Historically low interest rates top real estate news This Week in Real Estate! For the third time in 2020 the mortgage market has recorded a new historical low for interest rates, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Plus, home prices are still appreciating despite the effects of COVID-19 according to CoreLogic’s newly developed Pending Price Index. Click here to read more.
As several states begin the process of reopening following the COVID-19 pandemic, a new Lending Tree study released This Week in Real Estate shows Google searches for “homes for sale” grew by 54% to end the month of April, purchase activity was higher for the fourth consecutive week, and the fiscal stimulus is impacting consumer sentiment. Click here to read more about business impacting the real estate market this week.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is suspending foreclosures and evictions for homeowners with a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac-backed single family mortgage for at least 60 days due to the COVID-19 national emergency.
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) and the Federal Home Loan Banks are taking steps to help people who have been impacted by the coronavirus. Fannie and Freddie are providing payment forbearance for borrowers impacted by the crisis, which will allow a mortgage payment to be suspended for up to 12 months by qualified borrowers.
If your ability to pay your mortgage is impacted, and your loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you may be eligible to delay making your monthly mortgage payments for a temporary period, during which:
You won’t incur late fees.
You won’t have delinquencies reported to the credit bureaus.
Foreclosure and other legal proceedings will be suspended
This decision follows the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s announcement earlier this month to halt foreclosures and evictions for FHA loans on single-family homes for 60 days due to COVID-19.
If you have any concerns about your mortgage contact your mortgage servicer (where you send your monthly mortgage payments).
You can visit the HUD and FHFA websites for more information.
According to the Federal Reserve’s Flow of Funds report released This Week in Real Estate the value of U.S. owner-occupied homes increased to a record of $29.2 trillion in the third quarter of 2019. Home values rise as mortgage rates remain low. Fannie Mae believes the average fixed rate in 2020 will probably be 3.6% and if so, will be the lowest annual average ever recorded in Freddie Mac records going back to 1973. Below are a few highlights from the first full week of 2020…
* U.S. Home Values Rise to Record $29.2 Trillion, Fed Says. The value of all U.S. owner-occupied homes increased to a record $29.2 trillion in the third quarter, according to a Federal Reserve report known as the Flow of Funds. That was a gain of 4.2% from a year earlier, the slowest annualized increase since 2012. The collective value of U.S. homes is now 21% higher than the bubble peak reached in 2006. The Fed’s tally of home values for all U.S. residential real estate, whether occupied by homeowners or not, was $32.9 trillion, the report said.
* U.S. Mortgage Debt Hits a Record $15.8 Trillion. Outstanding U.S. mortgage debt rose to $15.8 trillion in the third quarter of 2019, according to the Federal Reserve. The biggest chunk of debt was held on homes, at $11.1 trillion, followed by commercial, with $3 trillion of loans, multifamily at $1.6 trillion and farms at $254.1 billion, according to the Fed data. Mortgage debt is rising as U.S. real estate values gain. Low mortgage rates boost real estate prices, and hence the volume of loans, because cheaper financing means buyers qualify for higher-balance mortgages and can bid more for properties they want. The average fixed rate probably will be 3.6% in 2020, which would be the lowest annual average ever recorded in Freddie Mac records going back to 1973.
* Homebuying Sentiment Up Sharply From 2018. Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI) finished out the year with little change from November to December, but with a strong increase over the December 2018 version. “The continued strength in the HPSI attests to the intention among consumers to purchase homes. This is consistent with the Fannie Mae forecast for 2020,” said Doug Duncan, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist. “The HPSI hit and remained near an all-time high in 2019, driven by the 16-percentage point year-over-year increase in the share of consumers believing it is a good time to buy. The HPSI’s strength supports our prediction of a healthy housing market in 2020, as well as consumers’ appetite and ability to absorb the expected increase in entry-level inventory.”
For the first time since at
least World War II, mortgage rates and the unemployment rate are below
4-percent. As a result, some economists are predicting home prices will
increase at a faster pace over the next 12 months than they have in 2019.
Corelogic says home prices
will likely increase by 5.8% through August 2020. That’s a faster pace than the
3.8% seen in August of this year.
First-time homebuyers, Generation
Z homebuyers and single female homebuyers are taking full advantage of this
46-percent of all loans Freddie
Mac has purchased this year came from first-time homebuyers, while there has
been a 200% and 500% increase in Gen Z and single female homebuyers,
* Labor Costs Likely to Push Home Prices Higher. In an article in CoreLogic’s Insights blog, Nothaft quotes National Association of Home Builder (NAHB) figures that say about 60 percent of a new home’s sales price reflects the construction costs of the home. The major components of building costs are those associated with purchasing and preparing a lot, acquiring permits and inspections, hiring labor and buying materials. There was a significant price run-up in the two major components of framing, lumber and steel. Labor costs are another matter. Much has been written about the shortage of construction labor. Many workers left the trades during the Great Recession and the industry has had trouble luring young people and especially young women into the field. Vacancies as a percent of construction job are now at the highest level in 18 years and compensation has risen accordingly. It is up 3 percent this year, about double the rate of inflation. Worker retention is an issue as well. Nothaft says rising land and labor costs will probably offset any savings builders might realize from lower lumber prices and overall costs for a new home will continue to rise.
* Mortgage Rates Drop Again – And First-Time Homebuyers Take Full Advantage. Mortgage rates dropped again, and according to Freddie Mac, the downward spiral has first-time buyers gaining ground. In fact, of all the loans Freddie Mac has purchased in 2019, 46% came from first-time homebuyers – a two-decade high for the company. According to representatives at online mortgage provider Better.com, the lender has seen a “huge uptick” in first-time homebuyers as well. There’s also been a 200% increase in Generation Z homebuyers (born 1997-2012) and a 500% increase in single female homebuyers aged 30-40. As Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, reported yesterday, “The fifty-year low in the unemployment rate, combined with low mortgage rates, has led to increased homebuyer demand this year. Much of this strength is coming from entry-level buyers.”
* Where Have All the Affordable Homes Gone? Housing affordability has been a growing concern in the housing ecosystem, but why is it such a problem? While home prices have been steadily rising for many years, Nothaft observed, “We find that lower-priced homes have appreciated much, much more than higher-priced homes.” Since May 2018, prices of homes more than 25% above the median have risen 3%, while homes in the lowest tier, those more than 25% below the median, have risen almost 5.5%. As demand rises on affordable homes, the supply has become increasingly constrained. Nothaft noted, “New construction, while picking up gradually over the last few years, is still well below what it was prior to the housing boom.” The current inventory for homes is tightest in the lowest price tiers, particularly in those between 50 and 100 percent of the median home price. On the affordable housing shortage, Nothaft concluded, “I don’t see that changing any time soon unless we find ways to reduce the cost of producing or delivering lower-priced homes into the marketplace and reducing some of the regulatory costs.” In the meantime, with demand rising on an increasingly scarce product, we can expect prices to continue rising on affordable homes for the foreseeable future.
Mortgage Rates May Tumble to Record 3.3% by 2019’s End. Fixed mortgage rates could fall to 3.3% by the end of the year as the nation’s economy slows, according to Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors. That would put the rate just a smidge below the 3.31% seen in November of 2012 – the lowest average for a 30-year fixed mortgage in Freddie Mac data going back to 1971. “But lower rates may not help with affordability because home prices are re-accelerating higher, easily above the latest wage growth. Housing inventory has recently stopped rising, putting upward pressure on home prices of moderately priced homes,” Yun said. “But there is still a time to get the economy into a higher gear with increased home building of affordable homes and lessening trade tensions.”
* A Smaller Share of Prospective Buyers is Actively Looking For a Home. A national poll in the second quarter of 2019 revealed that 12% of adults are thinking about buying a home in the next 12 months. Of that group, 41% are already actively engaged in the process of finding a home to purchase, which is a smaller share than a year earlier, when 50% of prospective buyers were engaged in the search process. This finding suggests that the lower mortgage rate environment of 2019 has not had the expected effect of nudging more people to start looking for a home to buy. Across generations, about 40% of Millennials, Gen X’ers, and Boomer buyers have moved beyond just planning and begun the home search, compared to only 21% of Senior buyers. Geographically, prospective buyers in the Northeast are the most likely to be actively looking for a home (47%), followed by those in the West (43%), and those in the Midwest and South (both 39%). How long are buyers who are actively engaged in the search process hunting for a home? In the second quarter of 2019, 45% had been at it for less than 3 months while the other 55% had been trying to find the right home for 3 months or longer. Those shares were essentially unchanged from a year earlier, when they stood at 46% and 54%, respectively.
* Residential Construction Spending Drops Further Off 2018 Pace. Construction spending inched up by 0.1 percent in July, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.289 trillion compared to $1.288 trillion in June. The July figure is 2.7 percent lower than the rate of spending in July 2018. On an unadjusted basis, spending for the month was $119.214 billion and for the year-to-date (YTD) stands at $733.782 billion, down 2.1 percent from the $749.888 billion spent during the first seven months of 2018. Private sector spending on residential spending was at an annual rate of $506.743 billion compared to $503.515 billion in June, an increase of 0.6 percent but down 6.6 percent from the prior July. Single family construction was at a rate of $268.138 billion a 1.4 percent month-over-month gain but a decrease of 8.5 percent on an annual basis. For the YTD, total residential spending has totaled $289.891 billion, $150.219 billion of it on single-family houses. During the same period in 2018 the respective totals were $316.929 billion and $164.529 billion. These represent declines of 8.5 and 8.7 percent.