As vaccines are administered and travel resumes, many of us are beginning to plan for those long-awaited vacations we missed out on over the past year. Some households are focusing their efforts on buying a vacation home rather than staying in a hotel, too. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports:
“Second homes (i.e., homes sold to buyers who are not going to occupy the home year-round, but use it as a vacation home, investment property, etc.) account for 15 percent of new single-family home sales.”
It’s not surprising that there’s an increase in demand for vacation homes. The majority of Americans are realizing they prefer to be around small groups, as shown in a recent survey from The Harris Poll:
“Social distancing taught consumers new things about how they like to socialize; (75%) said, ‘during COVID social distancing I realized I preferred smaller social gatherings at home or at friends’ place.’”
Not only are vacation homes seen as a potentially more pandemic-friendly way to travel and socialize, but they can also serve as an extended home-away-from-home. With more Americans being given the option to continue working remotely or retire earlier than expected, vacation homes can be used year-round. The NAHB explains:
“Remote work arrangements have made it possible for some wealthier Americans to move to alternate locations that are not just small, suburban shifts from within their current metro area. More fundamentally, second home demand may also be benefitting by an acceleration of retirement plans, as well as stock market gains.”
The demand for vacation homes has increased and will continue to rise as we head into summer. If you own a house in a destination area and have thought about selling, now is a great time to take advantage of today’s high buyer interest. Let’s connect to discuss your opportunities in our local market.
A recent Survey of Consumer Finances study released by the Federal Reserve reveals the net worth of homeowners is forty times greater than that of renters. If you’re wondering if homeownership is a good investment, the study clearly answers that question, and the answer is yes.
Do Americans believe a home is a better investment than stocks?
In a post on the Liberty Street Economics blog, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York notes that 93.3% of Americans believe buying a home is definitely or probably a better investment than buying stocks.
Here’s how the results break down:The survey also shows a wide range of reasons why Americans feel that way (respondents were able to pick more than one answer):
The data show how strongly Americans believe in homeownership as an investment. That belief is warranted. The Liberty Street Economics blog put it best by saying:
“Housing represents the largest asset owned by most households and is a major means of wealth accumulation, particularly for the middle class.”
Over the past year, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to reflect on what we consider most important in our lives. The place we call home is one of the biggest things many of us are reevaluating. George Ratiu, Senior Economist at realtor.com, shares:
“The very nature of the pandemic, through the health implications, social distancing, and need to isolate, has really brought a central focus on the importance of home for most Americans…In a sense, it has elevated real estate markets as a centerpiece of our lives.”
For some, this has spurred an interest in making a move to a home that better suits our changing needs. In a recent study on today’s homebuyer preferences, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) states:
“When asked more specifically how the pandemic may have impacted their preference for home size…21% or about 1 out of every 5 buyers, do want a larger home now as a direct result of the health crisis, while another segment – 12% – would prefer a smaller one instead.”
While you might expect more time at home to lead to a need for more space, it’s interesting that a significant portion of homeowners actually want less. For those who own larger homes right now and have a desire to move, today’s housing market is full of opportunities. Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com, explains:
“In a real estate market that is tipped in the favor of sellers, boomers and older homeowners are really the ones holding the cards…Those who are selling homes can use the profits to help them buy new ones.”
As a homeowner today, you likely have equity that can be put toward the purchase of your next home. With the equity growth homes have seen over the past year, you may have more than you think, which can help significantly as you make a move into your next home. According to a report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR):
“Home sellers cited that they sold their homes for a median of $66,000 more than they purchased it. Sellers 22 to 30 years gained the least at $33,400 in equity compared to sellers 66 to 74 years gained $100,000 in equity as they likely had lived in their homes for a longer period of time.”
Despite the benefits of growing home equity, some homeowners are still hesitant to move and could be considering remodeling or making changes to their current space instead. However, if you’ve thought about aging in place rather than downsizing, you may want to reconsider. The U.S. Census Bureaupoints out:
“Of the nation’s 115 million housing units, only 10% are ready to accommodate older populations.”
If your house is no longer the best fit for your evolving needs, it may be time to put your equity to work for you and downsize to the home you really want.
Today’s housing market favors homeowners who are ready to sell their houses and make a move. If you’re thinking about downsizing this year, let’s connect to discuss your options in our local market.
There has been a lot of discussion as to what will happen once the 2.3 million households currently in forbearance no longer have the protection of the program. Some assume there could potentially be millions of foreclosures ready to hit the market. However, there are four reasons that won’t happen.
1. Almost 50% Leave Forbearance Already Caught Up on Payments
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), data through March 28 show that 48.9% of homeowners who have already left the program were current on their mortgage payments when they exited.
26.6% made their monthly payments during their forbearance period
14.7% brought past due payments current
7.6% paid off their loan in full
This doesn’t mean that the over two million still in the plan will exit exactly the same way. It does, however, give us some insight into the possibilities.
2. The Banks Don’t Want the Houses Back
Banks have learned lessons from the crash of 2008. Lending institutions don’t want the headaches of managing foreclosed properties. This time, they’re working with homeowners to help them stay in their homes.
As an example, about 50% of all mortgages are backed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). In 2008, the FHFA offered 208,000 homeowners some form of Home Retention Action, which are options offered to a borrower who has the financial ability to enter a workout option and wants to stay in their home. Home retention options include temporary forbearances, repayment plans, loan modifications, or partial loan deferrals. These helped delinquent borrowers stay in their homes. Over the past year, the FHFA has offered that same protection to over one million homeowners.
Today, almost all lending institutions are working with their borrowers. The report from the MBA reveals that of those homeowners who have left forbearance,
35.5% have worked out a repayment plan with their lender
26.5% were granted a loan deferral where a borrower does not have to pay the lender interest or principal on a loan for an agreed-to period of time
9% were given a loan modification
3. There Is No Political Will to Foreclose on These Households
The government also seems determined not to let individuals or families lose their homes. Bloomberg recently reported:
“Mortgage companies could face penalties if they don’t take steps to prevent a deluge of foreclosures that threatens to hit the housing market later this year, a U.S. regulator said. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) warning is tied to forbearance relief that’s allowed millions of borrowers to delay their mortgage payments due to the pandemic…mortgage servicers should start reaching out to affected homeowners now to advise them on ways they can modify their loans.”
The CFPB is proposing a new set of guidelines to ensure people will be able to retain their homes. Here are the major points in the proposal:
The proposed rule would provide a special pre-foreclosure review period that would generally prohibit servicers from starting foreclosure until after December 31, 2021.
The proposed rule would permit servicers to offer certain streamlined loan modification options to borrowers with COVID-19-related hardships based on the evaluation of an incomplete application.
The proposal rule wants temporary changes to certain required servicer communications to make sure borrowers receive key information about their options at the appropriate time.
A final decision is yet to be made, and some do question whether the CFPB has the power to delay foreclosures. The entire report can be found here: Protections for Borrowers Affected by the COVID-19 Emergency Under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), Regulation X.
4. If All Else Fails, Homeowners Will Sell Their Homes Before a Foreclosure
Homeowners have record levels of equity today. According to the latest CoreLogicHome Equity Report, the average equity of mortgaged homes is currently $204,000. In addition, 38% of homes do not have a mortgage, so the level of equity available to today’s homeowners is significant.
Just like the banks, homeowners learned a lesson from the housing crash too.
“In the same way that grandparents and great grandparents were shaped by the Great Depression, much of the public today remembers the 2006 mortgage meltdown and the foreclosures, unemployment, and bank failures it created. No one with any sense wants to repeat that experience…and it may explain why so much real estate equity remains mortgage-free.”
What does that mean to the forbearance situation? According to Black Knight:
“Just one in ten homeowners in forbearance has less than 10% equity in their home, typically the minimum necessary to be able to sell through traditional real estate channels to avoid foreclosure.”
The reports of massive foreclosures about to come to the market are highly exaggerated. As Ivy Zelman, Chief Executive Officer of Zelman & Associates with roughly 30 years of experience covering housing and housing-related industries, recently proclaimed:
“The likelihood of us having a foreclosure crisis again is about zero percent.”
A Fannie Maesurvey recently revealed some of the most highly-rated benefits of homeownership, which continue to be key drivers in today’s power-packed housing market. Here are the top four financial benefits of owning a home according to consumer respondents:
88% – a better chance of saving for retirement
87% – the best investment plan
85% – the chance to be better off financially
85% – the chance to build up wealth
Additional financial advantages of homeownership included in the survey are having the best overall tax situation and being able to live within your budget.
Does homeownership actually give you a better chance to build wealth?
No one can question a person’s unique feelings about the importance of homeownership. However, it’s fair to ask if the numbers justify homeownership as a financial asset.
Last fall, the Federal Reserve released the Survey of Consumer Finances, a report done every three years, with the latest edition covering through 2019. Their findings confirmed that homeownership is a clear financial benefit. The survey found that homeownershave forty times higher net worth than renters ($255,000 for homeowners compared to $6,300 for renters).
The difference in net worth between homeowners and renters has continued to grow. Here’s a graph showing the results of the last four Fed surveys:The above graph only includes data through 2019, but according to CoreLogic, the equity held by homeowners grew by $26,300 over the last twelve months alone. That means the gap between the net worth of homeowners and renters has probably widened even further over the last year.
Some might argue the difference in net worth may be due to homeowners normally having larger incomes than renters and therefore the ability to save more money. However, a study by First American shows homeowners have greater net worth than renters regardless of their income level. Here are the findings:Others may think homeowners are older and that’s why they have a greater net worth. However, a Joint Center for Housing Studies ofHarvard Universityreport on homeowners and renters over the age of 65 reveals:
“The ability to build equity puts homeowners far ahead of renters in terms of household wealth…the median owner age 65 and over had home equity of $143,500 and net wealth of $319,200. By comparison, the net wealth of the same-age renter was just $6,700.”
Homeowners 65 and older have 47.6 times greater net worth than renters.
The idea of homeownership as a direct way to build your net worth has met the test of time. Let’s connect if you’re ready to take steps toward becoming a homeowner.
Last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a very encouraging jobs report. The economy gained 916,000 jobs in March – well above expert projections of 650,000 to 675,000. The unemployment rate fell again and is now at 6%.
What does this mean for you?
Our lives are deeply impacted by our nation’s economy. The better the economy is doing overall, the better most individuals in the country will do as well. Here’s a look at what four experts told the Wall Street Journal after reviewing last week’s report.
Michael Feroli, JPMorgan Chase:
“The powerful tailwind of the reopening of economic activity appears to be gathering force; while the level of employment last month was still 8.4 million positions below that which prevailed before the pandemic, it is reasonable to expect that a majority of those lost jobs will be recouped in coming months.”
Mike Fratantoni, Mortgage Bankers Association:
“We fully expect that this pace of job gains will continue for months, and anticipate that the unemployment rate, now at 6%, will be well below 5% by the end of the year.”
Paul Ashworth, Capital Economics:
“With the vaccination program likely to reach critical mass within the next couple of months and the next round of fiscal stimulus providing a big boost, there is finally real light at the end of the tunnel.”
Jason Schenker, Prestige Economics:
“People are getting back to work and the vaccine isn’t just inoculating the population, it’s clearly inoculating the economy.”
What does this mean for residential real estate?
Today, the biggest challenge for homebuyers is the lack of homes currently for sale. With listing inventory down 52% from a year ago, bidding wars are skyrocketing. As a result, home prices are climbing.
One answer to this challenge is to build more homes to satisfy the demand. The latest jobs report gives hope for new housing construction, and therefore brings hope to buyers as well. Here’s what three industry economists said about the increase in construction jobs revealed in the report:
“Construction jobs boomed in March, one of the largest monthly gains ever. This raises the prospect for more home building and more inventory reaching the market in the upcoming months. The housing market has been hot with fast rising home prices but has been constrained by a lack of supply. By hiring more workers and building more homes, home prices will move to a manageable level to give more Americans a shot at ownership.”
“Great jobs report for a housing market in an inventory crisis. Residential construction building jobs increased 3.9% from pre-2020 recession peak in Feb. 2020. The construction industry remains a labor-intensive industry. We need more hammers at work to build more homes.”
In a sellers’ market, some homeowners might be tempted to try to sell their house on their own (known as For Sale By Owner, or FSBO) instead of working with a trusted real estate professional. When the inventory of homes for sale is as low as it is today, buyers are eager to snatch up virtually any house that comes to market. This makes it even more tempting to FSBO. As a result, some sellers think selling their house will be a breeze and see today’s market as an opportunity to FSBO. Let’s unpack why that’s a big mistake and may actually cost you more in the long run.
According to the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers published by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 41% of homeowners who tried to sell their house as a FSBO did so to avoid paying a commission or fee. In reality, even in a sellers’ market, selling on your own likely means you’ll net a lower profit than when you sell with the help of an agent.
The NAR report explains:
“FSBOs typically sell for less than the selling price of other homes; FSBO homes sold at a median of $217,900 in 2020 (up from $200,000 in 2019), and still far lower than the median selling price of all homes at $242,300. Agent-assisted homes sold for a median of $295,000…Sellers who began as a FSBO, then ended up working with an agent, received 98 percent of the asking price, but had to reduce their price the most before arriving at a final listing price.”
When the seller knew the buyer, that amount was even lower, coming in at $176,700 (See graph below):That’s a lot of money to risk losing when you FSBO – far more than what you’d save on commission or other fees. Despite the advantages sellers have in today’s market, it’s still crucial to have the support of an expert to guide you through the process. Real estate professionals are trained negotiators with a ton of housing market insights that average homeowners may never have. An agent’s expertise can alleviate much of the stress of selling your house and help you close the best possible deal when you do.
If you’re ready to sell your house this year and you’re considering doing so on your own, be sure to think through that decision carefully. Odds are, you stand to gain the most by working with a knowledgeable and experienced real estate agent. Let’s connect to discuss how a trusted advisor can help you, especially in today’s market.
If you’re planning to buy a home this year, saving for a down payment is one of the most important steps in the process. One of the best ways to jumpstart your savings is by starting with the help of your tax refund.
Using data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), it’s estimated that Americans can expect an average refund of $2,925 when filing their taxes this year. The map below shows the average anticipated tax refund by state:Thanks to programs from the Federal Housing Authority, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae, many first-time buyers can purchase a home with as little as 3% down. In addition, Veterans Affairs Loans allow many veterans to put 0% down. You may have heard the common myth that you need to put 20% down when you buy a home, but thankfully for most homebuyers, a 20% down payment isn’t actually required. It’s important to work with your real estate professional and your lender to understand all of your options.
How can your tax refund help?
If you’re a first-time buyer, your tax refund may cover more of a down payment than you realize.
If you take into account the median home sale price by state, the map below shows the percentage of a 3% down payment that’s covered by the average anticipated tax refund:The darker the blue, the closer your tax refund gets you to homeownership when you qualify for one of the low down payment programs. Maybe this is the year to plan ahead and put your tax refund toward the down payment on a home.
Not enough money from your tax return?
A recent paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that, of the households that received a stimulus check last year, “One third report that they primarily saved the stimulus money.” If you had the opportunity to save your Economic Impact Payments, you may consider putting that money toward your down payment or closing costs as well. Your trusted real estate professional can also advise you on the down payment assistance programs available in your area.
Saving for a down payment can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. This year, your tax refund and your stimulus savings could add up big when it comes to reaching your homeownership goals.
Today, some are afraid the real estate market is starting to look a lot like it did in 2006, just prior to the housing crash. One of the factors they’re pointing to is the availability of mortgage money. Recent articles about the availability of low down payment loans and down payment assistance programs are causing fear that we’re returning to the bad habits seen 15 years ago. Let’s alleviate these concerns.
“The MCAI provides the only standardized quantitative index that is solely focused on mortgage credit. The MCAI is…a summary measure which indicates the availability of mortgage credit at a point in time.”
Basically, the index determines how easy it is to get a mortgage. The higher the index, the more available mortgage credit becomes. Here’s a graph of the MCAI dating back to 2004, when the data first became available:As we can see, the index stood at about 400 in 2004. Mortgage credit became more available as the housing market heated up, and then the index passed 850 in 2006. When the real estate market crashed, so did the MCAI (to below 100) as mortgage money became almost impossible to secure. Thankfully, lending standards have eased somewhat since. The index, however, is still below 150, which is about one-sixth of what it was in 2006.
Why did the index rage out of control during the housing bubble?
The main reason was the availability of loans with extremely weak lending standards. To keep up with demand in 2006, many mortgage lenders offered loans that put little emphasis on the eligibility of the borrower. Lenders were approving loans without always going through a verification process to confirm if the borrower would likely be able to repay the loan.
Some of these loans offered attractive, low interest rates that increased over time. The loans were popular because they could be obtained quickly and without the borrower having to provide documentation up front. However, as the rates increased, borrowers struggled to pay their mortgages.
Today, lending standards are much tighter. As Investopediaexplains, the risky loans given at that time are extremely rare today, primarily because lending standards have drastically improved:
“In the aftermath of the crisis, the U.S. government issued new regulations to improve standard lending practices across the credit market, which included tightening the requirements for granting loans.”
An example of the relaxed lending standards leading up to the housing crash is the FICO® credit score associated with a loan. What’s a FICO® score? The website myFICOexplains:
“A credit score tells lenders about your creditworthiness (how likely you are to pay back a loan based on your credit history). It is calculated using the information in your credit reports. FICO® Scores are the standard for credit scores—used by 90% of top lenders.”
During the housing boom, many mortgages were written for borrowers with a FICO score under 620. Experianreveals that, in today’s market, lenders are more cautious about lower credit scores:
“Statistically speaking, 28% of consumers with credit scores in the Fair range are likely to become seriously delinquent in the future…Some lenders dislike those odds and choose not to work with individuals whose FICO® Scores fall within this range.”
There are definitely still loan programs that allow a 620 score. However, lending institutions overall are much more attentive about measuring risk when approving loans. According to Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insight Report, the average FICO® score on all loans originated in February was 753.
The graph below shows the billions of dollars in mortgage money given annually to borrowers with a credit score under 620.In 2006, mortgage entities originated $376 billion dollars in loans for purchasers with a score under 620. Last year, that number was only $74 billion.
In 2006, lending standards were much more relaxed with little evaluation done to measure a borrower’s potential to repay their loan. Today, standards are tighter, and the risk is reduced for both lenders and borrowers. These are two very different housing markets, so there’s no need to panic over today’s lending standards.
Since the birth of our nation, homeownership has always been considered a major piece of the American Dream. As Frederick Peters reports in Forbes:
“The idea of a place of one’s own drives the American story. We became a nation out of a desire to slip the bonds of Europe, which was still in many respects a collection of feudal societies. Old rich families, or the church, owned all the land and, with few exceptions, everyone else was a tenant. The magic of America lay not only in its sense of opportunity, but also in the belief that life could in every way be shaped by the individual. People traveled here not just for religious freedom, but because in America anything seemed possible.”
Additionally, a research paper released just prior to the shelter-in-place orders issued last year concludes:
“Homeownership is undeniably the cornerstone of the American Dream, and is inseparable from our national ethos that, through hard work, every American should have opportunities for prosperity and success. It is the stability and wealth creation that homeownership provides that represents the primary mechanism through which many American families are able to achieve upward socioeconomic mobility and greater opportunities for their children.”
Has the past year changed the American view on homeownership?
Definitely not. A survey of prospective homebuyers released by realtor.com last week reveals that becoming a homeowner is still the main reason this year’s first-time homebuyers want to purchase a home. When asked why they want to buy, three of the top four responses center on the financial benefits of owning a home. The top four reasons for buying are:
59% – “I want to be a homeowner”
33% – “I want to live in a space that I can invest in improving”
31% – “I need more space”
22% – “I want to build equity”
Millennials believe most strongly in homeownership.
The survey also reports that 62% of millennials say a desire to be a homeowner is the main reason they’re buying a home. This contradicts the thinking of some experts who had believed millennials were going to be the first “renter generation” in our nation’s history.
While reporting on the survey, George Ratiu, Senior Economist at realtor.com, said:
“Americans, even millennials who many thought would never buy, have a strong preference for homeownership for the same reasons many generations before them have — to invest in a place of their own and in their communities, and to build a solid financial foundation for themselves and their families.”
Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist for First American, also addresses millennial homeownership:
“Millennials have delayed marriage and having children in favor of investing in education, pushing marriage and family formation to their early-to-mid thirties, compared with previous generations, who primarily made these lifestyle choices in their twenties…Delayed lifestyle choices delay the desire for homeownership.”
Kushi goes on to explain:
“As more millennials get married and form families, millennials remain poised to transform the housing market. In fact, the housing market is already experiencing the earliest gusts of the tailwind.”
As it always has been and very likely always will be, homeownership continues to be a major component in every generation’s pursuit of the American Dream.