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Homeownership

Experts, politicians say improving homeownership will be complex

(REAL ESTATE) As tax reform remains hotly debated, experts and politicians discuss the way forward to protect homeownership, and thus the economy.

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The consensus is that if more Americans can sustainably buy homes, the economy and taxpayers will benefit.

As the nation’s homeownership rate hovers around a 50-year low, it’s time to acknowledge and start addressing the range of issues suppressing the market today, according to individuals at a Realtors and S&P event this month.

“When there is no hope for owning real property, we are taking a huge step backwards for the future of our country,” said Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) in her opening remarks.

Politicians and industry experts at this event outlined a number of key issues that need to be addressed to improve homeownership rates and market stability in the U.S: Buying incentives, student loan debt, and affordability.

But most of all, it’s important that the complexity of the housing market never be ignored. There’s not just one issue to be addressed, or a single solution that will fix it all.

For example, leading up to the 2007 housing crash, home buyer enthusiasm peaked as mortgage rates were low and investment return rates high. It was an environment that many Americans felt was too good to pass up.

Many also feared getting priced out of the market if they didn’t buy right away and take advantage of the current market state, a phenomenon dubbed “buyer’s panic,” according to economist Dr. Robert Shiller. Shiller noted that public sentiment about the risks of home buying peaked in 2006, but homes were still bought left and right.

Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) of the House Financial Services Committee observed that sustainable homeownership plays a key role in protecting the overall economy, citing the “unsustainable housing finance rollercoaster” that caused the Great Recession, a “lost decade” of lost economic growth.

“The lesson is clear: Housing unsustainability doesn’t just create unaffordability,” stated Rep. Hensarling. “It can create economic catastrophe.”

Overall, interest rates and tax law aren’t the only market drivers, something industry leaders should keep in mind as tax reform legislation enters the House and the economy continues to slowly bounce back from the Great Recession.

Post-recession debt burdens aren’t helping the nation’s homeownership rate, either. Student loan debt is suppressing young adult homeownership in particular.

“Eventually, time will start to soften the impact of those high student loans,” Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S. economist at S&P Global Ratings, explained during a panel. “Jobs are coming around, wages are picking up.” But this is not to say the issue isn’t having real ramifications right now.

For those struggling to repay student loan debt, homeownership is simply not an option right now, according to Jessica Lautz, managing director of survey research and communication at NAR.

Meanwhile, many who are managing their student loan debt well aren’t in position to buy a home, either, a trend also identified by the National Association of Realtors 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.

Another panel comprised of Dr. Lawrence Yun of NAR, Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute, and Boyd Campbell of Century 21 discussed affordability concerns involving the supply and demand issues facing the housing market today.

Debt burdens aside, homeownership is just becoming too expensive for many Americans. “Prices have risen roughly 40 percent in the past five years, while people’s income has risen at a much slower rate,” Yun said. “This rise in prices forces an affordability concern.”

This particular issue isn’t just a real estate matter. The labor market plays a role as college-educated workers are priced out of areas where the job market is strong but housing prices are high.

As the number of families buying their first single-family homes remains well below the 50-year average, conversations about the range of issues impacting the housing market must continue.

“Prospective homebuyers face headwinds from the market, in the halls of Congress and in their own family’s budgets,” said NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall, a sixth-generation Realtor and CEO of RE/MAX Boone Realty. “We can’t solve them all, but we know more can be done to smooth the way for creditworthy borrowers who want to own a home.”

Sienna is a Staff Writer at The Real Daily and has a bachelor's degree in journalism with an emphasis in writing and editing from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. She is currently a freelance writer with an affinity for topics that help others better themselves. Sienna loves French-pressed coffee and long walks at the dog park.

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.

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Homeownership

The split realities of renters vs. homeowners

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) The housing market is telling a tale of two countries: Between renters and homeowners, wealth inequality has split the country in two.

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The pandemic has generated a tidal wave of house hunters attempting to relocate; previously ignored markets all across the country, particularly in suburban areas, are awash with new clients eagerly seeking an escape from expensive and densely populated cities. Record low mortgage interest rates in the US have only bolstered this migration scramble. The ultra-wealthy are even opting to leave the US entirely, fleeing to regions with fewer cases, such as New Zealand.

Renters, on the other hand, generally don’t have the luxury of being able to afford a house. Most are currently trapped between a rock and a hard place (proverbially speaking).

The extra unemployment assistance granted by the CARES Act, which was helping countless Americans pay rent, expired two weeks ago alongside the federal eviction moratorium. State and local moratoriums on evictions are also withering away. Young adults have holed up with their parents where they can (myself included). Meanwhile, the Senate continues to deliberate on the details of the HEROES Act, which – hopefully – will extend the $600 weekly unemployment bonus, and provide more stimulus checks to people in need.

As renters face destitution, landlords have in turn seen their incomes dry up. Twitter is rich with specific examples of threats and harassment received by tenants from their landlords for failure to pay rent, despite the unemployment crisis, and the cutthroat job competition it’s created. In all fairness, though, small landlords are themselves facing similar heat from their banks. One survey of landlords in Massachusetts, performed by MassLandlords, showed that one-fifth did not know how they would make ends meet this year – clearly a ripple effect from this preventable rental crisis.

The role of demographics here is important to note, as is often the case when housing is concerned. Of course, Millennials have been mostly relegated to renting for a long time. It’s been a meme among my generation for the better part of a decade that very few Millennials will ever end up buying homes, and Gen Z is on a fast track to join us. Not to mention that the historical impact of redlining, which extends several decades, has yet to be reconciled. It can still be seen in the national rates of homeownership which are disproportionately low among non-white, and particularly Black, Americans.

If youth, people of color, and impoverished renters are about to face mass nationwide evictions, the HEROES Act is their best shot at a miracle. But if it fails… then, I guess, Congress will ask that they eat cake.

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Homeownership

Hilarious things that are 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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