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Housing optimism cools – what will it take to heat back up?

(REAL ESTATE NEWS) Despite economic gains and a hot housing market, optimism is cooling. Why is this happening and what’s the cure?

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Housing is a complex creature – the market can be on fire, but optimism can wane nonetheless. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) is reporting that despite solid job creation, the strength of the economy, and increased economic growth, many households are less keen on believing now is a good time for buying or selling, and are overall less confident about the economy.

This comes as a result of the fourth quarter HOME (Housing Opportunities and Market Experience) survey, which samples US households by a random digit-dial and was conducted by TehcnoMetrica Market Intelligence that gathered 2,705 households. The HOME survey collects data on a monthly basis and is focused on identifying real estate trends.

Despite an improving economy, more hiring, and low mortgage rates, optimism in home sales was not as expected, according to Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the NAR.

In general, most prospective home buyers had to deal with a lack of inventory – less construction, fewer sellers, and a lack of affordability.

Reduced economic confidence in the face of the economy’s improvements persisted, with more households feeling less secure about their financial situation, and less people believing the economy is improving. Simply put – they aren’t feeling it.

Renters are less engaged to buy, as demonstrated by a two percent decrease in renters believing now is a good time to go get that home.

Overall – the people most excited to purchase homes are current homeowners, households with income above $100,000, and those living in the Midwest and South. If you live in the West, it is likely that you believe yourself to be in a good market for selling a home.

Overall, people more firmly believe it is a good time to sell their home over last year, which can spell some good news for potential buyers in 2018, as more people may be comfortable putting their homes on the market.

The key is that housing supply must increase. New builds and more sellers placing homes on the market will improve confidence about the housing supply and can work in tandem with a better job market and improved economy to make households feel more optimistic about their #future.

Kam has a Master's degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and is an HR professional. Obsessed with food, but writing about virtually anything, he has a passion for LGBT issues, business, technology, and cats.

Real Estate Big Data

Time to fake gasp: Housing starts plummeted in April

(REAL ESTATE NEWS) The global pandemic has hard hit several sectors, and new home construction is one of them (to no one’s surprise).

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COVID-19 has hit the housing market, to literally no one’s surprise. Housing starts plummeted 30.2% in April as our globe struggled with how to social distance and survive an economic shut down. Home building activity hit a five-year low, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Compared to April 2019, housing starts dipped 29.7% across all four regions, despite many states allowing builder activity to continue as “essential” during stay-at-home orders sidelined many. During the same period, permits for housing fell 21%.

Starts didn’t fall for lack of trying, rather supply chain interruptions that we suspect will continue into the summer during this adjustment phase of reopening the economy.

May will likely continue the trend of restricted building activity. Most economists expect a widespread contraction in the second quarter. Housing alone isn’t braced for impact, rather combining that with a hit to the gross domestic product (GDP) as consumer spending and business investment continue to retract.

One silver lining is that despite this negative news, new home construction didn’t decline nearly as sharply as various other sectors of the American economy, a hopeful sign for the market.

Further, on the “relatively low level of single family starts and completions,” the The Calculated Risk blog calls this period the “wide bottom,” as they forecast “following the recession, and now I expect some further increases in single family starts and completions once the crisis abates.”

So take a big deep breath and fake gasp at the fake shock you’re feeling about housing starts slowing in April. And get ready to do it again in four weeks about May, then again in June. We’re not at the bottom, nor are we nearing it, and the market is changing, but no one is surprised that as the global pandemic hits the global economy, there will be ripples throughout every sector.

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Real Estate Big Data

What the most recent NAR survey says about home buying changes

(REAL ESTATE BIG DATA) Recent NAR survey shows a change in desires in home features and attitude toward buying in the future, once COVID is over.

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COVID-19 may have halted real estate sales, but once America isn’t sheltering in place any longer, home sales should go on. A May survey from the National Association of Realtors® provides insight into the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the real estate market.

The Economic Pulse Flash Survey surveyed over 90,000 members with a response rate of almost 2,300. The highlights are encouraging. Over 77% of potential home sellers will list their home once COVID-19 restrictions are released.

Home Buying/Home Selling Should Boom After COVID

Not only are home sellers planning on listing their homes, home buyers are getting ready to buy. Record-low mortgage rates stand posed to get people into new homes that offer stable payments. NAR also found:

  • Home buyers are looking at suburban communities rather than urban neighborhoods because of COVID-19.
  • Home buyers are shifting priorities of home features. The COVID-19 pandemic has made buyers look for homes with space for family and home offices. They also want yard space to exercise and to grow a garden.
  • Home sellers aren’t reducing listing prices to attract buyers in the COVID-19 aftermath.

Home Buying Delayed

NAR also found that most home buyers were simply delaying the process of home buying or relying on virtual communication to continue the process. Interestingly, 18% of Realtors reported that there was no change in the process.

These Realtors continue to meet with clients and show properties in person. But 30%o of residential home sellers were not allowing in-person showings. Another 36% were relying on virtual showings, while most were asking home buyers, appraisers and agents to use sanitation procedures to reduce the spread of the virus. Open houses are on pause.

We don’t know what the new normal will look like in a few months. Real estate might be experiencing a slow period right now. But there does seem to be hope that it will recover.

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Real Estate Big Data

People aren’t paying their mortgages, how can the market adjust?

(REAL ESTATE BIG DATA) COVID-19 has greatly impacted jobs which leads people to not be able to pay rent or mortgage, so how has the government responded, and what does that mean?

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Many people knew the spread of the coronavirus was going to be a big deal but it’s probably fair to guess that at the same time, it feels like it all elevated pretty quickly in the United States.

February feels like it was a lifetime ago and many may have been going about their day to day. Since early March, it has been a domino effect where people were pushed to work remotely (or let go), small businesses were forced to close their doors (or move to online sales), states put in shelter in place orders and mass events were cancelled. It’s no surprise that if you have to shut your business doors or you lose your job that without income, it’s hard to pay your bills.

The nationwide standard that we see is about 37% of one’s salary going to your housing (rent or mortgage – and of course, this varies across the nation). “The standard measure of housing affordability is 30% of pretax income.

Just last week, 4.4 million more Americans filed for unemployment (bringing the 5-week total to 26 million according to CNBC). Within those millions of people, there are a variety of stories – some have a spouse that is still working, some may have been good about their savings, some may be able to ask for help from friends or family, but many were living paycheck to paycheck and there’s nothing to fall back so this is a big blow.

The data told us last week that about 6% of Americans (3 million) have had to request to put their mortgage payment into forbearance. There are a lot of scary things going on right now, but you can imagine that it is really scary to not be able to pay for your housing. This is also very true for renters across the nation that were given notices from their landlords that they were still expected to pay – and pay on time.

How has the government responded?

The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act included a $2 trillion COVID-19 economic relief package that passed on March 27, 2020 with bipartisan support. It included many areas:

  • Housing
  • Credit Report & Student Loans
  • Small Business Administration Provisions
  • Infrastructure
  • Tax
  • Unemployment Benefits for Self-Employed
  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Amendments

Just like many packages, some are feeling left out or that they don’t meet the requirements for the aid, but in regards to the housing market, this past week was that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSE’s, Government Sponsored Enterprise) are now allowed to buy mortgage loans that are in forbearance which was not the case before.

Per Market Watch,

…In a forbearance agreement, a borrower may skip or make reduced payments for the duration of the agreement.

Moving forward, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be allowed to purchase loans in forbearance, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said this month.

“We are focused on keeping the mortgage market working for current and future homeowners during these challenging times,” FHFA Director Mark Calabria said in the statement. “Purchases of these previously ineligible loans will help provide liquidity to mortgage markets and allow originators to keep lending.”

“Typically, delinquent mortgages and loans in forbearance are ineligible for purchase by the two government-sponsored mortgage enterprises. The move to change the policy was made because some borrowers have sought forbearance shortly after closing, before the lender had the opportunity to sell the loans, the agency said.””

What does this even mean?

This announcement should loosen the market somewhat, although there are certain eligibility criteria and limits, according to FHFA:

  • The mortgage loan must have closed on or after Feb. 1, 2020, and on or before May 31, 2020.
  • The loan must be a mortgage purchase transaction or a no-cash-out refinance.
  • The loan cannot be more than 30 days delinquent.

In addition, eligible loans will be assessed an additional loan-level price adjustment — 5% for first-time homebuyers and 7% for non-first-time buyers.

If you read that for a second, does this only apply to people that literally bought their home right before March shelter in place announcements were made? Many are turning to their personal neighborhood Facebook groups to ask what others might be doing or if anyone has recommendations on what they can do if they have lost their sources of income.

Wherever you may be in shuffling things around to pay for your housing, this previous article, NAR Chief Economist’s COVID-19 worrisome predictions does give you some ideas on home loans and mortgage rates and what is happening in attempts for a housing recovery, as well as resources that are worth repeating: SBA loan programs , Unemployment Assistance, and Mortgage and Personal Finance policy.

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