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Homeownership

Demand for newly built homes soars, but so is the cost of lumber

[HOMEOWNERSHIP] Many potential buyers are looking for newly built homes, but will builders be able to meet this demand with lumber prices on the rise?

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COVID-19 has had an undeniable effect on the U.S. economy. In the housing market, increased interest in single-family, new-construction homes has given builders a bright spot in the crisis. Builder confidence in this market has now reached a 35-year high, but builders are not out of the woods yet.

Potential homebuyers are showing up in hoards (figuratively speaking, we hope) this fall with a keen interest in new-construction homes. Buyers looking to take advantage of record-low interest rates are knocking on model home doors, seeking improved living arrangements with more space and functionality. The market sentiment for single-family homes is positive, but rising lumber prices are tempering home builders’ excitement for booming business.

Many white-collar workers are staring down an indefinite stretch of remote working arrangements, with some large tech companies even considering making the change to remote work permanent. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced workers to make big shifts in their everyday life. These lifestyles changes, along with low interest rates, have prompted a new wave of homebuyers.

Unfortunately for builders, the pandemic has had a much harder impact on blue-collar workers and a negative impact on supply and demand. While office workers sit on their couches and open up their laptops to Zillow, places like lumber mills and factories had no choice but to shut down during the height (if that is even past us) of the pandemic.

Many lumber mills and factories remain closed or are dealing with severe labor shortages as these blue-collar workers are disproportionately affected by the pandemic and access to adequate health care.

Prior to shutdowns, the market was not expecting this type of boom in new-construction interest from homebuyers. Builders are now seeing lumber prices rise as a result of increased demand and dwindling supplies.

Mortgage rates hit record lows in early August, and while those have risen somewhat since then, it is unlikely that rates will skyrocket anytime soon. With no end to the pandemic in sight for the U.S., potential homebuyers will keep coming and builders will just have to deal with the premium on lumber for the foreseeable future.

Staff Writer, Natalie Gonzalez earned her B.A. in English and a Creative Writing Certificate from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a writer and social media nerd with a passion for building online communities.

Homeownership

Home sales dip 10%, inventory levels continue to plague the market

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) While demand for home sales has remained high, a lack of inventory means that numbers have continued to dip, according to the NAR.

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Home interior with gray couch, cactus pillows, and succulents on the coffee table in front of the couch.

In February, all regions experienced a decrease in pending home sales (contracts penned), according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Compared to January, sales fell 10.6%, and fell 0.5% from February 2020.

As with every real estate news story you’ve read here in recent years, NAR continues to point to tight inventory levels as the continuing plague on the market.

“The demand for a home purchase is widespread, multiple offers are prevalent, and days-on-market are swift but contracts are not clicking due to record-low inventory,” said NAR’s Chief Economist, Dr. Lawrence Yun.

He observes that overall demand does not appear to be impacted by mortgage rates trending upwards, expected to remain low at no more than 3.5% this calendar year.

It is interesting to note, however, that more expensive homes had increased sales activity because of “reasonable supply,” per Dr. Yun, adding that homes above the $250,000 mark have driven home sales in recent months.

That said, Dr. Yun indicates that even homes priced above $500,000 to less than $1 million are subject to the tight inventory challenges.

“Potential buyers may have to enlarge their geographic search areas, given the current tight market,” Dr. Yun noted. “If there were a larger pool of inventory to select from – ideally a five- or a six-month supply – then more buyers would be able to purchase properties at an affordable price.”

In past months, NAR has repeatedly pointed to the same solution to the inventory challenge – new home builders. If supply were increased and housing starts improved, demand would be more readily satiated and fewer people would be priced out of the market.

Economic conditions typically shift under any new President, and with an ongoing pandemic, we are watching for any signs of hope in a dark time. With building material costs continuing to increase, labor conditions in the sector remaining difficult, mortgage rates are rising (albeit slowly), inventory levels are not expected to immediately improve.

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Homeownership

Why realtors shouldn’t use the term ‘Starter Home’

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) You see the term in the MLS for fixer uppers, you hear it when Realtors are working with first time buyers. But the term “starter home” shouldn’t be in anyone’s vocabulary. Here’s why.

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starter homes debt existing home sales

Just words

Collins English Dictionary defines a starter home as a “small, new house which is cheap enough for people who are buying their first home to afford.” You won’t find the phrase too often outside of the real estate industry.

There isn’t much about the etymology of the phrase, but most likely, it’s a marketing ploy to get people to buy into the idea of purchasing another home in a few years.

Grind your gears

Mark Greutman, husband to Lauren Greutman, believes that the term “starter home” should bother people. The phrase implies that you will upgrade later.

Your starter home isn’t good enough for the rest of your life. And not to get into how well Americans have it, what about people who will never be able to afford anything more? Is it an insult to them?

Do you really need two living rooms?

Older generations bought one home and lived in it until they could no longer be independent. In today’s world, we buy a starter home, then upgrade to have more space, to live farther away from our neighbors, to have rooms that are only used once or twice a year, and to make sure you have a 2 or 3 car garage to hold your vehicles and more stuff, some of which isn’t taken out very often.

But consider this: You could pay off your starter home in 15 to 20 years, if you budget right.

You could be out from under a mortgage and have money to travel, send the kids to college, or even retire early. When you think about what led to the financial crisis in 2008, isn’t it better to have a smaller house where you can make the payments than worry about losing your house?

Be content where you are

Realtors are motivated to make sure that they have customers. If people buy one home with the intent to stay, will the market dry up? Probably not, because people move and a new generation will be ready to purchase homes for their own family.

Let’s think about that phrase, “starter home.” It fuels consumerism and discontentment. Don’t call cheaper houses starter homes, but just a home.

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Homeownership

Hilarious things left behind when people move out of their house

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) People often forget what changes and additions they’ve made to a house until it is too late. This Twitter thread is a hilarious reminder to take everything with you when you leave.

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There are moments when social media brings people together and gives us comedy gold. Have you ever left something behind when you moved, something that while maybe not so crucially important to you, will definitely offer an interesting insight into your life? Such as a message written behind a wall, or a note hidden in an air duct? Well a twitter thread posted earlier this week opened up Pandora’s box for amusements on this topic and some of these are just getting stranger and stranger.

The original poster, @KaylaKumari, brought it up originally when she asked her mother, who had just recently moved out of her last home, if she’d uninstalled the special fire alarms that she recorded in her voice yelling, “GET OUT OF THE HOUSE BECAUSE MOM’S CANDLES CAUGHT THE HOUSE ON FIRE”. A perfect line, short and succinct. Now some poor family is going to have a fire and some woman’s voice will be ushering them out instead of an alarm. Hopefully there won’t be too much confusion there.

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My parents sold their house like a month ago but my mother JUST realized she did not uninstall the special fire alarms she had put in that are a recording of her own voice screaming at me and my sister to “GET OUT OF THE HOUSE BECAUSE MOM’S CANDLES CAUGHT THE HOUSE ON FIRE”

After that, the tweets and retweets just kept coming. Some of them mostly relating to habits or forgotten moments. In four days, the post has gotten over 17K retweets and/or comments and some of these are gems.

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A lot of people seem to enjoy feeding wildlife as well. Lots of fun shocks to go around. I would recommend however, to disclose that upon sale of the house so you don’t get sued. But this just goes to show that social media can be nice sometimes. A nice uplifting moment in our days.

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