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Consumer Confidence in Economy & Housing is Soaring

The success of the housing market is strongly tied to the consumer’s confidence in the overall economy. For that reason, we believe 2017 will be a great year for real estate. Here is just a touch of the news coverage on the subject.

HousingWire:

“Consumers’ faith in the housing market is stronger than it’s ever been before, according to a newly released survey from Fannie Mae.”

Bloomberg:

“Americans’ confidence continued to mount last week as the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index reached the highest point in a decade on more-upbeat assessments about the economy and buying climate.”

Yahoo Finance:

“Confidence continues to rise among America’s consumers…the latest consumer sentiment numbers from the University of Michigan showed that in March confidence rose again.”

MarketWatch:

“U.S. consumers are the most confident in the U.S. economy in 15 years, buoyed by the strongest job market since before the Great Recession. The survey of consumer confidence rose…according to the Conference Board, the private company that publishes the index. That’s the highest level since July 2001.”

Ivy Zelman, in her recent Z Report, probably best capsulized the reports:

“The results were incredibly strong and…offer one of the most positive consumer takes on housing since the recovery started.”

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Why Millennials Choose to Buy [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

  • “The majority of millennials said they consider owning a home more sensible than renting for both financial and lifestyle reasons — including control of living space, flexibility in future decisions, privacy and security, and living in a nice home.”
  • At 93%, the top reason Millennials choose to buy is to have control over their living space.
  • Many Millennials who rent a home or apartment prior to buying their own homes dream of the day that they will be able to paint the walls whatever color they’d like, or renovate an outdated part of their living space.


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The ‘REAL’ News about Housing Affordability

Some industry experts are claiming that the housing market may be headed for a slowdown as we proceed through 2017, based on rising home prices and a potential jump in mortgage interest rates. One of the data points they use is the Housing Affordability Index, as reported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Here is how NAR defines the index:

“The Housing Affordability Index measures whether or not a typical family earns enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a typical home at the national level based on the most recent price and income data.”

Basically, a value of 100 means a family earning the median income earns enough to qualify for a mortgage on a median-priced home, based on the price and mortgage interest rates at the time. Anything above 100 means the family has more than enough to qualify.

The higher the index, the easier it is to afford a home.

Why the concern?

The index has been declining over the last several years as home values increased. Some are concerned that too many buyers could be priced out of the market.

But, wait a minute…

Though the index skyrocketed from 2009 through 2013, we must realize that during that time, the housing crisis left the market with an overabundance of distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales). All prices dropped dramatically and distressed properties sold at major discounts. Then, mortgage rates fell like a rock.

The market is recovering, and values are coming back nicely. That has caused the index to fall.

However, let’s remove the crisis years (shaded in gray) and look at the current index as compared to the index from 1990 – 2008:

Though prices and rates appear to be increasing, we must realize that affordability is composed of three ingredients: home prices, interest rates, and income. And, incomes are finally rising.

ATTOM Data Solutions recently released their Q1 2017 U.S. Home Affordability Index. The report explained:

“Stronger wage growth is the silver lining in this report, outpacing home price growth in more than half of the markets for the first time since Q1 2012, when median home prices were still falling nationwide. If that pattern continues, it will help turn the tide in the eroding home affordability trend.”

Bottom Line

Compared to historic norms, it is still a great time to buy from an affordability standpoint.


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Think You Need to Save 20% for a Down Payment? Think Again

Saving for a down payment often represents the biggest hurdle for first-time home buyers. In December, 25% of buyers on realtor.com® who were looking to purchase their first home said a key factor holding them back was lacking funds for a down payment. No matter how you cut it, it represents a big chunk of cash. But here’s the thing: It doesn’t always need to be quite so big as most think.

Many first-time buyers don’t realize that it doesn’t necessarily take 20% down to purchase a home.

Indeed, the average down payment in the U.S. on mortgages used to purchase a home was 11%, according to our analysis of loan records from Optimal Blue, an enterprise lending software company.

As with many stats, that 11% average hides lots of variation across loan types and locations. And for some buyers, it may even take more than 20% to buy a home.

Borrowers with jumbo mortgages had to put the highest percentage down, with an average of 23%. Conforming mortgages averaged 18% in 2016. On the other hand, government-backed FHA, VA, and USDA mortgages featured average down payments of 4.8%, 2.2%, and 0.4%, respectively. These government programs are meant to open up more pathways to homeownership for first-time buyers, veterans, and heads of households in rural areas.

Where you live or are thinking of living can also dramatically affect what it takes to get a mortgage. Higher-cost markets don’t just have higher-priced homes; they also have buyers with higher down payments. Lower-cost markets are just the opposite.

Higher-cost markets tend to have higher down-payment percentages because those more expensive homes are less likely to be covered by low down-payment loans.

Cutting to the chase: Without a higher down payment, the monthly payment simply ends up being too high to afford in an expensive market. Got that? This is why borrowers in high-cost areas have little choice but to put a higher percentage down on top of paying a much higher price.

That’s why, regardless of income levels, it’s so much harder for first-time buyers in high-cost areas.  And homeownership rates, especially for younger households, take a hit.

Deciphering the financial differences

Let’s dive into some specifics so that it is easier to understand the financial differences.

The average purchase price of homes financed with a mortgage was just over $290,000 in 2016 across the U.S. The average down payment amount was $32,680, or 11%.

But in the District of Columbia, where the average purchase price was just over $630,000, the average down payment was almost $110,000, or more than 17%.

That $110,000 could fund more than two-thirds of the average purchase price of $165,000 in Mississippi. And in that low-cost state, the average down payment was under $9,000, or a little more than 5%.

The variances get more extreme as we get more local.

Buyers in San Francisco County put down an average of more than $326,000 on homes purchased in 2016, which represented an average down payment of 29.9%.

In Manhattan, buyers shelled out an average down payment of (gulp) 30.2%, but because the average purchase price was slightly less than San Francisco, the dollar amount of the down payment was a more modest $219,000.

In more rural counties in the South and Midwest, average down payments can be closer to 3% and often amount to $5,000 or less. For example, in Tennessee’s Tipton County, an outer suburban county of Memphis, the average down payment was just over $3,500. The average price of a home purchased with a mortgage in 2016 was just under $138,000.

In Tipton, more than 80% of the mortgages were FHA, VA, or USDA.

So the whole etched-in-stone notion of 20% down payment or bust? Well, it all depends on how you look at it. And where.


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A Tale of Two Markets: Inventory Mismatch Paints a More Detailed Picture

A Tale of Two Markets: Inventory Mismatch Paints a More Detailed Picture | Keeping Current Matters

The inventory of existing homes for sale in today’s market was recently reported to be at a 3.6-month supply according to the National Association of Realtors latest Existing Home Sales Report. Inventory is now 7.1% lower than this time last year, marking the 20th consecutive month of year-over-year drops.

Historically, inventory must reach a 6-month supply for a normal market where home prices appreciate with inflation. Anything less than a 6-month supply is a sellers’ market, where the demand for houses outpaces supply and prices go up.

As you can see from the chart below, the United States has been in a sellers’ market since August 2012, but last month’s numbers reached a new low.

A Tale of Two Markets: Inventory Mismatch Paints a More Detailed Picture | Keeping Current Matters

Recently Trulia revealed that not only is there a shortage of homes on the market in general, but the homes that are available for sale are not meeting the needs of the buyers that are searching.

Homes are generally bucketed into three groups by price range: starter, trade-up, and premium.

Trulia’s market mismatch score measures the search interest of buyers against the category of homes that are available on the market. For example: “if 60% of buyers are searching for starter homes but only 40% of listings are starter homes, [the] market mismatch score for starter homes would be 20.”

The results of their latest analysis are detailed in the chart below.

A Tale of Two Markets: Inventory Mismatch Paints a More Detailed Picture | Keeping Current Matters

Nationally, buyers are searching for starter and trade-up homes and are coming up short with the listings available, leading to a highly competitive seller’s market in these categories. Ninety-two of the top 100 metros have a shortage in trade-up inventory.

Premium homebuyers have the best chance of less competition and a surplus of listings in their price range with an 11-point surplus, leading to more of a buyer’s market.

“It leaves Americans who are in the market for a home increasingly chasing too fewer options in lower price ranges, and sellers of premium homes more likely to be left waiting longer for a buyer.”

 Lawrence Yun, NAR’s Chief Economist doesn’t see an end to this coming any time soon: 

“Competition is likely to heat up even more heading into the spring for house hunters looking for homes in the lower- and mid-market price range.”

Bottom Line

Real estate is local. If you are thinking about buying OR selling this spring, sit with a local real estate professional who can share with you the exact market conditions in your area.


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The Misleading Math Behind the Rent vs. Buy Calculation

There’s about $13.1 trillion stashed away in the United States, in plain sight. Where? In our homes!

Do we have your attention yet?

That’s the total value of the equity held by over 75 million U.S. homeowners, according to the latest estimates from the Federal Reserve Board. And that works out to almost $175,000 per owning household.

This is unmistakable evidence that homeownership is a critical building block of household wealth. Owning a home is a key reason why the median net worth of a homeowner is almost $200,000 while the median net worth of a renting household is just over $5,000.

Sure, part of that is because owners were able to pony up a chunk of money to put down on a house, and to qualify for a mortgage. But the act of paying for a mortgage actually helps produce more wealth, by freezing payment amounts and building equity through forced savings.

rent-vs-own

A 30-year amortized, fixed-rate mortgage is a beautiful thing. It provides an affordable path to buying a home while locking in today’s cost of that home for the life of the loan.

The traditional rent versus buy argument compares the total monthly costs of buying a home with a mortgage with the corresponding rent. So that comparison is relevant when it comes to representing  the housing choice trade-off in clear cost terms.

Two years ago, that head-to-head heavily favored buying, thanks to very low mortgage rates and lower prices. Back then, more than three-quarters of the counties in the country saw lower buying costs than renting costs.

With prices and rates higher now, less than half of the counties in the country see math that favors buying.

But those raw numbers hide the fact that unlike a rent check, a percentage of every monthly mortgage payment—after the lender is paid interest—goes toward the owner’s home equity. That means it’s really a forced savings plan.

Over time, less of the mortgage payments go toward interest and more go toward equity, so the savings power is enhanced further.

Here’s how that works out for a median-price home of $250,000 bought in January with 20% down with a monthly payment of $976.

Before their first payment, the proud new homeowners had $50,000 in equity thanks to their down payment. (Actually, 20% down isn’t always typical or necessary, but, hey, it keeps this illustration simple.)

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In the first year, an average of 29% of the monthly payments builds equity. After 12 payments, the homeowners have just over $3,400 in added equity.

By year 14, 50% of the monthly $976 payment goes toward equity. Don’t forget that the monthly payment hasn’t changed, because the interest rate was fixed.

At the end of the 14th year, just shy of $64,000 has been added to the initial $50,000 in equity.

In the final year of the 30-year mortgage, while the monthly payment remains $976, 98% of the monthly payments builds equity until that magic day when the home is owned free and clear.

Think you can beat that with rents? Researchers at Harvard put it this way:

“While studies simulating the financial returns to owning and renting find that renting is often more likely to be beneficial, in practice renters rarely accumulate any wealth. In no small part this seems traceable to the difficulties households face in trying to save absent either a clear goal or an automatic savings mechanism.”

So, you want a better rent versus buy illustration? First, find a place to rent for no more than $976—the same as our mortgage payment example above. If you can rent for less, great. Will you be able to save that difference amounting to at least $3,400 in the first year? That would imply you can really pay only about $700 in rent to get the same savings effect.

If you can’t save $3,400 yourself by paying less in rent, ask the landlord if he’ll take a portion of your rent payments and set it aside for your rainy day fund.

Then ask the landlord if he’ll set your rent payment at today’s rate for the next 30 years. And before you close the deal, ask him to raise the rainy day share each year by 1% to 2% until year 30, when he’ll get only 2% of the rent payment.

Clearly, this would not be easy to do.

Even if the house only keeps pace with inflation over 30 years, which is a very conservative assumption, the forced savings inherent in a mortgage guarantees a homeowner is building wealth. A renter household has to be extremely diligent to amass the same savings that the good ol’ 30-year mortgage does automatically.


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Do You Know the Real Cost of Renting vs. Buying? [INFOGRAPHIC]

rent-vs-buy-kcm

Some Highlights:

  • Historically, the choice between renting or buying a home has been a close decision.
  • Looking at the percentage of income needed to rent a median-priced home today (30%), vs. the percentage needed to buy a median-priced home (15%), the choice becomes obvious.
  • Every market is different. Before you renew your lease again, find out if you could use your housing costs to own a home of your own!

Overall and practicality wise, owning a home is so much better than renting out. If ever you have decided in buying your own home this year, feel free to email me. Let me help you find the perfect home for you!