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Bezanson Team Of Realtors

Bezanson Team Of Realtors

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Demand High As Mortgage Rates Remain Low
June 22, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates remained low last week. In fact, rates were mostly flat across all loan categories, including 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with both conforming and jumbo balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate loans. Low rates didn't spur a spike in demand, though, as home buyers and homeowners looking to refinance largely stayed level from the week before. Still, though demand was relatively unchanged from one week earlier, the previous week ended at a new high for the year, which means demand for loans to buy homes remains 9 percent higher than at the same time last year. Lynn Fisher, MBA's vice president of research and economics, told CNBC that lower rates are encouraging for Americans looking to make a move. “Both the 10-year Treasury yield and the 30-year conventional mortgage fixed rate held steady last week keeping rates well below the recent highs,” Fisher said. “The recent pause in the upward movement of interest rates continues to encourage late-to-the-game borrowers to refinance and to assist those ready to purchase.” The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

 
 
Are Fewer Young Americans Buying Homes?
June 21, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

A newly released study from researchers at the University of Southern California looks at homeownership rates among young adults between the ages of 25 and 44. The study's results show, among that age group, there's been a 10 percent drop in the homeownership rate over the past 10 years. But does that necessarily mean young Americans are no longer interested in owning their own home? Well, no. The researchers point to a number of factors that have contributed to the decline in homeownership among people of typical prime home-buying age. Among them, the foreclosure crisis looms large. Because the past 10 years includes the years following the housing crash and economic crisis, some of that decline is better explained by the day's economic conditions rather than a lack of desire to buy a house. And, in the years since, the recovery's slow pace and weakened job market have made buying a home a struggle for many young Americans. However, more recently, home buyer demand has rebounded – as have home prices and the labor market. And, according to this particular study, so will the homeownership rate among young Americans, particularly if there's a continued rise in education and income levels. More here

 
 
Housing Market Outlook Tells Familiar Story
June 20, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

Following the ups-and-downs of the housing market can be difficult for the average home buyer or seller. Because of this, many Americans get in the market without a basic understanding of the forces currently driving home prices, mortgage rates, demand, etc. However, it can be beneficial to have a big-picture understanding of where things are and where they're headed before you make a move. These days, if you want a better grasp of what's happening in real estate, you have to start with inventory. So far this year, a lower than normal number of homes for sale has been the primary factor influencing home prices and overall sales. Take the most recent outlook from Fannie Mae's Economic & Strategic Research Group, for example. According to their forecast, inventory remains the big story, as it has been for the past year. “The narrative for the housing market hasn't changed over the past year,” Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's chief economist, says. “A labor shortage continues to restrain homebuilding, and tight inventory is constraining sales and boosting home prices.” Despite those challenges, Duncan says the group expects mortgage rates will stay low enough to support buyers and home sales should rise 3.2 percent this year. More here.

 
 
Lawn Care Tips That Might Help Sell Your Home
June 19, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

When considering home improvement projects that can add value to your home or even help it sell faster, don't forget to pay some attention to your lawn and landscaping. Good landscape design can help you get a better price when it's time to move but will also help beautify your neighborhood and please your neighbors in the meantime. If you aren't that handy in the garden, start with your lawn. A recent article from Freddie Mac lays out a number of tips to help you get started. Among them, it's good to first identify what type of grass you have. This will help you know what seed to buy if you need to fill any dead spots. You should also be careful not to cut your lawn too short or give it too much water. Grass needs a little length to help it absorb sunlight and maintain healthy roots. Too much watering can also damage roots and will cause more weeds to grow. Another tip is to be careful with fertilizers and pesticides. Break fertilizer applications up throughout the season rather than doing it all at once. And be careful with pesticides, as they may be more trouble than they're worth. According to the article, lawn issues are more likely going to be the result of water, weather and lawn mower damage than pests. Following these simple rules should help you achieve a greener and more luscious lawn. More here.

 
 
Builders Say New Home Market Is Solid
June 16, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

The National Association of Home Builders has been tracking builders' view of the new home market for 30 years. Their Housing Market Index measures how builders feel about current and future conditions as a way of predicting the health of the overall market going forward. Obviously, when builders feel confident that buyers are interested, more new homes get built. And, as more new homes get built, the added inventory has a ripple effect throughout the entire housing market. That's because, more new homes mean more choices for buyers and fewer price increases. In June, the NAHB's index scored a 67 on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders view conditions as good than poor. Granger MacDonald, NAHB's chairman, says builders have been fairly consistent so far this year. “Builder confidence levels have remained consistently sound this year, reflecting the ongoing gradual recovery of the housing market,” Granger said. But though builders have consistently voiced optimism about the level of buyer demand this year, they've also expressed concern that a lack of available lots has held back the number of new homes being built in many markets. More here.

 
 
Mortgage Demand Up 8% Over Last Year
June 15, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, demand for loans to buy homes is now eight percent higher than it was at the same time last year. But, though that's good news and indicates a strong level of interest from prospective home buyers, it doesn't tell the whole story. That's because, at the same time that demand is up from a year ago, it is lower than it should be considering the number of interested buyers and the fact that mortgage rates remain relatively low. Last week, for example, average mortgage rates fell again and are now at seven-month lows. Joel Kan, an MBA economist, told CNBC that low mortgage rates didn't inspire an increase in purchase demand last week but it did rally refinance activity. “From a borrower's perspective, rates held steady at seven-month lows last week providing some borrowers an opportunity to refinance,” Kan said. “Over the last two weeks refinance applications have increased 13 percent and the average loan size increased to its largest since September 2016, reflecting the tendency for jumbo borrowers to be more sensitive to rates than those with smaller loan balances.” The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential loan applications. More here.

 
 
The Top Things That Cause Home Buyers Stress
June 14, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

Home buyers have a lot to consider. Buying a home is no small transaction and the potential for stress is high. So what is the top thing stressing out home buyers these days? Well, it probably comes as no surprise that it involves money. According to a recent survey, the number one fear prospective buyers have is that they'll lose their earnest money deposit – which is money buyers put down on the house once their offer is accepted. If the deal goes through, that money is used as part of the buyer's down payment. But, if the buyer backs out of the deal, they risk losing that deposit. Naturally, this could cause concern among prospective buyers. After all, losing a percentage of their down-payment money could alter their buying power and price range. Some other worries buyers expressed included becoming house poor or financially burdened by the costs of homeownership and their new mortgage payment. Fortunately, this is a risk that can be easily avoided by having a firm budget beforehand and sticking to it. Knowing what you can and can't afford is crucial, especially in a competitive market. Rounding out the top three, buyers expressed concern about getting into a bidding war that drives up the price of their desired home. More here.

 
 
Tracking The Habits Of First-Time Home Buyers
June 13, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

First-time home buyers have always been an important demographic when tracking the housing market's health. Whether or not younger Americans were buying homes, where they were buying, and in what numbers has been used to gauge trends and patterns that affect, not only first-time buyers, but everyone active in the real-estate market. Because of that, a new report from Genworth Financial analyzing first-time home buyer records back to 1994 is an important look at the who, what, where, and how of Americans buying their first home. Some of the highlights include the fact that first-time buyers bought more single-family homes during the first quarter of 2017 than during any other first quarter since 2005 and drove 85 percent of the housing market's expansion from 2014 through 2016. In other words, the report found that there is currently a high level of demand among younger Americans. But it also found that many potential buyers have been unable to buy or have stayed out of the market due to misconceptions about what was required. Tian Liu, Genworth's chief economist, says one of the main issues is the mistaken belief that a 20 percent down payment is required to buy. “By studying this group more closely, we hope to bring a better understanding about the many low down payment options available to help first-time home buyers reach homeownership sooner.” More here.

 
 
Homes May Be More Affordable Than You Think
June 12, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

Rising home prices have gotten a lot of attention over the past couple of years. In some places, they've even been said to have fully recovered from the housing crash. But a closer look at the numbers reveals a different story. Because many gauges of national home prices use averages to measure how much prices have gained or fallen, higher-priced homes have more weight and can skew the results. For a more accurate look, a recent study from Trulia compared a home's current market value to its pre-recession peak instead. Their method found that just 34.2 percent of homes nationally have recovered their value. That means, though prices have definitely been rising, there are still a lot of homes that haven't yet climbed all the way back. That's good news for buyers but it also means there are many homeowners who are still waiting for their homes to regain value before they sell – which is why there are many markets where there are fewer homes available for sale than usual. Also, it should be noted that, as with anything real estate, where you are has a lot to do with the conditions you'll find. For example, markets in the West and South have generally seen home prices increase faster than those in the Midwest and Northeast. More here.

 
 
More Americans Say It's A Good Time To Sell
June 9, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

For most of the past several years, Americans considered the housing market more favorable to buyers than sellers. Even as home prices began to rise from their post-crash bottom, mortgage rates remained near all-time lows and offered buyers in most markets an affordable path to homeownership. However, according to the most recent results of Fannie Mae's monthly Home Purchase Sentiment Index, the share of surveyed Americans who say now is a good time to sell a house has surpassed the number that say it's a good time to buy for only the second time in the history of the index. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's senior vice president and chief economist, says consumers think it's time to sell. “High home prices have led many consumers to give us the first clear indication we've seen in the National Housing Survey's seven-year history that they think it's now a seller's market,” Duncan says. “However, we continue to see a lack of housing supply as many potential sellers are unwilling or unable to put their homes on the market, perhaps due in part to concerns over finding an affordable replacement home.” But, if Americans think it's a seller's market and increasingly put their homes up for sale, buyers will begin to see prices moderate as added supply helps balance the market. More here.

 
 
 
Mortgage Rates Fall To New Low For 2017
June 8, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates fell to a new low for the year last week, with drops seen across all loan categories. Rates declined for 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate loans. With rates at their lowest level since last November, home buyers kicked into gear. In fact, the MBA's purchase index – which measures the number of potential buyers requesting mortgage applications – rose 7.1 percent and is now 6 percent above where it was at the same time last year. Joel Kan, an MBA economist, told CNBC purchase application demand was at its highest level in 7 years. “Purchase application volume increased to its highest level since May 2010,” Kan said. “Refinance activity bumped up as well in response to moderating rates, but remained generally subdued.” The refinance index moved up just 3 percent, despite typically being more sensitive to mortgage rate fluctuations. Conducted since 1990, the MBA's weekly survey covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

 
 
The Size Of American Homes Continues To Grow
June 7, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

It shouldn't come as any surprise that American homes are generally getting bigger and adding more rooms. After all, who wouldn't choose to have an extra bedroom or some additional storage space? Still, a look at the numbers, shows just how much our living spaces have changed over the years. For example, numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2016 Characteristics of New Housing show that the number of homes under 1,400 square feet has fallen 9 percent just since 2000. At the same time, the percentage of homes over 4,000-square feet has doubled. Sure, the majority of homes still fall somewhere between 1,800 and 2,400 square feet, but there is clearly a trend toward larger houses. Another way to look at it is the number of rooms. For example, 59 percent of homes now have three or more bathrooms. In 2000, it was closer to 20 percent. During the same time, most homes also upgraded from three bedrooms to four. Of course, along with the extra space, bedrooms, and bathrooms, the median sales price has also risen. Americans, however, clearly think the extra expense is worth the luxury of not having to schedule who gets the first shower in the morning. More here

 

 
 
Survey Shows Homeownership's Enduring Appeal
June 6, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

Buying a house, for many Americans, is seen as an achievement and evidence that they've reached a certain level of success. Put simply, there is no other symbol as closely association with the American Dream than owning a home. For Americans of all backgrounds and income levels, it has remained a shared aspiration. Because of this, there is a strong emotional pull toward buying a house that most Americans feel even today. Take a recent survey from the National Association of Home Builders as an example. The survey found that more than two-thirds of respondents said they believe owning a home is an essential part of achieving the American Dream. Granger MacDonald, NAHB's chairman, says homeownership remains a priority for most of us. “Americans continue to place a high priority on homeownership and work hard to achieve this goal for their families,” MacDonald said. The survey's results are consistent too. Over the years, and despite the ups-and-downs of the housing market, homeownership has consistently ranked high among Americans' goals, whether it's something they hope to achieve right now or a couple of years down the road. More here.

 
 
Why An Easy Commute Should Be On Your Wish List
June 5, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

If you're thinking of buying a home and are spending all of your time dreaming of the type of kitchen you want or how big you'd like your master suite to be, there may be a thing or two to add to your wish list before you start your search. For example, have you considered the importance of having a short commute to work each day? Almost 11 million Americans drive an hour or more to work each way and the average commute has been getting longer over the past several years. So, if you're lucky enough to have never sat in traffic after a long day at the office and don't know just how draining it can be, here's something to think about: A recent survey found a short commute or proximity to public transportation ranked second among factors people used when determining where to live. That means, only an area's crime rate was deemed more important. In other words, having a long commute to-and-from work can negate some of the benefits of finding a great house. After all, what good is having the perfect kitchen, if you're always on the road instead of at home enjoying it? More here.

 
 
What Pending Sales Numbers Mean For Buyers
June 2, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

The National Association of Realtors' Pending Home Sales Index is a good indication of where home sales will be a month or two down the road. That's because, it measures the number of signed contracts that occurred during the month, rather than the number of closings. And since there is typically about a month between having an offer accepted and closing the deal, the number of pending sales can be a pretty accurate predictor of future home sales numbers. According to the most recent release, pending sales were down 1.3 percent in April from the month before. Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, says there may be fewer contracts signed as the spring goes on because of a lack of available listings. “Much of the country, for the second straight month, saw a pullback in pending sales as the rate of new listings continues to lag the quicker pace of homes coming off the market,” Yun said. In other words, the number of homes for sale can't keep up with the number of buyers interested in buying them. That means, home buyers should expect to find competition for the homes that are available for sale this summer. More here.

 

 
 
Average Rates Remain Near This Year's Low
June 1, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates were largely unchanged last week. Loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages both saw slight declines, while 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with both conforming and jumbo balances were unmoved. This follows the previous week's results which showed mortgage rates at their lowest point so far this year. However, despite favorable rates, demand for mortgage applications was down from the previous week. Michael Fratantoni, MBA's chief economist, told CNBC the reason may be inventory. “Home sales remain constrained by a lack of inventory across the country, as evidenced by home price growth running almost three times the pace of overall inflation,” Fratantoni said. Still, though fewer homes for sale may be holding sales back, mortgage application demand remains 7 percent higher than at the same time last year, which indicates strong interest from buyers this spring. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

 
Prices Move Higher As Homeowners Stay Put
May 31, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

Widely seen as the leading measure of U.S. home prices, the S&P Dow Jones Indices is a monthly look at home values that has been conducted for more than 27 years. According to the most recent release, national home prices are up 5.8 percent over last year, with the largest gains seen in the West and South. David M. Blitzer managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, says there's some regional variation in how quickly prices are rising, but generally the issue is the number of homes available for sale. “Over the last year, analysts suggested that one factor pushing prices higher was the unusually low inventory of homes for sale,” Blitzer said in a press release. “People are staying in their homes longer rather than selling and trading up.” Because of this, there are fewer homes for buyers to choose from but home sellers, on the other hand, enjoy increasingly favorable conditions. And yet, many current homeowners are staying put. If more homeowners put their homes up for sale, and new home construction continues to improve, the market will balance in the coming months and home price increases will begin to moderate. More here.

 
 
Renovations And The Cost Of Selling
May 30, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

It isn't just the home's buyer who has to settle up at the end of the closing process, sellers have costs too. In fact, according to one recent estimate, the average seller spends $15,000 before they hand over the keys to their home's new owner. A big part of that is closing costs, agent commission, and any repairs required following the home's inspection. But another chunk of that is renovations done before the sale. In fact, a large majority of homeowners fix up their homes before putting them on the market. Things like having the home painted, cleaned, and staged can add up for the 80 percent of homeowners who decide to spruce things up before showing their house. Nationally, the average cost of home improvements done before selling was $2,650, though that can vary greatly from region to region and is also dependent on the type of work that is done to get the house in shape. Of course, unlike buyers, home sellers have the sale of their home to help cover their costs but – assuming they're going to buy another home – these expenses will obviously have an effect on how much money they have left over to put toward their next house. More here.

 
 
Today's Typical Home Sells In Less Than A Month
May 26, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

Home buyers are out in large numbers this spring. Proof of that can be found in the most recent sales report from the National Association of Realtors. Their monthly tally of how many previously owned homes sold the month before found that the typical home for sale was on the market for just 29 days in April, down from 34 days the previous month. That's a strong indication that buyer demand is outpacing the number of homes for sale this spring. And that's saying something, especially since April saw a 7.2 percent increase in for-sale inventory by the end of the month. In other words, there are more homes coming on the market but still not enough to match the number of interested home buyers. Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, says affordable homes are going fastest. “Homes in the lower-and mid-market price range are hard to find in most markets, and when one is listed for sale, interest is immediate and multiple offers are nudging the eventual sales prices higher.” But despite the competition, buyers aren't deterred. In fact, the number of first-time home buyers was up for the month and, a look at regional results, shows existing-home sales are above or even with last year's results in the South, West, and Midwest. More here.

 
 
Mortgage Rates At Lowest Point Since November
May 25, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates fell to their lowest level since last November this past week. Rates fell across all loan categories, including 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with both conforming and jumbo balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate loans. Naturally, lower rates spurred an increase in the number of current homeowners looking to refinance their loans. Lynn Fisher, vice president of research at the MBA, told CNBC homeowners were quick to take advantage of the drop. “Homeowners took advantage of the 6 basis-point drop in rates,” Fisher said. “Jumbo rates fell even more, sending the average refinance loan size up 5 percent as borrowers with larger loans, who are typically more sensitive to rate changes, moved to refinance.” But though the rate drop led to more refinance activity, demand for purchase loans was relatively flat from the week before. Still, compared to last year at this time, application demand for loans to buy homes is up 3 percent. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

 
 
New Home Sales Fall After Reaching Recent Peak
May 24, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

Each month, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development release an estimate of how many new homes were sold during the previous month. Because it's an estimate, the month-to-month numbers can be volatile. For example, the most recent residential sales statistics show an 11.4 percent decline in the number of new homes sold in April compared to March. However, a closer look shows that – not only are sales coming off three consecutive months of gains – but March's estimate was revised upward. In short, last month's results, though down sharply, are coming off a nearly 10-year high and are about even with where they were at the same time last year. That means, though the numbers may make it look like there is housing trouble ahead, the market is relatively stable and will likely continue along its current path. In fact, economists told ABC News that they believe April's decline represents a one-month correction and not a warning sign. Also in the report, the median sales price of new homes sold in April was $309,200; the average sales price was $368,300. More here.

 

 

 
 
Rents Are Increasing In The Suburbs Too
May 23, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

There are two groups commonly associated with renting. One is young people. The other is people living in urban centers. Conjure up an image of the typical renter and you'll probably end up imagining someone in their 20s living in a downtown apartment building. The suburbs, on the other hand, have been traditionally thought of as the place you move to when you're ready to settle down and buy a house. However, new numbers tell a different story. In fact, the latest data shows rental costs are actually rising faster in the suburbs than in cities. Why? There are a couple of reasons. First, rent has been rising rapidly in cities for quite a few years now, which is causing people to look outside city limits for a more affordable place to live. Another is a relative lack of rental properties in the surrounding suburbs. Where there are fewer options, potential renters are going to find rising prices. One option for discouraged renters is to compare the costs of homeownership in their area. In many markets, buying is actually a more affordable option or, at the very least, compares favorably. More here.

 
 
Three Reasons Homeowners May Be Waiting To Sell
May 22, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

When shopping for a house, you have to choose from the homes that are for sale at the time you're looking. In other words, unless you're having a house custom built to your specifications, you're going to have to make do with what's on the market now. These days, that's become more challenging in some areas due to the fact that there aren't as many homes for sale as is historically normal. So why is that? Well, there are a couple of different factors behind current inventory levels. One is homes that have yet to recover their value. If a homeowner purchased their home just before the housing crash, they may be waiting for prices to reach pre-crash levels before selling. Another is mortgage rates. Many homeowners were able to refinance their loans while rates were low and – though they remain lower than historical norms - these potential sellers fear they won't be able to get as good a deal, if they move now. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, current homeowners are less likely to put their homes on the market if they feel they won't be able to find a house they like in their price range. However, despite the factors keeping more homeowners from putting their homes up for sale, there are also some reasons to believe that homeowners who have been waiting may end up selling sooner than later. Among them, surging buyer demand, higher prices, and mortgage rates still hovering near historic lows top the list. More here.

 
 
Housing Outlook Sees Reason For Optimism
May 19, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

Over the past few years, a pattern has emerged: The economy slows during the first quarter then begins to rev up during the second quarter. Now, according to Fannie Mae's Economic & Strategic Research Group, we may be on pace to see the same thing this year. But what will that mean for the housing market and hopeful home buyers and sellers? Well, according to Fannie Mae's chief economist, Doug Duncan, it means things will continue to move forward – although gradually. “Positive demographic factors should continue to reshape the housing market, as rising employment and incomes appear to be positively influencing millennial homeownership rates,” Duncan says. “However, the tight supply of homes for sale continues to act as both a boon to home prices and an impediment to affordability.” In other words, as long as the economy continues to post gains, buyers should be able to manage higher home prices due to their improving financial situation. At the same time, current homeowners hoping to sell their homes this year, will benefit from the upward pressure currently pushing home prices higher. In other words, the market's outlook remains relatively unchanged from previous months. Low inventory is boosting home prices but the economy and job market have kept buyers in the hunt. More here

 
 
Mortgage Rates Relatively Flat From Last Week
May 18, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates were relatively flat last week across all loan categories, including 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages. Despite this, however, demand for mortgage applications was down 4.1 percent from the week before. Michael Fratantoni, MBA's chief economist, told CNBC the drop could be evidence that first-time buyers are having trouble finding homes this spring. “The survey saw relative weakness in the growth of government application volume, suggesting that many potential first-time buyers remain on the sidelines due to the lack of entry-level homes on the market,” Fratantoni said. A lack of affordable inventory in some markets has been credited with holding back home sales this spring, especially among younger home buyers. Overall, though, demand for loans to buy homes is still higher than at the same time last year, up 9 percent as of last week. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here

 
 
Some Tips On Buying In A Competitive Market
May 17, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

It's always good to prepare before you set out to buy a house. But that's especially true in a tight market. If there are more buyers than homes for sale, there's naturally also going to be competition. And where there's competition, buyers need to be ready. So what can buyers do to make sure they don't lose the home of their dreams or blow up their budget? Well, the first thing is to set some boundaries. You'll need to have a firm idea of what you're willing to spend, so that you don't get in a bidding war and buy more house than you can comfortably afford. You'll also need to know where you're able to compromise. If there aren't as many homes to choose from, chances are you're not going to get everything you wanted in a house. Make sure that you're focused on things that can't be remedied later. For example, if you don't like the kitchen cabinets, they can change but you won't be able to add more outdoor space, if the yard is small. Buyers in competitive markets should also expect to act fast. You won't have the luxury of thinking things over once you've found a good house. Be prepared to make an offer quickly, as there will likely be other buyers interested in the same property. For this reason, it's also good to bid competitively. You may want to see if you can get a lower offer accepted but, if you're trying to beat out other buyers, it's a better idea to put in an attractive offer than to try and steal a deal. Generally, the more focused and prepared you are, the better your chances will be for successfully navigating a tight market. More here.

 
 
Builders See Increased Interest In New Homes
May 16, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

Among the many barometers of housing-market health, one of the more significant indicators is new home construction. Especially in areas where there are more buyers than homes for sale, the number of new homes being built can make a difference in how quickly prices rise and how many choices buyers have to choose from. One way to gauge how well the new home market is doing is to look at the National Association of Home Builders' Housing Market Index. The Index – which measures builder confidence on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders view conditions as good than poor – is a monthly look at how builders feel about current and upcoming market conditions. According to the latest results, builder confidence has now risen to its second highest level since the housing crash, hitting 70 in May. Robert Dietz, NAHB's chief economist, says there is growing confidence in the market for new homes. “The HMI measure of future sales conditions reached its highest level since June 2005, a sign of growing consumer confidence in the new home market,” Dietz said. “Especially as existing home inventory remains tight, we can expect increased demand for new construction moving forward.” More here.

 
 
A Few Benefits Of Owning A Home In Retirement
May 15, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

In recent years, there's been an increasing number of older Americans who rent rather than own their own home. But is renting really a better choice for retirees looking to reduce costs and obligations? Well, not necessarily. While it's true that homeownership brings with it ongoing expenses like routine maintenance and property taxes that continue even after you've paid off your mortgage, renting can't offer some of the benefits that homeownership alone provides. For example, equity. Once you've built up equity in your home, you can take out a line of credit and borrow money from your home's value. Obviously, this can be a good option for older homeowners on a fixed income. Also, provided you have a fixed-rate mortgage, your house payment isn't subject to the ups-and-downs of the market the way rent can be. As a renter, you're at the mercy of your landlord. After all, they own the house or building you're living in and can set the price to their liking. Like anything, there are pros and cons to owning a home during retirement. However, homeownership provides a valuable asset that can be advantageous for retired homeowners in a position to benefit from it. More here.

 
 
Number Of Affordable Homes For Sale Rises
May 12, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

Affordability is the number one concern of prospective home buyers. Sure, there are a lot of things on a buyer's mind when they begin looking for a home to purchase but things like the number of bedrooms in a house or the size of the kitchen don't really matter if you can't afford to buy it. Well, according to new numbers from the National Association of Home Builders, during the first quarter of this year, the number of affordable homes available to buy rose from the end of last year. Specifically, 60.3 percent of new and existing homes sold were within the reach of a family earning the median U.S. income of $68,800. Robert Dietz, NAHB's chief economist, said there are a couple of reasons for the improvement. “Ongoing job growth continues to fuel demanfor housing, while wage growth is helping to offset the effects of rising mortgage rates and keeping home prices affordable,” Dietz said. Home prices, obviously, are a big part of this equation. And, though they've been on the rise for some time now, according to the report, they fell during the first quarter of 2017. In fact, the national median home price was $245,000, which is down from $250,000 at the end of last year. More here.

 
 
Survey Finds Increasing Demand For Mortgage Loans
May 11, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, demand for home purchase loans was at its highest level since October 2015 last week. The increase was credited to Americans feeling better about their job security and financial situation. “Continuing strength in the job market and improving consumer confidence drove overall purchase applications to increase last week,” Joel Kan, an MBA economist, told CNBC. “The index for purchase applications reached its highest level since the beginning of October 2015, which was the week prior to the implementation of the federal government's 'know before you owe' rule.” Overall, demand for applications for loans to buy homes rose 2 percent from the week before and are now 6 percent higher than at the same time one year ago. Also, in the report, average mortgage rates were up and down last week, with rates flat for 30-year fixed-rate loans with conforming loan balances, up for jumbo loans and those backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and down for 15-year fixed-rate loans. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

 
 
Fixer-Uppers Prove Popular With 1st-Time Buyers
May 10, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

Last year, first-time home buyers spent 22 percent more renovating their new house than buyers the year before. The increase shows a significant spike in younger buyers who are willing to take on the challenge of buying a fixer-upper. But what's behind the surge? Well, one obvious reason to buy a house in need of some work is price. Naturally, if you're going to find a bargain, it's likely going to be because the house isn't in the best shape. Depending on how handy you are – or how much savings you've built up – you may be inclined to grab a lower-priced house with a plan to upgrade it to your liking. The other reason, which would help explain the recent spike, are current market conditions. Since inventory in many markets is low, there are fewer homes available for buyers to choose from. That means, more buyers are going to have to look at homes that may need a little help. Nino Sitchinava, principal economist for Houzz, the company who conducted the survey, says recent buyers are always a big share of renovations and low inventory of affordable homes is helping to boost those numbers. “Younger and cash-constrained first-time buyers are responding to the low inventory of affordable homes by purchasing properties that require more than just cosmetic upgrades,” Sitchinava said. More here

 
 
More Americans Feel They Can Get A Mortgage
May 9, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

When home prices were low and mortgage credit was tighter, hopeful home shoppers worried they might not be able to qualify for a home loan. These days, mortgage credit is more available and home price increases have taken the lead as the biggest affordability concern among potential home buyers. The latest evidence of that can be found among the most recent results of Fannie Mae's monthly Home Purchase Sentiment Index. April's survey found a record number of respondents who said they thought they'd have an easy time getting a mortgage. Combined with job stability and higher income, the news means Americans are feeling optimistic about their finances and the prospect of buying a home. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's senior vice president and chief economist, says things are trending in the right direction. “Historically strong inflation-adjusted house price gains are tempering consumer sentiment, whereas consumer optimism regarding the ease of getting a mortgage reached a survey high,” Duncan said. “On balance, housing continues on a gradual growth track.” Overall, five of the index's six components saw increases and the number of participants who said they felt now was a good time to buy a house was up 5 percent over the month before. More here.

 
 
Housing Markets Nationwide Hit Key Milestone
May 8, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

There are many ways to gauge the health of the housing market. But no matter which way you look at it, the ultimate goal is to figure out where things are headed and how that will affect home buyers and sellers, as well as current and future homeowners. In other words, the data may differ but it's all getting at the same question. Take the National Association of Home Builders' Leading Markets Index – which compares current conditions to previous norms. The NAHB's index looks at employment info, home prices, and building permits in 340 metropolitan areas across the country in an effort to determine how those markets have rebounded since the housing crash and what they should expect going forward. According to the latest results, markets nationwide are running at an average of 100 percent of normal economic and housing activity. And, if that sounds good, it's because it is. “This is the first time the LMI has reached this key milestone and it shows how much our industry has improved since the depth of the Great Recession,” Granger MacDonald, NAHB's chairman, said in a press release. But though the data shows great strides across a majority of markets, it also shows that – while employment levels and home prices have rebounded strongly – building permits still lag behind. That's an issue because many markets are in need of new homes to help provide options for buyers and keep affordability conditions under control. More here.

 
 
Where Are The Most Popular Metros For Millennials?
May 5, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

There's new evidence that younger Americans are beginning to form households of their own at a faster rate than before. And, though young adults are more likely to become renters before they become buyers, the rate at which millennials are pursuing homeownership really depends more on where they live than anything else. Proof of that can be found in the latest Ellie Mae Millennial Tracker, which tracks the mortgage application activity of Americans born between the years 1980 and 1999. According to the latest results, the most popular metro areas among millennial buyers were those in the Midwest. But does that really mean young Americans are flocking to small, Midwestern cities? Well, not exactly. “What this data shows is where there is an inventory of affordable homes, the millennial buyers are ready to enter the market,” Joe Tyrrell, Ellie Mae's executive vice president of corporate strategy, said. In other words, because affordability conditions are more favorable for buyers in the Midwest, there are more young Americans deciding to buy rather than rent. However, regardless of where you live, the results indicate a strong desire for homeownership among millennials, which should help keep buyer demand healthy for years to come. More here.

 
 
Mortgage Rates Up From Week Before
May 4, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates were up last week, rising across all loan categories. Though rates remain low overall, they moved up slightly for 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate loans. Higher rates didn't hold back buyer demand, though. In fact, demand for loans to buy homes rose 5 percent from the week before and is now 5 percent higher than at the same time last year. Joel Kan, MBA's associate vice president of industry surveys and forecasting, told CNBC that the rebound may have more to do with the time of year than any other factor. “More prospective home buyers returned to the market after two weeks of decreases in purchase activity, which were possibly due to spring break season and Easter,” Kan said. The rise in purchase activity was balanced by a 5 percent drop in refinance activity, however, which likely fell due to the first mortgage rate increase following consecutive weeks of decline. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

 
 
Home Prices Continue Upward Climb
May 3, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

Home prices are expected to match their 2006 high at some point later this year, according to CoreLogic's chief economist, Frank Nothaft. Nothaft says prices were up in March and are now just 2.8 percent below their peak. “With a forecasted increase of almost 5 percent over the next 12 months, the index is expected to reach the previous peak during the second half of this year,” Nothaft says. In fact, prices have already surpassed their previous highs in nearly 20 percent of cities included in the index. So what's fueling the increases? Well, it's a combination of a stronger economy, population growth, low mortgage rates, and a lower-than-normal number of homes for sale in many markets. Together, they've created an environment where the supply of homes can't keep up with the number of interested buyers. And, when there are more buyers than available homes, prices rise. Still, buyers shouldn't be scared off. Mortgage rates remain low by historical standards and that, combined with a stronger job market, should help make conditions better for buyers. Also, as the sales season continues, more homeowners will put their homes up for sale, helping to balance the market and slow future price gains. More here.

 
 
Homeownership Outpaces Rental Households
May 2, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

The number of owner occupied households has been lower-than-normal for several years. Following the housing crash, homeownership took a hit and, for many years afterward, trailed behind rental households in terms of growth. In short, more people were choosing to rent and the overall homeownership rate began a decade long retreat from its all-time high set in 2004. But, though the homeownership rate fell, Americans still consistently expressed a desire to own their own home. That there was a large majority of people who said they wanted to buy but were holding off meant, one day, that pent-up demand would result in a spike in home buyers. Now, according to new numbers from the Census Bureau's Homeownership and Vacancy Survey, owner occupied households grew faster than rental households for the first time in 11 years during the first quarter of this year. This is significant because it may signal that more Americans are finally realizing their dream and becoming homeowners. Though encouraging, however, the uptick had little effect on the overall homeownership rate, which was unchanged from the previous quarter and has been relatively flat for a while. More here.

 
 
What Does It Mean When A Home's Sale Is Pending?
May 1, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

There are steps to buying a home. You don't just find a house, make an offer, and move in as soon as it's accepted. In fact, though having an offer accepted is a big step, it's really just the first of the closing process. There are many things that need to be done before your accepted offer becomes a final sale. During this process, the house you've chosen is off the market but not officially sold. Until you've got keys to the house, it's considered a pending sale or under contract. Pending sales are important because they can be a good indicator of where home sales are headed. Because of this, the National Association of Realtors keeps track each month of the number of homes that are under contract as a way of watching what's ahead for the market. For example, the NAR's most recent Pending Home Sales Index was virtually flat from the month before. Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, says the results show that low inventory may be holding home sales back. “Home shoppers are coming out in droves this spring and competing with each other for the meager amount of listings in the affordable price range,” Yun said. In other words, what we can learn from how many pending sales there were in March is that buyers should be prepared to move fast this spring and sellers should expect to find favorable conditions. More here.

 
 
Is What's Outside As Important As The Inside?
April 28, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

When it comes to buying a house, most people focus first on what's going on inside the house. The size of the kitchen, the number of bedrooms, closets, storage, etc., are all top concerns. But, according to a recent survey from the National Association of Realtors, access to outdoor recreation is nearly as important to most home buyers. Respondents listed benefits such as better health, an appreciation of nature, and a greater sense of community among the reasons they believed it was important to be close to outdoor features. And it wasn't a small number, either. There were large majorities that said outdoor recreation was either very or somewhat important to them. In fact, 56 percent of participants said it was very important and an additional 30 percent said it was somewhat important. Not surprisingly, there was a slight difference depending on where respondents lived. For example, in the West, 65 percent of those surveyed said outdoor recreation was very important to them, while just 51 percent felt the same way in the Midwest. Still, it's clearly something to think about when searching for a home to buy – whether you're buying a home by the water or just looking for something close to a neighborhood park. More here.

 
 
Rates Fall To Lowest Level Since November
April 27, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

Just after last year's election, average mortgage rates began increasing. The rise was largely seen as a sign of things to come. However, rates have now begun dropping from their post-election highs. In fact, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates for 30-year fixed-rate loans with conforming loan balances are now at their lowest level since last November. Lynn Fisher, MBA's vice president of research and economics, told CNBC last week's drop was largely related to the French election. “The drop was driven by continued investor concerns about the French election, though Sunday's first-round voting results apparently have alleviated some investor fears,” Fisher said. Whatever the case, falling mortgage rates boosted the number of homeowners seeking to refinance. The MBA's refinance index rose 7 percent from the previous week. The purchase index, which measures the number of prospective borrowers applying for loans to buy homes, was unchanged from the week before. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

 
 
New Homes Are In High Demand This Spring
April 26, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

New estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development show new home sales at an 8-month high in March. Sales were 5.8 percent above February's rate and 15.6 percent higher than at the same time last year. The March results were the second best reading since 2008 and easily surpassed economists' expectations. That's encouraging news for the start of the spring season and could help boost the number of new homes that get built this year. And, at a time when inventory is low, that's important. As more new homes are built there will be more options available for buyers, which will help balance the market and moderate price increases. That's why new home construction is a closely watched indicator of the health of the overall housing market. In other words, whether you're in the market for a new home or not, the new home market will have an affect on your home search. Also in the report, the median sales price of new homes sold in March was $315,000, which is a jump from the month before but only 1.2 percent above one year ago. At the current sales pace, there was a 5.2-month supply of new homes available for sale at the end of the month. More here

 
 
The Top Factors That Drive 1st Timers To Buy
April 25, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

No two paths to homeownership are exactly the same. There are too many variables for that to be true. But though there are many different paths, there are a few common factors that play a role when first-time buyers decide to purchase a house. According to a recent survey from Bank of America, the first – and most obvious – factor is money. Just over half of respondents said having the financial means to purchase a home is what would ultimately be the decider. But though money is an undeniable factor, not all of the main motivators were financial. In fact, 40 percent of participants said it was a desire to have a place to call their own that would make them buy a home. A steady job and realizing money spent on rent would be better used toward a mortgage came in third and fourth on the list. Marriage is also a big influencer, with 22 percent of respondents saying getting married is what led them to consider buying a house. Finally, thinking mortgage rates and home prices were favorable was cited by 19 percent of first-time buyers. Repeat buyers, by comparison, had a very different list. In their case, needing more space and favorable rates and prices came in second and third. However, having the financial means also ranked first among current owners looking to buy. More here.

 
 
Home Sales Hit Fastest Pace In A Decade
April 24, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

New data from the National Association of Realtors shows sales of previously owned homes rose 4.4 percent in March and are now at their fastest pace since February 2007. Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, said the gains were led primarily by increases in the Northeast and Midwest but the overall results are encouraging. “The early returns so far this spring buying season look very promising as a rising number of households dipped their toes into the market and were successfully able to close on a home last month,” Yun said. “Although finding available properties to buy continues to be a strenuous task for many buyers, there was enough of a monthly increase in listings in March for sales to muster a strong gain.” According to Yun, as long as inventory continues to rise, so will sales. Last month, inventory was up nearly 6 percent but, despite the improvement, it still lags behind last year's levels. And, because there are fewer properties for sale in many markets, homes are selling more quickly this spring. In fact, the typical home was on the market for just 34 days and nearly half of all homes sold in March were on the market for less than a month. More here.

 
 
 
Hopeful Outlook Forecasts A Spring Bump
April 21, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

The real estate market is constantly evolving. What is true one day may not be the next. For example, this past winter many forecasts for the upcoming spring season predicted buyers might be scared off by rising interest rates and a lack of homes for sale. However, now that spring has arrived, mortgage rates have come down a bit and the housing market has been among the strongest sectors of the economy. For example, Fannie Mae's Economic & Strategic Research Group's latest housing forecast notes both a stronger-than-usual February and the prospects for a good spring. “February fared better than other hard economic indicators partly due to the warm winter weather, and the ESR group expects that a seasonal uptick in listings going into the spring selling season will help alleviate extremely tight inventory,” the group's latest release reads. In other words, despite higher rates and low inventory, the housing market performed well in February and trends going forward indicate conditions may be even more favorable now. As more homeowners put their homes up for sale, buyers will find improving conditions for a spring home search. More here

 
 
 
Mortgage Rates Fall To Five Month Low
April 20, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

At the end of last year, spiking mortgage rates had many analysts concerned that rates would continue to increase and cause home buyers to sit out the spring buying season. But, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, rates are actually heading in the opposite direction. In fact, last week's survey found rates down for the second consecutive week and at their lowest level since last November. Rates fell for 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages. But despite the decline, demand for mortgage applications was down from the previous week. Michael Fratantoni, MBA's chief economist, told CNBC rates haven't yet fallen low enough to lure many homeowners to refinance but purchase activity, though down from the week before, should start to pick up from here. “We do expect a pickup in purchase activity through the remainder of the spring season,” Fratantoni said. “With a strong job market and signs of continuing economic growth, we are forecasting roughly 9 percent growth in purchase origination volume for 2017 relative to 2016.” The MBA has been conducting their weekly survey since 1990. It covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here

 
 
Millennials Turn Traditional When It's Time To Buy
April 19, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

Whenever the topic of millennial home buyers comes up, the assumption is that they're all searching for urban lofts and using the latest tech to find them. In other words, the next generation of home buyers isn't interested in the old way of doing things. However, survey after survey seems to contradict those assumptions. In fact, recent surveys have found millennials are far more traditional than most assume. For example, a recent survey of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 found large majorities said they'd prefer to work with a local real-estate agent and lender as opposed to online services when searching for a house to buy. Doria Lavagnino, co-founder and president of CentSai, the company behind the survey, says younger buyers want the comfort and reassurance of a recommendation from someone they trust. “Buying a home for the first time is daunting, and working with a local agent – particularly an agent referred by a parent or friend – could provide peace of mind.” The survey also found a majority of respondents said they plan to buy in the next two years and – among those who said they don't plan on buying – nearly 70 percent said it's because they can't afford to, rather than because they prefer to rent. More here.

 
 
Builders Have Confidence In New Home Market
April 18, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

When builders feel confident, they build more homes. And, as more homes are built, the housing market becomes more balanced. In other words, how builders feel about the market for new homes is an important factor in whether prices rise or fall and what buyers and sellers can expect from their local real estate market. Because of this, the National Association of Home Builders conducts a monthly survey of builders and ranks their responses on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders view conditions as good than poor. Because builders' views are considered an important barometer, the index is closely watched by industry experts. In April, the NAHB's index scored a 68, proving builders remain optimistic. Granger MacDonald, NAHB's chairman, says that though there was a slight dip from March, builders are still confident. “Even with this month's modest drop, builder confidence is on very firm ground, and builders are reporting strong interest among potential home buyers,” MacDonald said. How many new homes are built this year will have a significant affect on affordability conditions and how favorable conditions are for prospective home buyers. More here.

 

 

 
 
What Rising Optimism Means For Real Estate
April 17, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

Home buyers, through the years, tend to value the same things. It makes sense. Though styles may vary and specific preferences may change, at the end of the day, we all want the same things out of our homes. Generally speaking, it all comes down to storage, space, and a sense of security. This year is no different. For example, a newly released survey of hopeful spring home buyers found that privacy was the top goal cited when asked what they valued most. Privacy even beat out family needs, which came in a close second. As for storage and space, garages and backyards were also near the top of the priorities list for most buyers. Demographically, younger buyers were more likely to want a large yard, while garages were particularly popular with buyers over the age of 55. Either way, it's clear that this year's house hunters have common needs. There is one need, however, that buyers share more than any other. When asked which room was most important to them, 80 percent of respondents named the kitchen. For obvious reasons, the kitchen is consistently ranked high atop buyers' wish lists. After all, no matter how young or old a buyer is, they need to eat – which is why a good kitchen is always a draw for home shoppers. More here

 
 
What Home Buyers Want Most This Spring
April 14, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

Home buyers, through the years, tend to value the same things. It makes sense. Though styles may vary and specific preferences may change, at the end of the day, we all want the same things out of our homes. Generally speaking, it all comes down to storage, space, and a sense of security. This year is no different. For example, a newly released survey of hopeful spring home buyers found that privacy was the top goal cited when asked what they valued most. Privacy even beat out family needs, which came in a close second. As for storage and space, garages and backyards were also near the top of the priorities list for most buyers. Demographically, younger buyers were more likely to want a large yard, while garages were particularly popular with buyers over the age of 55. Either way, it's clear that this year's house hunters have common needs. There is one need, however, that buyers share more than any other. When asked which room was most important to them, 80 percent of respondents named the kitchen. For obvious reasons, the kitchen is consistently ranked high atop buyers' wish lists. After all, no matter how young or old a buyer is, they need to eat – which is why a good kitchen is always a draw for home shoppers. More here.

 
 
Rates Fall To Lowest Level So Far This Year
April 13, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, mortgage rates were mostly down last week. Rates fell for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages. Rates for jumbo loans were unchanged from the week before. The decline brought mortgage rates to their lowest level so far this year. Michael Fratantoni, MBA's chief economist, told CNBC the spring season is off to a good start. “The spring housing market is off to a solid start,” Fratantoni said. “Despite the relatively weak job report for March, job growth is averaging almost 180,000 [a month] so far this year, providing a strong support for the home purchase market.” The survey found demand for loans to buy homes was up 3 percent from the week before and is now 3 percent higher than at the same time last year. Refinance demand, on the other hand, was virtually unchanged from the previous week, despite falling interest rates. The MBA's weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

 
 
Townhomes Make A Comeback With Home Buyers
April 12, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

Historically, townhouses were the city homes the wealthy used when they needed to be in town for social events. These days, however, they're popular with a wider array of buyers and there are a number of reasons why. First off, their small footprint and vertical design means they require less maintenance and are more likely to be located in trendier, walkable neighborhoods close to amenities and jobs. For that reason, townhouses appeal to both first-time buyers and baby boomers looking to downsize. Townhomes are also appealing because they tend to sell for less than the typical, detached single-family home. That combination of a lower price tag and the ability to be close to retail, entertainment, schools, and amenities have led to a bit of a townhouse building boom over the past few years. In fact, recent numbers from the National Association of Home Builders show a nearly 18 percent increase in the number of townhomes built between 2014 and 2015. But though it may not be the first time they've experienced a wave of popularity since their 18th century heyday, with more and more Americans indicating a preference for them, they're increasingly a desirable option for prospective buyers looking for a house to buy. More here.

 
 
Spring Has Homeowners Seeing Opportunity
April 10, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

This year's housing market depends a lot on whether or not current homeowners decide now's the time to put their home up for sale. With inventory low in many markets, home prices have been climbing and causing affordability concerns for buyers. But there are two ways to relieve upward pressure on prices. One is more new home construction. The other is more homeowners putting their homes on the market. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's senior vice president and chief economist, says the market may get a boost, if current homeowners become more active. “The housing market could get some tailwinds from a seasonal rise in for-sale inventory, particularly as some sellers seek to lock in profits from recent rapid home price gains,” Duncan said. “The market could also get a boost from homebuyers who decide to jump into the market before rates rise further.” The good news is there are an increasing number of Americans who believe this is the time to sell. In fact, Fannie Mae's most recent Home Purchase Sentiment Index saw a 9 percent jump in the number of survey participants who said they feel it's a good time to sell a house. If more homeowners begin to list their homes this spring, it'll offer buyers better choices. It'll also help moderate future price increases. More here.

 
 
How New Homes Help Buyers & The Economy
April 7, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

April is New Homes Month and, according to data from the Commerce Department, there's a number of reasons to celebrate. Not only do new homes offer buyers the advantage of having a brand-new house with all new plumbing, electrical, mechanical, and structural features but they also provide increased energy efficiency and more amenities. Simply put, new homes can offer things a home built 40 years ago can't. They're also a good indicator of the health of your local housing market and economy. Research from the National Association of Home Builders shows every 100 single-family homes built creates nearly 300 jobs, $28 million in wage and business income, and $11 million in tax revenue. In other words, new home construction helps the local economy in addition to offering buyers more choices and helping moderate prices. So far this year, buyer demand and consumer confidence have both been high and there's an expectation that more new homes will be built to accommodate those prospective buyers. Granger MacDonald, NAHB's chairman, says there's reason for optimism. “Our builders remain optimistic about the market for newly-built single-family homes and consumer confidence is strong, which should set the stage for a strong spring home buying season,” MacDonald said. “Americans continue to place a high priority on homeownership and work hard to achieve this goal for their families.” More here.

 
 
Average Home Loan Reaches New Record High
April 6, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Applications Survey, the size of the average home loan has reached a record high. And, since the survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications, that's saying something. But, though the increasing size of the average mortgage may seem like the natural result of rising home prices, it actually has more to do with the fact that there has been more buying activity at the higher end of the real-estate market recently. In short, there are more expensive homes on the market than there are affordable homes to buy. As inventory picks up on the lower end of the market, the size of the average mortgage will likely moderate. Also in the report, mortgage rates were relatively flat from the week before, with little change seen among 15-year fixed-rate mortgages or 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances. Loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration saw the biggest change, falling from the week before. Lynn Fisher, MBA's vice president of research and economics, says the market was fairly steady last week. “Markets appeared to hit pause last week, with little new information emerging about upcoming administrative or legislative policy changes,” Fisher told CNBC. More here.

 

 
 
Educated Buyers Make Happier Homeowners
April 5, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

The best defense against making avoidable mistakes is education. The more you know about something, the less likely you are to screw it up. So you'd think home buyers would want to learn as much as possible before heading out to find a house to purchase. After all, buying a house is major financial transaction and a serious commitment. And yet, surveys of potential home buyers consistently find that large majorities of them share in some common misconceptions about what it takes to buy a house and how the process should unfold. Recently, Fannie Mae's Economic & Strategic Research Group interviewed real-estate agents, buyers, and loan officers in an effort to figure out why there isn't more focus on homeownership education before buying. Not surprisingly, most of their answers boiled down to there not being enough time during the process to focus on education. But common misunderstandings about down payment requirements, financing options, and the added costs of homeownership can scare off buyers or lead them to make unwise financial decisions. That's why it's always important, as a buyer, to ask questions along the way. Though you may not have time for hitting the books, you can always lean on the expertise and knowledge of the professionals you hired to guide you along the way. More here.

 
 
How To Think About Home Prices In 2017
April 4, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

Home prices can be intimidating. Without some guidance and understanding, it's easy to get confused about what a particular price will mean when all is said and done. Mortgage rates, taxes, insurance, and your income all play a role in how much house you can afford. So a simple price tag won't always accurately reflect what that number means in terms of your monthly bills, the overall costs of homeownership, and how it all fits into your plans and goals. A price that is out of reach when mortgage rates are up becomes affordable when they fall. Naturally, the same is true for incomes. When wages grow, so does buying power. That's why this year's housing market is, in many ways, a race between prices, rates, and wages. If continued economic growth and job market gains boost buyers' incomes and confidence in their employment status, it'll help alleviate concerns about rising home prices. According to Freddie Mac's most recent monthly outlook, it should be close. Though they expect affordability conditions to affect buyers, they also expect continued economic gains and job market improvement. All in all, they estimate there will be 5.9 million home sales this year, down only slightly from 6 million in 2016. In other words, prices and rates may have an effect but only a small one. More here.

 
 
Selling Your House Means Becoming A Buyer
April 3, 2017 BY ROBIN BEZANSON
 

It's somewhat natural to want to break up the housing market into buyers and sellers. You're either a homeowner looking for a home buyer or on the hunt for a new place to call your own. But though that's the way a lot of us think about the real estate market, the fact is, if you're in the process of selling a house, you're likely also in the process of looking for a house to buy. And that complicates the transaction a bit more than say a renter looking to become a first-time buyer. Why? Mostly, it's due to timing. And, according to one recent survey, that's especially true these days. Because the number of homes for sale is lower than normal in many markets, home sellers are concerned about being able to find a house to move into once they've sold theirs. So much so that 65.6 percent of surveyed real estate agents said it's the greatest challenge for sellers in their market. So what should a home seller do? Well, fortunately, there are options – whether it's a contingency worked into the sale contract or an arrangement to stay with family in the interim. Whatever the particulars of your situation, your prospects as a buyer are something to consider when deciding when to put your home on the market. More here.