The real estate market was on fire during the second half of 2020. Buyer demand was way up, and the supply of homes available for sale hit record lows. The price of anything is determined by the supply and demand ratio, so home prices skyrocketed last year. Dr. Lynn Fisher, Deputy Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Division of Research and Statistics, explains:
“House prices nationwide recorded the largest annual and quarterly increase in the history of the FHFA Home Price Index. Low mortgage rates, pent up demand from homebuyers, and a limited housing supply propelled every region of the country to experience faster growth in 2020 compared to a year ago despite the pandemic.”
Here are the year-end home price appreciation numbers from the FHFA and two other prominent pricing indexes:
There have been a lot of headlines reporting on how homeowner equity (the difference between the current market value of your home and the amount you owe on your mortgage) has dramatically increased over the past few years. CoreLogic indicated that equity increased for the average homeowner by $17,000 in the last year alone. ATTOM Data Solutions, in their latest U.S. Home Equity Report, revealed that 30.2% of the 59 million mortgaged homes in the United States have at least 50% equity. That doesn’t even include the 38% of homes that are owned free and clear, meaning they don’t have a mortgage at all.
How can equity help a household?
Having equity in your home can dramatically impact your life. Equity is like a savings account you can tap into when you need cash. Like any other savings, you should be sensible in how you use it, though. Here are three good reasons to consider using your equity.
1. You’re experiencing financial hardship (job loss, medical expenses, etc.)
Equity gives you options during difficult financial times. With equity, you could refinance your house to get cash which may ease the burden. It also puts you in a better position to talk to the bank about restructuring your home loan until you can get back on your feet.
Today, there are 2.7 million Americans who are currently in a forbearance program because of the pandemic. Ninety percent of those in the program have at least 10% equity. That puts them in a better position to get a loan modification instead of facing foreclosure because many banks will see the equity as a form of collateral in a new deal. If you’re in this position, even if you can’t get a modification, the equity allows you the option to sell your house and walk away with your equity instead of losing the house and your investment in it.
2. You need money to start a new business
We’ve all heard the stories about how many great American companies started in the founder’s garage (i.e., Disney, Hewlett Packard, Apple, Yankee Candle, Keeping Current Matters). What we might not realize, however, is the garage (along with the rest of the home) supplied the start-up money for many of these companies in the form of a refinance.
If you’re passionate about an idea you have for a new product or service, the equity in your home may enable you to make that dream a reality.
3. You want to invest in a loved one’s future
It’s been a long-standing tradition in this country for many households to help pay college expenses for their children. Some have tapped into the equity in their homes to do that.
Additionally, George Ratiu, Senior Economist for realtor.com, notes:
“52% of Americans who bought their first home in 2020 said they got help with their down payment from friends or family. The number one lender? Their parents.”
It’s safe to assume a percentage of that down payment money likely came from home equity.
Savings in any form is a good thing. The forced savings you can earn from making a mortgage payment enables you to build wealth through home equity. That equity can come in handy in both good and more challenging times.
Home values appreciated by about ten percent in 2020, and they’re forecast to appreciate by about five percent this year. This has some voicing concern that we may be in another housing bubble like the one we experienced a little over a decade ago. Here are three reasons why this market is totally different.
1. This time, housing supply is extremely limited
The price of any market item is determined by supply and demand. If supply is high and demand is low, prices normally decrease. If supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally increase.
In real estate, supply and demand are measured in “months’ supply of inventory,” which is based on the number of current homes for sale compared to the number of buyers in the market. The normal months’ supply of inventory for the market is about 6 months. Anything above that defines a buyers’ market, indicating prices will soften. Anything below that defines a sellers’ market in which prices normally appreciate.
Between 2006 and 2008, the months’ supply of inventory increased from just over 5 months to 11 months. The months’ supply was over 7 months in twenty-seven of those thirty-six months, yet home values continued to rise.
Months’ inventory has been under 5 months for the last 3 years, under 4 for thirteen of the last fourteen months, under 3 for the last six months, and currently stands at 1.9 months – a historic low.
Remember, if supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally increase.
2. This time, housing demand is real
During the housing boom in the mid-2000s, there was what Robert Schiller, a fellow at the Yale School of Management’s International Center for Finance, called “irrational exuberance.” The definition of the term is, “unfounded market optimism that lacks a real foundation of fundamental valuation, but instead rests on psychological factors.” Without considering historic market trends, people got caught up in the frenzy and bought houses based on an unrealistic belief that housing values would continue to escalate.
The mortgage industry fed into this craziness by making mortgage money available to just about anyone, as shown in the Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI) published by the Mortgage Bankers Association. The higher the index, the easier it is to get a mortgage; the lower the index, the more difficult it is to obtain one. Prior to the housing boom, the index stood just below 400. In 2006, the index hit an all-time high of over 868. Again, just about anyone could get a mortgage. Today, the index stands at 122.5, which is well below even the pre-boom level.
In the current real estate market, demand is real, not fabricated. Millennials, the largest generation in the country, have come of age to marry and have children, which are two major drivers for homeownership. The health crisis is also challenging every household to redefine the meaning of “home” and to re-evaluate whether their current home meets that new definition. This desire to own, coupled with historically low mortgage rates, makes purchasing a home today a strong, sound financial decision. Therefore, today’s demand is very real.
Remember, if supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally increase.
3. This time, households have plenty of equity
Again, during the housing boom, it wasn’t just purchasers who got caught up in the frenzy. Existing homeowners started using their homes like ATM machines. There was a wave of cash-out refinances, which enabled homeowners to leverage the equity in their homes. From 2005 through 2007, Americans pulled out $824 billion dollars in equity. That left many homeowners with little or no equity in their homes at a critical time. As prices began to drop, some homeowners found themselves in a negative equity situation where the mortgage was higher than the value of their home. Many defaulted on their payments, which led to an avalanche of foreclosures.
Today, the banks and the American people have shown they learned a valuable lesson from the housing crisis a little over a decade ago. Cash-out refinance volume over the last three years was less than a third of what it was compared to the 3 years leading up to the crash.
This conservative approach has created levels of equity never seen before. According to Census Bureaudata, over 38% of owner-occupied housing units are owned ‘free and clear’ (without any mortgage). Also, ATTOM Data Solutions just released their fourth quarter 2020 U.S. Home Equity Report, which revealed:
“17.8 million residential properties in the United States were considered equity-rich, meaning that the combined estimated amount of loans secured by those properties was 50 percent or less of their estimated market value…The count of equity-rich properties in the fourth quarter of 2020 represented 30.2 percent, or about one in three, of the 59 million mortgaged homes in the United States.”
If we combine the 38% of homes that are owned free and clear with the 18.7% of all homes that have at least 50% equity (30.2% of the remaining 62% with a mortgage), we realize that 56.7% of all homes in this country have a minimum of 50% equity. That’s significantly better than the equity situation in 2008.
This time, housing supply is at a historic low. Demand is real and rightly motivated. Even if there were to be a drop in prices, homeowners have enough equity to be able to weather a dip in home values. This is nothing like 2008. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.
As we approach the anniversary of the hardships we’ve faced through this pandemic and the subsequent recession, it’s normal to reflect on everything that’s changed and wonder what’s ahead for 2021. While there are signs of economic recovery as vaccines are being issued, we still have a long way to go. It’s at times like these we want exact information about anything we’re doing. That information brings knowledge, and this gives us a sense of relief and comfort in uncertain times.
If you’re thinking about buying or selling a home today, the same need for information is very real. But, because it’s such a big step in our lives, that desire for clear information is even greater in the homebuying or selling process. Given the current level of overall anxiety, we want that advice to be truly perfect. The challenge is, no one can give you “perfect” advice. Experts can, however, give you the best advice possible.
Let’s say you need an attorney, so you seek out an expert in the type of law required for your case. When you go to her office, she won’t immediately tell you how the case is going to end or how the judge or jury will rule. If she could, that would be perfect advice. What a good attorney can do, however, is discuss with you the most effective strategies you can take. She may recommend one or two approaches she believes will be best for your case.
She’ll then leave you to make the decision on which option you want to pursue. Once you decide, she can help you put a plan together based on the facts at hand. She’ll help you achieve the best possible resolution and make whatever modifications in the strategy are necessary to guarantee that outcome. That’s an example of the best advice possible.
The role of a real estate professional is just like the role of a lawyer. An agent can’t give you perfect advice because it’s impossible to know exactly what’s going to happen throughout the transaction – especially in this market.
An agent can, however, give you the best advice possible based on the information and situation at hand, guiding you through the process to help you make the necessary adjustments and best decisions along the way. An agent will lead you to the best offer available. That’s exactly what you want and deserve.
If you’re thinking of buying or selling this year, let’s connect to make sure you get the best advice possible.
What’s the Difference between an Appraisal and a Home Inspection?
If you’re planning to buy a home, an appraisal is an important step in the process. It’s a professional evaluation of the market value of the home you’d like to buy. In most cases, an appraisal is ordered by the lender to confirm or verify the value of the home prior to lending a buyer money for the purchase. It’s also a different step in the process from a home inspection, which assesses the condition of the home before you finalize the transaction. Here’s the breakdown of each one and why they’re both important when buying a home.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) explains:
“A home purchase is typically the largest investment someone will make. Protect yourself by getting your investment appraised! An appraiser will observe the property, analyze the data, and report their findings to their client. For the typical home purchase transaction, the lender usually orders the appraisal to assist in the lender’s decision to provide funds for a mortgage.”
When you apply for a mortgage, an unbiased appraisal (which is required by the lender) is the best way to confirm the value of the home based on the sale price. Regardless of what you’re willing to pay for a house, if you’ll be using a mortgage to fund your purchase, the appraisal will help make sure the bank doesn’t loan you more than what the home is worth.
This is especially critical in today’s sellers’ market where low inventory is driving an increase in bidding wars, which can push home prices upward. When sellers are in a strong position like this, they tend to believe they can set whatever price they want for their house under the assumption that competing buyers will be willing to pay more.
However, the lender will only allow the buyer to borrow based on the value of the home. This is what helps keep home prices in check. If there’s ever any confusion or discrepancy between the appraisal and the sale price, your trusted real estate professional will help you navigate any additional negotiations in the buying process.
Here’s the key difference between an appraisal and an inspection. MSNexplains:
“In simplest terms, a home appraisal determines the value of a home, while a home inspection determines the condition of a home.”
The home inspection is a way to determine the current state, safety, and condition of the home before you finalize the sale. If anything is questionable in the inspection process – like the age of the roof, the state of the HVAC system, or just about anything else – you as a buyer have the option to discuss and negotiate any potential issues or repairs with the seller before the transaction is final. Your real estate agent is a key expert to help you through this part of the process.
The appraisal and the inspection are critical steps when buying a home, and you don’t need to manage them by yourself. Let’s connect today so you have the expert guidance you need to navigate through the entire homebuying process.
Owning a Home Is Still More Affordable Than Renting One
If spending more time at home over the past year is making you really think hard about buying a home instead of renting one, you’re not alone. You may be wondering, however, if the dollars and cents add up in your favor as home prices continue to rise. According to the experts, in many cases, it’s still more affordable to buy a home than rent one. Here’s why.
“Owning a median-priced three-bedroom home is more affordable than renting a three-bedroom property in 572, or 63 percent of the 915 U.S. counties analyzed for the report.
That has happened even though median home prices have increased more than average rents over the past year in 83 percent of those counties and have risen more than wages in almost two-thirds of the nation.”
How is this possible?
The answer: historically low mortgage interest rates. Todd Teta, Chief Product Officer with ATTOM Data Solutions, explains:
“Home-prices are rising faster than rents and wages in a majority of the country. Yet, home ownership is still more affordable, as amazingly low mortgage rates that dropped below 3 percent are helping to keep the cost of rising home prices in check.”
In 2020, mortgage rates reached all-time lows 16 times, and so far, they’re continuing to hover in low territory this year. These low rates are a big factor in driving affordability. Teta also notes:
“It’s startling to see that kind of trend. But it shows how both the cost of renting has been relatively high compared to the cost of ownership and how declining interest rates are having a notable impact on the housing market and home ownership. The coming year is totally uncertain, amid so many questions connected to the Coronavirus pandemic and the broader economy. But right now, owning a home still appears to be a financially-sound choice for those who can afford it.”
If you’re considering buying a home this year, let’s connect today to discuss the options that match your budget while affordability is in your favor.
According to many experts, the real estate market is expected to continue growing in 2021, and it’s largely driven by the lasting impact the pandemic is having on our lifestyles. As many of us spend extra time at home, we’re reevaluating what “home” means and what we may need in one going forward.
Here are 4 reasons people are reconsidering where they live and why they’re expecting to buy a home this year.
1. Record-Low Mortgage Interest Rates
In 2020, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage hit a record low 16 times, continuing to fall further below 3%. According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-year fixed interest rate today is 2.65%. Many wonder how low these rates will go and how long they’ll last. Len Keifer, Deputy Chief Economist for Freddie Mac, advises:
“If you’ve found a home that fits your needs at a price you can afford, it might be better to act now rather than wait for future rate declines that may never come and a future that likely holds very tight inventory.”
This sense of urgency is driving many to buy this year.
2. Working from Home
Remote work is a new normal for many businesses, and it’s lasting longer than most expected. Many in the workforce today are discovering they don’t need to live close to the office anymore and they can get more for their money by moving a little further outside of the city limits. David Mele, President at Homes.com, says:
“The surge in the work-from-home population has rewritten the playbook for many homebuying and rental decisions, from when and where to relocate, to what people are looking for in their next residence.”
The reality is, for some people, working remotely in their current home is challenging, especially when there may be other options available.
3. More Outdoor Space
Another new priority for homeowners is having more usable outdoor space. Being at home is driving those in some areas to seek less densely populated neighborhoods so they have more room to stretch their legs. In addition, those living in apartments and townhomes are often looking for extra square footage, both inside and out.
According to the State of Home Spending report by HomeAdvisor, of the households surveyed, almost half reported spending 27% more on outdoor living over the past year. This is a trend that’s expected to grow in 2021 and beyond.
4. Avoiding Renovations
It’s recently come to light that many homeowners would also rather buy a new home than go through the process of fixing up the one they have. According to the 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 44% of homebuyers purchased a new home to “avoid renovations or problems with the plumbing or electricity.”
Depending on what needs to be addressed, today’s high buyer demand may make it possible to skip some renovations before selling. Many of these homeowners have prioritized buying over renovating for convenience and potential cost savings.
It’s clear that homeownership needs are changing. As a result, Americans are expected to move in record numbers this year. If you’re trying to decide if now is the right time to buy a home, let’s connect today to discuss your options.
If one of the questions you’re asking yourself is, “Should I sell my house this year?” consumer sentiment about selling today should boost your confidence in the right direction. Even with the current health crisis that continues to challenge our nation, Americans still feel good about selling a house. Here’s why.
According to the latest Home Purchase Sentiment Index from Fannie Mae, 57% of consumer respondents to their survey indicate now is a good time to buy a home, while 59% feel it’s a good time to sell one:
“The percentage of respondents who say it is a good time to sell a home remained the same at 59%, while the percentage who say it’s a bad time to sell decreased from 35% to 33%. As a result, the net share of those who say it is a good time to sell increased 2 percentage points month over month.”
As you can see, many still believe that, despite everything going on in the world, it is still a good time to sell a house.
Why is now a good time to sell?
There simply are not enough homes available to meet today’s buyer demand, and they’re selling just as quickly as they’re coming to the market. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), unsold inventory available today sits at a 2.3-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from a 2.5-month supply from the previous month. This record-low inventory is not even half of what we need for a normal or neutral housing market, which should have a 6.0-month supply of unsold inventory to balance out.
With so few homes available for buyers to choose from, we’re in a true sellers’ market. Homeowners ready to make a move right now have the opportunity to negotiate the best possible contracts with buyers who are feeling the pull of intense competition when it comes to finding their dream home. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for NAR, notes how quickly homes are selling right now, further confirming the benefits to sellers this season:
“The market is incredibly swift this winter with the listed homes going under contract on average at less than a month due to a backlog of buyers wanting to take advantage of record-low mortgage rates.”
However, this sweet spot for sellers won’t last forever. As more homes are listed this year, this tip toward sellers may start to wane. According to Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com, more choices for buyers are on the not-too-distant horizon:
“The bright spot for buyers is that more homes are likely to become available in the last six months of 2021. That should give folks more options to choose from and take away some of their urgency. With a larger selection, buyers may not be forced to make a decision in mere hours and will have more time to make up their minds.”
If you’re ready to make a move, you can feel good about the current sentiment in the market and the advantageous conditions for today’s sellers. Let’s connect today to determine the best next step when it comes to selling your house this year.
The housing market was a shining star in 2020, fueling the economic turnaround throughout the country. As we look forward to 2021, can we expect real estate to continue showing such promise? Here’s what four experts have to say about the year ahead.
“With home builder confidence near record highs, we expect continued gains for single-family construction, albeit at a lower growth rate than in 2019. Some slowing of new home sales growth will occur due to the fact that a growing share of sales has come from homes that have not started construction. Nonetheless, buyer traffic will remain strong given favorable demographics, a shifting geography of housing demand to lower-density markets and historically low interest rates.”
“Mortgage rates are expected to remain low for the foreseeable future and millennials will continue forming households, keeping demand robust, even if income growth moderates. Despite the best intentions of home builders to provide more housing supply, the big short in housing supply will continue into 2021 and likely keep house price appreciation flying high.”
Whether you’re ready to buy or sell a home in 2021, if you’re planning to take advantage of the market this winter, let’s connect to talk about the opportunities available in our local market.