Monthly Archives: April 2018

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Housing Outlook Says Take The Long View

If you spend any time following the real estate market or economy, you know there’s no shortage of data. Nearly every day there’s a new report detailing some corner of our economic lives, whether it’s consumer spending, mortgage rates, jobs, or home sales. But reading the day-to-day news reports can sometimes give you a distorted view of what’s really happening. That’s because monthly updates on the housing market’s ups-and-downs can be more volatile than a look at annual results. And so it’s important to take a big-picture view of the market from time to time. For example, Fannie Mae’s most recent Economic and Housing Outlook says, despite a slower-than-expected first quarter, the economy will continue to grow. And, according to Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist, home sales will also continue to improve, despite a more challenging environment for buyers. “Soft residential investment last quarter should prove temporary, as home sales resume their slow upward grind, with inventory shortages playing friend to prices but foe to affordability and sales.”


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Buyers Come Out Despite Market Challenges

For the second straight month, sales of previously owned homes increased from one month earlier, according to new numbers from the National Association of Realtors. In fact, sales of single-family homes, townhomes, condos, and co-ops, rose 1.1 percent to an annual rate of 5.60 million in March. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says warmer weather may have had something to do with the sales pickup. “Robust gains last month in the Northeast and Midwest – a reversal from the weather-impacted declines seen in February – helped overall sales activity rise to its strongest pace since last November at 5.72 million,” Yun said. Put simply, low inventory and higher prices have made the housing market more challenging for buyers in some markets but overall demand is running high and, as the weather improves, may even see further gains. For interested buyers, that means available homes are selling fast this spring. The NAR reports that the typical property was on the market for just 30 days in March and half of the homes that sold were purchased in less than a month.


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Busy Buyers Say They Hope To Avoid Renovations

Unless you’re buying a new house, you’re likely to be choosing which house to buy based on how much work it might need. And if you don’t have the time and expertise to do the work yourself, you’re going to have to factor possible remodeling costs into your buying equation. In other words, it can get complicated. That’s why, today’s home buyer says they’re looking for a move-in ready home that requires very little renovation. Busy schedules and tight budgets mean many Americans don’t have the resources or time to invest in a major kitchen overhaul or bathroom upgrade. But is it realistic to expect to find the perfect home in perfect condition at a time when many markets have lower-than-normal inventory levels? Well, probably not. That’s why buyers should have an idea about what they will or won’t compromise on before heading out to shop homes. Conversely, home sellers should think about any investments they can make before listing that might help sell their house at a higher price.


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Prices Below Peak In Nearly Half Of All Markets

If you’ve been at all interested in shopping for a home, you’ve likely heard news about rising home prices. Since the housing crash, home values have rebounded and, in some areas, the climb has been quick. However, news about increasing prices should be measured against how far they fell. In other words, though prices have rebounded, they are still below their previous peaks in many markets. In fact, according to recent numbers from ATTOM Data Solutions, median home prices are still below their pre-recession peaks in 46 percent of the 105 metro areas analyzed – including cities like Chicago, Baltimore, Tucson, Las Vegas, and New York-Newark-Jersey City. That’s why it’s always a good idea to look into where prices are in the specific neighborhoods where you’d most be interested in buying. Price increases will vary from one city to the next. So there may still be opportunities for buyers in the areas you’d like to live, despite home prices’ overall upward trend.


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Homes Sell At Fastest Recorded Pace In 2017

Making big decisions quickly is not usually a recipe for success. However, in today’s housing market, that’s exactly what home buyers have to do. That’s because homes are selling faster than ever these days. In fact, according to a recent analysis, the average home took 81 days to sell last year. And that includes closing, which usually takes four to six additional weeks. In other words, since many markets have more buyers than they do available homes, houses for sale are selling fast. So what should buyers do to prepare for possible competition? Well, for starters, adjust your expectations. A recent report from Zillow found the average buyer spends just over four months searching for a home and makes two offers before successfully buying a house. That means, expect a process. Outside of that, be prepared. Get prequalified, know what you want, what you want to spend, and what your dealbreakers are. The more prepared you are, the more likely you’ll make good decisions, even if they have to be made quickly.


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Americans Say Now Is The Time To Buy

Every month, Fannie Mae surveys Americans to better understand how they view the housing market, their personal finances, and the overall economy. Their Home Purchase Sentiment Index is a measure of how people around the country feel about buying or selling a home. And, according to the most recent results, they currently feel like it’s time to buy. In fact, there was a 10 percent increase in the number of respondents who said they felt like it was the right time compared to February’s survey. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s senior vice president and chief economist, says sentiment has been volatile lately. “The HPSI’s recent run of volatility continued in March, as it recovered last month’s loss and remained within the five-point range of the past twelve months,” Duncan said. “The primary driver of this month’s increase was the sizable rise in the net share of consumers who think it’s a good time to buy a home, which returned the indicator to its year-ago level.” Boosted optimism about buying a house may be due to the spring buying season or perhaps a feeling among potential buyers that affordability conditions may worsen if they wait.


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Most Counties More Affordable Than Historic Average

Pretty much anywhere you go there are parts of town that are more affordable than others. There are areas known for starter homes that attract young families and other parts where the homes come with higher price tags and significantly more square footage. Which part of town you end up buying a house in will be determined, in part, by what works for your lifestyle. But your budget and bottom line will ultimately have final say. Currently, with home prices and mortgage rates both trending upward, it may seem like there are fewer and fewer areas with affordable homes to choose from. This, however, is not entirely true. In fact, according to new numbers from ATTOM Data Solutions’ Q1 2018 U.S. Home Affordability Report, 59 percent of the 446 counties they analyzed were more affordable than their historic average. Furthermore, 27 percent of those counties actually posted a year-over-year increase in affordability – meaning prices were more affordable this year than last. Counties where this was true included Cook County (Chicago), Illinois; Harris County (Houston), Texas; Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona; Orange County, California; and Kings County (Brooklyn), New York. In short, though affordability conditions may have worsened generally, it’s always smart to look into what prices are doing in the neighborhoods that most appeal to you.


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What Buyers Should Know About Home Inspections

After finding a house to buy and making an offer, one of the next steps in the process is to get the home professionally inspected. This is done for a couple of reasons. One, it provides the home’s buyer with necessary information about the health and upkeep of the home’s various systems. But, additionally, it can be used to negotiate a fair price for the home. For example, if you made an offer on a house, then discovered during the inspection there were issues that might mean costly repairs, your offer could then be renegotiated to account for the previously unknown problem. In short, getting the house inspected is an important protection for buyers, who likely don’t have the expertise to thoroughly evaluate things like the home’s plumbing and electrical systems. But more than just a checklist, the inspection is also a good opportunity for buyers to get to know the house they’re buying and learn more about the condition of the home and the steps they’ll need to take to maintain it. For that reason, it’s a good idea, if possible, for buyers to be present during the inspection, so they can ask questions and get tips on properly caring for their new home.


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How Mortgage Rate Increases Affect Home Buyers

Mortgage rates have been increasing lately and there is an expectation that they will move higher this year. But while home prices get a lot of attention, rising mortgage rates are a little more difficult for buyers to calculate in terms of what it will cost them. Here’s some help. According to one recent model, a less than one percent increase in mortgage rates over the next year would result in a $100 increase to the typical monthly mortgage payment. But since the costs of homeownership are influenced by many different factors, this projection has to make certain assumptions about things like the rate at which home prices will increase, for example. In other words, any increase to mortgage rates will cost home buyers but just how much is difficult to calculate precisely. So what should home buyers expect? Well, since a stronger economy and improved job market make it more likely that the Fed will raise interest rates further this year, buyers should expect that mortgage rates will remain low by historical standards but continue to edge higher, taking monthly mortgage payments higher along with them.


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