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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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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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NAR Reports Show Now Is a Great Time to Sell!

We all realize that the best time to sell anything is when demand is high and the supply of that item is limited. The last two major reports issued by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) revealed information that suggests that now continues to be a great time to sell your house.

Let’s look at the data covered by the latest Pending Home Sales Report and Existing Home Sales Report.

THE PENDING HOME SALES REPORT

The report announced that pending home sales (homes going into contract) are up 2.4% over last year, and have increased year-over-year now for 22 of the last 25 consecutive months.

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s Chief Economist, had this to say:

“The one major predicament in the housing market is without a doubt the painfully low levels of housing inventory in much of the country. It’s leading to home prices outpacing wages, properties selling a lot quicker than a year ago and the home search for many prospective buyers being highly competitive and drawn out because of a shortage of listings at affordable prices.”

Takeaway: Demand for housing will continue throughout the end of 2016 and into 2017. The seasonal slowdown often felt in the winter months did not occur last winter and shows no signs of returning this year.

THE EXISTING HOME SALES REPORT

The most important data point revealed in the report was not sales, but was instead the

inventory of homes for sale (supply). The report explained:

  • Total housing inventory rose 1.5% to 2.04 million homes available for sale
  • That represents a 4.5-month supply at the current sales pace
  • Unsold inventory is 6.8% lower than a year ago, marking the 16th consecutive month with year-over-year declines

There were two more interesting comments made by Yun in the report:

“Inventory has been extremely tight all year and is unlikely to improve now that the seasonal decline in listings is about to kick in. Unfortunately, there won’t be much relief from new home construction, which continues to be grossly inadequate in relation to demand.”

In real estate, there is a guideline that often applies; when there is less than a 6-month supply of inventory available, we are in a seller’s market and we will see appreciation. Between 6-7 months is a neutral market, where prices will increase at the rate of inflation. More than a 7-month supply means we are in a buyer’s market and should expect depreciation in home values. As Yun notes, we are, and will remain, in a seller’s market with prices still increasing unless more listings come to the market. 

“There’s hope the leap in sales to first-time buyers can stick through the rest of the year and into next spring. The market fundamentals — primarily consistent job gains and affordable mortgage rates — are there for the steady rise in first-timers needed to finally reverse the decline in the homeownership rate.”

rate.”

Takeaway: Inventory of homes for sale is still well below the 6-month supply needed for a normal market. Prices will continue to rise if a ‘sizable’ supply does not enter the market.

Bottom Line

If you are going to sell, now may be the time to take advantage of the ready, willing, and able buyers that are still out looking for your house.

If you are ready, feel free to email me and let us get you started in the exciting home buying process.


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Buying is Now 37.7% Cheaper Than Renting in the US

If you are one of those people having a hard time choosing whether to rent or buy your home, this latest real estate news might just be the sign you are waiting for.

sale-or-rent

The results of the latest Rent vs. Buy Report from Trulia show that homeownership remains cheaper than renting with a traditional 30-year fixed rate mortgage in the 100 largest metro areas in the United States.

The updated numbers actually show that the range is an average of 17.4% less expensive in Honolulu (HI), all the way up to 53.2% less expensive in Miami & West Palm Beach (FL), and 37.7% nationwide!

Other interesting findings in the report include:

  • Interest rates have remained low, and even though home prices have appreciated around the country, they haven’t greatly outpaced rental appreciation.
  • Home prices would have to appreciate by a range of over 23% in Honolulu (HI), up to over 45% in Ventura County (CA), to reach the tipping point of renting being less expensive than buying.
  • Nationally, rates would have to reach 9.1%, a 145% increase over today’s average of 3.7%, for renting to be cheaper than buying. Rates haven’t been that high since January of 1995, according to Freddie Mac.

Bottom Line

Buying a home makes sense socially and financially. If you are one of the many renters out there who would like to evaluate your ability to buy this year, meet with a local real estate professional who can help you find your dream home.

Get out of the renting rut and start owning the home you have always been dreaming of. Call me for more information about Maui real estate.


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6 Things You Need to Know When Buying Home Insurance

Whether you’ve just begun searching for a new place or you’re waiting to close on your dream home, one important aspect of moving you can’t ignore is insuring your investment.

Enter the homeowner’s best friend: the homeowners insurance policy.

Just like any other kind of insurance, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all policy. Home insurance policy costs typically depend on the home’s location and age, the size of the deductible, and the coverage level. You’ll have to look at these and other variables to figure out what kind of home insurance is right for you—and how much you’ll shell out for it.

To make sure you purchase the perfect policy that fits your budget and coverage needs— and to avoid potential pitfalls—we’ve pulled together a list of the most important things you should consider. Let’s take a look.

1. It’s all about location, location, location

Along with size, construction type, and overall condition of the house, location plays a big role in the cost of insurance and types of policies available. But unlike home buyers, insurance companies aren’t checking out school districts, awesome nearby restaurants, or your commute time.

But others factors do come into play. Homes located near highly rated, permanently staffed fire departments (and even fire hydrants), for example, may cost less to insure, says Loretta Worters, vice president of communications for the Insurance Information Institute.

And of course, proximity to the coastline is also weighed heavily. You’re likely going to pay a pretty penny for that idyllic spot near the coast.

“Because of the increased risk of catastrophic weather events resulting in claims, it will generally cost more to insure,” Worters says.

On top of a higher policy cost, coastal home insurance policies could include a separate hurricane or windstorm deductible based on the fees to rebuild a home.

2. You might want flood insurance—even if you think you don’t need it

Damage from flooding isn’t covered by typical home insurance policies. Any home located in an area prone to flooding requires separate flood insurance to cover these kinds of claims. (Flood insurance is available from the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program as well as a handful of specialty insurers.)

Don’t live in a flood zone? Don’t assume you’re off the hook. Flood insurance may be a smart option for any homeowner, regardless of zoning—and if you’re not in a high-risk zone, you can probably snag some lower premiums.

“Ninety percent of all natural disasters in the U.S. involve flooding,” Worters says. “However, 25% to 30% of all paid losses for flooding are in areas not officially designated as special flood hazard zones.”

3. That goes for earthquake insurance, too

Californians aren’t the only ones who have to worry about earthquakes—in fact as many as 39 states have experienced tremors, according to data from the Insurance Information Institute. And the resulting damage usually isn’t covered by traditional home insurance policies.

Homeowners need to purchase an addition to their home insurance policy to cover
any earthquake-related claims. The cost varies by location, insurer, and the type of structure being covered as well as age of the building, Worters says.

4. Have a pool? Dive into extra protection

Ahh, your new home has a fabulous swimming pool and hot tub. Yay for you! We’d love to come over—but before we do, you should look into bumping up your liability insurance.

Liability coverage is the part of a home insurance policy that may pay court costs or other expenses if you’re found responsible for an accident, such as someone drowning or suffering a serious injury after doing a cannonball into the shallow end of your pool.

Another option: You can purchase an umbrella liability policy to provide a level of protection not typically available with standard home insurance policies.

5. Your home’s claim history matters—even from when you didn’t live there

Whether you’ve just begun your home search or lived in your home for years, it’s never too late to get familiar with your home’s claim history—and how it might be affecting your homeowners insurance rates.

It’s all summed up in a nifty database called the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, or CLUE. Essentially the equivalent of a credit report for your home, the CLUE contains all kinds of records of insurance claims on the house.

That’s important to know because a claim filed for the property in the past five years could cause your rates to inch upward, even if you didn’t own the home at the time of the claim.

But take heart, dear home buyer—not all prior claims have a negative effect.

“Some recent claims can have a positive impact, because replacing a roof damaged by a windstorm could make the house more desirable to an insurance company,” Worters says.

If you’re looking to buy a home and want a copy of the CLUE report, check with the sellers (only the owner of a property may access its CLUE report). There’s no guarantee they’ll fork it over, but there’s no harm in asking. If you already own the home, you can get a free report from database giant LexisNexis.

6. A high deductible can really pay off

It should come as no surprise that you’ll want to shop around before committing to a policy. Compare the rates, deductibles, and coverage options of at least two to three companies to make sure you have adequate coverage for your situation.

Pro tip: Pay close attention to the size of your deductible.

“It’s recommended to opt for the highest deductible you can afford because most people only file a claim every eight to 10 years,” Worters says. “A higher deductible saves money year after year and encourages only using insurance in catastrophic situations when it’s truly necessary. And that also helps keep your costs affordable.”

A professional real estate agent will have proper knowledge in insurance and other investment matters. Contact me for more information in all things real estate.


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3 Charts That Scream ‘List Your Home Today’

In school we all learned the Theory of Supply and Demand. When the demand for an item is greater than the supply of that item, the price will surely rise.

SUPPLY

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently reported that the inventory of homes for sale stands at a 4.4-month supply. This is considerably lower than the 6-month inventory necessary for a normal market.

Inventory-KCM-768x576

DEMAND

Every month NAR reports on the amount of buyers that are actually out in the market looking for homes, or foot traffic. As seen in the graph below, buyer demand in February significantly outpaced the last six months.

Foot-Traffic-KCM-768x576

Many buyers are being confronted with a very competitive market in which they must compete with other buyers for their dream home (if they even are able to find a home they wish to purchase).

Listing your house for sale now will allow you to capitalize on the shortage of homes for sale in the market, which will translate into a better pricing situation.

HOME EQUITY

Many homeowners underestimate the amount of equity they currently have in their home. According to a recent Fannie Mae study, 37% of homeowners believe that they have more than 20% equity in their home. In reality, CoreLogic’s latest Equity Reporttells us that 72.6% actually do!

Equity-KCM-768x576

Many homeowners who are undervaluing their home equity may feel trapped in their current home, which may be contributing to the lack of inventory in the market.

Bottom Line

If you are debating selling your home this year, meet with a local real estate professional who can evaluate the equity you have in your home, as well as the opportunities available in your market.


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Understanding Affordable Housing

This past January, Alexander & Baldwin, one of Hawai‘i’s original Big Five corporations, kicked off the year with a groundbreaking for its newest residential development, Kamalani, in north Kihei. The dirt-and-shovel affair also promises groundbreaking opportunity: a long-awaited and much-needed affordable housing component.

On an island where most properties are out of reach for the average first-time buyer, this is big news. We interviewed Grant Chun, vice president of A&B Properties, to learn more.

How is affordable housing defined?

It is not low-income housing, nor government-assisted. Per the County of Maui, affordable housing must be attainable to buyers whose household income is 80 to 140 percent of median income. On Maui, median income for a family of four is $76,700.

So families with a household income of $61,360 to $107,380 would qualify?

Yes.

How much will Kamalani’s affordable homes cost?

Prices will start in the high $200,000s and go up to the high $400,000s for condos and townhomes. The pricing is determined through a formula provided by the County of Maui, based on median income and prevailing interest rates.

The units will be available to the various income groups under different price points, as required by County ordinance. For those earning 80 to 100 percent of median income, homes will stay on the market at that level for ninety days. They can then move to the next income level, 100 to 120 percent of median income, for ninety days, followed by the highest level, 120 to 140 percent of median income.

If, after that time, there are still affordable homes available, the County will open the opportunity to off-island folks [who qualify for affordable housing]. After all those markets are exhausted, remaining units would go into the mainstream market. The entire process takes about a year.

What kind of demand to you expect?

This is the first time we’ve offered homes under the County’s affordable-housing ordinance. Market research tells us there is a tremendous shortage. Therefore we expect strong demand from entry-level buyers. When the first affordable units go on the market later this year, applicants will be invited to put their name on a list for the opportunity to purchase by lottery, and then vetted to see if they qualify.

What kinds of loans are available to families interested in the program?

The best are provided by banks and other lenders that work with federal programs such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These programs are designed for first-time buyers.

Are the rates more favorable for those qualifying for affordable housing?

Yes. Federally assisted loans may offer lower rates, and also lower-percentage down payment.

An important thing to know about some of these loan programs is homebuyer education. Since the economic downturn, many lenders now require the borrower to take an approved course in home buying, which includes a one-on-one counseling session and a credit report. Many folks earn enough money, but because of their lifestyle, may not qualify for a loan. The course provides information on what a mortgage is, what the costs of homeownership really are, and what responsibilities the borrower is accepting when taking out  a loan. A&B is requiring first-time applicants to take such a course to be eligible for Kamalani’s sales lottery, so that when it comes time to apply for the loan, they’ll have the best chance to qualify.

Who offers these classes?

The course is currently provided through Hale Maha‘olu for $75, and is two sessions. A variety of dates are offered, plus an online version. Potential borrowers who complete the class receive certification that they have satisfied the requirement for these loans. This is a great tool, regardless of whether the borrower is interested in Kamalani or another project.

How much of Kamalani is set aside for affordable housing?

Out of 600 units, 170 in the first increment will be affordable: two- and three-bedroom condos and townhomes.

Are there rules for resale of affordable housing?

Yes. The owner is not allowed to sell the home until after a specified number of years. Owners who want to sell before that time are required to offer the unit to the County first. Additionally, the buyer may realize only 25 percent or less of the increased value during the restriction period — that is, the difference between the purchase price and the appraised value at resale. For example, if the home has increased in value from $300,000 to $400,000, the owner may sell for no more than $325,000. The intent is to encourage true first-time homebuyers and discourage speculators. After the specified time restriction, the owner may sell at market price.

Affordable units are sold at a loss to the developer. For the first-time homeowner, they can be a huge windfall — if the owner stays in the unit for the required duration.

What are the time restrictions?

Ten years for those qualifying at the first level of affordability [applicants earning 80 to 100 percent of mean income]; eight years for next level [100 to 120 percent]; and five years for the third [120 to 140 percent].

Are you working with specific lenders?

Yes. Our lead lender is Ann Sakamoto from Central Pacific Bank. Bank of Hawai‘i and American Savings are also participating.

What is your advice for families interested in affordable housing?

Take the Home Buyer Education class as soon as possible. Seating is limited, and advance registration is required. To register, call 808-856-4045, or go online at KamalaniLiving.com. The website also has information on eligibility requirements for the County’s Residential Workforce Housing.