lower profit than when you sell with the help of an agent.
The NAR report explains:
“FSBOs typically sell for less than the selling price of other homes; FSBO homes sold at a median of $217,900 in 2020 (up from $200,000 in 2019), and still far lower than the median selling price of all homes at $242,300. Agent-assisted homes sold for a median of $295,000…Sellers who began as a FSBO, then ended up working with an agent, received 98 percent of the asking price, but had to reduce their price the most before arriving at a final listing price.”
When the seller knew the buyer, that amount was even lower, coming in at $176,700 (See graph below):That’s a lot of money to risk losing when you FSBO – far more than what you’d save on commission or other fees. Despite the advantages sellers have in today’s market, it’s still crucial to have the support of an expert to guide you through the process. Real estate professionals are trained negotiators with a ton of housing market insights that average homeowners may never have. An agent’s expertise can alleviate much of the stress of selling your house and help you close the best possible deal when you do.
If you’re ready to sell your house this year and you’re considering doing so on your own, be sure to think through that decision carefully. Odds are, you stand to gain the most by working with a knowledgeable and experienced real estate agent. Let’s connect to discuss how a trusted advisor can help you, especially in today’s market.
If you’re planning to buy a home this year, saving for a down payment is one of the most important steps in the process. One of the best ways to jumpstart your savings is by starting with the help of your tax refund.
Using data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), it’s estimated that Americans can expect an average refund of $2,925 when filing their taxes this year. The map below shows the average anticipated tax refund by state:Thanks to programs from the Federal Housing Authority, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae, many first-time buyers can purchase a home with as little as 3% down. In addition, Veterans Affairs Loans allow many veterans to put 0% down. You may have heard the common myth that you need to put 20% down when you buy a home, but thankfully for most homebuyers, a 20% down payment isn’t actually required. It’s important to work with your real estate professional and your lender to understand all of your options.
How can your tax refund help?
If you’re a first-time buyer, your tax refund may cover more of a down payment than you realize.
If you take into account the median home sale price by state, the map below shows the percentage of a 3% down payment that’s covered by the average anticipated tax refund:The darker the blue, the closer your tax refund gets you to homeownership when you qualify for one of the low down payment programs. Maybe this is the year to plan ahead and put your tax refund toward the down payment on a home.
Not enough money from your tax return?
A recent paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that, of the households that received a stimulus check last year, “One third report that they primarily saved the stimulus money.” If you had the opportunity to save your Economic Impact Payments, you may consider putting that money toward your down payment or closing costs as well. Your trusted real estate professional can also advise you on the down payment assistance programs available in your area.
Saving for a down payment can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. This year, your tax refund and your stimulus savings could add up big when it comes to reaching your homeownership goals.
- With so many buyers looking for homes to purchase and so few houses available today, there’s a substantial increase in bidding wars, and homes are selling fast.
- According to the latest Realtors Confidence Index Survey from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), on average, houses are receiving over four offers from buyers and they’re selling in less than three weeks.
- If you’re ready to make a move, let’s connect today so you can sell your house while the market is in your favor.
Today, some are afraid the real estate market is starting to look a lot like it did in 2006, just prior to the housing crash. One of the factors they’re pointing to is the availability of mortgage money. Recent articles about the availability of low down payment loans and down payment assistance programs are causing fear that we’re returning to the bad habits seen 15 years ago. Let’s alleviate these concerns.
Several times a year, the Mortgage Bankers Association releases an index titled The Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI). According to their website:
“The MCAI provides the only standardized quantitative index that is solely focused on mortgage credit. The MCAI is…a summary measure which indicates the availability of mortgage credit at a point in time.”
Basically, the index determines how easy it is to get a mortgage. The higher the index, the more available mortgage credit becomes. Here’s a graph of the MCAI dating back to 2004, when the data first became available:As we can see, the index stood at about 400 in 2004. Mortgage credit became more available as the housing market heated up, and then the index passed 850 in 2006. When the real estate market crashed, so did the MCAI (to below 100) as mortgage money became almost impossible to secure. Thankfully, lending standards have eased somewhat since. The index, however, is still below 150, which is about one-sixth of what it was in 2006.
Why did the index rage out of control during the housing bubble?
The main reason was the availability of loans with extremely weak lending standards. To keep up with demand in 2006, many mortgage lenders offered loans that put little emphasis on the eligibility of the borrower. Lenders were approving loans without always going through a verification process to confirm if the borrower would likely be able to repay the loan.
Some of these loans offered attractive, low interest rates that increased over time. The loans were popular because they could be obtained quickly and without the borrower having to provide documentation up front. However, as the rates increased, borrowers struggled to pay their mortgages.
Today, lending standards are much tighter. As Investopedia explains, the risky loans given at that time are extremely rare today, primarily because lending standards have drastically improved:
“In the aftermath of the crisis, the U.S. government issued new regulations to improve standard lending practices across the credit market, which included tightening the requirements for granting loans.”
An example of the relaxed lending standards leading up to the housing crash is the FICO® credit score associated with a loan. What’s a FICO® score? The website myFICO explains:
“A credit score tells lenders about your creditworthiness (how likely you are to pay back a loan based on your credit history). It is calculated using the information in your credit reports. FICO® Scores are the standard for credit scores—used by 90% of top lenders.”
During the housing boom, many mortgages were written for borrowers with a FICO score under 620. Experian reveals that, in today’s market, lenders are more cautious about lower credit scores:
“Statistically speaking, 28% of consumers with credit scores in the Fair range are likely to become seriously delinquent in the future…Some lenders dislike those odds and choose not to work with individuals whose FICO® Scores fall within this range.”
There are definitely still loan programs that allow a 620 score. However, lending institutions overall are much more attentive about measuring risk when approving loans. According to Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insight Report, the average FICO® score on all loans originated in February was 753.
The graph below shows the billions of dollars in mortgage money given annually to borrowers with a credit score under 620.In 2006, mortgage entities originated $376 billion dollars in loans for purchasers with a score under 620. Last year, that number was only $74 billion.
In 2006, lending standards were much more relaxed with little evaluation done to measure a borrower’s potential to repay their loan. Today, standards are tighter, and the risk is reduced for both lenders and borrowers. These are two very different housing markets, so there’s no need to panic over today’s lending standards.
Since the birth of our nation, homeownership has always been considered a major piece of the American Dream. As Frederick Peters reports in Forbes:
“The idea of a place of one’s own drives the American story. We became a nation out of a desire to slip the bonds of Europe, which was still in many respects a collection of feudal societies. Old rich families, or the church, owned all the land and, with few exceptions, everyone else was a tenant. The magic of America lay not only in its sense of opportunity, but also in the belief that life could in every way be shaped by the individual. People traveled here not just for religious freedom, but because in America anything seemed possible.”
Additionally, a research paper released just prior to the shelter-in-place orders issued last year concludes:
“Homeownership is undeniably the cornerstone of the American Dream, and is inseparable from our national ethos that, through hard work, every American should have opportunities for prosperity and success. It is the stability and wealth creation that homeownership provides that represents the primary mechanism through which many American families are able to achieve upward socioeconomic mobility and greater opportunities for their children.”
Has the past year changed the American view on homeownership?
Definitely not. A survey of prospective homebuyers released by realtor.com last week reveals that becoming a homeowner is still the main reason this year’s first-time homebuyers want to purchase a home. When asked why they want to buy, three of the top four responses center on the financial benefits of owning a home. The top four reasons for buying are:
- 59% – “I want to be a homeowner”
- 33% – “I want to live in a space that I can invest in improving”
- 31% – “I need more space”
- 22% – “I want to build equity”
Millennials believe most strongly in homeownership.
The survey also reports that 62% of millennials say a desire to be a homeowner is the main reason they’re buying a home. This contradicts the thinking of some experts who had believed millennials were going to be the first “renter generation” in our nation’s history.
While reporting on the survey, George Ratiu, Senior Economist at realtor.com, said:
“Americans, even millennials who many thought would never buy, have a strong preference for homeownership for the same reasons many generations before them have — to invest in a place of their own and in their communities, and to build a solid financial foundation for themselves and their families.”
Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist for First American, also addresses millennial homeownership:
“Millennials have delayed marriage and having children in favor of investing in education, pushing marriage and family formation to their early-to-mid thirties, compared with previous generations, who primarily made these lifestyle choices in their twenties…Delayed lifestyle choices delay the desire for homeownership.”
Kushi goes on to explain:
“As more millennials get married and form families, millennials remain poised to transform the housing market. In fact, the housing market is already experiencing the earliest gusts of the tailwind.”
As it always has been and very likely always will be, homeownership continues to be a major component in every generation’s pursuit of the American Dream.
Mortgage rates are on the rise this year, but they’re still incredibly low compared to the historic average. However, anytime there’s a change in the mortgage rate, it affects what you can afford to borrow when you’re buying a home. As Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac, shares:
“Since January, mortgage rates have increased half a percentage point from historic lows and home prices have risen, leaving potential homebuyers with less purchasing power.” (See graph below):
When buying a home, it’s important to determine a monthly budget so you can plan for and understand what you can afford. However, when you need to stick to your budget, even a small increase in the mortgage rate can make a big difference.
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), today, the median existing-home price is $313,000. Using $300,000 as a simple number close to the median price, here’s an example of how a change in mortgage rate impacts your monthly principal and interest payments on a home.If, for example, you’re getting ready to buy a home and know your budget allows for a monthly payment of $1200-1250 (marked in gray on the table above), every time the mortgage rate increases, the loan amount has to decrease to keep your monthly cost in range. This means you may have to look for lower-priced homes as mortgage rates go up if you want to be able to maintain your budget.
In essence, it’s ideal to close on a home loan when mortgage rates are low, so you can afford to borrow more money. This gives you more purchasing power when you buy a home. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, explains:
“Monthly payments have remained manageable despite soaring home prices because of low mortgage rates. In fact, monthly payments remain below the $1,250 to $1,260 range that we saw in both fall 2018 and spring 2019, but they are on track to hit that level this spring.
Although they remain low, mortgage rates have begun to increase and are expected to rise further later in the year, thus affordability will test buyer demand in the months ahead and likely help slow the pace of price growth.”
Today’s mortgage rates are still very low, but experts project they’ll continue to rise modestly this year. As a result, every moment counts for homebuyers who want to secure the lowest mortgage rate they can in order to be able to afford the home of their dreams.
Thanks to low mortgage rates, the spring housing market’s in bloom for buyers – but these favorable conditions may not last for long. Let’s connect today to start the homebuying process while your purchasing power is still holding strong.
If you’ve given even a casual thought to selling your house in the near future, this is the time to really think seriously about making a move. Here’s why this season is the ultimate sellers’ market and the optimal time to make sure your house is available for buyers who are looking for homes to purchase.
The latest Existing Home Sales Report from The National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows the inventory of houses for sale is still astonishingly low, sitting at just a 2-month supply at the current sales pace.
Historically, a 6-month supply is necessary for a ‘normal’ or ‘neutral’ market in which there are enough homes available for active buyers (See graph below):When the supply of houses for sale is as low as it is right now, it’s much harder for buyers to find homes to purchase. As a result, competition among purchasers rises and more bidding wars take place, making it essential for buyers to submit very attractive offers.
As this happens, home prices rise and sellers are in the best position to negotiate deals that meet their ideal terms. If you put your house on the market while so few homes are available to buy, it will likely get a lot of attention from hopeful buyers.
Today, there are many buyers who are ready, willing, and able to purchase a home. Low mortgage rates and a year filled with unique changes have prompted buyers to think differently about where they live – and they’re taking action. The supply of homes for sale is not keeping up with this high demand, making now the optimal time to sell your house.
Home prices are appreciating in today’s sellers’ market. Making your home available over the coming weeks will give you the most exposure to buyers who will actively compete against each other to purchase it.
- There are a lot of misconceptions about buying or selling a home today, making it challenging to know exactly how to navigate the current real estate landscape.
- Here’s a little clarity when it comes to 5 common myths about the 2021 housing market.
- Let’s connect to discuss your needs and so you can decipher facts from fiction in our local market.
Right now, the housing market is full of outstanding opportunities for both buyers and sellers. Whether you’re thinking of buying your first home, moving up to a bigger one, or selling so you can downsize this spring, there are perks today that are powering big moves for people across the country. Here are the top two to keep on the radar this season.
The Biggest Perk for Buyers: Low Mortgage Rates
Today’s most compelling buyer incentive is low mortgage interest rates. The 30-year fixed-rate is now averaging just over 3%. While that’s slightly higher than the record-lows from 2020 and earlier this year, it’s still way lower than historic norms, making purchasing a home an ongoing perk for hopeful buyers (See graph below):This is a huge advantage for buyers and helps to make owning a home attainable for more households – and there’s good reason to strive for homeownership. The latest Homeowner Equity Report from CoreLogic shows how homeowners saw major gains in their net worth last year, all thanks to owning a home. Frank Martell, President and CEO of CoreLogic, explains:
“Positive factors like record-low interest rates and a booming housing market encouraged many families to enter homeownership. This growing bank of personal wealth that homeownership affords was noticed by many but in particular for first-time buyers who want a piece of the cake. As a result, we may see more of those currently renting start to enter the market in the near future.”
Low mortgage rates are a plus for buyers right now, but experts forecast we’ll see them continue to rise as the year goes on. If you’re ready to purchase a home, it’s wise to get started on the process soon so you can secure today’s comparatively low rate.
The Biggest Perk for Sellers: Low Inventory
Today, there are simply not enough houses on the market for the number of buyers looking to purchase them, and it’s creating a serious sellers’ market. According to Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com:
“Total active inventory continues to decline, dropping 50 percent. With buyers active in the market and sellers still slow to put homes up for sale, homes are selling quickly and the total number actively available for sale at any point in time continues to decline.” (See map below):
The lack of houses for sale continues to challenge the market, and with low mortgage rates fueling buyer demand, homes are hard for buyers to find today. According to the latest Realtors Confidence Index Survey by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average house is now receiving 4.1 offers and is on the market for only 20 days.
Buyers are clearly eager to purchase, and because of the shortage of inventory available, they’re often entering bidding wars. This is one of the factors keeping home prices strong and giving sellers leverage in the negotiation process.
Homeowners who are in a position to sell shouldn’t wait to make their move. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel for today’s inventory shortage, so listing this spring will get your house on the market when conditions are most favorable. With low inventory and high buyer demand, homeowners can potentially earn a greater profit on their houses and sell them quickly in the fast-paced spring market.
Whether you’re thinking about buying or selling a home, there are major perks available in today’s housing market. Let’s connect today to discuss how these favorable conditions play to your advantage in our local area.
For generations, the homebuying process never really changed. The seller would try to estimate the market value of the home and tack on a little extra to give themselves some negotiating room. That figure would become the listing price of the house. Buyers would then try to determine how much less than the full price they could offer and still get the home. The asking price was generally the ceiling of the negotiation. The actual sales price would almost always be somewhat lower than the list price. It was unthinkable to pay more than what the seller was asking.
Today is different.
The record-low supply of homes for sale coupled with very strong buyer demand is leading to a rise in bidding wars on many homes. Because of this, homes today often sell for more than the list price. In some cases, they sell for a lot more.
According to the Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends report just released by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 45% of buyers paid full price or more.
You may need to change the way you look at the asking price of a home.
In this market, you likely can’t shop for a home with the old-school mentality of refusing to pay full price or more for a house.
Because of the shortage of inventory of houses for sale, many homes are actually being offered in an auction-like atmosphere in which the highest bidder wins the home. In an actual auction, the seller of an item agrees to take the highest bid, and many sellers set a reserve price on the item they’re selling. A reserve price is the minimum amount a seller will accept as the winning bid.
When navigating a competitive housing market, think of the list price of the house as the reserve price at an auction. It’s the minimum the seller will accept in many cases. Today, the asking price is often becoming the floor of the negotiation rather than the ceiling. Therefore, if you really love a home, know that it may ultimately sell for more than the sellers are asking. So, as you’re navigating the homebuying process, make sure you know your budget, know what you can afford, and work with a trusted advisor who can help you make all the right moves as you buy a home.
Someone who’s more familiar with the housing market of the past than that of today may think offering more for a home than the listing price is foolish. However, frequent and competitive bidding wars are creating an auction-like atmosphere in many real estate transactions. Let’s connect so you have the best advice on how to make a competitive offer on a home in our local market.
Freddie Mac recently released their Quarterly Refinance Statistics report which covers refinances through 2020. The report explains that the dollar amount of cash-out refinances was greater in 2020 than in recent years. A cash-out refinance, as defined by Investopia, is:
“a mortgage refinancing option in which an old mortgage is replaced for a new one with a larger amount than owed on the previously existing loan, helping borrowers use their home mortgage to get some cash.”
The Freddie Mac report led to articles like the one published by The Real Deal titled, House or ATM? Cash-Out Refinances Spiked in 2020, which reports:
“Americans treated their homes like ATMs last year, withdrawing $152.7 billion amid a cash-out refinancing spree not seen since before the 2008 financial crisis.”
Whenever you combine the terms “spiked,” “homes like ATMs,” and “financial crisis,” it conjures up memories of the housing crash we experienced in 2008.
However, that comparison is invalid for three reasons:
1. Americans are sitting on much more home equity today.
Mortgage data giant Black Knight just issued information on the amount of tappable equity U.S. homeowners with a mortgage have. Tappable equity is the amount of equity available for homeowners to use and still have 20% equity in their home. Here’s a graph showing the findings from their report:In 2006, directly before the crash, tappable home equity in the U.S. topped out at $4.6 trillion. Today, that number is $7.3 trillion.
As Black Knight explains:
“At year’s end, some 46 million homeowners held a total $7.3 trillion in tappable equity, the largest amount ever recorded…That’s an increase of more than $1.1 trillion (+18%) since the end of 2019, the largest percentage gain since 2013 and – you guessed it – the largest dollar value gain in history, to boot. All in all, it works out to roughly $158,000 on average per homeowner with tappable equity, up nearly $19,000 from the end of 2019.”
2. Homeowners cashed-out a much smaller amount this time.
In 2006, Americans cashed-out a total of $321 billion. In 2020, that number was less than half, totaling $153 billion. The $321 billion made up 7% of the total tappable equity in the country in 2006. On the other hand, the $153 billion made up only 2% of the total tappable equity last year.
3. Fewer homeowners tapped their equity in 2020 than in 2006.
Freddie Mac reports that 89% of refinances in 2006 were cash-out refinances. Last year, that number was less than half at 33%. As a percentage of those who refinanced, many more Americans lowered their equity position fifteen years ago as compared to last year.
It’s true that many Americans liquidated a portion of the equity in their homes last year for various reasons. However, less than half of them tapped their equity compared to 2006, and they cashed-out less than one-third of that available equity. Today’s cash-out refinance situation bears no resemblance to the situation that preceded the housing crash.
According to data from the most recent Origination Insight Report by Ellie Mae, the average FICO® score on closed loans reached 753 in February. As lending standards have tightened recently, many are concerned over whether or not their credit score is strong enough to qualify for a mortgage. While stricter lending standards could be a challenge for some, many buyers may be surprised by the options that are still available for borrowers with lower credit scores.
The fact that the average American has seen their credit score go up in recent years is a great sign of financial health. As someone’s score rises, they’re building toward a stronger financial future. As more Americans with strong credit enter the housing market, we see a natural increase in the FICO® score distribution of closed loans, as shown in the graph below:If your credit score is below 750, it’s easy to see this data and fear that you may not be able to qualify for a mortgage. However, that’s not always the case. While the majority of borrowers right now do have a score above 750, there’s more to qualifying for a mortgage than just the credit score, and there are still options that allow people with lower credit scores to buy their dream home. Here’s what Experian, a global leader in consumer and business credit reporting, says:
- Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans: “With a 3.5% down payment, homebuyers may be able to get an FHA loan with a 580 credit score or higher. If you can manage a 10% down payment, though, that minimum goes as low as 500.”
- Conventional loans: “The most popular loan type typically comes with a 620 minimum credit score.”
- S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans: “In general, lenders require a minimum credit score of 640 for a USDA loan, though some may go as low as 580.”
- S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loans: “VA loans don’t technically have a minimum credit score, but lenders will typically require between 580 and 620.”
There’s no doubt a higher credit score will give you more options and better terms when applying for a mortgage, especially when lending is tight like it is right now. When planning to buy a home, speaking to an expert about steps you can take to improve your credit score is essential so you’re in the best position possible. However, don’t rule yourself out if your score is less than perfect – today’s market is still full of opportunity.
Don’t let assumptions about whether your credit score is strong enough put a premature end to your homeownership goals. Let’s connect today to discuss the options that are best for you.