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Survey Asks Americans about Real Estate Market
Audust 8, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

Every month, Fannie Mae's Home Purchase Sentiment Index asks Americans how they feel about the housing market and economy. Their survey asks whether participants expect home prices and mortgage rates to rise or fall over the next year, whether it's a good or bad time to buy or sell a house, and how they feel about the economy and their own personal financial situation. In July, the survey showed an increasing number of Americans feel secure in their jobs but uncertain about the direction of the economy. Because of this, housing numbers took a turn, with the number of Americans who think it's a good time to buy or sell a house both falling. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's senior vice president and chief economist, said the decline among people who think it's a good time to sell was surprising. “It's clear that high home prices are a growing challenge helping to send buying sentiment to a record low,” Duncan said. “However, we find the notable decline in selling sentiment surprising.” With buyer demand high and the number of available homes for sale low in many markets, many consider this an excellent time for homeowners to sell, which explains why the decline comes as a surprise. More here.

Number Of Showings Up 10% Over Last Year
Audust 7, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

If you had any doubt that home buyers are active this summer and looking to buy, some new numbers should help put that notion to rest. New research shows that the number of showings – which refers to a professionally arranged tour of a home for sale – are up 10.3 percent nationally over the same time last year. Regionally speaking, the Northeast saw the largest jump, with a 15.2 percent increase as of June. However, the Midwest and South also saw double-digit improvements. In fact, only the West saw a slight year-over-year decline. The numbers are a good indication of how much interest there is this summer from potential home buyers. That's good news for homeowners who are looking to sell their house, as it adds to the growing evidence that, in many markets, there are more buyers than homes for sale. Of course, that also means home buyers that are looking to buy this season should be prepared to move quickly, as good homes aren't going to stay on the market very long. More here.

Today's Homeowner Stays Longer, Sells For More
Audust 4, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

If you're someone who is currently debating whether or not it's a good time to sell your house, there are some new numbers from ATTOM Data Solutions that are worth taking a look at. The results of ATTOM's Q2 2017 U.S. Home Sales Report shows that homeowners who sold their house during the second quarter of this year saw an average price gain of $51,000 over what they bought it for. That's a 26 percent average return and the highest return since the third quarter of 2007. Daren Blomquist, ATTOM's senior vice president, says homeowners are facing a tough choice in today's market. “Potential home sellers in today's market are caught in a Catch-22,” Blomquist said. “While it's the most profitable time to sell in a decade, it's also extremely difficult to find another home to purchase, which is helping to keep homeowners in their homes longer before selling.” That's true. The report shows that homeowners who sold during the second quarter had owned their homes an average of 8.05 years, which is the longest homeownership tenure since the first quarter of 2000. More here.

Rates Remain Low But Fail To Move Buyers
Audust 3, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates were mostly flat last week, with rates for 30-year fixed-rate loans with conforming loan balances and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages both unchanged from one week earlier. Rates for jumbo loans and those backed by the Federal Housing Administration were up slightly in last week's survey. Joel Kan, MBA's associate vice president of industry surveys and forecasting, told CNBC mixed economic news led to an up-and-down week for mortgage rates. “It was an up-and-down time for rates last week in response to mixed economic news coupled with the Fed's FOMC statement,” Kan said. “The statement outlined a mostly healthy outlook, with a slight concern over inflation and the news that balance sheet reduction could begin 'relatively soon.'” But despite still low rates and the generally upbeat economic outlook, overall mortgage demand fell 2.8 percent, with refinance activity down 4 percent and demand for loans to buy homes 2 percent below the previous week's results. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

Homeownership Rate Rises Unexpectedly
Audust 2, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

For several years following its 2004 peak, the homeownership rate was falling. Fewer Americans were buying homes and, instead, more were choosing to rent. The reasons behind this were fairly obvious. The housing crash and financial crisis made buying a home difficult for younger Americans who were struggling to get on their feet and kept hesitant homeowners from putting their homes on the market due to lost value. The combined effect was that fewer Americans were in a position to buy and the very idea of homeownership as a wise financial decision was called into question. Since then, though, home prices have largely bounced back and a stronger job market has led to rising buyer demand. Because of this, the homeownership has now begun to inch back up. For example, the latest report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the homeownership rate improved during the second quarter of this year and is nearly one percent higher than at the same time last year. Still, at 63.7 percent, the rate is comparatively low. At its peak, it was near 70 percent. More here

Pending Home Sales Bounce Back In June
Audust 1, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

The National Association of Realtors' Pending Home Sales Index measures the number of contracts to buy homes that are signed in any given month. Because it tracks signings and not closings, it's considered a good indicator of future existing home sales. In June, the index increased 1.5 percent, marking the first gain in three months. Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, said the improvement is a welcome sign and hinted that prospective buyers might even be better positioned in coming months. “It appears the ongoing run-up in price growth in many areas and less homes for sale at bargain prices are forcing some investors to step away from the market,” Yun said. “Fewer investors paying in cash is good news as it could mean a little less competition for the homes first-time buyers can afford.” In other words, at a time when the supply of homes for sale is lower than normal, competition among buyers is already high in many markets. However, with fewer investors and all-cash buyers active in the market, there should be more room for traditional buyers to successfully find and close on a house. More here.



Is Buying A Home Still An Affordable Choice?

These days, determining the affordability of buying a home isn't such a simple calculation. There are always a lot of variables to consider – including prices, mortgage rates, wages, and local factors – but today's housing market contains a number of contradictions that may make it even more difficult for potential buyers to figure out. For example, home prices have recently been making a lot of news, mostly because they've regained much or all of the value lost following the housing crash. At the same time, though, mortgage rates have remained just above historic lows for the past several years. In other words, if you live in an area where home prices have been slower to rebound, low mortgage rates likely mean homes are still a good deal in your neighborhood. On the other hand, in some areas – where home prices have pushed beyond previous highs and low inventory is limiting available choices – favorable mortgage rates make less of an impact. Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac's chief economist, says buying is affordable for the average household, though challenges remain. “Thanks to very low mortgage rates, monthly mortgage payments are affordable for the average household despite currently high house prices,” Becketti said. “Nevertheless, hurdles to homeownership arise from the difficulty of finding a house.” More here.



How Much Equity Does The Typical Homeowner Have?

Simply put, equity refers to the value of your home minus the amount of money you still owe on your mortgage. It is the factor that separates homeowners from renters and is among the greatest creators of wealth for average Americans. But how much equity does the typical homeowner have? Well, according to new numbers from Zillow, the median homeowner with a mortgage has $78,683 in equity. Homeowners who have paid off their mortgage, on the other hand, have $177,158. And while there are a number of variables that determine how much equity an individual homeowner may have, it is clear that the increase in home prices over the past few years has helped homeowners build back value in their homes. The study did find, however, that some homeowners are doing better than others. When broken down demographically, homeowners between the ages of 35 and 50 tend to have a lower percentage of equity than other generations. Why is that? Well, one reason could be that Generation X home buyers were most affected by the housing crash, as they would've been at the prime buying age for a first home in the years just before prices fell. More here.

Flat Mortgage Rates Lead To Spiking Demand

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates were down or unchanged across all loan categories last week. Rates for 30-year fixed-rate loans with conforming balances remained unmoved from the week before, while rates for jumbo loans, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate loans all fell. Joel Kan, an MBA economist, told CNBC mortgage rates were steady mostly because of recent testimony from Fed Chair, Janet Yellen. “Treasury yields were slightly lower last week as testimony from Yellen was perceived to be more dovish than expected, and as the market received data signaling weaker inflation and retail sales for June,” Kan said. “These factors kept the 30-year fixed-contract rate flat over the week.” Flat mortgage rates led to a surge in mortgage activity, though. In fact, refinance activity was up 13 percent from the previous week, while demand for loans to buy homes was up slightly and remains 7 percent higher than at the same time last year. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

New Home Builders Say Buyer Interest Is Strong

Buyer demand for new homes remains strong, according to the most recent Housing Market Index from the National Association of Home Builders. The Index – which measures builders' confidence in the new home market on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders view conditions as good than poor – was at 64 in July. Additionally, individual components measuring current sales conditions and expectations over the next six months both scored 70 or above. Robert Dietz, NAHB's chief economist, says buyer demand is strong but there are other factors slowing the rate of new home construction. “The HMI measures of currents sales conditions has been at 70 or higher for eight straight months, indicating strong demand for new homes,” Dietz said. “However, builders will need to manage some increasing supply-side costs to keep home prices competitive.” Specifically, builders have expressed concern over the cost of lumber. Naturally, higher lumber prices effect the overall cost of new homes and the number of buyers that can afford them. In other words, the reason more new homes aren't being built isn't because of a lack of demand and, in many cases, has more to do with higher material prices and a fewer available lots to build on. More here.

New Outlook Sees Housing Activity Slowing

At the start of the year, unusually warm winter weather across much of the country led to a boost in housing numbers. Most significantly, construction of new homes benefited from the opportunity to build in areas usually limited by snow and bitter cold. And, because new home construction helps control price increases, the housing market was looking particularly well positioned for continued growth throughout the year. But, though most numbers do remain above last year's level, there is a bit of a slowdown on the horizon, according to Fannie Mae's most recent Economic And Housing Outlook. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's chief economist, says the news is good and bad. “Construction activity has lost some steam following the first quarter's weather-driven boost,” Duncan said. “Meanwhile, very lean inventory continues to act as a boon for home prices and a bane for affordability, particularly among potential first-time homeowners.” So what does this mean for home buyers and sellers through the remainder of the summer? Well, it means there shouldn't be much change from current conditions. Buyers should expect some competition for the homes that are available for sale and sellers should expect to enjoy steady traffic from buyers interested in making a move before the fall. More here.

Prices May Not Be As High As Homeowners Think

Naturally, home prices are a big part of any discussion of where the housing market is and where it's headed. That's because it's an easy metric for home buyers and sellers to follow. It's also because it's an important factor in making decisions about when to make a move. However, recent news of rising prices may have hopeful homeowners getting ahead of themselves a bit. In fact, a recent study looking at the difference between what homeowners think their house is worth and what it actually appraises for found that owners are overestimating their home's value by about 1.7 percent. And, though that might not seem like much, having a home appraise for less than its sale price could complicate the closing process, or worse, derail the sale altogether. That's why it's important to realize that, though home prices are up overall, how much your home's particular value has gone up or down depends on where you are. This also reinforces why it's so valuable to both homeowners looking to sell and buyers on the hunt for a new home to have the advice and guidance of a Realtor who knows their neighborhood. More here.



Americans Say Buying A House Is A Good Investment

The vast majority of surveyed Americans say they believe owning a house is a solid investment, according to a new survey from Digital Risk. And that doesn't just include homeowners and prospective buyers. In fact, 83 percent of renters agreed with current homeowners who said that buying a house was a good investment. Jeff Taylor, managing director for Digital Risk, says the perception of homeownership has come a long way over the past several years. “It's important to remember how far we've come in a decade,” Taylor said. “The fact that the American dream of owning a home is once again considered a smart investment suggests the housing market has years of strong performance ahead of it.” But though overwhelming numbers say they think buying a house is a good financial move, renters also face some challenges when making the jump. Among them, insufficient income and not being able to save enough for a down payment rank high. Still, the fact that homeownership has regained it's reputation as an essential part of the American Dream and a good way to build wealth is a good indication that, despite those challenges, Americans will continue to aspire to homeownership. More here.

Stronger Economy Leads Mortgage Rates Upward

In the years following the housing crash, average mortgage rates hovered near or at all-time lows. Combined with lower home prices, historically low rates provided a great incentive for interested buyers to take advantage of affordability conditions and buy a house. As the economy and housing market has recovered, however, mortgage rates have begun to inch upward. For example, the Mortgage Bankers Association's most recent Weekly Applications Survey found average mortgage rates up again last week, reaching their highest level since May. Michael Fratantoni, MBA's chief economist, told CNBC recent increases have been driven by the Fed. “Rates continued to increase last week given increasing evidence that the Fed and other central banks are more likely to raise rates given the pickup in economic growth in their respective economies,” Fratantoni said. In other words, the stronger the economy is, the more likely mortgage rates will climb. Still, rates remain low by historical standards and have not deterred home buyers in the same way higher home prices have. That's because mortgage rates are still favorable for buyers, even if slightly higher than they've been over the past few years. More here.

Americans' Credit Scores Reach Record High

Your credit score is a pretty significant number. Though you may not think about it all that often, it has an effect on your ability to qualify for a loan and the terms you'll receive if you're approved. In other words, your credit score can cost you money. That's why it's important to maintain good financial habits and check in on your history from time to time, in case there are any errors that can be cleared up. But what is an average score? Well, according to FICO, scores range between 300 and 850 and the current average is at an all-time high. In fact, the most recent data shows the average credit score has reached 700 for the first time ever. For comparison, the average fell to 686 following the housing crash. Ethan Dornhelm, vice president for scores and analytics at FICO, told CNBC 700 is considered a very good score and would mean a borrower would “likely qualify for the credit they want at favorable terms.” However, if your credit score isn't at 700 or above, that doesn't necessarily mean you won't qualify for a mortgage. It does mean it'd be worth your time to investigate ways you can improve it, though. More here.



How Much Should You Expect To Spend After You Buy?

If you're in the process of, or thinking about, buying a house, you've probably done some calculations in your head about how much you'll need for a down payment and what your prospective mortgage payment might look like. But you may not have given any consideration to how much you might spend after you've closed the deal. Simply put, you're going to want to leave the closing table with a substantial amount of money left over because new home buyers spend about $10,601 in their first year as owners, according to new numbers released by the National Association of Home Builders. That includes things like furniture, appliances, and remodeling or home improvement projects. But in total, new homeowners spend nearly three times as much in their first year than a typical homeowner would in an average year. Of course, the condition of the home you buy will play a large role in how much money you end up spending after the move. But, no matter how move-in ready the home is, you're likely going to want to make some changes once you've settled in. That's why it's important to stick to a budget and not totally deplete your savings when choosing a house to buy. More here


Summer Housing Sentiment Hits Record High

How are Americans feeling about the real estate market this summer? Well, according to Fannie Mae's monthly Home Purchase Sentiment Index, as good as ever. The index – which measures consumers' attitudes about home prices, buying and selling, mortgage rates, etc. - found overall sentiment up in June, even matching February's all-time high. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's senior vice president and chief economist, said Americans are feeling optimistic overall but particularly about selling a house. “The June HPSI reading matches the previous record set in February and reflects the trend toward a sellers' market that respondents indicated last month,” Duncan said. “Consumers are also growing more optimistic about their ability to get a mortgage, and lenders expect credit standards to ease further going forward, as shown in our Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey.” But despite the good news, Duncan warns that, with fewer homes for sale this season, easing credit standards could have the unintended consequence of pushing home prices higher. Still, even with the challenges today's market presents, buyers remain eager. In fact, the number of respondents who said now was a good time to buy a house was up 3 percent in June. More here

Home Buyers Return Despite Higher Rates

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates moved up last week across all loan categories, including 15-year fixed-rate loans, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 30-year fixed-rate loans with both jumbo and conforming balances. The rate increase was the sharpest in months and put rates at their highest level since May. Joel Kan, an MBA economist, told CNBC the rate increase was due to economic gains in Europe. “The 30-year fixed mortgage rate increased to its highest level since May 2017, following a jump in the U.S. 10-year Treasury which was driven mainly by news that European economies have strengthened and the ECB may be poised to tighten its accommodative policies,” Kan said. Whatever the case, home buyers weren't phased by the bump in rates. In fact, demand for loans to buy homes was up 3 percent from one week earlier and is now 6 percent higher than at the same time last year. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

Vacation Home List Ranks Best Markets For Buyers

Buying a vacation home is something many Americans dream of doing one day but many more think is out of reach. After all, isn't having a second home only for the rich, famous, and lucky? Well, according to a new report from ATTOM Data Solutions, you may not have to have millions of dollars in order to own your own getaway home. The report ranks the nation's top 100 cities where at least one in every 12 buyers is looking for a second home. They then took those areas and looked at air quality, summertime temperatures, crime, home appreciation, and prices to determine the best markets for buyers. The results show four states dominating the top 10 and all have homes with a median price below $275,000. Crossville, Tenn., tops the list with cities in North Carolina, Florida, and Maryland rounding out the ten best markets with affordable prices. If, however, you have some money to spend, California's La Jolla, Santa Barbara, and Laguna Niguel are among the top high-end markets. Boulder, Colo. And Marco Island, Fla., are also among the top five markets with median prices above a half million dollars. More here.



Mortgage Lenders Say Credit Standards Are Easing

One of the main obstacles potential home buyers face is the fear that they won't be approved for a mortgage. Believing that you don't make enough, have too much debt, or can't afford to buy a house is one reason many people don't even bother to get in touch with their lender to explore their financing options. If you're someone who wants to buy a house, but thinks they won't make the cut, Fannie Mae's quarterly Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey has some good news for you. According to the results of the survey – which asks senior executives at lending institutions across the country for their perspective on whether mortgage lending standards are getting tighter or are loosening – found the share of lenders who say they have eased credit standards over the prior three months has been rising since the end of last year and the number that say they expect to ease them further in the coming three months has now reached or surpassed survey highs. There are a number of reasons why mortgage lenders may be making it easier for buyers to gain access to credit but, among the top reasons cited, concern about economic conditions was high on the list. More here.

Buyer Interest High But Slowed By Supply

From all accounts, there are a lot of Americans interested in buying a home this year. Whether it's because of sustained job market improvement or mortgage rates that remain low compared to where they've been historically, home buyers are ready to buy. However, in many markets, there are too few homes available for sale to accommodate the level of buyer interest. Because of this, home sales numbers may start to reflect the imbalance. For example, the National Association of Realtors' most recent Pending Home Sales Index shows the number of contracts to buy homes last month was down 0.8 percent from the month before, marking the third consecutive decline. Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, says supply is the issue. “Buyer interest is solid, but there is just not enough supply to satisfy demand,” Yun said. “Prospective buyers are being sidelined by both limited choices and home prices that are climbing too fast.” So what does that mean for buyers this summer? Simply put, home buyers should expect to find competition for available homes. That means, buyers need to be pre-approved, prepared to make a strong offer, and ready to move quickly when they find a home that matches their needs and goals. More here.

Mortgage Rates Steady As Jumbo Demand Falls

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates were largely flat last week, with little significant movement on rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with both conforming and jumbo balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate loans. But though rates remained steady, demand for mortgage applications fell from the week before. Michael Fratantoni, MBA's chief economist, told CNBC the drop in application demand was driven by buyers seeking jumbo loans, rather than entry-level home buyers. “We're seeing indications that entry level buyers continue to come into the market as jumbo borrowers looking at bigger homes step back,” Fratantoni told CNBC. “Last week, the average loan size for home purchase dropped to its lowest level since January.” Despite last week's drop, however, application demand for loans to buy homes remains 8 percent higher than it was at the same time last year. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

Real Estate Rebound Should Surpass Last Year

If you read real-estate news regularly, you may get the impression that homes right now are less affordable, buyers are less interested, and homeowners are less likely to sell than in the past. But, taking a big-picture view of where things are may give you a very different impression. Take Freddie Mac's most recent monthly outlook, for example. According to the report, the housing market is on track to exceed last year on a couple of different fronts, including sales and the number of new homes that are being built. And that's saying something because last year was the best year in a decade in both categories. Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac's chief economist, says, though there have been some recent setbacks in the news, they are likely to be reversed. “After a strong March, the housing market, from housing starts to new and existing home sales, took a hit in April,” Becketti said. “The recent declines are likely to reverse as low mortgage interest rates and solid job gains boost the housing market.” In other words, while it's true that challenges remain, it's also true that conditions remain favorable in many ways. Mortgage rates, for example, have been more down than up in recent weeks and the labor market continues to add jobs, making it easier for Americans to feel confident and secure in their financial situation and ability to buy a house. More here.

How Long Will The Housing Market Stay Hot?

Like any market, the housing market has its ups-and-downs. For the last several years, though, it's consistently been on the rise with no sign of slowing down. That means, home buyers have increasingly been met with higher home prices and listings that sell more quickly with every passing month. On the other hand, homeowners who have recently sold a house have enjoyed all the benefits of a seller's market. But for how long? One recent report says there are signs that prices may soon begin to moderate and surveyed Americans seem to agree. The research, from ValueInsured, shows consumers overwhelmingly feel now is a good time to sell a house but they are less sure about the future. In other words, there's a feeling that prices may have peaked and things are going to begin to level off. And there's evidence that's already happening in a few areas of the country where the housing market rebounded more quickly than in others. However, like anything else, conditions can change from one neighborhood to the next and, while price increases may be starting to slow in one area, they may still be on the rise in another. More here.

New Home Sales Rise But So Do Prices

Following news that sales of previously owned homes rose in May, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development released their estimate of how many new homes were sold during the month. According to the report, new home sales were up 2.9 percent and are now nearly nine percent above last year's level. The increase is welcome news after April sales experienced the largest one-month decline since last year. However, the report also contains news that new home prices are now at a record high. The median sales price of new homes sold in May was $345,800; the average price was $406,400. Price increases are largely being driven by a lower-than-usual number of homes for sale combined with high buyer demand. But why, if there are so many buyers, aren't builders building more houses? Well, one reason is a lack of available building lots. The shortage of lots has been a consistent complaint among builders, who have been eager to take advantage of elevated buyer traffic. But despite fewer homes for sale, a strengthened labor market and still-low mortgage rates are keeping buyers interested and active in the market. More here.

Demand High As Mortgage Rates Remain Low

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates remained low last week. In fact, rates were mostly flat across all loan categories, including 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with both conforming and jumbo balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate loans. Low rates didn't spur a spike in demand, though, as home buyers and homeowners looking to refinance largely stayed level from the week before. Still, though demand was relatively unchanged from one week earlier, the previous week ended at a new high for the year, which means demand for loans to buy homes remains 9 percent higher than at the same time last year. Lynn Fisher, MBA's vice president of research and economics, told CNBC that lower rates are encouraging for Americans looking to make a move. “Both the 10-year Treasury yield and the 30-year conventional mortgage fixed rate held steady last week keeping rates well below the recent highs,” Fisher said. “The recent pause in the upward movement of interest rates continues to encourage late-to-the-game borrowers to refinance and to assist those ready to purchase.” The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

Are Fewer Young Americans Buying Homes?

A newly released study from researchers at the University of Southern California looks at homeownership rates among young adults between the ages of 25 and 44. The study's results show, among that age group, there's been a 10 percent drop in the homeownership rate over the past 10 years. But does that necessarily mean young Americans are no longer interested in owning their own home? Well, no. The researchers point to a number of factors that have contributed to the decline in homeownership among people of typical prime home-buying age. Among them, the foreclosure crisis looms large. Because the past 10 years includes the years following the housing crash and economic crisis, some of that decline is better explained by the day's economic conditions rather than a lack of desire to buy a house. And, in the years since, the recovery's slow pace and weakened job market have made buying a home a struggle for many young Americans. However, more recently, home buyer demand has rebounded – as have home prices and the labor market. And, according to this particular study, so will the homeownership rate among young Americans, particularly if there's a continued rise in education and income levels. More here

Housing Market Outlook Tells Familiar Story

Following the ups-and-downs of the housing market can be difficult for the average home buyer or seller. Because of this, many Americans get in the market without a basic understanding of the forces currently driving home prices, mortgage rates, demand, etc. However, it can be beneficial to have a big-picture understanding of where things are and where they're headed before you make a move. These days, if you want a better grasp of what's happening in real estate, you have to start with inventory. So far this year, a lower than normal number of homes for sale has been the primary factor influencing home prices and overall sales. Take the most recent outlook from Fannie Mae's Economic & Strategic Research Group, for example. According to their forecast, inventory remains the big story, as it has been for the past year. “The narrative for the housing market hasn't changed over the past year,” Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's chief economist, says. “A labor shortage continues to restrain homebuilding, and tight inventory is constraining sales and boosting home prices.” Despite those challenges, Duncan says the group expects mortgage rates will stay low enough to support buyers and home sales should rise 3.2 percent this year. More here.

Lawn Care Tips That Might Help Sell Your Home

When considering home improvement projects that can add value to your home or even help it sell faster, don't forget to pay some attention to your lawn and landscaping. Good landscape design can help you get a better price when it's time to move but will also help beautify your neighborhood and please your neighbors in the meantime. If you aren't that handy in the garden, start with your lawn. A recent article from Freddie Mac lays out a number of tips to help you get started. Among them, it's good to first identify what type of grass you have. This will help you know what seed to buy if you need to fill any dead spots. You should also be careful not to cut your lawn too short or give it too much water. Grass needs a little length to help it absorb sunlight and maintain healthy roots. Too much watering can also damage roots and will cause more weeds to grow. Another tip is to be careful with fertilizers and pesticides. Break fertilizer applications up throughout the season rather than doing it all at once. And be careful with pesticides, as they may be more trouble than they're worth. According to the article, lawn issues are more likely going to be the result of water, weather and lawn mower damage than pests. Following these simple rules should help you achieve a greener and more luscious lawn. More here.

Builders Say New Home Market Is Solid

The National Association of Home Builders has been tracking builders' view of the new home market for 30 years. Their Housing Market Index measures how builders feel about current and future conditions as a way of predicting the health of the overall market going forward. Obviously, when builders feel confident that buyers are interested, more new homes get built. And, as more new homes get built, the added inventory has a ripple effect throughout the entire housing market. That's because, more new homes mean more choices for buyers and fewer price increases. In June, the NAHB's index scored a 67 on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders view conditions as good than poor. Granger MacDonald, NAHB's chairman, says builders have been fairly consistent so far this year. “Builder confidence levels have remained consistently sound this year, reflecting the ongoing gradual recovery of the housing market,” Granger said. But though builders have consistently voiced optimism about the level of buyer demand this year, they've also expressed concern that a lack of available lots has held back the number of new homes being built in many markets. More here.

Mortgage Demand Up 8% Over Last Year

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, demand for loans to buy homes is now eight percent higher than it was at the same time last year. But, though that's good news and indicates a strong level of interest from prospective home buyers, it doesn't tell the whole story. That's because, at the same time that demand is up from a year ago, it is lower than it should be considering the number of interested buyers and the fact that mortgage rates remain relatively low. Last week, for example, average mortgage rates fell again and are now at seven-month lows. Joel Kan, an MBA economist, told CNBC that low mortgage rates didn't inspire an increase in purchase demand last week but it did rally refinance activity. “From a borrower's perspective, rates held steady at seven-month lows last week providing some borrowers an opportunity to refinance,” Kan said. “Over the last two weeks refinance applications have increased 13 percent and the average loan size increased to its largest since September 2016, reflecting the tendency for jumbo borrowers to be more sensitive to rates than those with smaller loan balances.” The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential loan applications. More here.

The Top Things That Cause Home Buyers Stress

Home buyers have a lot to consider. Buying a home is no small transaction and the potential for stress is high. So what is the top thing stressing out home buyers these days? Well, it probably comes as no surprise that it involves money. According to a recent survey, the number one fear prospective buyers have is that they'll lose their earnest money deposit – which is money buyers put down on the house once their offer is accepted. If the deal goes through, that money is used as part of the buyer's down payment. But, if the buyer backs out of the deal, they risk losing that deposit. Naturally, this could cause concern among prospective buyers. After all, losing a percentage of their down-payment money could alter their buying power and price range. Some other worries buyers expressed included becoming house poor or financially burdened by the costs of homeownership and their new mortgage payment. Fortunately, this is a risk that can be easily avoided by having a firm budget beforehand and sticking to it. Knowing what you can and can't afford is crucial, especially in a competitive market. Rounding out the top three, buyers expressed concern about getting into a bidding war that drives up the price of their desired home. More here.

Tracking The Habits Of First-Time Home Buyers

First-time home buyers have always been an important demographic when tracking the housing market's health. Whether or not younger Americans were buying homes, where they were buying, and in what numbers has been used to gauge trends and patterns that affect, not only first-time buyers, but everyone active in the real-estate market. Because of that, a new report from Genworth Financial analyzing first-time home buyer records back to 1994 is an important look at the who, what, where, and how of Americans buying their first home. Some of the highlights include the fact that first-time buyers bought more single-family homes during the first quarter of 2017 than during any other first quarter since 2005 and drove 85 percent of the housing market's expansion from 2014 through 2016. In other words, the report found that there is currently a high level of demand among younger Americans. But it also found that many potential buyers have been unable to buy or have stayed out of the market due to misconceptions about what was required. Tian Liu, Genworth's chief economist, says one of the main issues is the mistaken belief that a 20 percent down payment is required to buy. “By studying this group more closely, we hope to bring a better understanding about the many low down payment options available to help first-time home buyers reach homeownership sooner.” More here.

Homes May Be More Affordable Than You Think

Rising home prices have gotten a lot of attention over the past couple of years. In some places, they've even been said to have fully recovered from the housing crash. But a closer look at the numbers reveals a different story. Because many gauges of national home prices use averages to measure how much prices have gained or fallen, higher-priced homes have more weight and can skew the results. For a more accurate look, a recent study from Trulia compared a home's current market value to its pre-recession peak instead. Their method found that just 34.2 percent of homes nationally have recovered their value. That means, though prices have definitely been rising, there are still a lot of homes that haven't yet climbed all the way back. That's good news for buyers but it also means there are many homeowners who are still waiting for their homes to regain value before they sell – which is why there are many markets where there are fewer homes available for sale than usual. Also, it should be noted that, as with anything real estate, where you are has a lot to do with the conditions you'll find. For example, markets in the West and South have generally seen home prices increase faster than those in the Midwest and Northeast. More here.

More Americans Say It's A Good Time To Sell

For most of the past several years, Americans considered the housing market more favorable to buyers than sellers. Even as home prices began to rise from their post-crash bottom, mortgage rates remained near all-time lows and offered buyers in most markets an affordable path to homeownership. However, according to the most recent results of Fannie Mae's monthly Home Purchase Sentiment Index, the share of surveyed Americans who say now is a good time to sell a house has surpassed the number that say it's a good time to buy for only the second time in the history of the index. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's senior vice president and chief economist, says consumers think it's time to sell. “High home prices have led many consumers to give us the first clear indication we've seen in the National Housing Survey's seven-year history that they think it's now a seller's market,” Duncan says. “However, we continue to see a lack of housing supply as many potential sellers are unwilling or unable to put their homes on the market, perhaps due in part to concerns over finding an affordable replacement home.” But, if Americans think it's a seller's market and increasingly put their homes up for sale, buyers will begin to see prices moderate as added supply helps balance the market. More here.

Mortgage Rates Fall To New Low For 2017

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates fell to a new low for the year last week, with drops seen across all loan categories. Rates declined for 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate loans. With rates at their lowest level since last November, home buyers kicked into gear. In fact, the MBA's purchase index – which measures the number of potential buyers requesting mortgage applications – rose 7.1 percent and is now 6 percent above where it was at the same time last year. Joel Kan, an MBA economist, told CNBC purchase application demand was at its highest level in 7 years. “Purchase application volume increased to its highest level since May 2010,” Kan said. “Refinance activity bumped up as well in response to moderating rates, but remained generally subdued.” The refinance index moved up just 3 percent, despite typically being more sensitive to mortgage rate fluctuations. Conducted since 1990, the MBA's weekly survey covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

The Size Of American Homes Continues To Grow

It shouldn't come as any surprise that American homes are generally getting bigger and adding more rooms. After all, who wouldn't choose to have an extra bedroom or some additional storage space? Still, a look at the numbers, shows just how much our living spaces have changed over the years. For example, numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2016 Characteristics of New Housing show that the number of homes under 1,400 square feet has fallen 9 percent just since 2000. At the same time, the percentage of homes over 4,000-square feet has doubled. Sure, the majority of homes still fall somewhere between 1,800 and 2,400 square feet, but there is clearly a trend toward larger houses. Another way to look at it is the number of rooms. For example, 59 percent of homes now have three or more bathrooms. In 2000, it was closer to 20 percent. During the same time, most homes also upgraded from three bedrooms to four. Of course, along with the extra space, bedrooms, and bathrooms, the median sales price has also risen. Americans, however, clearly think the extra expense is worth the luxury of not having to schedule who gets the first shower in the morning. More here


Survey Shows Homeownership's Enduring Appeal

Buying a house, for many Americans, is seen as an achievement and evidence that they've reached a certain level of success. Put simply, there is no other symbol as closely association with the American Dream than owning a home. For Americans of all backgrounds and income levels, it has remained a shared aspiration. Because of this, there is a strong emotional pull toward buying a house that most Americans feel even today. Take a recent survey from the National Association of Home Builders as an example. The survey found that more than two-thirds of respondents said they believe owning a home is an essential part of achieving the American Dream. Granger MacDonald, NAHB's chairman, says homeownership remains a priority for most of us. “Americans continue to place a high priority on homeownership and work hard to achieve this goal for their families,” MacDonald said. The survey's results are consistent too. Over the years, and despite the ups-and-downs of the housing market, homeownership has consistently ranked high among Americans' goals, whether it's something they hope to achieve right now or a couple of years down the road. More here.

Why An Easy Commute Should Be On Your Wish List

If you're thinking of buying a home and are spending all of your time dreaming of the type of kitchen you want or how big you'd like your master suite to be, there may be a thing or two to add to your wish list before you start your search. For example, have you considered the importance of having a short commute to work each day? Almost 11 million Americans drive an hour or more to work each way and the average commute has been getting longer over the past several years. So, if you're lucky enough to have never sat in traffic after a long day at the office and don't know just how draining it can be, here's something to think about: A recent survey found a short commute or proximity to public transportation ranked second among factors people used when determining where to live. That means, only an area's crime rate was deemed more important. In other words, having a long commute to-and-from work can negate some of the benefits of finding a great house. After all, what good is having the perfect kitchen, if you're always on the road instead of at home enjoying it? More here.

What Pending Sales Numbers Mean For Buyers

The National Association of Realtors' Pending Home Sales Index is a good indication of where home sales will be a month or two down the road. That's because, it measures the number of signed contracts that occurred during the month, rather than the number of closings. And since there is typically about a month between having an offer accepted and closing the deal, the number of pending sales can be a pretty accurate predictor of future home sales numbers. According to the most recent release, pending sales were down 1.3 percent in April from the month before. Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, says there may be fewer contracts signed as the spring goes on because of a lack of available listings. “Much of the country, for the second straight month, saw a pullback in pending sales as the rate of new listings continues to lag the quicker pace of homes coming off the market,” Yun said. In other words, the number of homes for sale can't keep up with the number of buyers interested in buying them. That means, home buyers should expect to find competition for the homes that are available for sale this summer. More here.


Average Rates Remain Near This Year's Low

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates were largely unchanged last week. Loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages both saw slight declines, while 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with both conforming and jumbo balances were unmoved. This follows the previous week's results which showed mortgage rates at their lowest point so far this year. However, despite favorable rates, demand for mortgage applications was down from the previous week. Michael Fratantoni, MBA's chief economist, told CNBC the reason may be inventory. “Home sales remain constrained by a lack of inventory across the country, as evidenced by home price growth running almost three times the pace of overall inflation,” Fratantoni said. Still, though fewer homes for sale may be holding sales back, mortgage application demand remains 7 percent higher than at the same time last year, which indicates strong interest from buyers this spring. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.