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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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Positive Trends in Home Purchases are Encouraging to Real Estate Professionals

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Across the country, Americans have been sheltering in place and practicing social distancing in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19.  Many normal activities have been modified or even put on hold.  With the slow reopening of the country, many potential home buyers have emerged and seem to be ready to take the leap into home ownership.

Mortgage applications, according to an article published by CNBC.com, rose for the fourth consecutive week, up by an encouraging 11 percent.  Despite the fact that, overall, mortgage applications are still about 10 percent lower than they were this time in 2019, it appears the gap is closing.

The article, written by Ty Wright, quotes MBA economist Joel Kan, ‘”We expect this positive purchase trend to continue — at varying rates across the country — as states gradually loosen social distancing measures, and some of the pent-up demand for housing returns in what is typically the final weeks of the spring home buying season.”’

Despite the fact that refinance applications have been on the decline, after a very busy early spring, it appears home purchases may fill that gap. In fact, according to the article, mortgage applications are up pretty significantly, “New York led the purchase demand with a 14% jump in those applications. Illinois, Florida, Georgia, California and North Carolina also had double-digit increases last week.” It seems buyers, anxious to return to some normal life activities and move forward with purchasing their first or next home, are encouraged by mortgage rates that are still below 3.5% for a 30 year period.

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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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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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How Do Homeowners Really Feel About Trying To Sell?

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The idea of moving to a new house can be exciting.  Perhaps its to a new town full of possibilities, maybe it’s a bigger house in the suburbs allowing kids to play in a big back yard and have their own bedrooms, it may even be a smaller, easier to maintain house allowing more free time to do the things people love instead of home repairs and yard work.  However, for many Americans, they must first sell their current home before moving on to their next dream home. This phase of the real estate process is the source of angst for many homeowners.

The 2019 Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trend Report revealed many aspects of the home selling process cause stress for the homeowner trying to sell their home.  In an article published by MBA Newslink, it was summarized that, “not knowing if a home will sell within the desired time frame is the largest source of stress for sellers, with 56% calling it a stressful experience. Meanwhile, 53% of sellers worry about not being able to sell their home for the price they want; and 52% were stressed about an offer falling through.”

Sellers worry that they won’t sell their current home in time to comfortably purchase their next home, while others worry that they won’t be able to keep the house in the desired condition to sell the home, and still other homeowners find the idea of leaving their home for showings and open houses a stressful situation.  Home buyers can be so overwhelmed, their stress matches or exceeds the prospect of planning a wedding or getting fired from a job. 

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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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Why Would a Real Estate Broker Publish Agent Commissions?

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At the start of September 2019, real estate firm Redfin made a change to the way they communicate with their customers and potential customers.   They have made the decision to provide more information on the homes they have listed for sale, specifically detailing how much the buyer’s agent will make upon the sale of the listed home.

According to an article published by Forbes, “…nearly 40% of recent home buyers don’t understand how their real estate agent was paid,”  while 13% indicated they had “no idea” how much or how the agent was paid upon closing.  With the recent announcement of the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, allowing brokers to share details of the commission deals, Redfin decided to get out in front of the trend sure to spread to other regional areas.

Perhaps buyers have become more interested in the ways commissions are negotiated after a few law suits alleging “….collusion, inflated commissions, and price-fixing, among other things.” To head off any concerns and to satisfy buyer’s desire for transparency, some agents feel that this up-front approach helps ease the minds of their customers.  As one Redfin broker, Paul Reid of Boise, ID,  stated, “Showing consumers the commission a seller is offering a buyer’s agent is a great win for making real estate more transparent. When a buyer has a better understanding of how his agent is being paid and the costs the seller is incurring, he can make a more informed decision on what to offer.”

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How Do Kids Affect Home Buying Decisions?

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Home buyers take many factors into consideration during their home search.  Price, size, location are a few that top the list for many.  When home buyers have children living at home, the search can get more complicated and additional criteria can narrow the field of prospective homes.

In a recent article published in HousingWire, Alcynna Lloyd details how home buyers with children versus home buyers without children vary in their home buying process.  With a nod to the season of “back to school”, Lloyd references a report from the National Association of Realtors where NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said. “Of course, affordability is a part of the decision, but we have seen buyers with kids willing to spend a little more in order to land a home in a better school zone or district.” 

Confirming what many assumed to be true, the report details that more than half of home buyers that have children living at home base their search criteria on the neighborhood’s school district.  In comparison, only 10% of home buyers without children take the school district into consideration when making their home purchase. 

Additionally, childless homeowners do not feel as much pressure to sell a home quickly.  Only 14% indicated that when selling a home, speed of sale was an issue.  In contrast, 23% of homeowners with children reported selling their home with a sense of urgency.  Perhaps the timing of a school year approaching, feeling that they have outgrown a home or other financial factors influenced these households.  Nevertheless, they may be more likely to accept an offer that is not ideal.

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Photo Credit: Marco Verch

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Is Housing Market Ready to Rebound?

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Homeowners trying to or thinking about putting their home on the market may have been a little hesitant based on the trends in the real estate market over the past year.  As real estate professionals know, and homeowners may have noticed, the real estate market took a turn last summer.  An increased number of homes hit the market, but higher prices and decreased sales, the outlook for homeowners was less than ideal.

However, homeowners may be able to breathe a sigh of relief as this slump could be coming to an end.  With mortgage rates dipping below 4 percent and a slowed housing inventory, it appears prices and home sales should begin to climb again.

According to an article published on Realtor.com, written by Clare Trapasso, “…much of the fate of the housing market relies on mortgage interest rates. If they stay low, buyers have more money to spend on homes. So prices have more room to rise.”  However, homeowners should be aware, despite a high demand for homes as younger buyers begin their families and look to settle down, current buyers, Chief Economist Danielle Hale of realtor.com®  warns “seem a little more patient. They’re more willing to wait for a good property.”

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