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Much needed good news for housing, despite slowed sales

(REAL ESTATE) The data is in, and some truly positive signs for the housing market are slowly surfacing.

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If you put your finger on the pulse of the housing market right now, you’d see some much needed health improvements – inventory levels are finally loosening up for the first time in years, and the rate of price increases abated in the fourth quarter.

The median price of an existing home in Q4 rose 4.0 percent to $257,600 compared to the fourth quarter of last year, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Dr. Lawrence Yun, NAR Chief Economist, said in a statement that despite hurdles last year, “the close of the fourth quarter was promising.”

“Home prices continued to rise in the vast majority of markets,” said Dr. Yun, “but with inventory steadily increasing, home prices are, on average, rising at a slower and healthier pace.”

Existing home sales fell 1.8 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the previous quarter, and 7.4 percent over the year.

Why?

Dr. Yun said the West Coast needs more homes built. “The West region, where home prices have nearly doubled in six years, is undergoing the biggest shift with the slowest price gain and large buyer pullback.”

Comparing Q4 of 2017 and 2018 shows some relief when it comes to tight inventory levels which has edged hopeful homebuyers out of the market, increasing 6.2 percent over the year.

Housing affordability is the key ingredient to a healthy real estate sector going forward, which Dr. Yun says will require more homebuilding of moderately priced homes (a drumbeat the economist has been steadily beating for years).

“Housing starts fell far short of historically normal levels, with only 9.6 million new housing units added in the past decade; compared to 15 to 16 million that would have been needed to meet our growing population and 20 million new job additions,” said Dr. Yun.

“Local zoning law changes, expanding construction worker training programs at trade schools and promoting the use of tax breaks for developers in the designated Opportunity Zones will all play an important role in assuring an adequate future supply of housing,” Dr. Yun opined. 

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Tara Steele is the News Director at The American Genius, covering entrepreneur, real estate, technology news and everything in between. If you'd like to reach Tara with a question, comment, press release or hot news tip, simply click the link below.

Real Estate Big Data

Pending home sales dip in all regions but the Midwest

(REAL ESTATE) Pending home sales slipped nationally, but there are some healthy signs for the housing sector as we look forward.

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If you’re in the field and feeling a slight slowdown, you’re probably right. Pending home sales (contracts signed) dipped 1.5% nationally, down 2.0% year-over-year, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). This marks the 16th consecutive month of annual decreases.

Pending home sales dipped 1.8% in the Northeast, 2.5% in the South, 1.8% in the West, and rose 1.3% in the Midwest.

Compared to last year, pending homes are 2.1% below a year ago, down 1.8% in the South, 1.5% lower in the West, and 2.4% lower in the Midwest during the same time period.

This indicator is forward-looking and lets us know how closings will look in the coming months.

NAR Chief Economist, Dr. Lawrence Yun said the sales dip has not yet reflected the market shifts that work in favor of homeownerships.

“Though the latest monthly figure shows a mild decline in contract signings, mortgage applications and consumer confidence have been steadily rising,” he said. “It’s inevitable for sales to turn higher in a few months.”

Dr. Yun noted that home price appreciation has been strongest on homes priced under $250,000 as inventory levels have been perpetually tight for several years. Price conditions are soft on upper-end homes, “especially in high tax states like Connecticut, New York and Illinois,” he added.

There are now signs for a rise in inventory, Dr. Yun states, digging into data from realtor.com, noting the largest increase in active listings (in April) compared to April 2018.

“We are seeing migration to more affordable regions, particularly in the South, where there has been recent job growth and homes are more affordable,” Yun said.

NAR has repeatedly pointed to housing starts by new home builders as one of the key paths to loosening up the tight inventory levels that continue to edge out willing buyers. Starts remain low, but with a healthy market, the inventory appears to be correcting, albeit slowly.

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Real Estate Big Data

Are you selling real estate in a high-cancer-risk area?

(BIG DATA) If you own a brokerage knowing your local ecosystem can be beneficial. Whether it’s a humble brag on your blog, or a letter to a local rep, knowing your environment is always a good idea.

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As a realtor or brokerage owner, you know the importance of understanding your community’s ecosystem in order to shape your business strategy.

However, have you considered how environmental and quality may play a role in those decisions?

A recent study published in Cancer suggests that you should. According to the study, “of every 100,000 Americans, 451 of us will get cancer in a given year.” The study “found a difference of 39 cases (per 100,000) people, between areas with the highest and the lowest environmental quality.

This establishes a significant link between environmental qualities and cancer risks.

The study also showcases a map of the US and the air quality of various regions. Red and orange areas have the worst air quality, while blue and green areas have the best air quality. As you might expect, large metropolitan areas have the worst air quality, and things improve as you move into more rural areas. You do find the most exceptions throughout the southeastern region and a vertical stretch that runs from the tip of Texas to the Dakotas up north.

These kinds of signs can either be a major benefit or a major obstacle to attracting buyers to your real estate market.

According to the most recent Gallup polls, 47 percent of Americans worry a great deal about the quality of the environment. So, how do you adjust?

If you’re in a blue or green area, make sure to get the word out! People now consider environmental quality as part of the quality of life factor. Don’t let that benefit go unnoticed. Blog about it on your own website. Use your social media to share data like this from other sources, or other information praising the environmental quality and protections of your market.

Integrate it into your marketing materials where possible.

If you’re in a red or orange area, you’ve got a bit more work to do here, and it’s going to get a bit political. There is already plenty of concern about attempts at the federal level to handicap agencies dedicated to protecting the environment. Be wary of such measures at the state and city level, and be a voice for the real estate economy in shaping this policy.

Does going to places of legislative businesses give you the heebie-jeebies? Find local organizations dedicated to improving environmental quality. Sponsor a river or park clean up event. Show your support for events like Earth Day. Don’t have those kinds of events? Harness your entrepreneurial spirit and bring these events to your community. Taking action as a community leader will be massively beneficial for your brand.

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Real Estate Big Data

Pending home sales fall, hardest hit in the South

(REAL ESTATE) Despite a setback in home sales, there are several factors that indicate 2019 is back on track for being a growth year in the real estate sector.

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For the twelfth consecutive month, pending home sales (contracts signed on homes for sale) fell annually, dipping 9.8 percent in December compared to the previous December, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Down 2.2 percent from the previous month, NAR reports that pending home sales fell most dramatically in the South by 5.0 percent (down 13.5 percent annually), and 0.6 percent in the Midwest (down 7.2 percent from last December).

Meanwhile, pending home sales actually rose for the month in the Northeast (up 2.0 percent) and the West (up 1.7 percent), despite coming in lower than December 2017 (down 2.5 percent, and 10.8 percent, respectively).

Dr. Lawrence Yun, NAR Chief Economist, points to Wall Street and Main Street as factors in the decline.

“The stock market correction hurt consumer confidence,” said Dr. Yun, adding, “record high home prices cut into affordability and mortgage rates were higher in October and November for consumers signing contracts in December.”

Dr. Yun indicates that the partial government shutdown has not caused obvious damage to home sales, and that as the government reopens fully, more mortgage options will become available for consumers.

“Some home transactions were delayed,” he notes, “but we now expect those sales to go forward.”

Despite a setback in December, Dr. Yun stands by his previous forecast, asserting that the housing sector will see improvement in 2019.

“The longer-term growth potential is high,” he observes, adding that he expects the Federal Reserve to reduce their projected rate increases to one or even zero (from four as previously expected), decreasing mortgage rates and improving the 2019 forecast.

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