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Real Estate Big Data

Volume of contracts signed on homes dips 4.9% (but it’s okay…)

(REAL ESTATE BIG DATA) Contracts signed are down, but compared to years past that’s not unusual. To know the market health many other factors must be taken into account.

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pending home sales contracts

Pending home sales (the volume of contracts signed on homes) had ticked up in November, but took a meaningful stumble in December, sliding 4.9%, with all four regions declining. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the Southern region had the biggest dip, falling 5.5%, closely followed by the West which was down 5.4%, and the Northeast down 4.0%, with the Midwest outperforming them all while still sliding down 3.6%.

While that all sounds awful, it’s not exactly unexpected and no reason for panic.

The volume of contracts signed always falls in December as the holidays and weather tend to derail business for the latter half of the month. In fact, contracts are actually up 7.4% in the South compared to December 2018, up 7.0% in the West, and 1.3% higher in the Midwest compared to last year. The only region experiencing contraction annually is the Northeast, down a scant 0.1% for the time period.

Nationally, the index rose 4.6% from the previous year.

Dr. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s Chief Economist cites several factors challenging the industry. Although he points to low mortgage rates (which are forecast to remain under 4% for most of this year) and job growth, tight inventory continues to hold the market back. Still.

If you’ve read The American Genius for more than 30 seconds, you know that this alarm bell has been rung repeatedly in recent years.

“Due to the shortage of affordable homes, home sales growth will only rise by around 3%,” Dr. Yun notes. “Still, national median home price growth is in no danger of falling due to inventory shortages and will rise by 4%. The new home construction market also looks brighter, with housing starts and new home sales set to rise 6% and 10%, respectively.”

But what of that restricted inventory? Dr. Yun points to home builders as the determining factor in the performance of real estate this year.

“The state of housing in 2020 will depend on whether home builders bring more affordable homes to the market,” Dr. Yun stated. “Home prices and even rents are increasing too rapidly, and more inventory would help correct the problem and slow price gains.”

So will builders increase their activity. It remains uncertain, but according to the National Association of Home Builders, builder confidence closed the year out at its highest rate since 1999, and market conditions have improved substantially (for example, lending standards are not quite choking builders out as they had previously done, making land and material purchases difficult).

Look for housing starts to tick up in 2020 and (fingers crossed) for inventory levels to loosen to a less dramatic level and allow in more buyers that have continued to be pushed out of the market.

The American Genius' real estate section is honest, up to the minute real estate industry news crafted for industry practitioners - we cut through the pay-to-play news fluff to bring you what's happening behind closed doors, what's meaningful to your practice, and what to expect in the future. Consider us your competitive advantage.

Real Estate Big Data

International interest in US real estate is waning

(REAL ESTATE BIG DATA) New NAR survey shows the continued decline of international interest in US properties.

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Evictions, boomerang kids, and bankruptcies, oh my! What other dramatic twists does 2020 have in store for the housing market? Apparently, now international interest in US homes is waning.

The National Association of Realtors recently released a study showing foreign investment in US homes is down 5%, marking a second consecutive year of decline.

From April 2019 to March 2020, home sales to both recent US immigrants and buyers residing overseas have decreased 8% and 1% respectively compared to the previous twelve month period.

The report highlights a few more key findings: Notably, Chinese buyers continue to be incredibly influential on global real estate markets, and the US is no exception. But Canada is also an important player here in the States. Since 2013, China and Canada have led US residential sales by dollar volume, buying $11.5 billion and $9.5 billion in houses respectively last year.

Those large numbers are partially thanks to the fact that houses sold to international buyers tend to be more expensive compared to the national median, as many choose to live in cities or expensive states like California and New York. Florida, though, remains the undisputed champion for attracting foreign house hunters, accounting for 22% of home sales to international clients.

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun states that some international buyers, like American residents, find it challenging to purchase homes in the US due to a lack of housing inventory. Other contributing factors include “less cross-border travel, falling international trade and fewer foreign students attending American universities,” says Yun.

The NAR press release asserts that international interest in US real estate is still strong. As Americans migrate to more affordable, less populated areas at this time, according to Yun, “better opportunities may become available for foreign buyers in large US cities like New York and San Francisco.”

But the late spring and summer months responsible for the majority of the impact of COVID-19 in the United States are not part of the scope of this study. And while I know nobody wants to admit it, the full extent of COVID-19 remains to be seen in this country. This decline could indicate the start of a larger trend, but only time will tell.

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Real Estate Big Data

Real estate myths created during the pandemic

(REAL ESTATE BIG DATA) Real estate is a finicky field, but the most popular myths surrounding the effects of COVID-19 on the market are purely unfounded.

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In the past six months, there has undoubtedly been a large amount of misinformation regarding the Coronavirus, its treatment, and the long-term ramifications of a pandemic–a phenomenon that has affected, among other industries, real estate. Courtesy of SFGate, here are a few myths you’re likely to experience in the current market.

The first myth–and, arguably, the most prevalent one–asserts that selling your home amidst COVID-19 restrictions is a poor choice. In fact, the opposite is true: Danielle Hale, a real estate expert, explains that people have been able to sell at relatively high rates despite the pandemic. “As long as buyer demand remains strong, I expect the market to remain tipped in favor of sellers,” she adds.

Of course, both taking the proper precautions during showings and maintaining social distancing–along with affording buyers an appropriate amount of grace when settling on a closing date–are important attributes of making a successful sale during this time.

Another myth you’ll probably hear about is tangentially connected to the first–that home prices are declining, thus making it, again, a bad time to sell. This is simply untrue; Lawrence Yun of the NAR points to low mortgage rates, as well as a general lack of people selling during this time, as the culprit. It makes sense that people would want to protect their investments for the time being, after all.

Thirdly, and lastly in the buying-and-selling myth pantheon, you’ll find that people are actually buying houses more now than they were before the pandemic–a direct answer to the myth that buyers are hesitant to close on properties for now. Just like the last item, you can look to low interest rates and high demand as the justification here.

Then, there is the myth that you can no longer tour homes in person seems real enough, and it may be standard practice for some sellers; however, the majority of homes being sold in the United States, as of now, are viewable in person–and, more importantly, with the viewer’s safety at the forefront of the seller’s endeavors. However, SFGate does point out that, due to rising cases in much of the United States, some of these restrictions may eventually return.

Finally, the myth that buyers are actively attempting to leave cities in favor of suburb living seems to be circulating as of late. SFGate acknowledges that this myth is “partly true”, but that doesn’t mean city listings aren’t available–nor does it mean city dwellings will begin to lose their value. After all, urban living has consisted of largely prime real estate for as long as any of us can remember, and the Coronavirus probably won’t outlast that allure.

The bottom line is this: Real estate, like everything else, has been affected by COVID-19–but it hasn’t been completely turned on its head and wiped out like some may think.

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Real Estate Big Data

Home sales dive 10% in May – when is a sales rebound expected?

(REAL ESTATE) Home sales plummet in May, which we all expected, but when will sales begin to recover in light of this pandemic?

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As you would expect, May marks the third consecutive month of home sales declines amidst a global pandemic. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), existing home sales fell 9.7% in May compared to April, down a whopping 26.6% compared to this time last year.

The silver lining is that values continue to improve, with a median existing home price of $284,600 nationally, up 2.3% from May 2019, marking the 99th month of year-over-year gains.

Inventory levels rose 6.2% from April, and are down 18.8% from May 2019. Average days on market didn’t move much, at 26 days being equal to May 2019, and down from 27 days in April.

“Sales completed in May reflect contract signings in March and April – during the strictest times of the pandemic lockdown and hence the cyclical low point,” said Dr. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

He added, “Home sales will surely rise in the upcoming months with the economy reopening, and could even surpass one-year-ago figures in the second half of the year.”

Sales also reflected an uptick in suburban sales over urban home sales. Dr. Yun cited work from home demands, however, anecdotally we would add some people moving away from densely populated areas in response to recent unrest.

What will ease housing conditions?

As he has observed repeatedly in recent years, Dr. Yun points to home builders. “New home construction needs to robustly ramp up in order to meet rising housing demand. Otherwise, home prices will rise too fast and hinder first-time buyers, even at a time of record-low mortgage rates.”

Mortgage Banker’s Association’s (MBA’s) SVP and Chief Economist, Dr. Mike Fratantoni’s insight pointed to inventory challenges as well: “As buyers are returning to the market, as evidenced by the strong, nine-week rebound in MBA’s purchase application data, the lack of homes for sale will be a real constraint. Although demand certainly dropped in March and April due to the crisis, supply dropped even more, and has thus far kept home prices from declining. We expect that home-price growth will pick up over the summer due to insufficient supply levels.”

Dr. Fratantoni noted, “The market is supported by strong demand from first-time homebuyers, who represented 34% of home purchases in May. Millennial-driven demand will be a tailwind for the market for the next several years.”

“Although the real estate industry faced some very challenging circumstances over the last several months, we’re seeing signs of improvement and growth, and I’m hopeful the worst is behind us,” said NAR President Vince Malta, broker at Malta & Co., Inc.

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