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Amid the Pandemic, Mortgage Rates Set Records

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As residents of the U.S. sort through the many updates on the progress of containing the outbreak of COVID-19 cases, anxiously await news for a vaccine and patiently waiting to find out when life will return to some sense of normal, the U.S. economy fluctuates with the positive and not so encouraging updates.  Most recently, the news of the economic uncertainty due to the pandemic has impacted mortgage rates, yet again.

According to an article published by CNN, mortgage rates recently dropped below 3% for a 30 year mortgage.  This drop marked a 50 year record low for mortgage rates.  As a result, many home buyers, and those that were sitting on the fence debating purchasing a home, have decided that there’s no time like the present to make the move.  The demand for homes has increased, especially since the lower rates has allowed more prospective home buyers to afford homes that might have been just beyond their reach just a few short weeks ago.

However, just as the daily news cycle is filled with promise coupled with concerning medical and economic updates, the good news about rates is wrapped with a warning of what may be on the horizon.  Since the rise in coronavirus cases seems to be surging again, more job layoffs and even job losses could be inevitable.  Obviously, as unemployment rises, home buyers can be hesitant, if not unable, to purchase a home.

As the article quotes Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com, things could look up soon, “On the upside, signs of progress toward a coronavirus vaccine give hope that there’s a path to a new normal where health concerns don’t dominate decision making.”  We all hope that comes sooner rather than later.

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Will the Supply of Homes Catch Up with Increasing Demand?

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The global pandemic brought the U.S. real estate market to a screeching halt during the spring months of March and April.  With stay at home orders in place and uncertainty among Americans about the best ways to stay safe from the spread of COVID-19, many sellers decide to hold off or cancel listing their home for sale.  However, May has brought loosened restrictions for business and social interactions, leaving Americans feeling that it may be safer to resume some activities that had been put on the back-burner.  Specifically, Americans that want to purchase a new home are beginning to ramp up their search and even make offers to purchase homes.

However, the fact remains that the number of homeowners listing their homes had been steadily declining. And despite a small up-tick, the supply for homes continues to be low, down by almost 30% annually as of the first week of May.  Nevertheless, there is a significant number of potential home buyers that are looking to take advantage of low mortgage rates.  Not to mention, many Americans have spent more time in their current homes during stay at home orders, helping them realize they need a larger home, perhaps a home office or more outdoor space.  These factors have helped drive up the demand for homes in many parts of the U.S.

CNBC.com published an article by Diana Olick that describes a major uptick in bidding wars for homes as a result of the mismatched supply and demand.  In fact, the article says, “More than 41% of homes faced a bidding war in the four weeks ending May 10, according to Redfin.”  Realtors in areas such as Boston, San Francisco and Fort Worth, Texas, indicate that more than 60% of purchase offers are met with competition from other buyers.

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How is COVID-19 Impacting Real Estate Sales?

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The impacts of COVID-19 are far-reaching and include not just health concerns, but concerns about jobs and the economy.  An obvious result of the turbulent economy and the alarming rate Americans are losing their jobs is a down turn in the real estate market. 

According to an article published by Market Watch, “…the rapid rise in unemployment as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and its accompanying stay-at-home orders will curtail many Americans’ ability to afford a purchase as big as a home”, states reporter Jacob Passy.  Further, sellers are more hesitant to put their homes on the markets due to uncertainty about pricing and the desire to avoid strangers from entering their homes unnecessarily.As a result, Fannie Mae projects that home sales will fall by almost 15% in 2020. 

Yet, this doesn’t necessarily translate to bad news the prices of homes.  Fannie Mae still expects the median prices of homes to rise for both existing and new homes.  Further, the article states, “The mortgage giant currently expects the U.S. economy and home sales both to rebound in 2021. But that rebound is contingent on the pandemic’s trajectory.” 

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Why is Real Estate an Essential Business?

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As the nation, and most of the world, cope with the spread of COVID-19, many have been asked to stay at home, except to perform essential business.  As a result, many businesses have been required to close their doors for the time being, deemed “non-essential”.  However, a number of industries have been designated “essential businesses”, and, therefore, continue to operate.  One of these essential industries is real estate. 

Forbes published an article written by Dima Williams.  ““Life’s basic needs are food, water and a roof over your head, which makes real estate an essential service,” Florida Realtors, that state’s largest trade association, wrote late last month’, Williams writes. Many aspects of the real estate industry are deemed essential such as settlement services; staff that perform title search, notary and recording services for real estate transactions; leasing of residential properties; property management and maintenance; and construction. 

Despite the fact that life seems to be “on hold” for many people and businesses, the fact is that many life changes continue to occur during the pandemic.  This includes people needing to find housing due to homes being sold and landlords providing notices.  Nevertheless, the method in which these aspects of real estate continue to be executed may have changed a bit.  For example, appraisers may complete a “drive by” appraisal, home buyers view homes via virtual tours and when a home is sold, it may be completed via a “drive thru closing”.  

Its clear that important work continues to be done by these professionals, helping bring some glimpse of normalcy to the professionals as well as the clients that need them.

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Unmarried Couple Purchasing a Home? Important Conversations to Have Before Taking the Leap

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One of the biggest decisions adults will make in their lifetime involves purchasing a home.  It’s a long term commitment and, for many, one of the most expensive purchases they will make.  Another commitment a number of adults will make in their lifetime is to live with their significant other and purchase a home together.  Yet, it isn’t always a married couple that is deciding to make a home purchase together.  In fact, the number of unwed couples living together has increased almost 30% since 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

According to an article, published by Bankrate.com, there can be some considerations that unmarried couples should account for as they decide to purchase a home together since property laws don’t protect the individuals if the couple separates or one person passes away.  In the article, journalist Natalie Campisi states, “Because the law treats unmarried couples like individuals when it comes to assets like real estate, it’s up to the couple to write their own rules that will dictate how their property is handled in the event of separation or death.”

The article suggests couples agree to a “cohabitation property agreement” which touches on areas such as the percentage of the house each party owns, a buyout agreement, and exit strategy among others. It may be a difficult conversation to have in the midst of the excitement that comes along with an momentous life decision.  Yet, its financially wise to plan for the unexpected, even if it seems unlikely or impossible. 

Read the entire article for more tips and advice.

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Do Buyers Really Need a 20% Down Payment To Buy a House?

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Many homeowners may remember setting aside money each month in order to save the 20% down payment necessary to purchase a home, especially to avoid having to pay PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance.)  However, more and more first time home buyers are deciding to purchase a home before they have saved the 20% down payment.

According to an article published by Business Insider, reporter Liz Knueven states, “For many young Americans struggling with student-loan payments, higher rent costs, and relatively stagnant salaries, saving a fifth of a home’s value to get a mortgage simply isn’t on the radar.” 

Real estate professionals aren’t against the idea either.  For first time home buyers, especially near large cities where home values are steep, saving the 20% down payment can take many years.  Instead of saving the cash, buyers can purchase a home and begin building equity, even while paying the PMI of .3%-1.2%.  As the home builds in value, homeowners may be able to drop the PMI, once the mortgage value reaches 78%-80%.

Despite the decrease in home buyers waiting to have the 20% down payment, there are still advantages to a larger down payment if its possible.  It can help edge out competition in a multiple offer situation on a home, can help secure a lower interest rate and save the cost of the PMI each month. 

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Experts Make Predictions for the 2020 Real Estate Market

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As 2019 comes to a close, the trends of the real estate market for the past year are being reviewed an analyzed.  However, just as it is with all new beginnings, there is also much anticipation and speculation about what 2020 will bring for real estate professionals, home owners and potential homeowners.  Unfortunately, some real estate experts are not seeing much change in the low housing inventory trend in the coming year.

In an article published by Forbes, written by Aly J Yale, Yale states, “…According to the 2020 National Housing Forecast from Realtor.com, the national housing shortage will continue in the New Year, possibly reaching “a historic low level.”  Inventory growth is absent in nine out of ten markets, down from a much more optimistic two of three markets seeing growth at the beginning of 2019.

Contributing to the problem, homeowners are remaining in their homes longer, averaging 13 years.  Additionally, although home construction has seen growth, most of the new homes are “upper-tier” homes.  This leaves entry home buyers little supply in contrast to the large demand.  With homes for sale in the lowest price tier down 10 percent through 2019.

Some positive news to look forward to are the anticipation of mortgage rates remaining low and home prices remaining steady, maybe declining in some markets. 

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Photo Credit: Mark Moz

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Home Prices are Increasing- Are Homes Less Affordable?

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Real Estate professionals and publications have recently began to educate home owners and potential home buyers with current market trends.  The common message is that there is an increase in home buyers but the supply of homes for sale is declining.  The natural consequence of this low supply and high demand situation is for home prices to increase.   The projected home values are continuing to increase, in fact experts have even adjusted their projections based on current market reports.  According to an article published in The Patch, “CoreLogic increased their 12-month projection for home values from 4.5% to 5.6% over the last few months.”

Naturally, buyers become concerned that home prices are causing them to be priced out of a home or a neighborhood.  However, the increase in home prices can’t be analyzed in a bubble.  Other factors must be taken into account to determine whether or not increasing home prices are really making homes unaffordable. 

In the article, written by Keith Kreis, other factors that should also be taken into consideration are discussed.  For example, mortgage interest rates have dropped since the beginning of 2019 which has increased home affordability by almost 10 percent.  Additionally, American workers are seeing wage growth by as much as 1.5% since last fall.  By taking these additional economic factors into consideration, one might argue that, at this point in time, buying a home is more affordable than its been.

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Real Estate Experts Weigh In on Cause of Low Housing Inventory

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Real Estate professionals and analysts have continued to look into why there continues to be a decrease in housing inventory along with rising home prices.  Redfin has determined that more Americans are deciding to stay exactly where they are instead of moving on to another home.  In fact, they have found that, “the typical American homeowner is now staying in their home for five years longer than they did just nine years ago.”

In an article published by Housing Wire, reporter Julia Falcon states that the average homeowner in the U.S. is staying in their home for about 13 years instead of only 8 years as they did in 2010.  There are U.S. cities that blow those statistics out of the water with homeowners deciding to stay in their homes for 20 years or more.  Cities such as Salt Lake City, Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas are in Texas see home owners that have stayed in their homes since the 1950s. 

According to the article, “Redfin agent Christopher Dillard states ‘Because prices have been going up, and folks are gaining more and more equity, it’s hard to justify selling when there aren’t many if any affordable options.’”

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Real Estate Expert’s Grim Outlook on the Housing Market

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Some real estate experts are concerned about the future of the real estate market and their conclusions about the real estate market may make some homeowners take pause.

In an article published by DSNews.com, titled “Residential Real Estate on ‘Shaky Ground’”, an interview with real estate analyst Keith Jurow is summarized.  The article states he doesn’t believe there was really any real estate recovery, In fact, according to Jurow, “the “illusion” stems from lenders and mortgage services not putting foreclosed properties on the market.” 

The market is at risk of due to factors such as subprime mortgages, poor home sales and mortgage defaults, despite many mortgages being modified.  Shockingly, the article notes, “There are currently $800 billion of subprime mortgages still outstanding, many of which have not been paid at all in the last five years.”

Jurow’s alarming conclusion is homeowners considering selling before the market gets much worse.  Read the entire article.

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