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The Cost of a Home Is Far More Important than the Price

9/22/2020
The Cost of a Home Is Far More Important than the Price

Housing inventory is at an all-time low. There are 39% fewer homes for sale today than at this time last year, and buyer demand continues to set records. Zillow recently reported:

“Newly pending sales are up 25.5% compared to the same week last year, the highest year-over-year increase in the weekly Zillow database.”

Whenever there is a shortage in supply of an item that’s in high demand, the price of that item increases. That’s exactly what’s happening in the real estate market right now. CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index reports that values have increased by 5.5% over the last year.

This is great news if you’re planning to sell your house; on the other hand, as either a first-time or repeat buyer, this may instead seem like troubling news. However, purchasers should realize that the price of a house is not as important as the cost. Let’s break it down.

There are several factors that influence the cost of a home. The two major ones are the price of the home and the interest rate at which a buyer can borrow the funds necessary to purchase the home.

Last week, Freddie Mac announced that the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 2.87%. At this time last year, the rate was 3.73%. Let’s use an example to see how that difference impacts the true cost of a home.

Assume you purchased a home last year and took out a $250,000 mortgage. As mentioned above, home values have increased by 5.5% over the last year. To buy that same home this year, you would need to take out a mortgage of $263,750.

How will your monthly mortgage payment change based on today’s lower mortgage rate?

This table calculates the difference in your monthly payment:
The Cost of a Home Is Far More Important than the Price | Keeping Current Matters
That’s a savings of $61 monthly, which adds up to $732 annually and $21,960 over the life of the loan.

Bottom Line

Even though home values have appreciated, it’s a great time to buy a home because mortgage rates are at historic lows.

The Surging Real Estate Market Continues to Climb

9/16/2020
The Surging Real Estate Market Continues to Climb

Earlier this year, realtor.com announced the release of the Housing Recovery Index, a weekly guide showing how the pandemic has impacted the residential real estate market. The index leverages a weighted average of four key components of the housing industry by tracking each of the following:

  1. Housing Demand – Growth in online search activity
  2. Home Price – Growth in asking prices
  3. Housing Supply – Growth of new listings
  4. Pace of Sales – Difference in time-on-market

The index compares the current status “to the January 2020 market trend, as a baseline for pre-COVID market growth. The overall index is set to 100 in this baseline period. The higher a market’s index value, the higher its recovery and vice versa.”

The graph below charts the index by showing how the real estate market started out strong in early 2020, and then dropped dramatically at the beginning of March when the pandemic paused the economy. It also shows the strength of the recovery since the beginning of May.The Surging Real Estate Market Continues to Climb | Keeping Current Matters
Today, the index stands at its highest point all year, including the time prior to the economic shutdown.

The Momentum Is Still Building

Though there is some evidence that the overall economic recovery may be slowing, the housing market is still gaining momentum. Zillow tracks the number of homes that are put into contract on a weekly basis. Their latest report confirms that buyer demand is continuing to dramatically outpace this same time last year, and the percent increase over last year is growing.
The Surging Real Estate Market Continues to Climb | Keeping Current Matters
Clearly, the housing market is not only outperforming the grim forecasts from earlier this year, but it is also eclipsing the actual success of last year.

Frank Martell, President and CEO of CoreLogic, explains it best:

“On an aggregated level, the housing economy remains rock solid despite the shock and awe of the pandemic.”

Bottom Line

Whether you’re considering buying or selling, staying on top of the real estate market over the coming months will be essential to your success.

Is Now a Good Time to Move?

9/15/2020
Is Now a Good Time to Move?

How long have you lived in your current home? If it’s been a while, you may be thinking about moving. According to the latest Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), in 2019, homeowners were living in their homes for an average of 10 years. That’s a long time to time to be in one place, considering the average length of time homeowners used to stay put hovered closer to 6 years.

With today’s changing homebuyer needs, especially given how the current health crisis has altered our daily lifestyles, many homeowners are reconsidering where they’re at and thinking about moving to a home with more space for their families. Here’s why it might be a great time to make that happen.

The real estate market has changed in many ways over the past 10 years, and current homeowners are earning much more equity today than they used to have. According to CoreLogic, in the first quarter of 2020 alone, the average homeowner gained approximately $9,600 in equity. If you’re considering selling your house right now, you may have accumulated more equity to put toward a move than you realize.

Dialing back 10 years, many homeowners also locked in a fairly low mortgage rate. In 2010, the average rate was only 4.09%. This motivated homeowners to stay in their houses longer than usual to keep their rate low, rather than moving. Just last Thursday, however, average mortgage rates hit a new historic low at 2.86%. Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac explains:

Mortgage rates have hit another record low due to a late summer slowdown in the economic recovery…These low rates have ignited robust purchase demand activity, which is up twenty-five percent from a year ago and has been growing at double digit rates for four consecutive months.”

Ten years ago, we couldn’t have imagined a mortgage rate under 3%. Looking at the math today, making a move into a new home and locking in a significantly lower rate than you have now could save you greatly on a monthly basis, and over the life of your loan (See chart below):Is Now a Good Time to Move? | Keeping Current Matters

As the example shows, you can save a substantial amount every month if you qualify for today’s low mortgage rate, and the savings can really add up over the life of a 30-year fixed-rate loan.

Bottom Line

As a homeowner, you have a huge opportunity to move up right now. Whether you want to save more each month or get more home for your money based on your family’s changing needs, it’s a great time to reach out to a local real estate professional in your area. Buyers are actively looking for more homes to buy, and you can win big by making a move if the time is right for you.

Homebuyer Traffic Is on the Rise

9/10/2020
Homebuyer Traffic Is on the Rise

One of the biggest surprises of 2020 is the resilience of the residential real estate market. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), is now forecasting that more homes will sell this year than last year. He’s also predicting home sales to increase by 8-12% next year. There’s strong evidence that he will be right.

ShowingTime, a leading showing software and market stat service provider for the residential real estate industry, just reported on their latest the ShowingTime Showing Index:

“Home buyer traffic jumped again in July, recording a 60.7 percent year-over-year increase in nationwide showing activity.”

That means there are 60% more buyers setting appointments to see homes than there were at this same time last year. The number of potential purchasers was also up dramatically in every region of the country:

  • The Northeast was up 76.6%
  • The West was up 56.7%
  • The Midwest was up 52.1%
  • The South was up 46.7%

The Housing Market Is Showing a ‘V’ Type Recovery

ShowingTime also indicates the real estate market has already come back from the downturn earlier this year that was caused by shelter-in-place orders. Here are the year-over-year numbers for each region on a monthly basis (See graph below):Homebuyer Traffic Is on the Rise | Keeping Current Matters
We’re way ahead of where we were at this time last year. This data validates the thoughts of Frank Martell, President and CEO of CoreLogic, who recently noted:

“On an aggregated level, the housing economy remains rock solid despite the shock and awe of the pandemic.”

Bottom Line

If you’re thinking about selling your house, this may be a great time to get the best price and the most favorable terms.

How Will the Presidential Election Impact Real Estate?

9/2/2020

Estate?

How Will the Presidential Election Impact Real Estate?

The year 2020 will be remembered as one of the most challenging times of our lives. A worldwide pandemic, a recession causing historic unemployment, and a level of social unrest perhaps never seen before have all changed the way we live. Only the real estate market seems to be unaffected, as a new forecast projects there may be more homes purchased this year than last year.

As we come to the end of this tumultuous year, we’re preparing for perhaps the most contentious presidential election of the century. Today, it’s important to look at the impact past presidential election years have had on the real estate market.

Is there a drop-off in home sales during a presidential election year?

BTIG, a research and analysis company, looked at new home sales from 1963 through 2019 in their report titled One House, Two House, Red House, Blue House. They noted that in non-presidential years, there is a -9.8% decrease in November compared to October. This is the normal seasonality of the market, with a slowdown in activity that’s usually seen in fall and winter.

However, it also revealed that in presidential election years, the typical drop increases to -15%. The report explains why:

“This may indicate that potential homebuyers may become more cautious in the face of national election uncertainty.”

Are those sales lost forever?

No. BTIG determined:

“This caution is temporary, and ultimately results in deferred sales, as the economy, jobs, interest rates and consumer confidence all have far more meaningful roles in the home purchase decision than a Presidential election result in the months that follow.”

In a separate study done by Meyers Research & Zonda, Ali Wolf, Chief Economist, agrees that those purchases are just delayed until after the election:

“History suggests that the slowdown is largely concentrated in the month of November. In fact, the year after a presidential election is the best of the four-year cycle. This suggests that demand for new housing is not lost because of election uncertainty, rather it gets pushed out to the following year.”

Will it matter who is elected?

To some degree, but not in the overall number of home sales. As mentioned above, consumer confidence plays a significant role in a family’s desire to buy a home. How may consumer confidence impact the housing market post-election? The BTIG report covered that as well:

“A change in administration might benefit trailing blue county housing dynamics. The re-election of President Trump could continue to propel red county outperformance.”

Again, overall sales should not be impacted in a significant way.

Bottom Line

If mortgage rates remain near all-time lows, the economy continues to recover, and unemployment continues to decrease, the real estate market should remain strong up to and past the election.

The Cost of Renting Vs. Buying a Home [INFOGRAPHIC]

8/28/2020

The Cost of Renting Vs. Buying a Home [INFOGRAPHIC] | Keeping Current Matters

Some Highlights

  • The percentage of income needed to afford a median-priced home today is declining, while that for renting is on the rise.
  • This is making buying a home an increasingly attractive option for many people, especially with low mortgage rates driving purchasing power.
  • If you’d like expert guidance on exploring your homebuying options while affordability is high, reach out to a local real estate professional.

Builders & Realtors Agree: Real Estate Is Back

8/25/2020
Builders & Realtors Agree: Real Estate Is Back
When shelter-in-place orders brought the economy to a screeching halt earlier this year, many believed the residential housing market would follow suit. Countless analysts predicted buyer demand would disappear and home values would depreciate for the first time in almost a decade. That, however, didn’t happen. It appears the opposite is taking place.

After the bottom fell out of the real estate market immediately following the shutdown, it has come roaring back – and seems to still be gaining steam. Here’s a look at two recent reports – one from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and one from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) – showing this growing strength.

Builder Confidence Hits All-Time High

Last week, it was reported that applications for new home purchases with home builders were 39% higher than in July of 2019. That has builder confidence soaring.

Each month, NAHB releases its Housing Market Index, a survey of NAHB members who rate market conditions for the sale of new homes at the present time and over the next six months, as well as prospective buyer traffic for new homes.

This month, they reported that builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes increased to the highest reading in the 35-year history of the series. NAHB Chairman, Chuck Fowke, explained:

“The demand for new single-family homes continues to be strong, as low interest rates and a focus on the importance of housing has stoked buyer traffic to all-time highs…Housing has clearly been a bright spot during the pandemic and the sharp rebound in builder confidence over the summer has led NAHB to upgrade its forecast for single-family starts, which are now projected to show only a slight decline for 2020.”

The number of newly constructed homes being built will be almost at the same level as last year, even though the economic shutdown crushed home building earlier in the year.

Existing Homes Are Also Selling Like Hotcakes

Last Friday, NAR released its Existing Home Sales Report. The report revealed that month-over-month sales increased by 24.7%, setting another record for the category. The Wall Street Journal reported that the increase crushed expert forecasts:

“Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected a 14.2% monthly increase in sales of previously-owned homes, which make up most of the housing market.”

Home sales increased by 8.7% year-over-year.

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for NAR, explained how the resale market is just as hot as the new construction market:

“The housing market is well past the recovery phase and is now booming with higher home sales compared to the pre-pandemic days. With the sizable shift in remote work, current homeowners are looking for larger homes and this will lead to a secondary level of demand even into 2021.”

In addition, the Housing Market Recovery Index, which is released monthly by realtor.com, also showed the market is recovering nicely. The latest index reading was 104.8, which means the housing market is doing better than it was in January and February of this year. As a reference, the highest point in the index was a 106.5 in early March, just prior to the health crisis setting in.

Bottom Line

Both the newly constructed and existing home sale markets are posting numbers greater than a year ago. Real estate is back. If you’re thinking of buying or selling, now may be the time to contact an agent for expert counsel.

The Top Reasons People Are Moving This Year

8/24/2020
The Top Reasons People Are Moving This Year

Today, Americans are moving for a variety of different reasons. The current health crisis has truly re-shaped our lifestyles and our needs. Spending extra time where we currently live is enabling many families to re-evaluate what homeownership means and what they find most important in a home.

According to Zillow:

“In 2020, homes went from the place people returned to after work, school, hitting the gym or vacationing, to the place where families do all of the above. For those who now spend the majority of their hours at home, there’s a growing wish list of what they’d change about their homes, if possible.” 

With a new perspective on homeownership, here are some of the top reasons people are reconsidering where they live and making moves this year.

1. Working from Home

Remote work is becoming the new norm in 2020, and it’s continuing on longer than most initially expected. Many in the workforce today are discovering they don’t need to live close to the office anymore, and they can get more for their money if they move a little further outside the city limits. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR) notes:

“With the sizable shift in remote work, current homeowners are looking for larger homes and this will lead to a secondary level of demand even into 2021.”

If you’ve tried to convert your guest room or your dining room into a home office with minimal success, it may be time to find a larger home. The reality is, your current house may not be optimally designed for this kind of space, making remote work and continued productivity very challenging.

2. Virtual Schooling

With school about to restart this fall, many districts are beginning the new academic year online. Education Week is tracking the reopening plans of schools across the country, and as of August 21, 21 of the 25 largest school districts are choosing remote learning as their back-to-school instructional model, affecting over 4.5 million students.

With a need for a dedicated learning space, it may be time to find a larger home to provide your children with the same kind of quiet room to focus on their schoolwork, just like you likely need for your office work.

3. A Home Gym

Staying healthy and active is a top priority for many Americans. With various levels of concern around the safety of returning to health clubs across the country, dreams of space for a home gym are growing stronger. The Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans explains:

“For many in quarantine, a significant decrease in activity is more than a vanity issue – it’s a mental health issue.”

Having room to maintain a healthy lifestyle at home – mentally and physically – may prompt you to consider a new place to live that includes space for at-home workouts.

4. Outdoor Space

Especially for those living in an apartment or a small townhouse, this is a new priority for many as well. Zillow also notes the benefits of being able to use yard space throughout the year:

“People want more space in their next home, and one way to get it is by turning part of the backyard into a functional room, ‘an outdoor space for play as well as entertaining or cooking.’”

You may, however, not have the extra square footage today to have these designated areas – indoor or out.

Moving May Be Your Best Option

If you’re clamoring for extra space to accommodate your family’s changing needs, making a move may be your best bet, especially while you can take advantage of today’s low mortgage rates. Low rates are making homes more affordable than they have been in years. According to Black Knight:

“Buying power for those shopping for a home is up 10% year over year, with home buyers able to afford nearly $32,000 more home than they could have 1 year ago while keeping their monthly payment the same.”

It’s a great time to get more home for your money, just when you need the extra space.

Bottom Line

People are moving for a variety of different reasons today, and many families’ needs have changed throughout the year. If you’ve been trying to decide if now is the time to buy a new home, reach out to a local real estate professional to discuss your needs.

Sellers Are Returning to the Housing Market

8/18/2020
Sellers Are Returning to the Housing Market

In today’s housing market, it can be a big challenge for buyers to find homes to purchase, as the number of houses for sale is far below the current demand. Now, however, we’re seeing sellers slowly starting to come back into the market, a bright spark for potential buyers. Javier Vivas, Director of Economic Research at realtor.com, explains:

“Seller confidence has been improving gradually after reaching its bottom in mid-April, and now it appears to have reached an important recovery milestone…After five long months, sellers are back in the housing market; while encouraging, the improvement to new listings is only the first step in the long road to solving low inventory issues keeping many buyers at bay.”

Even with the number of homes coming into the market, the available inventory is well below where it needs to be to satisfy buyer interest. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports:

“Total housing inventory at the end of June totaled 1.57 million units, up 1.3% from May, but still down 18.2% from one year ago (1.92 million). Unsold inventory sits at a 4.0-month supply at the current sales pace, down from both 4.8 months in May and from the 4.3-month figure recorded in June 2019.”

Houses today are selling faster than they’re coming to market. That’s why we only have inventory for 4 months at the current sales pace when in reality we need inventory for 6 months to keep up. But, as mentioned above, sellers are starting to return to the game. Realtor.com explains:

“The ‘housing supply’ component – which tracks growth of new listings – reached 101.7, up 4.9 points over the prior week, finally reaching the January growth baseline. The big milestone in new listings growth comes as seller sentiment continues to build momentum…After constant gradual improvements since mid-April, seller confidence appears to be reaching an important milestone. The temporary boost in new listings comes as the summer season replaces the typical spring homebuying season. More homes are entering the market than typical for this time of the year.

Why is this good for sellers?

A good time to enter the housing market is when the competition in your area is low, meaning there are fewer sellers than interested buyers. You don’t want to wait for all of the other homeowners to list their houses before you do, providing more options for buyers to choose from. With sellers starting to get back into the market after five months of waiting, if you want to sell your house for the best possible price, now is a great time to do so.

Why is this good for buyers?

It can be challenging to find a home in today’s low-inventory environment. If more sellers are starting to put their houses up for sale, there will be more homes for you to choose from, providing a better opportunity to find the home of your dreams while taking advantage of the affordability that comes with historically low mortgage rates.

Bottom Line

While we still have a long way to go to catch up with the current demand, inventory is slowly starting to return to the market. If you’re thinking of moving this year, connect with a local real estate professional today to better understand what’s happening in your local market. You’ll want to be ready to make your move when the home of your dreams comes up for sale.

The Beginning of an Economic Recovery

8/17/2020
The Beginning of an Economic Recovery

The news these days seems to have a mix of highs and lows. We may hear that an economic recovery is starting, but we’ve also seen some of the worst economic data in the history of our country. The challenge today is to understand exactly what’s going on and what it means relative to the road ahead. We’ve talked before about what experts expect in the second half of this year, and today that progress largely hinges upon the continued course of the virus.

A recent Wall Street Journal survey of economists noted, “A strong economic recovery depends on effective and sustained containment of Covid-19.” Given the uncertainty around the virus, we can also see what economists are forecasting for GDP in the third quarter of this year (see graph below):The Beginning of an Economic Recovery | Keeping Current Matters

Overwhelmingly, economists are projecting GDP growth in the third quarter of 2020, with 5 of the 9 experts indicating over 20% growth.

Lisa Shalett, Chief Investment Officer for Morgan Stanley puts it this way:

“Indeed, the ‘worst ever’ GDP reading could be followed by the ‘best ever’ growth in the third quarter.”

As we look forward, we can expect consumer spending to improve as well. According to Opportunity Insights, as of August 1, consumer spending was down just 7.8% as compared to January 1 of this year.

Bottom Line

An economic recovery is beginning to happen throughout the country. While there are still questions that need to be answered about the road ahead, we can expect to see improvement this quarter.

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