Forbes.com recently released the results of their new American Dream Index, in which they measure “the prosperity of the middle class, and…examine which states best support the American Dream.”
The monthly index measures several different economic factors, including goods-producing employment, personal and commercial bankruptcies, building permits, startup activity, unemployment insurance claims, labor force participation, and layoffs.
The national index score was rounded out to 100 in January and saw a modest jump to 100.5 in February.
Alaska represented the lowest score on the index at 80.7, due mostly to the recent collapse in oil prices. Nevada came in with the highest score at 108.8, boosted by big gains in goods-producing jobs and new construction activity. The full results can be seen in the map below.
Forbes Senior Editor Kurt Badenhausen explained why many states saw a boost in the index last month:
“[B]usinesses are hiring in part in anticipation of tax cuts and less regulation… Many areas of the country have experienced strong upticks in employment and construction, as well as declines in unemployment claims since the start of the year.”
The American Dream, for many, includes being able to own a home of his or her own. With the economy improving in many areas of the country, that dream can finally become a reality.
If you thought about selling your house this year, now may be the time to do it. The inventory of homes for sale is well below historic norms and buyer demand is skyrocketing. We were still in high school when we learned the concept of supply and demand: the best time to sell something is when supply of that item is low and demand for that item is high. That defines today’s real estate market.
Jonathan Smoke, Chief Economist at realtor.com, revealed in a recent article that:
“The biggest challenge to buyers this spring will be simply finding a home to buy and getting it successfully under contract. That’s because the supply of homes for sale is at an all-time low, and yet demand is strong and getting stronger.”
Smoke goes on to say:
“We started the year with the lowest inventory of homes available for sale that we’ve ever seen on realtor.com. While we did see inventory grow 2% in February, total inventory was down 11% over last year.”
In this type of market, a seller may hold a major negotiating advantage when it comes to price and other aspects of the real estate transaction including the inspection, appraisal and financing contingencies.
As a potential seller, you are in the driver’s seat right now. It might be time to hit the gas.
The media has extensively covered the rise in mortgage interest rates since last fall (from 3.42% last September to the current 4.1% according to Freddie Mac). However, a less covered aspect of the mortgage market is that requirements to get a mortgage have eased while rates have risen.
The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) quantifies the availability of mortgage credit each month with their Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI). According to the MBA, the MCAI is:
“A summary measure which indicates the availability of mortgage credit at a point in time.”
The higher the index, the easier it is to get a mortgage. Here is a chart showing the MCAI over the last several months as rates have increased.
Have requirements for attaining a mortgage actually eased?
Yes. Here are two examples:
- FICO® Score – the credit score which helps determine a buyer’s eligibility. The score required to attain a mortgage has been falling over the last five months:
- Down Payment Requirement – the percentage of the purchase price necessary to place as a down payment on a home. To make this point, let’s look at the percentage of first-time buyers who have put less than 5% down over the last several years as compared to the 1st quarter of 2017:
Whether you are a current homeowner looking to move to a home that will better serve your family’s current needs, or a first-time buyer looking for a starter home, it is easier to get a mortgage today than it has been at any other time in the last ten years.
When a homeowner decides to sell their house, they obviously want the best possible price for it with the least amount of hassles along the way. However, for the vast majority of sellers, the most important result is actually getting their homes sold.
In order to accomplish all three goals, a seller should realize the importance of using a real estate professional. We realize that technology has changed the purchaser’s behavior during the home buying process. According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2016 Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers, the percentage of buyers who used the internet in their home search increased to 94%.
However, the report also revealed that 96% of buyers who used the internet when searching for homes purchased their homes through either a real estate agent/broker or from a builder or builder’s agent. Only 2% purchased their homes directly from a seller whom the buyer didn’t know.
Buyers search for a home online but then depend on an agent to find the home they will buy (50%), to negotiate the terms of the sale (47%) & price (36%), or to help understand the process (61%).
The plethora of information now available has resulted in an increase in the percentage of buyers that reach out to real estate professionals to “connect the dots.” This is obvious, as the percentage of overall buyers who have used agents to buy their homes has steadily increased from 69% in 2001.
If you are thinking of selling your home, don’t underestimate the role a real estate professional can play in the process.
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.”
Compared to historic norms, it is still a great time to buy from an affordability standpoint.
A survey by Ipsos found that the American public is still somewhat confused about what is required to qualify for a home mortgage loan in today’s housing market. There are two major misconceptions that we want to address today.
1. Down Payment
The survey revealed that consumers overestimate the down payment funds needed to qualify for a home loan. According to the report, 40% of consumers think a 20% down payment is always required. In actuality, there are many loans written with a down payment of 3% or less.
Many renters may actually be able to enter the housing market sooner than they ever imagined with new programs that have emerged allowing less cash out of pocket.
2. FICO® Scores
The survey also revealed that 62% of respondents believe they need excellent credit to buy a home, with 43% thinking a “good credit score” is over 780. In actuality, the average FICO® scores of approved conventional and FHA mortgages are much lower.
The average conventional loan closed in February had a credit score of 752, while FHA mortgages closed with a score of 686. The average across all loans closed in February was 720. The chart below shows the distribution of FICO® Scores for all loans approved in February.
If you are a prospective buyer who is ‘ready’ and ‘willing’ to act now, but are not sure if you are ‘able’ to, let’s sit down to help you understand your true options.
There are some people who have not purchased homes because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that, unless you are living with your parents rent-free, you are paying a mortgage – either yours or your landlord’s.
As Entrepreneur Magazine, a premier source for small business, explained this month in their article, “12 Practical Steps to Getting Rich”:
“While renting on a temporary basis isn’t terrible, you should most certainly own the roof over your head if you’re serious about your finances. It won’t make you rich overnight, but by renting, you’re paying someone else’s mortgage. In effect, you’re making someone else rich.”
Christina Boyle, Senior Vice President and head of the Single-Family Sales & Relationship Management organization at Freddie Mac, explains another benefit of securing a mortgage vs. paying rent:
“With a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, you’ll have the certainty & stability of knowing what your mortgage payment will be for the next 30 years – unlike rents which will continue to rise over the next three decades.”
As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ which allows you to build equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee the landlord is the person with that equity.
Interest rates are still at historic lows, making it one of the best times to secure a mortgage and make a move into your dream home. Freddie Mac’s latest report shows that rates across the country were at 4.23% last week.
Whether you are looking for a primary residence for the first time or are considering a vacation home on the shore, now may be the time to buy.
CoreLogic recently released a report entitled, United States Residential Foreclosure Crisis: 10 Years Later, in which they examined the years leading up to the crisis all the way through to present day.
With a peak in 2010 when nearly 1.2 million homes were foreclosed on, over 7.7 million families lost their homes throughout the entire foreclosure crisis.
Dr. Frank Nothaft, Chief Economist for CoreLogic, had this to say,
“The country experienced a wild ride in the mortgage market between 2008 and 2012, with the foreclosure peak occurring in 2010. As we look back over 10 years of the foreclosure crisis, we cannot ignore the connection between jobs and homeownership. A healthy economy is driven by jobs coupled with consumer confidence that usually leads to homeownership.”
Since the peak, foreclosures have been steadily on the decline by nearly 100,000 per year all the way through the end of 2016, as seen in the chart below.
If this trend continues, the country will be back to 2005 levels by the end of 2017.
As the economy continues to improve, and employment numbers increase, the number of completed foreclosures should continue to decrease.
Here are four great reasons to consider buying a home today instead of waiting.
1. Prices Will Continue to Rise
CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index reports that home prices have appreciated by 6.9% over the last 12 months. The same report predicts that prices will continue to increase at a rate of 4.8% over the next year.
The bottom in home prices has come and gone. Home values will continue to appreciate for years. Waiting no longer makes sense.
2. Mortgage Interest Rates Are Projected to Increase
Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that interest rates for a 30-year mortgage have remained around 4% over the last couple months. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac & the National Association of Realtorsare in unison, projecting that rates will increase by at least a half a percentage point this time next year.
An increase in rates will impact YOUR monthly mortgage payment. A year from now, your housing expense will increase if a mortgage is necessary to buy your next home.
3. Either Way, You are Paying a Mortgage
There are some renters who have not yet purchased a home because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that, unless you are living with your parents rent-free, you are paying a mortgage – either yours or your landlord’s.
As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ that allows you to build equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee your landlord is the person with that equity.
Are you ready to put your housing cost to work for you?
4. It’s Time to Move on with Your Life
The ‘cost’ of a home is determined by two major components: the price of the home and the current mortgage rate. It appears that both are on the rise.
But what if they weren’t? Would you wait?
Look at the actual reason you are buying and decide if it is worth waiting. Whether you want to have a great place for your children to grow up, you want your family to be safer or you just want to have control over renovations, maybe now is the time to buy.
If the right thing for you and your family is to purchase a home this year, buying sooner rather than later could lead to substantial savings.
Home values have risen dramatically over the last twelve months. The latest Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors puts the annual increase in the median existing-home price at 7.1%. CoreLogic, in their most recent Home Price Insights Report, reveals that national home prices have increased by 6.9% year-over-year.
The CoreLogic report broke down appreciation even further into four different price categories:
- Lower Priced Homes: priced at 75% or less of the median
- Low-to-Middle Priced Homes: priced between 75-100% of the median
- Middle-to-Moderate Priced Homes: priced between 100-125% of the median
- High Price Homes: priced greater than 125% of the median
Here is how each category did in 2016:
The lower priced homes (which are more in demand) appreciated at greater rates than the homes at the upper ends of the spectrum.