New-home sales rise as Americans freed from lockdowns go house-hunting

May 27, 2020

Demand is being boosted by mortgage rates near record lows, says NAHB’s chief economist

New-home sales rose in April as Americans went on a buying spree as soon as state lockdowns were lifted.

Builders sold 623,000 houses at an annualized and seasonally adjusted pace, a gain of 0.6% from the revised March rate of 619,000, the Commerce Department said Tuesday in a report that records signed contracts as sales. Economists had expected sales would drop for a third consecutive month in April because of the economic shock caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was among the group expecting to see a decline in sales, but instead we’re seeing the stabilization of the housing market in April,” said Robert Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders. “March may have been the low point.”

New-home sales are being boosted by mortgage rates near the lowest levels ever recorded, said Dietz. It’s helping to overcome “headwinds” such as a spike in the jobless rate and a tightening in requirements to get a mortgage, he said.

“Housing demand is responding to the low interest rates,” Dietz said. “There’s a pent-up demand as states begin to reopen, and it’s showing us that housing really is going to be a sector that helps to lead the economy into recovery mode.”

Three of four U.S. regions posted gains in April, compared to March, led by an 8.7% increase in the Northeast and gains of 2.4% in the South and Midwest. The West region that includes California, the nation’s most populous state, dropped 6.3%, the report said.

The average U.S. rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 3.24% last week, within one basis point of an all-time low set two weeks earlier, according to Freddie Mac.

The Federal Reserve began buying mortgage-backed securities in mid-March to keep credit flowing amid the economic jolt caused by the pandemic, which boosted competition for the bonds and put downward pressure on rates.

The average 30-year fixed rate probably will continue dropping through the rest of 2020, Fannie Mae said in a forecast earlier this month. It likely will average 3.2% in the current quarter, 3.1% in the third quarter, and 3% in the final three months of the year, Fannie Mae said.

 

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Existing-Home Sales Stumble in July

August 25, 2016
Call today to get more information on the market in Celebration. 321-939-1300. Kathy can do a free market analysis of your home if you are thinking of selling.
Slowed by frustratingly low inventory levels in many parts of the country, existing-home sales lost momentum in July and decreased year-over-year for the first time since November 2015, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Only the West region saw a monthly increase in closings in July.
Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, fell 3.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.39 million in July from 5.57 million in June. For only the second time in the last 21 months, sales are now below (1.6 percent) a year ago (5.48 million).
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says existing sales fell off track in July after steadily climbing the last four months. “Severely restrained inventory and the tightening grip it’s putting on affordability is the primary culprit for the considerable sales slump throughout much of the country last month,” he says. “Realtors® are reporting diminished buyer traffic because of the scarce number of affordable homes on the market, and the lack of supply is stifling the efforts of many prospective buyers attempting to purchase while mortgage rates hover at historical lows.”
 
Home sales are still expected to finish the year at their strongest pace since the downturn, thanks to a very strong spring,
 
According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage dropped from 3.57 percent in June to 3.44 percent in July. Mortgage rates have now fallen five straight months and in July were the lowest since January 2013 (3.41 percent). The average commitment rate for all of 2015 was 3.85 percent.

2016 International Profile

August 23, 2016

International Homebuyers


Most in U.S. say it’s a good time to buy

July 14, 2016

WASHINGTON – July 13, 2016 – Despite lackluster economic growth and stark home-price appreciation in several parts of the country in recent months, roughly three-quarters of surveyed households still believe it’s a good time to buy a home – but there’s a considerable morale gap between homeowners and renters, according to the latest installment of the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Housing Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) survey.

The survey also found that roughly half of young adults with student debt are uncomfortable about taking on a mortgage.

In NAR’s second quarter HOME consumer survey, respondents were asked about their confidence in the U.S. economy and various questions about their housing expectations, including whether student debt is tempering their ability and appetite to take on mortgage debt.

NAR’s survey found that the share of homeowners and renters who believe it’s a good time to buy a home has held steady so far this year, with 80 percent of homeowners (82 percent in March) and 62 percent of renters (unchanged from last quarter) saying it’s a good time to buy. However, the share of renters who think so is down from 68 percent in December 2015, and those under 35 were the least confident.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the survey brings to focus the ongoing disparity in buyer confidence between current homeowners and renters.

“Existing-home prices surpassed their all-time peak this spring and have climbed on average over 5 percent nationally through the first five months of the year, and even faster in areas with severe supply shortages,” he says. “Most homeowners appear to realize that if they’re ready to sell, they’ll likely find a buyer rather quickly and be able to use the sizeable equity they’ve accumulated in recent years towards their next home purchase. Meanwhile, renters interested in buying continue to face minimal choices, strong competition and home prices growing faster than their incomes.

This HOME survey also found that student debt is causing many potential homebuyers to be uneasy about taking on additional debt: Roughly two-thirds of non-homeowners and half of respondents under 35 with student debt said they aren’t comfortable also having a mortgage. Furthermore, of those with student debt, non-homeowners and younger adults were less likely to believe they’d be able to qualify for a mortgage if they applied.

“It’s becoming very evident from this survey and our research released last month that the financial and emotional impact of repaying student debt is contributing to a delay in purchasing a home for many would-be buyers,” adds Yun. “At a time of quickly rising rents, mortgage rates at all-time lows and increasing housing wealth, a lot of young adults in their prime buying years are struggling to enter the market and are ultimately missing out on the stability and wealth accumulation that owning a home can provide.”

Attitudes about U.S. economy, personal finances outlook mostly unchanged

About half of all households surveyed believe the economy is improving (49 percent), which is mostly unchanged since the inaugural HOME survey in December 2015. Renters, respondents living in urban areas, and those in the West were the most optimistic.

When asked if they thought their personal financial situation would be better in six months, the latest survey reflected a little less optimism. The survey’s monthly Personal Financial Outlook Index of all households decreased slightly (to 57.7 in June) month-to-month (58.1 in March), but it’s unchanged from June 2015.On the other hand, nearly two-thirds of those living in rural areas don’t believe the economy is improving.

More believe it’s a good time to sell

With strong price growth prevalent in most of the country and homes selling at a quickened pace, more current homeowners (61 percent) believe it’s a good time to sell compared to the first quarter of this year (56 percent). Respondents in the West were again the most likely to think now is a good time to sell, but they’re also least likely to think it’s a good time to buy.

“More homeowners acknowledging this pent-up demand may perhaps mean we begin to see more supply come online in the near future,” adds Yun.

When asked about their outlook for home prices in their community in the next six months, almost all believe that prices will stay the same or rise (93 percent), which is consistent with last quarter (91 percent). Respondents from the West, those living in urban areas and renters are most likely to believe prices will go up in their communities.

© 2016 Florida Realtors®


Home sales and taxes: How much will you owe?

June 22, 2016

NEW YORK – June 21, 2016 – One of the questions readers ask most often is how much of their gain will go to Uncle Sam if they sell their home. Tax rules are highly favorable for homeowners. Most sellers wind up owing no capital-gains tax on their profits, according to a spokesman for the National Association of Realtors.

However, there are important exceptions, such as for those with exceptionally large gains who live in high-tax areas.

Married couples filing jointly typically can exclude as much as $500,000 of the gain on the sale of their primary residence. Singles can exclude up to $250,000. In most cases, they can qualify for the maximum exclusion amount if they have owned their home – and used it as their main home – for at least two of the five years before the sale date.

Sellers who do not qualify for the maximum exclusion still may be eligible for major relief depending on several factors, such as why they sold – like a work-related move, health reason or unforeseeable events.

Source: Wall Street Journal (06/12/16) Herman, Tom

© Copyright 2016 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD


Americans Are Feeling Wealthier, More Upbeat

June 17, 2016

Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index zoomed to an all-time high in May as consumers get more upbeat about their paychecks and home selling. In May, the index reached a reading of 85.3, which follows an 18-month low reached in March.

Three of six components the index measures registered increases last month, led by a 7 percentage point increase in the number of consumers reporting significantly higher income than a year ago. Also, the number of consumers who expect home prices to increase over the next 12 months rose 5 percentage points. Consumers were also upbeat that mortgage rates would decrease over the next year as well.

That said, the index indicator on whether it’s a “good time to buy” dropped 1 percentage point to an all-time survey low in May.

“Continued home price appreciation has been squeezing housing affordability, driving a two-year downward trend in the share of consumers who think it’s a good time to buy a home,” says Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “The current low mortgage rate environment has helped ease this pressure, and fewer than half of consumers expect rates to go up in the next year. While the May increase in income growth perceptions could provide further support to prospective home buyers as the spring/summer homebuying season gains momentum, the effect may be muted by May’s discouraging jobs report.”

Here’s a closer look at additional findings from Fannie Mae’s latest index reading:

  • 29 percent of Americans say now is a good time to buy a home, a drop of 1 percentage point from March and an all-time survey low for the second consecutive month.
  • 52 percent of consumers believe now is a good time to sell a home – an all-time survey high.
  • 42 percent of Americans believe that home prices will go up.
  • 72 percent of Americans say they are not concerned with losing their job, a drop of 2 percentage points from March.
  • 18 percent of Americans say their household income is significantly higher than it was a year ago, up 7 percentage points from March and at an all-time survey high.

Source: Fannie Mae


Fla.’s recent housing success

June 7, 2016

NEW YORK – June 6, 2016 – Clear Capital’s Home Data Index (HDI) Market Report releases recent and granular data each month. The HDI Market Report provides insights into housing price trends and other leading indices for the real estate market at the national and local levels.

Florida’s markets continue to recover from the devastating lows of the housing market crash, and an increase in baby boomers provides key insight into the market’s future, according to Clear Capital.

Survey results

  • Regionally, the West continues to dominate quarterly growth as it hovers around a 1.1 percent quarter-over-quarter price increase, though that’s a downtick of 0.1 percent from last month. Growth rates in the South remain unchanged at 0.7 percent quarter-to-quarter growth, while Northeast and Midwest regional growth continues to lag behind the rest of the nation at 0.1 percent.
  • Nationally, quarterly market performance remains fixed at 0.6 percent with no change month-to-month.
  • The Seattle and Tampa MSAs tied for the top spot on the Highest Performing Major Metro Markets for June, each reporting a quarter-to-quarter price increase of 2.0 percent.
  • Tampa isn’t the only Sunshine State metro area to make the high-performers list. It also includes Orlando (1.7 percent quarterly price growth), Jacksonville (1.7 percent quarterly price growth), and Miami (1.4 percent quarterly price growth).

The most recent quarterly growth figures for the Floridian markets fit into a longer-term pattern of growth and recovery for the state, according to Clear Capital, and each major MSA has “experienced incredible gains since the market lows of 2011, recovering at least 30 percent or more of the individual market value.”

Jacksonville and Orlando home prices have increased 33 percent and 44 percent respectively; Tampa and Miami home prices have skyrocketed by almost 56 percent and 57 percent, respectively.

The baby boomer influence

Clear Capital compared Census Bureau data on baby boomer moves to the price increase from its index, calling the growth in both an “interesting phenomenon that may be contributing to the stellar price growth in the region.”

The most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that this segment of the market – homeowners aged 55 to 74 – has increased more than 2.5X the overall population of homeowners in each of the top four Florida markets since 2011. In Miami and Jacksonville, the increase in homeowners of this generation is more than 500 percent greater than the overall increase in the total population of homeowners.

“It’s evident that the baby boomer demand for housing in the (price growth metro areas) is a significant contributing factor in the market’s overall success,” the report concludes. “In Orlando, the trend is quite similar as the ratio of baby boomer homeownership growth to overall homeownership growth is over 400 percent.”

“Florida has traditionally been regarded as prime real estate by those retirees who may be looking to migrate from colder areas of the nation such as the Northeast to a warmer and sunnier alternative for their golden years,” says Alex Villacorta, Ph.D., vice president of research and analytics at Clear Capital.

“As the top Floridian housing markets continue to grow and return impressive price gains – Tampa is currently reporting 12.2 percent annual price growth – it’s no surprise that this generation continues to invest in real estate in the region,” he adds. “The baby boomer share of homeowners is clearly on the rise here, and as more and more of this generation nears retirement age, Florida markets may be in for a boost in performance if tradition continues and retirees demand homes in the region.”

© 2016 Florida Realtors®


Banks rush to offer 3% downpayment loans

June 1, 2016

NEW YORK – May 31, 2016 – As some banks veer from Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, they’re offering their own low downpayment mortgages to appeal to home shoppers struggling to save enough to buy a home. Wells Fargo made headlines this week when it debuted its 3 percent downpayment loan.

JPMorgan Chase also announced its offering called the “Standard Agency 97percent” program, a 3 percent down payment loan geared for first-time home buyers and requires a FICO score of 680. Chase also has a loan program called “DreaMaker Mortgage,” which offers a 5 percent down payment – 3 percent of which can come from the borrower as well as flexible funding options for closing costs and reduced mortgage insurance requirements.

Other banks have recently announced their low downpayment offerings.

Earlier this year, Bank of America began offering a 3 percent downpayment loan that did not involve the Federal Housing Administration and does not require mortgage insurance. The bank requires a minimum FICO score of 660.

Wells Fargo’s newly launching lending program, “yourFirstMortgage,” requires a 620 FICO minimum score and minimum downpayment of 3 percent for a fixed-rate conventional mortgage of up to $417,000. Downpayment assistance also can come from gifts and community assistance programs. Customers who complete a homebuyer education course can earn a 1/8 percent interest rate reduction, although the course is not required.

Brad Blackwell, executive vice president and portfolio business manager at Wells Fargo, says the monthly payment for the loan will be less than a government-insured FHA loan.

“We’ve taken all the complexity of the home mortgage lending process, removed it from the front-line consumer, so that it’s easy for them to understand and Wells Fargo is taking care of all the capital markets and other types of complexities behind the scenes,” says Blackwell.

Bank giants have been leery of FHA loans lately, with JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s calling FHA lending “too costly and too risky” to pursue extensively.

“We have dramatically reduced FHA originations,” Dimon wrote in his yearly letter to shareholders. “Currently, it simply is too costly and too risky to originate these kinds of mortgages. Part of the risk comes from the penalties that the government charges if you make a mistake – and part of the risk is because these types of mortgages default frequently.”

Dimon acknowledges Chase’s new low downpayment lending program also carries some of those risks, but he believes it responds to customers’ needs.

“Mortgages are important to our customers,” Dimon wrote in the letter. “For most of our customers, their home is the single largest purchase they will make in their lifetime. More than that, it is an emotional purchase – it is where they are getting their start, raising a family or maybe spending their retirement years. As a bank that wants to build lifelong relationships with its customers, we want to be there for them at life’s most critical junctures.”

Source: “Wells Fargo Launches 3% Down Payment Mortgage,” CNBC (May 26, 2016) and “Chase Quietly Launches Its Own 3% Down Mortgage Lending Program,” HousingWire (May 26, 2016)

© Copyright 2016 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Pending home sales at a 10-year high

May 27, 2016

WASHINGTON – May 26, 2016 – Pending home sales rose for the third consecutive month in April and reached their highest level in over a decade, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).

All major regions saw gains in contract activity last month except for the Midwest, which saw a meager decline.

The Pending Home Sales Index – a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings for homes that have not yet sold – hiked 5.1 percent higher to 116.3 in April from an upwardly revised 110.7 in March. Year-to-year, it’s 4.6 percent above April 2015 (111.2).

After last month’s gain, the index has now increased year-over-year for 20 consecutive months. Vast gains in the South and West propelled April’s pending sales in April to its highest level since February 2006 (117.4), says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

“The ability to sign a contract on a home is slightly exceeding expectations this spring, even with the affordability stresses and inventory squeezes affecting buyers in a number of markets,” Yun says. “The building momentum from the over 14 million jobs created since 2010 and the prospect of facing higher rents and mortgage rates down the road appear to be bringing more interested buyers into the market.”

Mortgage rates have remained below 4 percent in 16 of the past 17 months, but Yun says it remains to be seen how long they will stay this low. Along with rent growth, rising gas prices – and the fading effects of last year’s cheap oil on consumer prices – could edge up inflation and push rates higher. For now, Yun foresees mortgage rates continuing to hover around 4 percent in coming months, but inflation could potentially surprise the market and cause rates to increase suddenly.

“Even if rates rise soon, sales have legs for further expansion this summer if housing supply increases enough to give buyers an adequate number of affordable choices during their search,” adds. Yun.

Following the housing market’s best first quarter of existing-sales since 2007 (5.66 million) and a decent increase (1.7 percent) in April, Yun expects sales this year to climb above earlier estimates and be around 5.41 million – a 3.0 percent boost from 2015. After accelerating to 6.8 percent a year ago, national median existing-home price growth is forecast to slightly moderate to between 4 and 5 percent.

Pending sales in the Northeast climbed 1.2 percent to 98.2 in April, and are now 10.1 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest, the index declined slightly (0.6 percent) to 112.9 in April, but it’s still 2.0 percent above April 2015.

Pending home sales in the South jumped 6.8 percent to an index of 133.9 in April – 5.1 percent higher than last April. The index in the West soared 11.4 percent in April to 106.2, and it’s now 2.8 percent above a year ago.

© 2016 Florida Realtors®


FHA may be reopening doors to condo financing

May 24, 2016

WASHINGTON – May 23, 2016 – Could the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) finally be opening its doors again to financing more condominium units? If so, that could be excellent news for young, first-time buyers and for seniors who own condo units and need a reverse mortgage to supplement their post-retirement incomes.

Here’s why: FHA financing offers not only 3.5 percent minimum downpayments but is far more lenient than other options on crucial issues such as credit scores and debt-to-income ratios. Plus FHA is the dominant source of insured reverse mortgages – the only game in town for the vast majority of seniors.

But if a condo building is not certified as eligible for financing by FHA, all the individual units in the project are ineligible for mortgage financing as well. Young families can’t buy using FHA loans, sellers can’t sell and seniors can’t tap their equity through a reverse mortgage. It used to be different – for years FHA allowed so-called “spot” loans on individual units – but no more.

But maybe things are about to change. In a speech last week to the National Association of Realtors, Housing and Urban Development secretary Julian Castro said revisions to controversial FHA rules on condos have been completed and only await final Obama administration approval. The changes would simplify controversial certification procedures for condo buildings and amend other rules that have knocked thousands of condominium buildings out of eligibility.

Since adopting highly restrictive qualification rules early in the current administration, FHA – once a major player in the condo field and the go-to source of financing for moderate-income purchasers – has steadily seen its market share shrink. FHA once financed 80,000 to 90,000 condo units a year, but last year volume fell below 23,000. Many condo homeowner associations began losing their eligibility several years ago, and because of what they consider onerous recertification requirements, have never sought to reapply.

Castro provided no details on what changes are coming. But real estate and condo industry sources say they could build upon reforms announced last November that appear to have had at least modest success in encouraging condo homeowner boards to get onboard again.

Two California-based consultants who help associations and community managers work through the certification hoops told me they have seen a jump in activity in recent weeks. Condo boards that had been resistant to the FHA rules “aren’t fighting them as much any more,” said Natalie Stewart, president of FHA Review. “People need to sell their homes, people need to buy” affordable condo units, so some associations grudgingly are returning to the FHA fold.

Jon Eberhardt, president of Condo Approvals, LLC, said “we certainly have seen an uptick” in FHA certification applications. “I wouldn’t call it monumental, simply a steady growth” in the wake of last November’s changes, he added.

Dawn Bauman, senior vice president for government affairs at the Community Associations Institute, a Virginia-based group that represents 33,000-plus condo and homeowner associations and managers, confirmed that she’s also detected “an increase in the number of applicants” for condo certification and that regional FHA offices have been “more flexible” in recent months in evaluating applications.

What will be crucial to continuing the positive trend, industry experts say, is for the upcoming guidelines to make changes beyond simply streamlining condo certifications.

On the list of needed reforms:

  • The return of spot loans. That alone would significantly expand opportunities for millennials, minorities and seniors.
  • An end to FHA’s blanket prohibitions against community-benefit homeowner transfer fees collected by some condo associations when units change hands. In California, this ban alone has led to the loss of thousands of units from FHA financing – a huge problem in areas where affordability is tough and condos are the lowest-cost alternative for many consumers.
  • Relaxation of strict limits on commercial space in residential condo properties. Revenues from commercial leases are important to the financial health of urban condominiums, but current FHA caps render many buildings ineligible.

Copyright © 2016 the Boston Herald, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.