Builders & Realtors Agree: Real Estate Is Back

Builders & Realtors Agree: Real Estate Is Back | Simplifying The Market

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

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

Builder Confidence Hits All-Time High

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

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

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

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

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

Existing Homes Are Also Selling Like Hotcakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom Line

Both the newly constructed and existing home sale markets are posting numbers greater than a year ago. Real estate is back. If you’re thinking of buying or selling, let’s connect so you have the expert counsel you need along the way.

The Top Reasons People Are Moving This Year

The Top Reasons People Are Moving This Year | Simplifying The Market

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

According to Zillow:

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

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

1. Working from Home

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

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

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

2. Virtual Schooling

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

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

3. A Home Gym

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

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

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

4. Outdoor Space

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

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

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

Moving May Be Your Best Option

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

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

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

Bottom Line

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

Forbearance Numbers Are Lower than Expected

Forbearance Numbers Are Lower than Expected | Simplifying The Market

Originally, some housing industry analysts were concerned that the mortgage forbearance program (which allows families to delay payments to a later date) could lead to an increase in foreclosures when forbearances end. Some even worried that we might relive the 2006-2008 housing crash all over again. Once you examine the data, however, that seems unlikely.

As reported by Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist for First American:

“Despite the federal foreclosure moratorium, there were fears that up to 30% of homeowners would require forbearance, ultimately leading to a foreclosure tsunami. Forbearance did not hit 30%, but rather peaked at 8.6% and has been steadily falling since.”

According to the most current data from Black Knight, the percentage of homes in forbearance has fallen to 7.4%. The report also gives the decrease in raw numbers:

“The overall trend of incremental improvement in the number of mortgages in active forbearance continues. According to the latest data from Black Knight’s McDash Flash Forbearance Tracker, the number of mortgages in active forbearance fell by another 71,000 over the past week, pushing the total under 4 million for the first time since early May.”

Here’s a graph showing the decline in forbearances over the last several months:Forbearance Numbers Are Lower than Expected | Simplifying The MarketThe report also explains that across the board, overall forbearance activity fell with 10% fewer new forbearance requests and nearly 40% fewer renewals.

What about potential foreclosures once forbearances end?

Kushi also addresses this question:

“There are two main reasons why this crisis is unlikely to produce a wave of foreclosures similar to the 2008 recession. First, the housing market is in a much stronger position compared with a decade ago. Accompanied by more rigorous lending standards, the household debt-to-income ratio is at a four-decade low and household equity near a three-decade high. Indeed, thus far, MBA data indicates that the majority of homeowners who took advantage of forbearance programs are either staying current on their mortgage or paying off the loan through a home sale or a refinance. Second, this service sector-driven recession is disproportionately impacting renters.”

There is one potential challenge

Today, the options available to homeowners will prevent a large spike in foreclosures. That’s good not just for those families impacted, but for the overall housing market. A recent study by Fannie Mae, however, reveals that many Americans are not aware of the options they have.

It’s imperative for potentially impacted families to better understand the mortgage relief programs available to them, for their personal housing situation and for the overall real estate market.

Bottom Line

If Americans fully understand their options and make good choices regarding those options, the current economic slowdown does not need to lead to mass foreclosures.

Just How Strong Is the Housing Recovery?

Just How Strong Is the Housing Recovery? | Simplifying The Market

The residential real estate market has definitely been the shining light in this country’s current economic situation. All-time low mortgage rates coupled with a new appreciation of what a home truly means has caused the housing market to push forward through this major health crisis. Let’s look at two measures that explain the resilience of the real estate market.

Purchase Mortgages

The number of buyers getting a mortgage to purchase a home is a strong indicator of the strength of a housing market. Below is a graph of the week-over-week percent change in that number, as reported by the Mortgage Bankers’ Association:Just How Strong Is the Housing Recovery? | Simplifying The MarketThe number dropped dramatically in March and mid-April when the economy was shut down in response to COVID. It increased substantially from later in April through the middle of June. The strong increase in May and June was the result of the pent-up demand from earlier in the spring along with the normal business that would have been done during that time.

Since July, the market has remained consistent on a weekly basis, but still reflects a double-digit increase from the levels one year ago. The August 12 report shows a whopping 22% increase over last year.

Pending Contracts

Like purchase mortgages, pending contracts are also a powerful indicator of the strength of the real estate market. Zillow reports each week on the percent change in the number of homes going into contract. Here’s a graph of their data:Just How Strong Is the Housing Recovery? | Simplifying The MarketThe graph mirrors the one above, showing a drop in early spring followed by a strong recovery in late spring and early summer. Then, in July, it settles into a consistent level of deals. That level, like the one for purchase mortgages, is well ahead of the level seen last year. The last report revealed that pending deals were 16.9% greater than the same time last year.

Bottom Line

Both indicators prove the housing market recovered quickly from the early setback caused by the shelter-in-home orders. They also show that Americans have realized the importance of their homes during this time and are buying more houses than they did prior to the pandemic.

Sellers Are Returning to the Housing Market

Sellers Are Returning to the Housing Market | Simplifying The Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is this good for sellers?

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

Why is this good for buyers?

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

Bottom Line

While we still have a long way to go to catch up with the current demand, inventory is slowly starting to return to the market. If you’re thinking of moving this year, let’s connect today so you’re ready to make your move when the home of your dreams comes up for sale.

The Beginning of an Economic Recovery

The Beginning of an Economic Recovery | Simplifying The Market

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

A recent Wall Street Journal survey of economists noted, “A strong economic recovery depends on effective and sustained containment of Covid-19.” Given the uncertainty around the virus, we can also see what economists are forecasting for GDP in the third quarter of this year (see graph below):The Beginning of an Economic Recovery | Simplifying The MarketOverwhelmingly, economists are projecting GDP growth in the third quarter of 2020, with 5 of the 9 experts indicating over 20% growth.

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

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

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

Bottom Line

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

Homes Are More Affordable Right Now Than They Have Been in Years

Homes Are More Affordable Right Now Than They Have Been in Years | Simplifying The Market

Today, home prices are appreciating. When we hear prices are going up, it’s normal to think a home will cost more as the trend continues. The way the housing market is positioned today, however, low mortgage rates are actually making homes more affordable, even as prices rise. Here’s why.

According to the Mortgage Monitor Report from Black Knight:

“While home prices have risen for 97 consecutive months, July’s record-low mortgage rates have made purchasing the average-priced home the most affordable it’s been since 2016.

How is that possible?

Black Knight continues to explain:

“As of mid-July, it required 19.8% of the median monthly income to make the mortgage payment on the average-priced home purchase, assuming a 20% down payment and a 30-year mortgage. That was more than 5% below the average of 25% from 1995-2003.

This means it currently requires a $1,071 monthly payment to purchase the average-priced home, which is down 6% from the same time last year, despite the average home increasing in value by more than $12,000 during that same time period.

In fact, buying power is now up 10% year-over-year, meaning the average home buyer can afford nearly $32,000 more home than they could at the same time last year, while keeping their monthly payment the same.”

This is great news for the many buyers who were unable to purchase last year, or earlier in the spring due to the slowdown from the pandemic. By waiting a little longer, they can now afford 10% more home than they could have a year ago while keeping their monthly mortgage payment unchanged.

With mortgage rates hitting all-time lows eight times this year, it’s now less expensive to borrow money, making homes significantly more affordable over the lifetime of your loan. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, shares what low mortgage rates mean for affordability:

“In July, house-buying power got a big boost as the 30-year, fixed mortgage rate made history by moving below three percent. That drop in the mortgage rate from 3.23 percent in May to 2.98 percent in July increased house-buying power by nearly $15,000.”

The map below shows the last time homes were this affordable by state:Homes Are More Affordable Right Now Than They Have Been in Years | Simplifying The MarketIn six states – Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, and West Virginia – homes have not been this affordable in more than 25 years.

Bottom Line

If you’re thinking of making a move, now is a great time to take advantage of the affordability that comes with such low mortgage rates. Whether you’re thinking of purchasing your first home or moving into a new one and securing a significantly lower mortgage rate than you may have on your current house, let’s connect today to determine your next steps in the process.

Why Foreclosures Won’t Crush the Housing Market Next Year

Why Foreclosures Won’t Crush the Housing Market Next Year | Simplifying The Market

With the strength of the current housing market growing every day and more Americans returning to work, a faster-than-expected recovery in the housing sector is already well underway. Regardless, many are still asking the question: will we see a wave of foreclosures as a result of the current crisis? Thankfully, research shows the number of foreclosures is expected to be much lower than what this country experienced during the last recession. Here’s why.

According to Black Knight Inc., the number of those in active forbearance has been leveling-off over the past month (see graph below):Why Foreclosures Won’t Crush the Housing Market Next Year | Simplifying The MarketBlack Knight Inc. also notes, of the original 4,208,000 families granted forbearance, only 2,588,000 of these homeowners got an extension. Many homeowners have once again started to pay their mortgages, paid off their homes, or never went delinquent on their payments in the first place. They may have applied for forbearance out of precaution, but never fully acted on it (see graph below):Why Foreclosures Won’t Crush the Housing Market Next Year | Simplifying The MarketThe housing market, and homeowners, therefore, are in a much better position than many may think. Much of that has to do with the fact that today’s homeowners have more equity than most realize. According to John Burns Consulting, over 42% of homes are owned free and clear, meaning they are not tied to a mortgage. Of the remaining 58%, the average homeowner has $177,000 in equity. That number is keeping many homeowners afloat today and giving them options to avoid foreclosure.

While ATTOM Data Solutions indicates that there is a potential for the number of foreclosures to increase throughout the country, it’s important to understand why they won’t rock the housing market this time around:

“The United States faces a possible foreclosure surge over the coming months that could more than double the number of households threatened with eviction for not paying their mortgages.”

That number may sound massive, but it is actually much smaller than it seems at first glance. Today’s actual quarterly active foreclosure number is 74,860. That’s over 7.5x lower than the number of foreclosures the country saw at the peak of the housing crash in 2009. When looking at the graph below, it’s clear that even if the number of quarterly foreclosures today doubles, as ATTOM Data Solutions indicates is a possibility (not a given), they will only reach what historically-speaking is a normalized range, far below what up-ended the housing market roughly 10 years ago.Why Foreclosures Won’t Crush the Housing Market Next Year | Simplifying The MarketEquity is growing, jobs are returning, and the economy is slowly recovering, so the perfect storm for a wave of foreclosures is not realistically in the housing market forecast. As Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist for First American notes:

“Alone, economic hardship and a lack of equity are each necessary, but not sufficient to trigger a foreclosure. It is only when both conditions exist that a foreclosure becomes a likely outcome.”

While our hearts are with anyone who may end up in foreclosure as a result of this crisis, we do know that today’s homeowners have more options than they did 10 years ago. For some, it may mean selling their house and downsizing with that equity, which is a far better outcome than foreclosure.

Bottom Line

Homeowners today have many options to avoid foreclosure, and equity is surely helping to keep many afloat. Even if today’s rate of foreclosures doubles, it will still only hit a mark that is more in line with a historically normalized range, a very good sign for homeowners and the housing market.

Current Buyer & Seller Perks in the Housing Market

Current Buyer & Seller Perks in the Housing Market | Simplifying The Market

Today’s housing market is making a truly impressive turnaround, and it’s also setting up some outstanding opportunities for buyers and sellers. Whether you’re thinking of buying or selling a home this year, there are perks today that are rarely available, and definitely worth looking into. Here are the top two.

The Biggest Perk for Buyers: Low Mortgage Rates

The most impressive buyer incentive today is the average mortgage interest rate. Just last week, mortgage rates hit an all-time low for the eighth time this year. The 30-year fixed-rate is now averaging 2.88%, the lowest rate in the survey’s history, which dates back to 1971 (See graph below):Current Buyer & Seller Perks in the Housing Market | Simplifying The MarketThis is a huge advantage for buyers. To put it in perspective, it means that today you can get a lower rate than any of the past two generations of homebuyers in your family if you decide to purchase at this time.

In addition, the National Mortgage News notes how today’s buyers have increasing purchasing power due to these low mortgage rates:

“Purchasing power rose 10% year-over-year…With interest rates hitting record lows, buyers were able to afford $32,000 “more house” as of July 23 than they could the year before with the same monthly payment.”

This is a great perk for buyers who are hoping to potentially get more for their money in a home, something many are considering today as they re-evaluate the amount of space they ideally need for their families. It is an opportunity not seen in 50 years, and one not to be missed if the time is right for you to buy a home.

The Biggest Perk for Sellers: Low Inventory

Today, there are simply not enough houses on the market for the number of buyers looking to purchase them. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR):

“Total housing inventory at the end of June totaled 1.57 million units, up 1.3% from May, but still down 18.2% from one year ago (1.92 million).”

The red bars in the graph below indicate that the inventory of homes coming into the market continues to decline. It was low as we entered the pandemic and has reduced even further this year. Houses today are selling faster than they’re being listed, and that’s creating an even greater supply shortage (See graph below): Current Buyer & Seller Perks in the Housing Market | Simplifying The MarketThe lack of inventory has been a challenging situation for a while now, and with low mortgage rates fueling buyer demand, inventory is even harder for buyers to find today. Buyers are eager to purchase, and because of the shortage of homes available, they’re encountering more bidding wars. This is one of the factors keeping home prices strong, an advantage for sellers. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for NAR notes that this trend may continue, too:

“Home prices rose during the lockdown and could rise even further due to heavy buyer competition and a significant shortage of supply.”

With low inventory and high buyer demand, homeowners can potentially earn an increasing profit on their houses and sell them quickly in this sizzling summer market.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re thinking about buying or selling at home, there are some key perks available right now. Let’s connect today to discuss how they may play to your advantage in our local market.

The Latest Unemployment Report: Slow and Steady Improvement

The Latest Unemployment Report: Slow and Steady Improvement | Simplifying The Market

Last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its latest Employment Situation Summary. Going into the release, the expert consensus was for 1.58 million jobs to be added in July, and for the unemployment rate to fall to 10.5%.

When the official report came out, it revealed that 1.8 million jobs were added, and the unemployment rate fell to 10.2% (from 11.1% last month). Once again, this is excellent news as this was the third consecutive month the unemployment rate decreased.The Latest Unemployment Report: Slow and Steady Improvement | Simplifying The MarketThere is, however, still a long way to go before the job market fully recovers. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) put a potential date on that recovery:

“July’s payroll growth, at 1.8 million, still leaves total payrolls 12.9 million lower than in February. And yet if job gains continued at July’s pace, that deficit will be erased by March 2021. If payrolls reclaim their last peak in 13 months, that would be remarkably fast. It took more than six years after the last recession.”

Permanent vs. Temporary Unemployment

During a pandemic, it’s important to differentiate those who have lost their jobs on a temporary basis from those who have lost them on a permanent basis. Morgan Stanley economists noted in the same WSJ article:

“The rate of churn in the labor market remains incredibly high, but a notable positive detail in this month’s report was the downtick in the rate of new permanent layoffs.”

To address this, the core unemployment rate becomes increasingly important. It identifies the number of people who have permanently lost their jobs. This measure subtracts temporary layoffs and adds unemployed who did not search for a job recently. Jed Kolko, Chief Economist at Indeed and the founder of the index reported:

“Core unemployment fell in July for the first time in the pandemic. That’s the good news I was hoping for.”

What about the housing market?

The housing market has continued to show tremendous resilience during the pandemic. Commenting on the labor report, Robert Dietz, Chief Economist for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), tweeted:

“Housing continues to rebound in another positive labor market report. Home builder and remodeler job gains of 24K for July. Residential construction employment down just 56.4K compared to a year ago. Total residential construction employment at 2.85 million.”

Bottom Line

We should remain cautious in our optimism, as the recovery is ultimately tied to our future success in mitigating the ongoing health crisis. However, as Mike Fratantoni, Chief Economist for the Mortgage Bankers Association, reminds us: “The pace of job growth slowed in July, but the gains over the past three months represent an impressive rebound during the ongoing economic challenges brought forth by the pandemic.”