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Blog (Past)

Prices Move Higher As Homeowners Stay Put

May 31, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Widely seen as the leading measure of U.S. home prices, the S&P Dow Jones Indices is a monthly look at home values that has been conducted for more than 27 years. According to the most recent release, national home prices are up 5.8 percent over last year, with the largest gains seen in the West and South. David M. Blitzer managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, says there's some regional variation in how quickly prices are rising, but generally the issue is the number of homes available for sale. “Over the last year, analysts suggested that one factor pushing prices higher was the unusually low inventory of homes for sale,” Blitzer said in a press release. “People are staying in their homes longer rather than selling and trading up.” Because of this, there are fewer homes for buyers to choose from but home sellers, on the other hand, enjoy increasingly favorable conditions. And yet, many current homeowners are staying put. If more homeowners put their homes up for sale, and new home construction continues to improve, the market will balance in the coming months and home price increases will begin to moderate. More here.

 

 

Renovations And The Cost Of Selling

May 30, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

It isn't just the home's buyer who has to settle up at the end of the closing process, sellers have costs too. In fact, according to one recent estimate, the average seller spends $15,000 before they hand over the keys to their home's new owner. A big part of that is closing costs, agent commission, and any repairs required following the home's inspection. But another chunk of that is renovations done before the sale. In fact, a large majority of homeowners fix up their homes before putting them on the market. Things like having the home painted, cleaned, and staged can add up for the 80 percent of homeowners who decide to spruce things up before showing their house. Nationally, the average cost of home improvements done before selling was $2,650, though that can vary greatly from region to region and is also dependent on the type of work that is done to get the house in shape. Of course, unlike buyers, home sellers have the sale of their home to help cover their costs but – assuming they're going to buy another home – these expenses will obviously have an effect on how much money they have left over to put toward their next house. More here.

 

 

Today's Typical Home Sells In Less Than A Month

May 26, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Home buyers are out in large numbers this spring. Proof of that can be found in the most recent sales report from the National Association of Realtors. Their monthly tally of how many previously owned homes sold the month before found that the typical home for sale was on the market for just 29 days in April, down from 34 days the previous month. That's a strong indication that buyer demand is outpacing the number of homes for sale this spring. And that's saying something, especially since April saw a 7.2 percent increase in for-sale inventory by the end of the month. In other words, there are more homes coming on the market but still not enough to match the number of interested home buyers. Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, says affordable homes are going fastest. “Homes in the lower-and mid-market price range are hard to find in most markets, and when one is listed for sale, interest is immediate and multiple offers are nudging the eventual sales prices higher.” But despite the competition, buyers aren't deterred. In fact, the number of first-time home buyers was up for the month and, a look at regional results, shows existing-home sales are above or even with last year's results in the South, West, and Midwest. More here.

 

 

Mortgage Rates At Lowest Point Since November

May 25, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates fell to their lowest level since last November this past week. Rates fell 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. Naturally, lower rates spurred an increase in the number of current homeowners looking to refinance their loans. Lynn Fisher, vice president of research at the MBA, told CNBC homeowners were quick to take advantage of the drop. “Homeowners took advantage of the 6 basis-point drop in rates,” Fisher said. “Jumbo rates fell even more, sending the average refinance loan size up 5 percent as borrowers with larger loans, who are typically more sensitive to rate changes, moved to refinance.” But though the rate drop led to more refinance activity, demand for purchase loans was relatively flat from the week before. Still, compared to last year at this time, application demand for loans to buy homes is up 3 percent. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

 

 

New Home Sales Fall After Reaching Recent Peak

May 24, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Each month, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development release an estimate of how many new homes were sold during the previous month. Because it's an estimate, the month-to-month numbers can be volatile. For example, the most recent residential sales statistics show an 11.4 percent decline in the number of new homes sold in April compared to March. However, a closer look shows that – not only are sales coming off three consecutive months of gains – but March's estimate was revised upward. In short, last month's results, though down sharply, are coming off a nearly 10-year high and are about even with where they were at the same time last year. That means, though the numbers may make it look like there is housing trouble ahead, the market is relatively stable and will likely continue along its current path. In fact, economists told ABC News that they believe April's decline represents a one-month correction and not a warning sign. Also in the report, the median sales price of new homes sold in April was $309,200; the average sales price was $368,300. More here.

 

 

 

 

Rents Are Increasing In The Suburbs Too

May 23, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

There are two groups commonly associated with renting. One is young people. The other is people living in urban centers. Conjure up an image of the typical renter and you'll probably end up imagining someone in their 20s living in a downtown apartment building. The suburbs, on the other hand, have been traditionally thought of as the place you move to when you're ready to settle down and buy a house. However, new numbers tell a different story. In fact, the latest data shows rental costs are actually rising faster in the suburbs than in cities. Why? There are a couple of reasons. First, rent has been rising rapidly in cities for quite a few years now, which is causing people to look outside city limits for a more affordable place to live. Another is a relative lack of rental properties in the surrounding suburbs. Where there are fewer options, potential renters are going to find rising prices. One option for discouraged renters is to compare the costs of homeownership in their area. In many markets, buying is actually a more affordable option or, at the very least, compares favorably. More here.

 

 

Three Reasons Homeowners May Be Waiting To Sell

May 22, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

When shopping for a house, you have to choose from the homes that are for sale at the time you're looking. In other words, unless you're having a house custom built to your specifications, you're going to have to make do with what's on the market now. These days, that's become more challenging in some areas due to the fact that there aren't as many homes for sale as is historically normal. So why is that? Well, there are a couple of different factors behind current inventory levels. One is homes that have yet to recover their value. If a homeowner purchased their home just before the housing crash, they may be waiting for prices to reach pre-crash levels before selling. Another is mortgage rates. Many homeowners were able to refinance their loans while rates were low and – though they remain lower than historical norms - these potential sellers fear they won't be able to get as good a deal, if they move now. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, current homeowners are less likely to put their homes on the market if they feel they won't be able to find a house they like in their price range. However, despite the factors keeping more homeowners from putting their homes up for sale, there are also some reasons to believe that homeowners who have been waiting may end up selling sooner than later. Among them, surging buyer demand, higher prices, and mortgage rates still hovering near historic lows top the list. More here.

 

 

Housing Outlook Sees Reason For Optimism

May 19, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Over the past few years, a pattern has emerged: The economy slows during the first quarter then begins to rev up during the second quarter. Now, according to Fannie Mae's Economic & Strategic Research Group, we may be on pace to see the same thing this year. But what will that mean for the housing market and hopeful home buyers and sellers? Well, according to Fannie Mae's chief economist, Doug Duncan, it means things will continue to move forward – although gradually. “Positive demographic factors should continue to reshape the housing market, as rising employment and incomes appear to be positively influencing millennial homeownership rates,” Duncan says. “However, the tight supply of homes for sale continues to act as both a boon to home prices and an impediment to affordability.” In other words, as long as the economy continues to post gains, buyers should be able to manage higher home prices due to their improving financial situation. At the same time, current homeowners hoping to sell their homes this year, will benefit from the upward pressure currently pushing home prices higher. In other words, the market's outlook remains relatively unchanged from previous months. Low inventory is boosting home prices but the economy and job market have kept buyers in the hunt. More here

 

 

Mortgage Rates Relatively Flat From Last Week

May 18, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates were relatively flat last week across all loan categories, including 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages. Despite this, however, demand for mortgage applications was down 4.1 percent from the week before. Michael Fratantoni, MBA's chief economist, told CNBC the drop could be evidence that first-time buyers are having trouble finding homes this spring. “The survey saw relative weakness in the growth of government application volume, suggesting that many potential first-time buyers remain on the sidelines due to the lack of entry-level homes on the market,” Fratantoni said. A lack of affordable inventory in some markets has been credited with holding back home sales this spring, especially among younger home buyers. Overall, though, demand for loans to buy homes is still higher than at the same time last year, up 9 percent as of last week. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here

 

 

Some Tips On Buying In A Competitive Market

May 17, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

It's always good to prepare before you set out to buy a house. But that's especially true in a tight market. If there are more buyers than homes for sale, there's naturally also going to be competition. And where there's competition, buyers need to be ready. So what can buyers do to make sure they don't lose the home of their dreams or blow up their budget? Well, the first thing is to set some boundaries. You'll need to have a firm idea of what you're willing to spend, so that you don't get in a bidding war and buy more house than you can comfortably afford. You'll also need to know where you're able to compromise. If there aren't as many homes to choose from, chances are you're not going to get everything you wanted in a house. Make sure that you're focused on things that can't be remedied later. For example, if you don't like the kitchen cabinets, they can change but you won't be able to add more outdoor space, if the yard is small. Buyers in competitive markets should also expect to act fast. You won't have the luxury of thinking things over once you've found a good house. Be prepared to make an offer quickly, as there will likely be other buyers interested in the same property. For this reason, it's also good to bid competitively. You may want to see if you can get a lower offer accepted but, if you're trying to beat out other buyers, it's a better idea to put in an attractive offer than to try and steal a deal. Generally, the more focused and prepared you are, the better your chances will be for successfully navigating a tight market. More here.

 

 

Builders See Increased Interest In New Homes

May 16, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Among the many barometers of housing-market health, one of the more significant indicators is new home construction. Especially in areas where there are more buyers than homes for sale, the number of new homes being built can make a difference in how quickly prices rise and how many choices buyers have to choose from. One way to gauge how well the new home market is doing is to look at the National Association of Home Builders' Housing Market Index. The Index – which measures builder confidence on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders view conditions as good than poor – is a monthly look at how builders feel about current and upcoming market conditions. According to the latest results, builder confidence has now risen to its second highest level since the housing crash, hitting 70 in May. Robert Dietz, NAHB's chief economist, says there is growing confidence in the market for new homes. “The HMI measure of future sales conditions reached its highest level since June 2005, a sign of growing consumer confidence in the new home market,” Dietz said. “Especially as existing home inventory remains tight, we can expect increased demand for new construction moving forward.” More here.

 

 

A Few Benefits Of Owning A Home In Retirement

May 15, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

In recent years, there's been an increasing number of older Americans who rent rather than own their own home. But is renting really a better choice for retirees looking to reduce costs and obligations? Well, not necessarily. While it's true that homeownership brings with it ongoing expenses like routine maintenance and property taxes that continue even after you've paid off your mortgage, renting can't offer some of the benefits that homeownership alone provides. For example, equity. Once you've built up equity in your home, you can take out a line of credit and borrow money from your home's value. Obviously, this can be a good option for older homeowners on a fixed income. Also, provided you have a fixed-rate mortgage, your house payment isn't subject to the ups-and-downs of the market the way rent can be. As a renter, you're at the mercy of your landlord. After all, they own the house or building you're living in and can set the price to their liking. Like anything, there are pros and cons to owning a home during retirement. However, homeownership provides a valuable asset that can be advantageous for retired homeowners in a position to benefit from it. More here.

 

 

Number Of Affordable Homes For Sale Rises

May 12, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Affordability is the number one concern of prospective home buyers. Sure, there are a lot of things on a buyer's mind when they begin looking for a home to purchase but things like the number of bedrooms in a house or the size of the kitchen don't really matter if you can't afford to buy it. Well, according to new numbers from the National Association of Home Builders, during the first quarter of this year, the number of affordable homes available to buy rose from the end of last year. Specifically, 60.3 percent of new and existing homes sold were within the reach of a family earning the median U.S. income of $68,800. Robert Dietz, NAHB's chief economist, said there are a couple of reasons for the improvement. “Ongoing job growth continues to fuel demanfor housing, while wage growth is helping to offset the effects of rising mortgage rates and keeping home prices affordable,” Dietz said. Home prices, obviously, are a big part of this equation. And, though they've been on the rise for some time now, according to the report, they fell during the first quarter of 2017. In fact, the national median home price was $245,000, which is down from $250,000 at the end of last year. More here.

 

 

Survey Finds Increasing Demand For Mortgage Loans

May 11, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, demand for home purchase loans was at its highest level since October 2015 last week. The increase was credited to Americans feeling better about their job security and financial situation. “Continuing strength in the job market and improving consumer confidence drove overall purchase applications to increase last week,” Joel Kan, an MBA economist, told CNBC. “The index for purchase applications reached its highest level since the beginning of October 2015, which was the week prior to the implementation of the federal government's 'know before you owe' rule.” Overall, demand for applications for loans to buy homes rose 2 percent from the week before and are now 6 percent higher than at the same time one year ago. Also, in the report, average mortgage rates were up and down last week, with rates flat for 30-year fixed-rate loans with conforming loan balances, up for jumbo loans and those backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and down for 15-year fixed-rate loans. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

 

 

Fixer-Uppers Prove Popular With 1st-Time Buyers

May 10, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Last year, first-time home buyers spent 22 percent more renovating their new house than buyers the year before. The increase shows a significant spike in younger buyers who are willing to take on the challenge of buying a fixer-upper. But what's behind the surge? Well, one obvious reason to buy a house in need of some work is price. Naturally, if you're going to find a bargain, it's likely going to be because the house isn't in the best shape. Depending on how handy you are – or how much savings you've built up – you may be inclined to grab a lower-priced house with a plan to upgrade it to your liking. The other reason, which would help explain the recent spike, are current market conditions. Since inventory in many markets is low, there are fewer homes available for buyers to choose from. That means, more buyers are going to have to look at homes that may need a little help. Nino Sitchinava, principal economist for Houzz, the company who conducted the survey, says recent buyers are always a big share of renovations and low inventory of affordable homes is helping to boost those numbers. “Younger and cash-constrained first-time buyers are responding to the low inventory of affordable homes by purchasing properties that require more than just cosmetic upgrades,” Sitchinava said. More here

 

 

More Americans Feel They Can Get A Mortgage

May 9, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

When home prices were low and mortgage credit was tighter, hopeful home shoppers worried they might not be able to qualify for a home loan. These days, mortgage credit is more available and home price increases have taken the lead as the biggest affordability concern among potential home buyers. The latest evidence of that can be found among the most recent results of Fannie Mae's monthly Home Purchase Sentiment Index. April's survey found a record number of respondents who said they thought they'd have an easy time getting a mortgage. Combined with job stability and higher income, the news means Americans are feeling optimistic about their finances and the prospect of buying a home. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's senior vice president and chief economist, says things are trending in the right direction. “Historically strong inflation-adjusted house price gains are tempering consumer sentiment, whereas consumer optimism regarding the ease of getting a mortgage reached a survey high,” Duncan said. “On balance, housing continues on a gradual growth track.” Overall, five of the index's six components saw increases and the number of participants who said they felt now was a good time to buy a house was up 5 percent over the month before. More here.

 

 

Housing Markets Nationwide Hit Key Milestone

May 8, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

There are many ways to gauge the health of the housing market. But no matter which way you look at it, the ultimate goal is to figure out where things are headed and how that will affect home buyers and sellers, as well as current and future homeowners. In other words, the data may differ but it's all getting at the same question. Take the National Association of Home Builders' Leading Markets Index – which compares current conditions to previous norms. The NAHB's index looks at employment info, home prices, and building permits in 340 metropolitan areas across the country in an effort to determine how those markets have rebounded since the housing crash and what they should expect going forward. According to the latest results, markets nationwide are running at an average of 100 percent of normal economic and housing activity. And, if that sounds good, it's because it is. “This is the first time the LMI has reached this key milestone and it shows how much our industry has improved since the depth of the Great Recession,” Granger MacDonald, NAHB's chairman, said in a press release. But though the data shows great strides across a majority of markets, it also shows that – while employment levels and home prices have rebounded strongly – building permits still lag behind. That's an issue because many markets are in need of new homes to help provide options for buyers and keep affordability conditions under control. More here.

 

 

Where Are The Most Popular Metros For Millennials?

May 5, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

There's new evidence that younger Americans are beginning to form households of their own at a faster rate than before. And, though young adults are more likely to become renters before they become buyers, the rate at which millennials are pursuing homeownership really depends more on where they live than anything else. Proof of that can be found in the latest Ellie Mae Millennial Tracker, which tracks the mortgage application activity of Americans born between the years 1980 and 1999. According to the latest results, the most popular metro areas among millennial buyers were those in the Midwest. But does that really mean young Americans are flocking to small, Midwestern cities? Well, not exactly. “What this data shows is where there is an inventory of affordable homes, the millennial buyers are ready to enter the market,” Joe Tyrrell, Ellie Mae's executive vice president of corporate strategy, said. In other words, because affordability conditions are more favorable for buyers in the Midwest, there are more young Americans deciding to buy rather than rent. However, regardless of where you live, the results indicate a strong desire for homeownership among millennials, which should help keep buyer demand healthy for years to come. More here.

 

 

Mortgage Rates Up From Week Before

May 4, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates were up last week, rising across all loan categories. Though rates remain low overall, they moved up slightly 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. Higher rates didn't hold back buyer demand, though. In fact, demand for loans to buy homes rose 5 percent from the week before and is now 5 percent higher than at the same time last year. Joel Kan, MBA's associate vice president of industry surveys and forecasting, told CNBC that the rebound may have more to do with the time of year than any other factor. “More prospective home buyers returned to the market after two weeks of decreases in purchase activity, which were possibly due to spring break season and Easter,” Kan said. The rise in purchase activity was balanced by a 5 percent drop in refinance activity, however, which likely fell due to the first mortgage rate increase following consecutive weeks of decline. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

 

 

Home Prices Continue Upward Climb

May 3, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Home prices are expected to match their 2006 high at some point later this year, according to CoreLogic's chief economist, Frank Nothaft. Nothaft says prices were up in March and are now just 2.8 percent below their peak. “With a forecasted increase of almost 5 percent over the next 12 months, the index is expected to reach the previous peak during the second half of this year,” Nothaft says. In fact, prices have already surpassed their previous highs in nearly 20 percent of cities included in the index. So what's fueling the increases? Well, it's a combination of a stronger economy, population growth, low mortgage rates, and a lower-than-normal number of homes for sale in many markets. Together, they've created an environment where the supply of homes can't keep up with the number of interested buyers. And, when there are more buyers than available homes, prices rise. Still, buyers shouldn't be scared off. Mortgage rates remain low by historical standards and that, combined with a stronger job market, should help make conditions better for buyers. Also, as the sales season continues, more homeowners will put their homes up for sale, helping to balance the market and slow future price gains. More here.

 

 

Homeownership Outpaces Rental Households

May 2, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

The number of owner occupied households has been lower-than-normal for several years. Following the housing crash, homeownership took a hit and, for many years afterward, trailed behind rental households in terms of growth. In short, more people were choosing to rent and the overall homeownership rate began a decade long retreat from its all-time high set in 2004. But, though the homeownership rate fell, Americans still consistently expressed a desire to own their own home. That there was a large majority of people who said they wanted to buy but were holding off meant, one day, that pent-up demand would result in a spike in home buyers. Now, according to new numbers from the Census Bureau's Homeownership and Vacancy Survey, owner occupied households grew faster than rental households for the first time in 11 years during the first quarter of this year. This is significant because it may signal that more Americans are finally realizing their dream and becoming homeowners. Though encouraging, however, the uptick had little effect on the overall homeownership rate, which was unchanged from the previous quarter and has been relatively flat for a while. More here.

 

 

What Does It Mean When A Home's Sale Is Pending?

May 1, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

There are steps to buying a home. You don't just find a house, make an offer, and move in as soon as it's accepted. In fact, though having an offer accepted is a big step, it's really just the first of the closing process. There are many things that need to be done before your accepted offer becomes a final sale. During this process, the house you've chosen is off the market but not officially sold. Until you've got keys to the house, it's considered a pending sale or under contract. Pending sales are important because they can be a good indicator of where home sales are headed. Because of this, the National Association of Realtors keeps track each month of the number of homes that are under contract as a way of watching what's ahead for the market. For example, the NAR's most recent Pending Home Sales Index was virtually flat from the month before. Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, says the results show that low inventory may be holding home sales back. “Home shoppers are coming out in droves this spring and competing with each other for the meager amount of listings in the affordable price range,” Yun said. In other words, what we can learn from how many pending sales there were in March is that buyers should be prepared to move fast this spring and sellers should expect to find favorable conditions. More here.

 

 

Is What's Outside As Important As The Inside?

April 28, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

When it comes to buying a house, most people focus first on what's going on inside the house. The size of the kitchen, the number of bedrooms, closets, storage, etc., are all top concerns. But, according to a recent survey from the National Association of Realtors, access to outdoor recreation is nearly as important to most home buyers. Respondents listed benefits such as better health, an appreciation of nature, and a greater sense of community among the reasons they believed it was important to be close to outdoor features. And it wasn't a small number, either. There were large majorities that said outdoor recreation was either very or somewhat important to them. In fact, 56 percent of participants said it was very important and an additional 30 percent said it was somewhat important. Not surprisingly, there was a slight difference depending on where respondents lived. For example, in the West, 65 percent of those surveyed said outdoor recreation was very important to them, while just 51 percent felt the same way in the Midwest. Still, it's clearly something to think about when searching for a home to buy – whether you're buying a home by the water or just looking for something close to a neighborhood park. More here.

 

 

Rates Fall To Lowest Level Since November

April 27, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Just after last year's election, average mortgage rates began increasing. The rise was largely seen as a sign of things to come. However, rates have now begun dropping from their post-election highs. In fact, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates for 30-year fixed-rate loans with conforming loan balances are now at their lowest level since last November. Lynn Fisher, MBA's vice president of research and economics, told CNBC last week's drop was largely related to the French election. “The drop was driven by continued investor concerns about the French election, though Sunday's first-round voting results apparently have alleviated some investor fears,” Fisher said. Whatever the case, falling mortgage rates boosted the number of homeowners seeking to refinance. The MBA's refinance index rose 7 percent from the previous week. The purchase index, which measures the number of prospective borrowers applying for loans to buy homes, was unchanged from the week before. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

 

 

New Homes Are In High Demand This Spring

April 26, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

New estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development show new home sales at an 8-month high in March. Sales were 5.8 percent above February's rate and 15.6 percent higher than at the same time last year. The March results were the second best reading since 2008 and easily surpassed economists' expectations. That's encouraging news for the start of the spring season and could help boost the number of new homes that get built this year. And, at a time when inventory is low, that's important. As more new homes are built there will be more options available for buyers, which will help balance the market and moderate price increases. That's why new home construction is a closely watched indicator of the health of the overall housing market. In other words, whether you're in the market for a new home or not, the new home market will have an affect on your home search. Also in the report, the median sales price of new homes sold in March was $315,000, which is a jump from the month before but only 1.2 percent above one year ago. At the current sales pace, there was a 5.2-month supply of new homes available for sale at the end of the month. More here

 

 

The Top Factors That Drive 1st Timers To Buy

April 25, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

No two paths to homeownership are exactly the same. There are too many variables for that to be true. But though there are many different paths, there are a few common factors that play a role when first-time buyers decide to purchase a house. According to a recent survey from Bank of America, the first – and most obvious – factor is money. Just over half of respondents said having the financial means to purchase a home is what would ultimately be the decider. But though money is an undeniable factor, not all of the main motivators were financial. In fact, 40 percent of participants said it was a desire to have a place to call their own that would make them buy a home. A steady job and realizing money spent on rent would be better used toward a mortgage came in third and fourth on the list. Marriage is also a big influencer, with 22 percent of respondents saying getting married is what led them to consider buying a house. Finally, thinking mortgage rates and home prices were favorable was cited by 19 percent of first-time buyers. Repeat buyers, by comparison, had a very different list. In their case, needing more space and favorable rates and prices came in second and third. However, having the financial means also ranked first among current owners looking to buy. More here.

 

 

Home Sales Hit Fastest Pace In A Decade

April 24, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

New data from the National Association of Realtors shows sales of previously owned homes rose 4.4 percent in March and are now at their fastest pace since February 2007. Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, said the gains were led primarily by increases in the Northeast and Midwest but the overall results are encouraging. “The early returns so far this spring buying season look very promising as a rising number of households dipped their toes into the market and were successfully able to close on a home last month,” Yun said. “Although finding available properties to buy continues to be a strenuous task for many buyers, there was enough of a monthly increase in listings in March for sales to muster a strong gain.” According to Yun, as long as inventory continues to rise, so will sales. Last month, inventory was up nearly 6 percent but, despite the improvement, it still lags behind last year's levels. And, because there are fewer properties for sale in many markets, homes are selling more quickly this spring. In fact, the typical home was on the market for just 34 days and nearly half of all homes sold in March were on the market for less than a month. More here.

 

 

 

Hopeful Outlook Forecasts A Spring Bump

April 21, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

The real estate market is constantly evolving. What is true one day may not be the next. For example, this past winter many forecasts for the upcoming spring season predicted buyers might be scared off by rising interest rates and a lack of homes for sale. However, now that spring has arrived, mortgage rates have come down a bit and the housing market has been among the strongest sectors of the economy. For example, Fannie Mae's Economic & Strategic Research Group's latest housing forecast notes both a stronger-than-usual February and the prospects for a good spring. “February fared better than other hard economic indicators partly due to the warm winter weather, and the ESR group expects that a seasonal uptick in listings going into the spring selling season will help alleviate extremely tight inventory,” the group's latest release reads. In other words, despite higher rates and low inventory, the housing market performed well in February and trends going forward indicate conditions may be even more favorable now. As more homeowners put their homes up for sale, buyers will find improving conditions for a spring home search. More here

 

 

 

Mortgage Rates Fall To Five Month Low

April 20, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

At the end of last year, spiking mortgage rates had many analysts concerned that rates would continue to increase and cause home buyers to sit out the spring buying season. But, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, rates are actually heading in the opposite direction. In fact, last week's survey found rates down for the second consecutive week and at their lowest level since last November. Rates fell for 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages. But despite the decline, demand for mortgage applications was down from the previous week. Michael Fratantoni, MBA's chief economist, told CNBC rates haven't yet fallen low enough to lure many homeowners to refinance but purchase activity, though down from the week before, should start to pick up from here. “We do expect a pickup in purchase activity through the remainder of the spring season,” Fratantoni said. “With a strong job market and signs of continuing economic growth, we are forecasting roughly 9 percent growth in purchase origination volume for 2017 relative to 2016.” The MBA has been conducting their weekly survey since 1990. It covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here

 

 

Millennials Turn Traditional When It's Time To Buy

April 19, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Whenever the topic of millennial home buyers comes up, the assumption is that they're all searching for urban lofts and using the latest tech to find them. In other words, the next generation of home buyers isn't interested in the old way of doing things. However, survey after survey seems to contradict those assumptions. In fact, recent surveys have found millennials are far more traditional than most assume. For example, a recent survey of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 found large majorities said they'd prefer to work with a local real-estate agent and lender as opposed to online services when searching for a house to buy. Doria Lavagnino, co-founder and president of CentSai, the company behind the survey, says younger buyers want the comfort and reassurance of a recommendation from someone they trust. “Buying a home for the first time is daunting, and working with a local agent – particularly an agent referred by a parent or friend – could provide peace of mind.” The survey also found a majority of respondents said they plan to buy in the next two years and – among those who said they don't plan on buying – nearly 70 percent said it's because they can't afford to, rather than because they prefer to rent. More here.

 

 

Builders Have Confidence In New Home Market

April 18, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

When builders feel confident, they build more homes. And, as more homes are built, the housing market becomes more balanced. In other words, how builders feel about the market for new homes is an important factor in whether prices rise or fall and what buyers and sellers can expect from their local real estate market. Because of this, the National Association of Home Builders conducts a monthly survey of builders and ranks their responses on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders view conditions as good than poor. Because builders' views are considered an important barometer, the index is closely watched by industry experts. In April, the NAHB's index scored a 68, proving builders remain optimistic. Granger MacDonald, NAHB's chairman, says that though there was a slight dip from March, builders are still confident. “Even with this month's modest drop, builder confidence is on very firm ground, and builders are reporting strong interest among potential home buyers,” MacDonald said. How many new homes are built this year will have a significant affect on affordability conditions and how favorable conditions are for prospective home buyers. More here.

 

 

 

 

What Rising Optimism Means For Real Estate

April 17, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Home buyers, through the years, tend to value the same things. It makes sense. Though styles may vary and specific preferences may change, at the end of the day, we all want the same things out of our homes. Generally speaking, it all comes down to storage, space, and a sense of security. This year is no different. For example, a newly released survey of hopeful spring home buyers found that privacy was the top goal cited when asked what they valued most. Privacy even beat out family needs, which came in a close second. As for storage and space, garages and backyards were also near the top of the priorities list for most buyers. Demographically, younger buyers were more likely to want a large yard, while garages were particularly popular with buyers over the age of 55. Either way, it's clear that this year's house hunters have common needs. There is one need, however, that buyers share more than any other. When asked which room was most important to them, 80 percent of respondents named the kitchen. For obvious reasons, the kitchen is consistently ranked high atop buyers' wish lists. After all, no matter how young or old a buyer is, they need to eat – which is why a good kitchen is always a draw for home shoppers. More here

 

 

What Home Buyers Want Most This Spring

April 14, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Home buyers, through the years, tend to value the same things. It makes sense. Though styles may vary and specific preferences may change, at the end of the day, we all want the same things out of our homes. Generally speaking, it all comes down to storage, space, and a sense of security. This year is no different. For example, a newly released survey of hopeful spring home buyers found that privacy was the top goal cited when asked what they valued most. Privacy even beat out family needs, which came in a close second. As for storage and space, garages and backyards were also near the top of the priorities list for most buyers. Demographically, younger buyers were more likely to want a large yard, while garages were particularly popular with buyers over the age of 55. Either way, it's clear that this year's house hunters have common needs. There is one need, however, that buyers share more than any other. When asked which room was most important to them, 80 percent of respondents named the kitchen. For obvious reasons, the kitchen is consistently ranked high atop buyers' wish lists. After all, no matter how young or old a buyer is, they need to eat – which is why a good kitchen is always a draw for home shoppers. More here.

 

 

Rates Fall To Lowest Level So Far This Year

April 13, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, mortgage rates were mostly down last week. Rates fell for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages. Rates for jumbo loans were unchanged from the week before. The decline brought mortgage rates to their lowest level so far this year. Michael Fratantoni, MBA's chief economist, told CNBC the spring season is off to a good start. “The spring housing market is off to a solid start,” Fratantoni said. “Despite the relatively weak job report for March, job growth is averaging almost 180,000 [a month] so far this year, providing a strong support for the home purchase market.” The survey found demand for loans to buy homes was up 3 percent from the week before and is now 3 percent higher than at the same time last year. Refinance demand, on the other hand, was virtually unchanged from the previous week, despite falling interest rates. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

 

 

Townhomes Make A Comeback With Home Buyers

April 12, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Historically, townhouses were the city homes the wealthy used when they needed to be in town for social events. These days, however, they're popular with a wider array of buyers and there are a number of reasons why. First off, their small footprint and vertical design means they require less maintenance and are more likely to be located in trendier, walkable neighborhoods close to amenities and jobs. For that reason, townhouses appeal to both first-time buyers and baby boomers looking to downsize. Townhomes are also appealing because they tend to sell for less than the typical, detached single-family home. That combination of a lower price tag and the ability to be close to retail, entertainment, schools, and amenities have led to a bit of a townhouse building boom over the past few years. In fact, recent numbers from the National Association of Home Builders show a nearly 18 percent increase in the number of townhomes built between 2014 and 2015. But though it may not be the first time they've experienced a wave of popularity since their 18th century heyday, with more and more Americans indicating a preference for them, they're increasingly a desirable option for prospective buyers looking for a house to buy. More here.

 

 

Spring Has Homeowners Seeing Opportunity

April 10, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

This year's housing market depends a lot on whether or not current homeowners decide now's the time to put their home up for sale. With inventory low in many markets, home prices have been climbing and causing affordability concerns for buyers. But there are two ways to relieve upward pressure on prices. One is more new home construction. The other is more homeowners putting their homes on the market. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's senior vice president and chief economist, says the market may get a boost, if current homeowners become more active. “The housing market could get some tailwinds from a seasonal rise in for-sale inventory, particularly as some sellers seek to lock in profits from recent rapid home price gains,” Duncan said. “The market could also get a boost from homebuyers who decide to jump into the market before rates rise further.” The good news is there are an increasing number of Americans who believe this is the time to sell. In fact, Fannie Mae's most recent Home Purchase Sentiment Index saw a 9 percent jump in the number of survey participants who said they feel it's a good time to sell a house. If more homeowners begin to list their homes this spring, it'll offer buyers better choices. It'll also help moderate future price increases. More here.

 

 

How New Homes Help Buyers & The Economy

April 7, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

April is New Homes Month and, according to data from the Commerce Department, there's a number of reasons to celebrate. Not only do new homes offer buyers the advantage of having a brand-new house with all new plumbing, electrical, mechanical, and structural features but they also provide increased energy efficiency and more amenities. Simply put, new homes can offer things a home built 40 years ago can't. They're also a good indicator of the health of your local housing market and economy. Research from the National Association of Home Builders shows every 100 single-family homes built creates nearly 300 jobs, $28 million in wage and business income, and $11 million in tax revenue. In other words, new home construction helps the local economy in addition to offering buyers more choices and helping moderate prices. So far this year, buyer demand and consumer confidence have both been high and there's an expectation that more new homes will be built to accommodate those prospective buyers. Granger MacDonald, NAHB's chairman, says there's reason for optimism. “Our builders remain optimistic about the market for newly-built single-family homes and consumer confidence is strong, which should set the stage for a strong spring home buying season,” MacDonald said. “Americans continue to place a high priority on homeownership and work hard to achieve this goal for their families.” More here.

 

 

Average Home Loan Reaches New Record High

April 6, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, the size of the average home loan has reached a record high. And, since the survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications, that's saying something. But, though the increasing size of the average mortgage may seem like the natural result of rising home prices, it actually has more to do with the fact that there has been more buying activity at the higher end of the real-estate market recently. In short, there are more expensive homes on the market than there are affordable homes to buy. As inventory picks up on the lower end of the market, the size of the average mortgage will likely moderate. Also in the report, mortgage rates were relatively flat from the week before, with little change seen among 15-year fixed-rate mortgages or 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances. Loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration saw the biggest change, falling from the week before. Lynn Fisher, MBA's vice president of research and economics, says the market was fairly steady last week. “Markets appeared to hit pause last week, with little new information emerging about upcoming administrative or legislative policy changes,” Fisher told CNBC. More here.

 

 

 

Educated Buyers Make Happier Homeowners

April 5, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

The best defense against making avoidable mistakes is education. The more you know about something, the less likely you are to screw it up. So you'd think home buyers would want to learn as much as possible before heading out to find a house to purchase. After all, buying a house is major financial transaction and a serious commitment. And yet, surveys of potential home buyers consistently find that large majorities of them share in some common misconceptions about what it takes to buy a house and how the process should unfold. Recently, Fannie Mae's Economic & Strategic Research Group interviewed real-estate agents, buyers, and loan officers in an effort to figure out why there isn't more focus on homeownership education before buying. Not surprisingly, most of their answers boiled down to there not being enough time during the process to focus on education. But common misunderstandings about down payment requirements, financing options, and the added costs of homeownership can scare off buyers or lead them to make unwise financial decisions. That's why it's always important, as a buyer, to ask questions along the way. Though you may not have time for hitting the books, you can always lean on the expertise and knowledge of the professionals you hired to guide you along the way. More here.

 

 

How To Think About Home Prices In 2017

April 4, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Home prices can be intimidating. Without some guidance and understanding, it's easy to get confused about what a particular price will mean when all is said and done. Mortgage rates, taxes, insurance, and your income all play a role in how much house you can afford. So a simple price tag won't always accurately reflect what that number means in terms of your monthly bills, the overall costs of homeownership, and how it all fits into your plans and goals. A price that is out of reach when mortgage rates are up becomes affordable when they fall. Naturally, the same is true for incomes. When wages grow, so does buying power. That's why this year's housing market is, in many ways, a race between prices, rates, and wages. If continued economic growth and job market gains boost buyers' incomes and confidence in their employment status, it'll help alleviate concerns about rising home prices. According to Freddie Mac's most recent monthly outlook, it should be close. Though they expect affordability conditions to affect buyers, they also expect continued economic gains and job market improvement. All in all, they estimate there will be 5.9 million home sales this year, down only slightly from 6 million in 2016. In other words, prices and rates may have an effect but only a small one. More here.

 

 

Selling Your House Means Becoming A Buyer

April 3, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

It's somewhat natural to want to break up the housing market into buyers and sellers. You're either a homeowner looking for a home buyer or on the hunt for a new place to call your own. But though that's the way a lot of us think about the real estate market, the fact is, if you're in the process of selling a house, you're likely also in the process of looking for a house to buy. And that complicates the transaction a bit more than say a renter looking to become a first-time buyer. Why? Mostly, it's due to timing. And, according to one recent survey, that's especially true these days. Because the number of homes for sale is lower than normal in many markets, home sellers are concerned about being able to find a house to move into once they've sold theirs. So much so that 65.6 percent of surveyed real estate agents said it's the greatest challenge for sellers in their market. So what should a home seller do? Well, fortunately, there are options – whether it's a contingency worked into the sale contract or an arrangement to stay with family in the interim. Whatever the particulars of your situation, your prospects as a buyer are something to consider when deciding when to put your home on the market. More here.

 

 

Home Buyers Get An Early Start On Spring

March 31, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

If you're like most home buyers, affordability is among your top concerns. After all, the first question you ask when deciding to buy a house is typically going to be whether or not you can afford it. So recent news reports showing mortgage rates and home prices on the rise may have you feeling like buying a house isn't within your reach. But that's not necessarily true, according to a new analysis from First American Financial Corp. Their Real House Price Index looks, not only at prices, but also at income and interest rate changes. In other words, it gives a fuller picture of how much buying power the average American has. The most recent results show that affordability conditions have actually improved lately. Mark Fleming, First American's chief economist, says conditions aren't as favorable as they were last year at this time but they're still high when compared to historical norms. “While affordability is lower compared to a year ago, the level of affordability in most markets is still high by historical standards, which is why demand is expected to remain strong this spring,” Fleming says. In other words, affordability conditions may not be what they were last year but there are still opportunities to capitalize in today's housing market. More here.

 

 

Mortgage Rate Drop Is 1st In Three Weeks

March 30, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

If you're like most home buyers, affordability is among your top concerns. After all, the first question you ask when deciding to buy a house is typically going to be whether or not you can afford it. So recent news reports showing mortgage rates and home prices on the rise may have you feeling like buying a house isn't within your reach. But that's not necessarily true, according to a new analysis from First American Financial Corp. Their Real House Price Index looks, not only at prices, but also at income and interest rate changes. In other words, it gives a fuller picture of how much buying power the average American has. The most recent results show that affordability conditions have actually improved lately. Mark Fleming, First American's chief economist, says conditions aren't as favorable as they were last year at this time but they're still high when compared to historical norms. “While affordability is lower compared to a year ago, the level of affordability in most markets is still high by historical standards, which is why demand is expected to remain strong this spring,” Fleming says. In other words, affordability conditions may not be what they were last year but there are still opportunities to capitalize in today's housing market. More here.

 

 

The Truth About Affordability Conditions

March 29, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

If you're like most home buyers, affordability is among your top concerns. After all, the first question you ask when deciding to buy a house is typically going to be whether or not you can afford it. So recent news reports showing mortgage rates and home prices on the rise may have you feeling like buying a house isn't within your reach. But that's not necessarily true, according to a new analysis from First American Financial Corp. Their Real House Price Index looks, not only at prices, but also at income and interest rate changes. In other words, it gives a fuller picture of how much buying power the average American has. The most recent results show that affordability conditions have actually improved lately. Mark Fleming, First American's chief economist, says conditions aren't as favorable as they were last year at this time but they're still high when compared to historical norms. “While affordability is lower compared to a year ago, the level of affordability in most markets is still high by historical standards, which is why demand is expected to remain strong this spring,” Fleming says. In other words, affordability conditions may not be what they were last year but there are still opportunities to capitalize in today's housing market. More here.

 

 

Some Simple Steps To A Greener Home

March 28, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

There are a variety of reasons you might want to make your home green. From allergies to energy bills, giving your home an environmentally minded upgrade can not only be better for your health and utility costs, it can also improve the value of your home when it comes time to sell. It is true, after all, that energy efficiency consistently ranks near the top of home buyers' wish lists. The good news, if you're considering steps to a greener home, is that there are many things you can do that aren't necessarily expensive or all that time consuming. From smart technology to natural household cleaners, if you're interested in a greener life, there are plenty of products and practices that can help you achieve it. According to Marla Esser Cloos, author of a new book published by the National Association of Home Builders, the key is incorporating new habits into your day-to-day life. “Living green has to be a blend of the stuff you buy and the things you do,” she says. “If each of us built five simple practices or changes in buying habits into our daily routines, we would all soon have our own everyday green homes – and we would change the world.” To get going, buy some energy-efficient light bulbs or start a garden, then work your way up to replacing your old windows and upgrading your insulation. No matter where you live or what your budget may be, there are things you can do today to begin making your home green. More here.

 

 

 

 

New Home Sales Surge In February

March 27, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development's monthly new residential sales statistics show sales of new homes rose 6.1 percent in February and are now 12.8 percent above last year's figure. The numbers are an indication that sales may have begun improving before the official start of the spring season and at a time when mortgage rates were climbing. So what could be behind the surge in new home sales? Well, one possible reason for the spike is elevated buyer interest. From all accounts, buyer demand is quite high across the country. And those buyers may have simply been trying to beat the competition or lock in low rates before they rise any higher. In other words, market conditions may have convinced buyers that getting an early start would land them a better chance of finding the home of their dreams. Another explanation could be unseasonably warm weather in parts of the country that would normally still be in the grips of winter during the month of February. An exceptionally mild month could have helped lift sales in parts of the South, Midwest, and Northeast. Also in the report, the median sales price of new homes sold was $296,200. The average sales price was $390,400. More here.

 

 

Sales Numbers Show Homes Selling Quickly

March 24, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Demand for home loans dropped last week, according to new figures from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The MBA's Weekly Applications Survey – which tracks mortgage rates and application demand – showed a 2.7 percent decline in the number of Americans requesting applications for home loans. This time, however, the drop wasn't related to a significant increase in mortgage rates. In fact, average rates were unchanged for 30-year fixed-rate loans with conforming loan balances, down for jumbo loans, and up only slightly for FHA and 15-year fixed-rate loans. In other words, mortgages rates were relatively steady from the week before. However, they are up from where they were last fall. Because of this, Mike Fratantoni, MBA's chief economist, says home buyers are beginning to turn to adjustable rate mortgages. “Home buyers in a strong housing market are looking for ways to extend their purchasing power and ARMs are one way to do that,” Fratantoni told CNBC. Last week, adjustable rate mortgages increased to 9 percent of total application demand. But though that's the highest it's been in nearly three years, it's still far below what it was before the housing crash, when it hit a peak of 35 percent. The MBA's weekly survey covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications and has been conducted since 1990. More here.

 

 

Average Mortgage Rates Mostly Steady Last Week

March 23, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Demand for home loans dropped last week, according to new figures from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The MBA's Weekly Applications Survey – which tracks mortgage rates and application demand – showed a 2.7 percent decline in the number of Americans requesting applications for home loans. This time, however, the drop wasn't related to a significant increase in mortgage rates. In fact, average rates were unchanged for 30-year fixed-rate loans with conforming loan balances, down for jumbo loans, and up only slightly for FHA and 15-year fixed-rate loans. In other words, mortgages rates were relatively steady from the week before. However, they are up from where they were last fall. Because of this, Mike Fratantoni, MBA's chief economist, says home buyers are beginning to turn to adjustable rate mortgages. “Home buyers in a strong housing market are looking for ways to extend their purchasing power and ARMs are one way to do that,” Fratantoni told CNBC. Last week, adjustable rate mortgages increased to 9 percent of total application demand. But though that's the highest it's been in nearly three years, it's still far below what it was before the housing crash, when it hit a peak of 35 percent. The MBA's weekly survey covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications and has been conducted since 1990. More here.

 

 

City Living May Cost More Than Move To Suburbs

March 22, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Whether you prefer to live in the city or suburbs depends on a lot of factors. From the size of your family to your age and career, there are many different considerations that come into play when deciding where you might want to settle down. Of course, money is always a major one. Joyce Hodel, a data scientist at Care.com – who recently partnered with Zillow on a cost of living analysis that looked at average housing and child care costs in cities as opposed to suburbs – says choosing where to settle down is a big decision for any family. “Figuring out where your family will live and grow is arguably one of the most exciting and daunting times in a parent's life,” Hodel says. “While moving to the suburbs often brings significant cost savings, city living can still be the right choice for some families and is less expensive in certain metro areas.” In fact, according to the research, families spend an average of just over $9,000 a year more on basic housing and child care costs when living in cities. However, in some metro areas like Philadelphia and Baltimore, living in the city can actually be the more affordable option. More here.

 

 

Financial Optimism May Boost Housing Market

March 21, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

The number of American households that believe the economy is improving has jumped 14 percent since last year at this time, according to the recently released results of a quarterly survey from the National Association of Realtors. That improvement could have an impact on home buyers and sellers as the spring season begins. That's because, the more confident a person is in their personal financial situation, the more likely they are to make big life decisions, such as buying or selling a house. And, according to the survey, renewed economic optimism is already having an effect. In fact, a majority of Americans answered positively when asked whether or not it's a good time to buy a home. Additionally, 69 percent said it's a good time to sell. William E. Brown, NAR's president, says if you're someone looking to make a move this spring, it's best to have a plan – especially if you're a current homeowner. “Demand far outpaces supply in many parts of the country right now, which means homeowners will likely sell their home much quicker than the time it takes to buy another,” Brown said. “Before listing, it's best to have a carefully crafted plan in place.” More here.

 

 

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Will This Year Be Better For Buyers Or Sellers?

March 20, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

If you want to know whether this year is going to be good for buyers or sellers or both, you need to watch for a couple of factors. First, take a look at the housing market. A recent uptick in mortgage rates, combined with higher prices and lower inventory, have made buying a home slightly less affordable than it was a couple of years ago. However, mortgage rates are still historically low and, though prices continue to rise, they have slowed down in many markets. That means, though affordability isn't what it was a few years ago, buying a home remains an affordable choice. This is especially true when taken together with recent economic data. That's because, whether or not higher rates will deter potential buyers really depends more on whether or not those buyers feel financially secure and optimistic about their prospects. In other words, if Americans continue to see better job opportunities and higher wages, they'll be less likely to hesitate when thinking about buying a house regardless of where rates and prices go. According to the most recent outlook from Fannie Mae's Economic & Strategic Research Group, how things play out will depend largely on young Americans. “Tight inventory remains a boon to home prices and Americans' net worth, but it also continues to price out many would-be first-time homebuyers,” Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's chief economist, said. “However, our research suggests that aging millennials, now boasting higher real wages, are beginning to narrow the homeownership attainment gap.” More here

 

 

Builder Confidence Reaches 12-Year High

March 17, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

There are a lot of stages a house goes through on its way to becoming someone's home. And one of the most important steps along that path is its construction. Because builders are there at the beginning of the process, they have an unique perspective on, not only the market, but also home buyers and their preferences. For this reason, the National Association of Home Builders surveys builders each month to get their perspective on the market for new homes. According to the most recent results, builders are more confident than they've been at any time since June 2005. But though their optimism hit a 12-year high, Robert Dietz, NAHB's chief economist, says builders still face some challenges. “While builders are clearly confident, we expect some moderation in the index moving forward,” Dietz said. “Builders continue to face a number of challenges, including rising material prices, higher mortgage rates, and shortages of lots and labor.” Still, optimism is high, not only about current sales conditions, but also future prospects. In fact – on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders view conditions as good than poor – the index component measuring sales expectations over the next six months was up five points to 78. This is encouraging news for buyers because a strong new home market means more new homes get built and more new home construction means less upward pressure on home prices. More here.

 

 

Mortgage Rates And Demand Both Climb Higher

March 16, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates increased last week across all loan categories, including 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages. But despite higher rates, demand for mortgage applications also rose from the week before. In fact, refinance activity was up 4 percent and demand for loans to buy homes moved 2 percent higher than one week earlier. One possible reason for the increase could be a wave of homeowners and prospective buyers trying to lock in rates before they move any higher. But another factor could be job growth. Michael Fratantoni, MBA's chief economist, told CNBC they expect Americans' improving financial health to outweigh the potential negatives of higher mortgage rates. “February's job report showed strong job growth and faster wage growth,” Fratantoni said. “We expect that the benefits from growing household incomes will continue to outweigh the headwind of slightly higher mortgage rates.” The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

 

 

The Nation's Best Cities For Selling A Home

March 15, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

With spring quickly approaching, now is the time of year when home buyers start getting serious about finding a house to buy. That means, it's also the best time of year for homeowners who have been thinking about putting their home up for sale. With for-sale inventory low in many markets, it's a good time to be a home seller. How good depends, however, on where you live. A recent analysis from SmartAsset looked at five factors important to home sellers and determined the nation's best cities for selling a house. Using the change in median home values, average number of days a home stays on the market before selling, the percentage of homes that sold for a loss, average closing costs, and the number of real-estate offices per 1,000 residents, the analysis scored 161 cities across the country. Surprisingly, among the top 10 cities for selling a house, nine of them were in either Colorado or Texas – with Denver taking the top spot. The only city outside of Colorado and Texas to make the top 10 was Portland. However, the results do show favorable conditions across a wide geographic area. Cities from every region of the country made the list, from Boston, Mass. to Irvine, Calif., Lexington, Ky. to Charlotte, N.C. More here.

 

 

Will Your Next Home Be Bigger Or Smaller?

March 14, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Over the past 40 years, the typical new home has grown about 1,000 square feet. It seems, for American homeowners, their current home is always smaller than the home they hope to one day buy. But is that always the case? Well, not according to a recent survey from Trulia. Sure, the results show just 32 percent of homeowners say they'd move into a house the same size as the one they currently own. But whether that's because they feel their house is too big or too small depends on some other factors. Generally, older homeowners and people currently living in homes larger than 2,000 square feet say they'd prefer to downsize, while younger buyers and those living in smaller homes dream of a bigger house. Most of that makes perfect sense. For example, older homeowners may prefer a smaller house due to the maintenance and upkeep issues that a bigger home presents. But when the number of people who say they'd prefer a smaller house rises along with the square footage of their current home, it suggest that there may be, in fact, a point when a house has more space than necessary, regardless of your age. In short, though new homes may keep getting bigger, whether or not you want one probably has more to do with the size of your family, your financial situation, and future life goals. More here.

 

 

Why Aren't More Homeowners Looking To Sell?

March 13, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Recent real estate data shows home buyer demand is high. There are a lot of buyers looking to take advantage of current conditions out of concern that mortgage rates may go up this year or prices will rise further. That, along with pent-up demand from younger buyers and previously underwater homeowners looking to finally move, means it should be a great time to sell a house. So, if buyer demand is up and conditions are right, why aren't more homeowners putting their homes up for sale? Well one reason, according to a recent survey, is that they're afraid they won't be able to find a suitable replacement for their current home. With inventory tight in many markets, some homeowners – who may otherwise be ready to sell – say they're hesitant. However, as more homeowners get in the market and off the sidelines, that will begin to change. In the meantime, buyers looking to purchase a home this spring should expect to see available homes for sale selling more quickly than they did last year. In other words, there will likely be some competition for hot properties. That means, interested buyers will have to move fast. One way to beat the competition is to be prepared. If you're a buyer, have your financing lined up in advance. That way, when you find a home you're interested in, you'll have a better shot at getting in the first offer. More here.

 

 

 

 

The Return Of The Gen X Home Buyer

March 10, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Generally, Generation X is used to refer to people born in the 1960s and '70s. Because they reached peak home buying age right around the time home prices began to drop, many found themselves underwater on their mortgage and unable to sell their house and upgrade to a larger home. Now, according to the National Association of Realtors 2017 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study, there is evidence that there are an increasing number of Gen X home buyers active in the market. In fact, the most recent increase in buyers from this category was the largest since 2014. Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, says Gen X homeowners have been in their homes a median of 10 years but may now finally be in a position to put their homes on the market. “Fortunately, the much stronger job market and 41 percent cumulative rise in home prices since 2011 have helped a growing number build enough equity to finally sell and trade up to a larger home.” And, because the number of homes available for sale is low in many markets, a growing number of Generation X homeowners ready to sell could provide the needed inventory boost that helps balance the market and moderate future home price increases. More here.

 

 

Mortgage Demand Up As Buyers Get Ready

March 9, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Demand for mortgage applications typically increases as the spring season approaches. Buyers hoping to find a home to buy look to get a jump on their competition by applying for a loan before the rush. This year is no exception. In fact, mortgage application demand was up 3.3 percent last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. The increase puts demand for loans to buy homes 4 percent higher than it was at the same time last year. Some of that interest is seasonal, of course, but it also might have to do with buyers who are concerned about future mortgage rate increases. Last week, for example, average mortgage rates rose across all loan categories, including 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances, FHA loans, and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages. Joel Kan, an MBA economist, said the increase had to do with a couple of factors. “Mortgage rates increased last week as remarks by several key Federal Reserve officials strongly signaled a March rate increase,” Kan told CNBC. “This was further supported by a few solid economic releases, including GDP, inflation and manufacturing gauges.” Whether to lock in low rates or because of the approaching sales season, buyers seem eager to take advantage of current conditions. More here.

 

 

Americans Feel Good About The Housing Market

March 8, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Each month, Fannie Mae uses the results of their National Housing Survey to determine Americans' views about housing market conditions and their personal economic outlook. The resulting Home Purchase Sentiment Index breaks down consumers' responses about the state of their financial prospects, whether or not they feel it is a good time to buy or sell a house, and whether they think home prices and mortgage rates will rise or fall. In February, the index hit a new high and saw five of its six components increase. In fact, the number of respondents who said now was a good time to buy a house was up 11 percent, while 7 percent more participants said it was a good time to sell than did the month before. Increasing optimism was especially noticeable among younger buyers, according to Fannie Mae's senior vice president and chief economist, Doug Duncan. “Millennials showed especially strong increases in job confidence and income gains, a necessary precursor for increased housing demand from first-time home buyers,” Duncan said in a press release. “Preliminary research results from our team find that millennials are accelerating the rate at which they move out of their parents' homes and form new households.” More here.

 

 

What New Homeowners Say They'd Do Differently

March 7, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Buying a house is no small purchase. So you definitely don't want to find yourself regretting your choice after you've signed the papers and settled in. But though we all know it's an important decision and one to be taken seriously, a lot of new homeowners say they'd do things differently if they had the chance to go through the buying process all over again. This is especially true for younger buyers, according to a new survey from NerdWallet. In fact, outside of baby boomers, a majority of recent buyers said they had regrets. So what are the main things that recent buyers said they'd change if they could? Well, nearly 30 percent of participants said they'd save more money before beginning the buying process. This is likely true for a number of reasons. Among them, the most obvious is the down payment. Though you don't need to have a 20 percent down payment, the less you invest upfront the more you'll pay on a monthly basis. In other words, the more you save, the better. Respondents also said they'd have done more research before buying a house. Buyers said they wished they had learned more in advance about both getting a mortgage and the home buying process. More here.

 

 

The Absolute Best Time To List Your Home

March 6, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Though it's commonly said that spring is the most popular time for home buyers to begin looking at houses, a new analysis has narrowed it down even further. In fact, the Zillow Group Report on Consumer Housing Trends pinpointed the best two weeks of the year to list a house. The study found that homes listed between May 1st and 15th sold nine days faster than the average listing. Additionally, homes that were listed during that time frame sold for 1 percent above average. However, you may not be able to expect the same success if you're selling a house in an area with a warmer climate. That's because, regions where the weather doesn't change as drastically from season to season will see less variation in sale price. According to Zillow's chief economist, Dr. Svenja Gudell, there's one possible reason homes listed near the end of April or beginning of May do so well. “Many home buyers who started looking for homes in the early spring will still be searching for their dream home months later,” Gudell said. “By May, some buyers may be anxious to get settled into a new home – and will be more willing to pay a premium to close a deal.” The report also found that homes listed on a Saturday got 20 percent more views in their first week than those listed earlier in the week. More here.

 

 

How Inflation Might Affect The Housing Market

March 3, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

The dictionary definition of inflation is a “substantial rise in the general level of prices related to an increase in the volume of money and resulting in the loss of value of currency.” In other words, inflation means you get less bang for your buck. And, according to a new outlook from Freddie Mac, it has shown signs it may be about to increase, which could have an impact on the housing market. “Which course inflation takes over the next year will have important implications for housing and mortgage markets,” says Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac's chief economist. If inflation heads higher – the outlook imagines - interest rates could also rise and lead to falling home sales and mortgage originations. The good news, however, is that Freddie Mac believes inflation will rise only modestly over the next two years. That's encouraging for potential home buyers worried about deteriorating affordability conditions. “With the housing market on the verge of the spring home buying season, this is good news in an environment where historically low mortgage rates will help offset the pace of house price growth and lack of for-sale inventory in many markets,” Becketti says. In short, there is a chance inflation could rise depending on upcoming trends and economic policy but, more than likely, the increase will be gradual and shouldn't affect housing market activity in the near term. More here.

 

 

Lower Rates Give Buyers Spring Fever

March 2, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

The Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey is a measure of both mortgage rates and demand for loan applications. Conducted weekly since 1990, the survey is a good source for tracking market trends. According to the most recent survey, average mortgage rates fell last week across all loan categories. Rates declined for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with both conforming and jumbo balances, 15-year fixed-rate loans, and mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration. MBA economist, Joel Kan, said the rate drop was largely due to events overseas. “Rates declined last week as investors favored U.S. Treasury bonds due mainly to political concerns from abroad,” Kan told CNBC. Regardless of the reason rates moved lower, prospective buyers took advantage. In fact, demand for loans to buy homes rose 7 percent from the week before. But because spring is typically the busiest time of year for home buyers, some of that spike might have to do with the approaching sales season more than the rate drop. Also in the report, refinance activity climbed 5 percent over the previous week. It is now at its highest level so far this year. The week's results contain an adjustment for the Presidents' Day holiday. More here.

 

 

Home Buyer Demand Hits Post-Recession High

March 1, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Though this year's real estate market may not look as buyer friendly as it has in recent years, demand is at its highest level since the Great Recession, according to the National Association of Realtors' chief economist, Lawrence Yun. Yun says Americans are feeling more confident about their financial status due to better job prospects and recent stock market gains. That, of course, is positive news. But the flip side of increasing buyer demand is more competition for available homes at a time when for-sale inventory is lower than normal in many markets. “Buyer traffic is easily outpacing seller traffic in several metro areas and is why homes are selling at a much faster rate than a year ago,” Yun says. “Most notably in the West, it's not uncommon to see a home come off the market within a month.” So what does this mean for the spring season? Well, if you're a prospective buyer, it means you should be ready to move quickly when you find a house you're interested in. It also means you should be on the lookout for rising prices. Where there are more home buyers than available houses, price increases will accelerate. Yun warns that, especially in expensive markets, “prospective buyers will feel this squeeze in their budget and will likely have to come up with additional savings or compromise on home size or location.” More here.

 

 

 

 

 

Market For New Homes Strong In January

February 28, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

In January, sales of newly built single-family homes increased 3.7 percent over the previous month and are now 5.5 percent higher than last year at the same time, according to new numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. But though the improvement was solid, it didn't meet economists' expectations. Surveyed economists were predicting a 6.3 percent sales increase. Weather could be among the possible reasons sales didn't perform as well as expected. For example, a look at regional results shows sales up by double digits in the Northeast and Midwest. The South also saw gains, rising 4.3 percent from the month before. In the West, however, sales fell – which may be due to the fact that the west coast has had an unusually rainy winter. Overall, though, the news was positive, with sales signaling a boost in consumer confidence and a healthy level of demand among prospective buyers. It also shows that interested buyers have not been deterred by the rise in mortgage rates. The median sales price of new homes sold in January was $312,900. The average sales price was $360,900. More here.

 

 

What You Need To Know About Property Taxes

February 27, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

There are a lot of things to focus on when you're shopping for a house. Just for starters, you have to find the right house at the right price. That isn't necessarily going to be easy. But you also need to figure out how much of a down payment you're going to have, how much you'll need for closing costs, how you're going to move your things, and what you'll have left over once the dust settles. For that reason, a lot of prospective buyers forget to think about how much they'll be paying each year in property taxes. This can lead to some unwelcome surprises down the road. So what should you expect? Well, the way property taxes are calculated can vary widely depending on where you live – so can the amount. In fact, a recent state-by-state analysis from CoreLogic found taxes, as a percentage of total property value, can range anywhere from less than half a percent to nearly three percent. Illinois is home to the country's highest property taxes, with a median rate of 2.67 percent. Other states with taxes over two percent include New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Texas. On the other end of the spectrum, the lowest property taxes in the country are found in Hawaii, where the median tax rate is 0.31 percent. South Carolina, Wyoming, Alabama, Colorado, and South Dakota, among others, were also found to have property tax rates of less than one percent. More here.

 

 

Is January's Sales Spike A Sign For Spring?

February 24, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

There has been a lot of discussion lately about what the housing market will look like this year. Will higher mortgage rates and rising prices hold off buyer demand or will consumer confidence and a better job market fuel a spike in sales regardless of what rates and prices do? One early answer comes in the form of the National Association of Realtors' latest home sales figures. In January, for example, the number of previously owned homes that were sold was 3.3 percent higher than the month before and reached its strongest pace in a decade. This could be a sign that this spring's real estate market will continue to build on last year's strength. Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, says the January report shows that consumers are coming out despite the changing landscape for home buyers. “Much of the country saw robust sales activity last month as strong hiring and improved consumer confidence at the end of the year appear to have sparked considerable interest in buying a home,” Yun said. “Market challenges remain, but the housing market is off to a prosperous start as home buyers staved off inventory levels that are far from adequate and deteriorating affordability conditions.” Regionally, home sales saw strong gains in the West, South and Northeast but fell 1.5 percent in the Midwest. Also in the report, home prices experienced their biggest increases over last year in the West, South, and Midwest. The Northeast, on the other hand, only saw a modest increase year-over-year. More here.

 

 

Mortgage Rates See Slight Increase Last Week

February 23, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Average mortgage rates were up last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey. Mortgage rates increased across all loan categories, including 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances, 15-year fixed-rate loans, and mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration. Despite the increase, however, rates remain roughly within the same range they've been since they jumped last November. Joel Kan, MBA's associate vice president of industry surveys and forecasting, says last week's increase was related to expectations that the Fed might raise interest rates soon. “Rates were up last week as markets assessed that the Fed might increase rates sooner than expected on the strength of a recent pick-up in inflation readings” Kan told CNBC. Whatever the reason, higher mortgage rates have taken a toll on refinance activity, which dropped again last week. Demand for loans to buy homes also fell last week and, according to Kan, isn't as high as it usually is at this time of year. Typically, buyers are beginning the mortgage process in anticipation of the spring season. This year's lull may be due to higher interest rates, though it may also be the result of there being fewer homes available for sale in many markets across the country. More here.

 

 

Why New Homes Matter Even If You Don't Buy One

February 22, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

If you follow real estate, you've heard a lot about inventory lately. That's because, inventory – which refers to the number of homes available for sale – plays a big role in how much house the typical buyer can afford. When there are more homes for sale than there are interested buyers, home prices fall. These days, there are a lower-than-usual number of homes available to buy in many markets, which is why prices have continued to rise across the country. Of course, one good way to boost inventory is to build new homes. New home construction produces more choices for buyers and more competition among sellers, which helps balance the market. For this reason, the National Association of Home Builders regularly surveys builders to get a feel for whether they are optimistic about the market and likely to build more homes. The NAHB's Housing Market Index scores builders answers on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders feel conditions are good than poor. In February, the index fell two points but remains in positive territory at 65. Granger MacDonald, NAHB's chairman, says builders are generally optimistic. “While builders remain optimistic, we are seeing the numbers settling back into a normal range,” MacDonald said. Regionally, the Northeast and South were down, while the Midwest rose one point and the West was unchanged at 79. More here.

 

 

Despite Challenges Outlook Sees Growth Ahead

February 21, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

The housing market is always evolving – and at different rates depending on where you live. Whether you're looking at new home construction or mortgage rates, the numbers are always in flux. Because of this, Fannie Mae's monthly Economic & Strategic Research Group releases a monthly Economic and Housing Outlook to analyze where things may be headed. According to their most recent release, it's difficult to forecast how things may play out through the rest of this year. On the one hand, lower inventory and higher mortgage rates suggest that affordability conditions will make it tougher for buyers looking for a house this year. On the other, the job market, wages, and economic optimism have all been trending upward recently, which could help offset some of the challenges ahead for buyers. Overall, Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's chief economist, says housing should continue to grow. “We expect housing expansion to continue, albeit at a more moderate pace than last year given continued pressure on affordability,” Duncan said. “Depressed inventory, particularly in the more affordable segments, will likely constrain sales and push home price gains that outpace income growth.” The report notes, however, that early indicators show buyer demand is still strong. In fact, both pending home sales and demand for loans to buy homes have recently shown an upswing. More here.

 

 

Buying A Home Remains An Affordable Choice

February 17, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates were up and down last week. For example, rates for 30-year fixed-rate loans with conforming balances fell, while jumbo loans moved up slightly. On the other hand, mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration saw a decline and rates for 15-year fixed-rate loans were unchanged from the week before. But despite the fact that rates remained within a fairly steady range last week, demand for mortgage applications was down overall. Refinance activity fell to an eight-year low – mostly due to mortgage rates moving higher over the past few months. At the same time, purchase activity is 3 percent higher than it was at the same time last year, though down from the week before. In other news from the MBA, mortgage credit availability increased for the fifth consecutive month in January. That's good news for prospective buyers. When lending standards are easing, it makes it more likely that qualified home buyers will be approved for a loan. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

 

 

Mortgage Rates Mixed In Latest Survey

February 16, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates were up and down last week. For example, rates for 30-year fixed-rate loans with conforming balances fell, while jumbo loans moved up slightly. On the other hand, mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration saw a decline and rates for 15-year fixed-rate loans were unchanged from the week before. But despite the fact that rates remained within a fairly steady range last week, demand for mortgage applications was down overall. Refinance activity fell to an eight-year low – mostly due to mortgage rates moving higher over the past few months. At the same time, purchase activity is 3 percent higher than it was at the same time last year, though down from the week before. In other news from the MBA, mortgage credit availability increased for the fifth consecutive month in January. That's good news for prospective buyers. When lending standards are easing, it makes it more likely that qualified home buyers will be approved for a loan. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

 

 

Homeowners Often Overestimate Their Home's Value

February 15, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

For home buyers and sellers, appraisals are important. They represent an official reading of what a particular property is actually worth, as opposed to what its owner hopes to sell it for. Based on similar properties in the same area, an appraiser will look at a house, compare it to recently sold homes in the neighborhood, and determine what the home's current market value is. Of course, their estimation may catch the current owner by surprise if it comes in either higher or lower than they expected. And, according to one index that tracks price perceptions, they often do. In fact, Quicken Loans' Home Price Perception Index found the average appraisal value was 1.47 percent below homeowners' estimates when looked at nationally, though that percentage varies widely depending on where you look. For example, in many western cities – including Denver, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles – appraised values were as much as 3 percent higher than homeowners estimated, while appraisals came in below expectations more often in cities on the East Coast and in the Midwest. If you're selling, refinancing, or buying a home, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with what homes are currently selling for in your area. That way, if and when you call for an appraisal, you'll be less likely to end up surprised by the result. More here.

 

 

How Your Pets Influence What Home You Buy

February 14, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Most people treat their pets like they're a member of the family. In fact, a recent survey from the National Association of Realtors, found a full 99 percent of pet owners agreed their animals were considered part of their family. And a lot of us have them. William E. Brown, NAR's president, says a majority of Americans have a pet or are planning on getting one. “In 2016, 61 percent of U.S. households either have a pet or plan to get one in the future, so it's important to understand the unique needs and wants of animal owners when it comes to homeownership,” Brown said. “Realtors understand that when someone buys a home, they are buying it with the needs of their whole family in mind; ask pet owners, and they will enthusiastically agree that their animals are part of their family.” So, if pets are thought of as family members, it shouldn't come as any surprise that they play a large role in how Americans make decisions about buying or selling a house. But what are some of the things a prospective home buyer might be looking for specifically to accommodate their furry friends? According to the survey, a fence around the yard is the top priority for pet owners, though a dog door and laminate flooring also ranked high. More here.

 

 

February Named Best Month To Find A Bargain

February 13, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

If asked, most people would name spring or summer as the best time to shop for a house. After all, those are typically the busiest seasons for house hunting, regardless of what part of the country you look at. There are a few reasons for this – including the school year, weather, summer vacations, and a general sense of starting anew. However, new numbers from ATTOM Data Solutions might make you question conventional wisdom on the subject. That's because, after analyzing 16 years worth of data covering 50 million home sales, they found February is the best month to buy a house at a discount. In fact, their analysis shows homes sold during the month went for 6.1 percent less per square foot than the rest of the year on average. By comparison, April home sales numbers show more than a million more homes sold but at a median price just 1.8 percent below the annualized sales price. In other words, if you're looking to buy a house and are hoping to find a great deal, now may be the best time to start hunting. And, in addition to being the best month to find a bargain, February also registered the top five days for buying a home at the biggest discount. More here.

 

 

59 Million Americans Say They Want To Buy

February 10, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

A recent survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates says 59 million Americans are considering buying a home this year. That's roughly one in four adults. Conducted on behalf of Bankrate, the survey shows the strongest demand among parents with young children and adults between the ages of 27 and 52 – not surprising considering the lower-than-usual number of first-time home buyers active in the market over the past few years. Holden Lewis, a mortgage analyst with Bankrate, says there's a lot of pent-up demand among younger buyers. “They have been stymied by stagnant wages, student loans and a lack of available starter homes,” Lewis said. “If enough affordable homes are put on the market, we might see a surge of first-time home buyers in their early to mid-30s.” That, however, is the big question for home buyers this year. Will there be enough affordable homes on the market to support the increasing number of interested buyers? There have been signs recently that home builders are beginning to build smaller, more affordable homes but, without a spike in the number of Americans hoping to sell their homes, buyers may face another competitive spring market this year. More here.

 

 

Mortgage Rates Dip Within Narrow Range

February 9, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates moved lower last week across all loan categories. Rates were down 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. Since the beginning of the year, mortgage rates have been up and down but have remained within a narrow range. They are still lower than historically normal, though they are up from where they were at the same time last year. Also in the report, mortgage application demand moved up after last week's decline. The refinance index – which is typically more sensitive to rate fluctuations – increased 2 percent from the week before. The seasonally adjusted purchase index also saw a 2 percent bump and is now 4 percent higher than it was one year ago. As the spring season approaches, demand for loans to buy homes should begin to rise, as prospective buyers who hope to beat the spring rush start shopping for a house to buy. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

 

 

Will Wage Increases Offset Affordability Worries?

February 8, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Buying a home is not something many people do without weighing the pros and cons. After all, there are a lot of factors that play into whether or not a homeowner decides to sell their house or a renter makes the jump and buys a home of their own. Mortgage rates, home prices, employment conditions, and personal finances can all play a role for Americans deciding whether or not to enter the housing market. For this reason, Fannie Mae's monthly Home Purchase Sentiment Index measures how consumers are feeling about their financial situation and the real-estate market in an effort to gauge overall optimism and how likely Americans are to buy or sell a home this year. In January, the index moved up after five consecutive months of decline. The bump in optimism was mostly related to an increasing sense of job security and a spike in the number of respondents who said their household income is significantly higher than it was at the same time last year. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's senior vice president and chief economist, says optimism about economic conditions is high but whether that means more home buyers and sellers this spring remains to be seen. “Any significant acceleration in housing activity will depend on whether consumers' favorable expectations are realized in the form of income gains sufficient to offset constrained housing affordability,” Duncan said. More here.

 

 

Older Home Buyers May Ignite Housing Boom

February 7, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Baby boomers are reaching retirement age and many of them have expressed a desire to move from their current home. Whether they're downsizing or buying their dream house in another state, what these boomers do in retirement will have an effect on the housing market over the next several years. Because of this, the National Association of Home Builders saw a big end-of-the-year jump in their quarterly 55+ Housing Market Index. In fact, during the fourth quarter of last year, the index – which measures builders' confidence in the market among buyers over the age of 55 – reached its highest level since the survey began in 2008. Dennis Cunningham, chairman of the NAHB's 55+ Industry Council, says some of the optimism was due to the November election but demographics also play a large role. “Builders and developers in this market segment are also encouraged by the fact that for the next 15 years, 10,000 baby boomers will be turning 65 every day,” Cunningham said. “The consistent pressure of this age group wanting to downsize from a large home, shifting to other regions of the country or just simply looking for a newer home or community also plays a key role in the index movement.” More here.

 

 

Homeownership Still A Dream For Most Americans

February 6, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Homeownership has long been seen as a big part of achieving the American dream. And that hasn't changed, according to recent data from the National Association of Realtors. An analysis of their Housing Opportunities and Market Experience survey found that 87 percent of non-homeowners said they want to one day own a home of their own and 80 percent of all respondents said homeownership was part of their American dream. So what are some of the concerns that keep people from pursing their dream of homeownership? Well the number one answer was affordability, followed by people who need the flexibility of renting. But there are also Americans that have postponed buying a home because of misconceptions they have about the buying process and what is required financially. For example, nearly 9 out of 10 survey participants said a down payment of 10 percent or more was required to buy a house – which is untrue. In fact, the median down payment for first-time buyers has been 6 percent for the past three years, while repeat buyers put down closer to 14 percent. William Brown, NAR's president, says people who haven't bought a house before may not be as far off as they think they are. “Current non-owners' ultimate goal of owning a home may not be as far-fetched as they believe,” Brown said. “There are mortgage options available for creditworthy borrowers with manageable levels of debt and smaller down payments.” More here.

 

 

How Long Does It Take To Break Even On A House?

February 3, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Conventional wisdom says, after buying a house, you should stay there at least five years before selling. The reason is that, due to the substantial upfront costs of buying a home – including the down payment, closing costs, etc. - you need to allow yourself some time to build up equity in order to recoup that money. However, the exact amount of time it takes to break even will vary from market to market. After all, home values don't rise at the same exact rate in every town across the country. In fact, according to Zillow's Q4 2016 Breakeven Horizon report, the typical break even point can be anywhere from just under a year and a half to over five years, depending on where you live. For example, home buyers break even fastest in markets in the South and Midwest, such as Indianapolis, Orlando, Detroit, Atlanta, and Tampa. On the other end of the spectrum, California homeowners have the longest break even points. Buyers in cities like San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego should expect to stay in a house at least four years before they break even. Of course, there are a lot of factors that go into determining how long it'll be before you have enough equity in your house to make back the money you put down to purchase it. But with the national average at just under two years, planning on staying in your home for five years seems like a safe bet. More here.

 

 

Mortgage Rates Moved Higher Last Week

February 2, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, mortgage interest rates moved up last week. Rates increased for 30-year fixed-rate loans with both jumbo and conforming balances, as well as 15-year fixed-rate mortgages. Loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration saw rates flat from the week before. The rate increase contributed to a 3.2 percent drop in the number of Americans requesting applications for loans last week. Another reason for the drop in demand, according to MBA chief economist, Michael Fratantoni, was changes to a proposal that would've reduced mortgage insurance premiums on FHA loans. “Following the decision to suspend a proposed decrease in the FHA mortgage insurance premium, FHA refinance applications dropped more than 25 percent, while FHA purchase applications fell almost 6 percent,” Fratantoni told CNBC. Still, even with last week's decline, the number of applications for loans to buy homes remains higher than it was last year at the same time and Fratantoni continues to believe home sales this year will exceed last year's levels. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

 

 

Home Price Index Shows Continued Gains

February 1, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Home prices were up 5.6 percent year-over-year, according to the latest results from the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Indices. Considered the leading measure of U.S. home values, the index found prices relatively flat month-over-month but up on an annual basis. Seattle, Portland, and Denver reported the sharpest increases but, in total, eight of the 20 included cities saw greater gains than they did over the same period one year earlier. David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, says home prices have fully recovered after years of volatility. “With the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index rising at about 5.5 percent annual rate over the last two-and-a-half years and having reached a new all-time high recently, one can argue that housing has recovered from the boom-bust cycle that began a dozen years ago,” Blitzer said in a press release. “The recovery has been supported by a few economic factors: low interest rates, falling unemployment, and consistent gains in per-capita disposable personal income.” Blitzer added that continued personal income and employment gains could boost demand for housing even further this year. More here.

 

 

Pending Home Sales Rise In December

January 31, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

When a buyer signs a contract to purchase a home, it is referred to as a pending sale because it usually takes a few weeks before the transaction closes and the house is considered officially sold. Since most of these transactions end in a sold house, the National Association of Realtors tracks them as a way of predicting the number of final sales that will be seen in coming months. In December, the NAR found pending sales up 1.6 percent from the month before. Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, says the year ended on a high note. “Pending sales rebounded last month as enough buyers fended off rising mortgage rates and alarmingly low inventory levels to sign a contract,” Yun said. “The main storyline in the early months of 2017 will be if supply can meaningfully increase to keep price growth at a moderate enough level for households to absorb higher borrowing costs.” Yun also points out that home sales figures vary depending on the price of the house. For example, sales of homes above $250,000 were up 10 percent over the year before in December. By comparison, sales of homes under $100,000 fell 11.6 percent. This indicates that there are more homes for sale at the higher end of the market than there are at more affordable levels. However, an expected increase in the number of new homes built this year could help balance the market, offering buyers more choices and helping to moderate future price increases on existing homes. More here.

 

 

House Payment Less Than Rent In Most Markets

January 30, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

An analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that a monthly house payment – including mortgage, property taxes, and insurance – is more affordable than rent in 66 percent of the 540 counties included in the report. The 2017 Rental Affordability Report, released by ATTOM Data Solutions, shows that buying a house remains an affordable choice for Americans in most markets. Daren Blomquist, senior vice president of ATTOM, says that can change quickly, however. “While buying continues to be more affordable than renting in the majority of U.S. markets, that equation could change quickly if mortgage rates keep rising in 2017,” Blomquist said. “In that scenario, renters who have not yet made the leap to homeownership will find it even more difficult to make the leap this year.” Still, rent is rising faster than home prices in nearly 40 percent of U.S. housing markets, which could make the choice between buying and renting a close call even with higher mortgage rates. To gauge the affordability of renting versus buying, the report compared fair market rent on a three-bedroom property to the monthly house payment on a median-priced home in the 540 counties with more than 900 home sales. More here.

 

 

New Home Sales Rose 12.2% Last Year

January 27, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

The number of new homes sold last year was 12.2 percent higher than it was the year before, according to new estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The numbers show an estimated 563,000 new homes were sold in 2016, compared to 501,000 one year earlier. Still, much like the recently released existing-home sales data, the report also shows sales slowing at the end of the year. In fact, December sales fell 10.4 percent from November's estimate. That is likely due to a number of factors, however – including the holiday season, rising mortgage rates at the end of the year, and the natural volatility of month-over-month sales numbers. Despite the December drop, sales still managed to have their best year since 2007 and, with builders recently expressing renewed confidence in the market, this year could see yet another improvement. Also in the report, the median price of a new house sold in December was $322,500; the average sales price was $384,000. Regionally speaking, sales were up in the Northeast but down in the Midwest, South, and West. More here.

 

 

Home Buyers Not Deterred By Higher Rates

January 26, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, mortgage rates increased last week but, despite higher rates, so did demand for mortgage loan applications. In fact, the number of Americans requesting applications for loans to buy homes was up 6 percent from the week before, reaching its highest level since last June. Lynn Fisher, MBA's vice president of research and economics, said wage growth may be softening the effects of higher interest rates. “Although it is still early in the home buying season, purchase activity remains on par with a year ago, suggesting that recent wage growth of nearly 3 percent is helping to offset the increase in interest rates,” Fisher told CNBC. “This trend is also consistent with other reports of home buying activity.” Still, higher rates have slowed refinance activity, which was essentially flat from the week before. That may be due to the fact that mortgage rates rose for the first time this month and were up across all loan categories – including 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances, 15-year loans, and loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration. The MBA's survey has been conducted weekly since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential loan applications. More here.

 

 

Existing Home Sales Have Best Year Since 2006

January 25, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

In 2016, sales of previously owned homes reached their highest level in 10 years, according to new estimates from the National Association of Realtors. A combination of low mortgage rates and an improving economy helped push sales higher than the year before. Still, they remain about 1 million short of where they were in 2006. Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, says conditions were favorable for most of the year but December sales declined from the month before. “Solid job creation throughout 2016 and exceptionally low mortgage rates translated into a good year for the housing market,” Yun said. “However, higher mortgage rates and home prices combined with record low inventory levels stunted sales in much of the country in December.” In fact, sales were down 2.8 percent from November, though they remain 0.7 percent higher than they were a year earlier. Still, lower-than-normal inventory levels mean prices could continue to see upward pressure unless more homeowners put their homes up for sale or new home construction ramps up this year. Also in the report, home prices rose 4 percent from December 2015 and inventory has now fallen year-over-year for 19 consecutive months. More here.

 

 

How You Compare To The Typical Home Seller

January 24, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

The National Association of Realtors' Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers takes an annual look at the who, what, where, and how of the year's typical real-estate transaction. Based on a survey sent out across the country, the results reveal things like how much the average home seller made on the sale of their home, how buyers came up with their downpayment, and what types of homes sold, who sold them, and for how much. For example, last year's typical seller was 54 years old, had been living in their home for 10 years, and had a median income of $100,700. The most commonly cited reason for selling a home was to find something bigger, which was named by 18 percent of respondents. Other common reasons for selling a home included wanting to live closer to friends and family and because of a new job. The majority of sellers didn't have to offer any incentives in order to attract a buyer for their home and nearly 9 in 10 used a real-estate agent to help sell their house. The typical home seller was able to sell their home for $43,100 more than they purchased it for and got 98 percent of their final listing price. More here.

 

 

Housing Outlook Sees Strong Year Ahead

January 23, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Though there is some uncertainty about how changing economic policies might affect the economy and housing market in the months to come, Fannie Mae's most recent Economic and Housing Outlook from their Economic & Strategic Research Group sees continued improvement ahead. In short, improved consumer spending, a healthy labor market, and rising wages should continue to support economic growth. But what does this mean for the housing market and real estate this year? Well, according to Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's chief economist, the housing market should remain strong and build on last year's performance. “We expect housing to remain resilient and continue its recovery in 2017, with affordability standing out as the industry's greatest obstacle, particularly for first-time homeowners,” Duncan said. “Demographic factors, however, are positive. Our research shows that older Millennials have begun to buy homes and close the homeownership attainment gap with their predecessors.” An increasing number of younger buyers is good news for the market, as is the expected bump in new home construction. If the supply of homes for sale can keep up with buyer demand, a better balanced market may help alleviate affordability concerns and lead to favorable housing conditions in 2017. More here.

 

 

New Home Market Off To Optimistic Start

January 20, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

New data from the Commerce Department and the National Association of Home Builders shows builders are optimistic about the market for new homes this year. That's an encouraging sign, as a lower than normal number of homes available for sale has caused affordability conditions to decline in recent months. If more new homes are built, buyers will have more options to choose from and home prices should begin to moderate. In December, the number of new homes that broke ground was up 11.3 percent from the month before, according to the Commerce Department. The number of permits to build single-family homes also rose, jumping 4.7 percent. Additionally, the NAHB's Housing Market Index - which measures builder confidence on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders feel conditions are good than poor – scored a 67 this month. NAHB chief economist, Robert Dietz, says the group expects continued improvement this year. “NAHB expects solid 10 percent growth in single-family construction in 2017, adding to the gains of 2016,” Dietz said. “Concerns going into the year include rising mortgage interest rates as well as a lack of lots and access to labor.” Regional results show three-month moving averages up slightly in the Northeast and Midwest, while the West and South held steady at 79 and 67, respectively. More here.

 

 

Mortgage Rates Hit Lowest Level In A Month

January 19, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates fell again last week – marking the third consecutive weekly decline. The drop brought rates to their lowest level in a month, with decreases seen across all loan categories including 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with both jumbo and conforming balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate loans. Despite the drop, however, demand for mortgage loan applications stayed relatively flat from one week earlier. The refinance index – which is generally more affected by rate changes – rose 7 percent, while the seasonally adjusted purchase index fell 5 percent. Michael Fratantoni, told CNBC that demand is down from where it was at the end of last year. “Refi volume is still down sharply from the end of last year, remaining 13 percent below the level from four weeks ago,” Fratantoni said. On the other hand, the number of prospective home buyers applying for loans to purchase homes is just 1 percent below where 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.

 

 

Where Millennial Home Buyers Are Buying Now

January 18, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

The fact that young Americans aren't buying homes at the rate they used to isn't news. Ever since the housing crash, Millennial homeownership rates have been lower than historically normal. In fact, homeownership rates among buyers between the ages of 18 and 34 dropped 8 percent between 2006 and 2015. There are, of course, many factors that have made it difficult for younger Americans to buy in recent years – including student loan debt, a challenging job market, rising rent, and higher home prices. However, though overall numbers show fewer first-time buyers active in the market, in some cities Millennial home buyers are actually quite well represented. Take Elk Grove, CA, for example. In Elk Grove, the homeownership rate among people under the age of 35 was just over 60 percent in 2015, mostly due to its proximity to major metropolitan areas and a median home value around $350,000. Other cities that have an above average number of Millennial home buyers include Sioux Falls, SD, Bakersfield, CA, Peoria, IL, Cary, NC, and Chattanooga, TN. And, though they all have a different mix of factors, the most common thread among all the top cities for younger buyers are affordable homes for sale and a growing economy. More here.

 

 

The Top Buyer Fears And How To Fight Them

January 17, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

For a lot of people, buying a home is both exciting and a little bit intimidating. On the one hand, it's seen as a vital part of achieving the American dream and, on the other, it's a major financial undertaking that comes with some real risks. So what are some of the top fears of potential home buyers? Well, according to one recent article, the biggest fear is that their new house will fall in value. Considering recent history, this isn't a surprising concern, but it is one that can be addressed. With the help of a knowledgable real-estate agent, you can pinpoint the dangers of a particular property and weigh them against potential positives like good schools and nearby amenities. Sure, you can't be 100 percent sure about what the future holds, but you can protect yourself by buying in a good neighborhood with a history of holding its value. The costs of homeownership are another big concern among prospective buyers. Not only do buyers worry about being able to handle their mortgage payment but they also worry about potential maintenance costs. One way to protect yourself is to make sure you know what you're getting. Look for a property that has had some of its major features – such as the roof or furnace – recently upgraded or replaced. Another fear is buyer's remorse. This is natural. The best way to handle it is to be sure you know what you're looking for, what you will compromise on, and what you won't consider. Also, lean on the experienced professionals you've hired to help you along the way. The best insurance against any future regrets is doing your homework and heeding the advice of your agent and mortgage lender. More here.

 

 

Home Size Shrinks For First Time Since 2009

January 13, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

For many years now, the average size of a newly built home has been going up. In fact, by 2015, the typical new home was 2,689 square feet – by comparison, the average was 1,660 square feet in 1974. That longtime trend took a step back last year, however. In 2016, the average new home fell 55 square feet. And, though that doesn't sound like much, it is the first time in eight years new homes were smaller than the year before, according to Rose Quint, the National Association of Home Builders assistant vice president for survey research. “The data on new home characteristics show a pattern,” Quint said. “2016 marked the end of an era that began in 2009 when homes got bigger and bigger with more amenities. I expect the size of homes to continue to decline as demand increases from first-time buyers.” But though Quint believes home size will continue to fall as more first-time buyers enter the market, she doesn't expect added features and amenities to become less popular. In fact, Quint says a majority of home buyers would prefer amenities and features over square footage. “More than two-thirds are willing to trade size for high quality products and features,” Quint said. Among the most coveted home features, a separate laundry room, energy-efficient windows and appliances, outdoor living space, exterior lighting, and a full bath on the main floor rank high. More here.

 

 

Market Movement Sends Mortgage Rates Down

January 12, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates fell last week 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. The drop marks the second-straight week-over-week decline and follows a period, after the election, when mortgage rates rose for several consecutive weeks. Lynn Fisher, MBA's vice president of research and economics, says markets are still adjusting. “Ten-year Treasury yields fell the week following New Year's Day as markets continue to adjust their expectations about the incoming administration and Federal Reserve policy,” Fisher told CNBC. Typically, mortgage rates follow the yield on the U.S. 10-year Treasury. Despite the recent volatility, though, mortgage rates are still just slightly higher than they were at the same time last year. Also in the report, as a result of mortgage rates moving lower, both refinance and purchase activity was up from one week earlier – with the Purchase Index up 6 percent from the previous week. The MBA's weekly applications survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

 

 

The Cost Of Renting Continues To Climb

January 11, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Naturally, affordability is a concern for anyone deciding whether they'll rent or buy their next home. Buying a house is a significant undertaking and involves a number of costs and responsibilities that renters don't have to worry about. That, however, doesn't necessarily mean that renting is always going to be the more affordable option. In fact, rent has been climbing for years and continues to increase, according to a recent analysis from ABODO. The analysis determined that the average renter last year paid $1,001 per month for a one-bedroom home and the average month-over-month increase was .67 percent. In short, the average rent rose about $85 from where it was at the beginning of last year to where it ended up at the end of the year. Still, when looked at on a state-by-state basis, rental prices vary greatly. For example, the average rent in states like Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina is far lower than it is in areas like the District of Columbia, California, and New York. However, that doesn't mean rents aren't rising in metropolitan areas within states with lower overall averages. A look at the cities with the largest average monthly increase in rental costs shows Columbus, GA, Raleigh, NC, and Nashville, TN among the top 10, while San Francisco, Oakland, and Las Vegas experienced some of the largest declines in monthly rent. More here.

 

 

Survey Finds Americans In The Mood To Buy

January 10, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

There are an endless number of reasons you might decide to buy a home at any particular time in your life. Whether you just got a new job on the other side of town or are looking for a place closer to family, the motivation behind a move is usually very personal. But there are economic factors at play, as well. Your financial situation, optimism about the future, and perception of the market can also influence a decision to stay where you are or pack your belongings. Fannie Mae's monthly Home Purchase Sentiment Index looks at how Americans are feeling about buying a home, the real estate market, and their personal economic outlook. In December, the overall index fell slightly from the month before, though the number of Americans who said they thought it was a good time to buy a house was up from November. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's senior vice president and chief economist, says there's been an increase in economic optimism recently but whether it carries through the rest of the year is uncertain. “A spike in economic optimism in the immediate aftermath of an election is typical,” Duncan said. “Whether consumers will sustain this level of optimism into 2017 remains unclear … If this optimism comes to fruition, it should translate into stronger income growth and increased job security for consumers – the two HPSI components that could help support housing sentiment this year.” More here.

 

 

Top Tips For Selling A House This Year

January 9, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Selling a home can be challenging in any year. Even if market conditions are perfect for homeowners who want to sell, just the act of finding a buyer, shopping for a new place, and organizing a move can be overwhelming. Add in lower for-sale inventory, higher mortgage rates, and economic uncertainty and it may seem like too much to take on. Fortunately, there's no shortage of help available to guide you through this year's real estate market. A recent article on Trulia breaks down some of the top tips for selling a home in the new year. First on their list is hiring the right agent. Having a professional who knows the local market and your needs can reduce your stress level and make everything else run more smoothly. You're also going to want to prepare for competition. Analysts expect inventory to rise this year and that means an increasing number of homes for buyers to choose from. Making your house stand out from the pack might mean staging it according to the demographic most likely to be moving to your neighborhood. In other words, if you live somewhere popular with young families, think about staging an extra bedroom as a nursery. You should also be sure to keep up with technology. These days, everything from virtual tours to drone photography can be used to set your listing apart. Ultimately, though, nothing works better than pricing your home correctly from the start. With a good agent and the right price, you shouldn't have any trouble selling your house in 2017. More here.

 

 

The Real Estate Trends To Watch In 2017

January 6, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

The real-estate market is constantly evolving and there are a lot of moving parts. So, whether you're buying or selling a home, it's good to have some awareness of your local market, average mortgage rates, home prices, inventory, etc. That way, you aren't approaching a major financial transaction totally in the dark. So what should you be watching if you're looking to buy or sell this year? Well, according to a recent survey of real-estate agents, there are a few trends you should keep an eye on. Mortgage rates rank high on the list. With home prices still rising, if mortgage rates continue to increase, it could have a negative influence on home buyers. Surprisingly, though, when asked what effect a 1 percent increase in rates would have on the market, survey participants said probably not much. In fact, 49 percent of agents said home buyers would just look for less expensive homes, while nearly 20 percent said it would have no effect at all. Survey respondents did say, however, that a rate increase could have an impact on current homeowners who may be looking to sell. According to responding agents, fewer homes available to buy – and the fact that many of these homeowners now have locked in favorable rates – could mean homeowners remain in their current home, despite a desire to move. More here.

 

 

Mortgage Rates Fall Over Holiday Season

January 5, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates fell over the two-week holiday season. Rates were down for 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances, as well as 15-year fixed-rate loans. Rates for mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration were unchanged. But despite the fact that it was the first time in weeks that rates moved lower, demand for mortgage applications still fell. In fact, refinance activity was down 22 percent and the seasonally adjusted Purchase Index dropped 2 percent from two weeks earlier. Naturally, the numbers are adjusted to account for the Christmas holiday but, according to the MBA's chief economist Michael Fratantoni, the slowdown was even more than is usual for the holidays. “Mortgage application volume typically drops sharply over the holidays,” Fratantoni told CNBC. “However, this year, as mortgage rates continued their upward climb reaching the highest levels in more than two years, overall application volume fell even more than the holiday slowdown would suggest.” The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

 

 

The Surest Path To A Lower Mortgage Rate

January 4, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

With the recent rise in mortgage rates, many Americans who were thinking of buying a home this year may be feeling concerned about how much house they'll be able to afford. If that describes you, there are a couple of things to remember. First off, even though rates have moved higher over the past several weeks, they still remain low by historical standards. In other words, you're still getting a better rate than you would have 10 or 15 years ago and locking it in now with a fixed-rate mortgage means you'll be protected should they move closer toward their historical norm in the future. There are also things you can do to ensure that, when you apply for a loan, you are getting the best rate possible. Number one on that list is doing whatever you can to raise your credit score. Your credit history plays a large role in determining the rate you will end up paying. So it is always a good idea to check your score before beginning the buying process. If possible, fix any errors, pay down any debts, and – as always – make sure to pay your bills on time each month. Though you don't have to have perfect credit to be qualified for a loan, the higher your score, the better. More here.

 

 

The Top Spots For Buying A Second Home

January 3, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON

 

Buying a second home is a common dream. Whether you want a place at your favorite vacation spot or a getaway close to home, it's fun to imagine the possibilities. And, according to recent estimates from the National Association of Home Builders, millions of Americans are doing more than imagining them. There are 7.5 million houses that are being used as second homes across the country. That's 5.6 percent of the nation's housing stock. But where are the most popular locations for people looking to buy a second home? Well, not surprisingly, the counties that contain the largest share of second homes are mostly rural and scenic with low populations. Hamilton County, NY topped the list with 79.3 percent of homes classified as second residences. Forest County, PA, Rich County, UT, Alpine County, CA, and Daggett County, UT rounded out the five counties with the highest share of second homes. However, when you break down the data based on the number of second homes in any given county – rather than the percentage – the top 10 follows a less rugged path. In fact, warm weather counties near metro areas lead the list, which includes Maricopa County, AZ, Palm Beach County, FL, Lee County, FL, Los Angeles County, CA, Broward County, FL, and Riverside County, CA among the top 10. More here.