Buyer Interest Is Growing among Younger Generations

The demand for homes this year is extraordinary as record-breaking numbers of hopeful buyers continue to shop for homes. In a normal year, the peak homebuying season comes to a close by early fall. However, 2020 is anything but a normal year, and the housing market is no exception. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), explains:

Home sales traditionally taper off toward the end of the year, but in September they surged beyond what we normally see during this season…I would attribute this jump to record-low interest rates and an abundance of buyers in the marketplace, including buyers of vacation homes given the greater flexibility to work from home.”

What’s drawing so many buyers to the market?

As Yun mentioned, record-low interest rates are key. Today’s rates are strengthening purchasing power for buyers, too. Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac, emphasizes:

“Mortgage rates today are on average more than a full percentage point lower than rates over the last five years.”

If you’re a homebuyer right now, there’s no question that you want to take advantage of this opportunity – and you’re not alone. Competition among buyers is definitely increasing as more buyers enter the market and mortgage interest rates remain so low.

Who’s planning to buy a home right now?

Today’s affordability is appealing to all generations and seems to be especially attractive to younger buyers who want to begin growing their wealth through homeownership. There’s a distinct increase this year in the percentage of those in younger generations searching for homes. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) notes:

“Between the third quarters of 2019 and 2020, the share of Gen Z adults planning a home purchase rose three points to 14%. Millennials, however, are the generation most likely to be considering buying a home (22%).”

Here’s a graph showing the year-over-year increase in homebuying interest by generation:Buyer Interest Is Growing among Younger Generations | Simplifying The MarketAccording to Mark Fleming, Chief Economist for First American, millennials are reaching their prime home-buying years, a likely driver in this increase:

“Record low mortgage rates and millennials continuing to age into their prime home-buying years has boosted demand, but a lack of housing supply remains a challenge.”

What’s the biggest challenge for today’s buyers?

Finding a home, however, as Fleming notes above, is clearly a challenge today. Yun also explains:

“There is no shortage of hopeful, potential buyers, but inventory is historically low.”

With so many buyers actively searching for homes this year and so few houses for sale, it’s more important than ever to work with a trusted real estate professional to navigate today’s market. From pre-approval to bidding wars and guidance on down payment assistance resources, having an agent by your side might make the difference in your ability to land your dream home.

Bottom Line

Let’s connect if you’re ready to buy a home. More buyers mean more competition, so you need an expert guide to help you stand out from the crowd.

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How Down Payment Assistance Opens the Door to Homeownership

Many people are eager to buy a home right now while affordability continues to be a highlight of the current housing market. However, a recent survey by Sparks Research shows that 20% of first-time homebuyers cite a lack of financial education as a barrier to homeownership. This is definitely understandable. If you don’t feel comfortable with the financial process of buying a home, it’s hard to make a confident decision. In fact, four in five homebuyers say they need help to understand what they can even afford in the first place. This is why finding the right professionals to help you through the process is so important.

On top of that, the same survey reports over two-thirds of prospective homebuyers believe they’ll need assistance to save enough for a down payment. What they may not realize is that there are a lot of down payment assistance programs at the state and regional levels, and many of them have funds available for potential buyers. Down Payment Resources recently released its Q3 2020 Homeownership Program Index, which explains:

“The number of total programs is 2,340, and over 81 percent (81.1%) of programs currently have funds available for eligible homebuyers.”

Down Payment Assistance Programs Are Not Only for First-Time Homebuyers

Keep in mind, these programs aren’t just for first-time homebuyers, so it’s worth exploring your options no matter where you are in your homeownership journey. For example, if you’re working from home now, you may be thinking of relocating to a more affordable area where you can stretch your dollar further and have more space, inside and out. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), explains:

“Rural areas have mortgages (USDA loans) that don’t require down payments; and some workers who can work from home may want to consider outer suburbs or small towns where USDA home loans are available and where homes are very affordable.”

If affordability is on your mind and you’re expecting to be working from home long-term, the right home may be in an area you haven’t considered yet. In addition, the assistance program you need might be within reach too.

If you’re interested in learning more about down payment assistance programs, additional information is available through Down Payment Resource. Your real estate advisor can help you decide which option is best for you personally.

Bottom Line

Thanks to a range of down payment assistance programs, affordable options are out there for today’s hopeful homebuyers. It’s important to get the financial education you need to understand the homebuying process and accomplish your real estate goals. Let’s connect today to get you started on the path to your dream home.

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Two Important Impacts of Home Equity

Equity continues to rise, helping American homeowners secure a much more stable financial future. According to the most recent data from CoreLogic, the average homeowner gained $9,800 in equity over the past year. In addition, experts project 2020 home prices to continue rising. With prices going up, equity gains will also keep accelerating. Black Knight just reported:

“The annual percent change in the overall median existing single-family-home price has skyrocketed in the past several months, with recent numbers at three to five times higher than rates seen in the past several years.”

Jeff Tucker, Senior Economist at Zillow, just qualified recent price increases as “jaw-dropping” and “within a hair’s breadth of double-digit year-over-year appreciation.”

Knowing equity will help enable many homeowners to better survive the economic distress caused by the ongoing pandemic, it’s important to break down two key homeowner benefits of increasing equity.

1. Equity Increases a Homeowner’s Options to Buy a New Home

Aside from the financial damage of the last seven months, there has also been a tremendous emotional toll on many people. Shelter-in-place mandates, quarantine requirements, and virtual schooling have all made us re-evaluate the must-have requirements a home should deliver. Having equity in your current house gives you a better opportunity to move-up or build your perfect home from scratch.

Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, recently explained:

“As homeowners gain equity in their homes, they are more likely to consider using that equity to purchase a larger or more attractive home – the wealth effect of rising equity.”

If you need to make a move, the equity in your current home can help make that possible – right now.

2. Equity Enables Homeowners to Help Future Generations

An increase in home equity grows overall wealth, which can transfer to future generations. The Federal Reserve, in an addendum to their recent Survey of Consumer Finances, explains:

“There are numerous ways families can transmit wealth and resources across generations. Families can directly transfer their wealth to the next generation in the form of a bequest. They can also provide the next generation with inter vivos transfers (gifts), for example, providing down payment support to enable a home purchase or a substantial wedding gift.”

The Federal Reserve also explains another way wealth (including the additional net worth generated by an increase in home equity) can benefit future generations:

“In addition to direct transfers or gifts, families can make investments in their children that indirectly increase their wealth. For example, families can invest in their children’s educational success by paying for college or private schools, which can in turn increase their children’s ability to accumulate wealth.”

Bottom Line

Equity can help a homeowner grow their confidence in a more stable financial future. It provides near-term move-up options and creates a positive impact for future generations. In many cases, the largest single investment a person has is their home. As that investment appreciates in value, financial options increase too.

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Selling Your House Is the Right Move, Right Now [INFOGRAPHIC]

Selling Your House Is the Right Move, Right Now [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights

  • Demand from homebuyers has skyrocketed this year, which means today’s sellers are poised to win big. This ideal moment in time to sell your house won’t last forever, though.
  • With more sellers coming to the market in the spring, waiting until next year means buyers will have more choices, so your home may not stand out from the crowd.
  • Let’s connect today to discuss why now may be the right time to make a move on your terms.

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Home Values Projected to Keep Rising

As we enter the final months of 2020 and continue to work through the challenges this year has brought, some of us wonder what impact continued economic uncertainty could have on home prices. Looking at the big picture, the rules of supply and demand will give us the clearest idea of what is to come.

Due to the undersupply of homes on the market today, there’s upward pressure on prices. Consider simple economics: when there is high demand for an item and a low supply of it, consumers are willing to pay more for that item. That’s what’s happening in today’s real estate market. The housing supply shortage is also resulting in bidding wars, which will also drive price points higher in the home sale process.

There’s no evidence that buyer demand will wane. As a result, experts project price appreciation will continue over the next twelve months. Here’s a graph of the major forecasts released in the last 60 days:Home Values Projected to Keep Rising | Simplifying The Market

I hear many foreclosures might be coming to the market soon. Won’t that drive prices down?

Some are concerned that homeowners who entered a mortgage forbearance plan might face foreclosure once their plan ends. However, when you analyze the data on those in forbearance, it’s clear the actual level of risk is quite low.

Ivy Zelman, CEO of Zelman & Associates and a highly-regarded expert in housing and housing-related industries, was very firm in a podcast last week:

“The likelihood of us having a foreclosure crisis again is about zero percent.”

With demand high, supply low, and little risk of a foreclosure crisis, home prices will continue to appreciate.

Bottom Line

Originally, many thought home prices would depreciate in 2020 due to the economic slowdown from the coronavirus. Instead, prices appreciated substantially. Over the next year, we will likely see home values rise even higher given the continued lack of inventory of homes for sale.

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Why Today’s Options Will Save Homeowners from Foreclosure

Many housing experts originally voiced concern that the mortgage forbearance program (which allows families impacted financially by COVID to delay mortgage payments to a later date) could lead to an increase in foreclosures when forbearances end.

Some originally forecasted that up to 30% of homeowners would choose to enter forbearance. Less than 10% actually did, and that percentage has been dropping steadily. Black Knight recently reported that the national forbearance rate has decreased to 5.6%, with active forbearances falling below 3 million for the first time since mid-April.

Many of those still in forbearance are actually making timely payments. Christopher Maloney of Bloomberg Wealth recently explained:

“Almost one quarter of all homeowners who have demanded forbearance are still current on their mortgages…according to the latest MBA data.”

However, since over two million homeowners are still in forbearance, some experts are concerned that this might lead to another wave of foreclosures like we saw a little over a decade ago during the Great Recession. Here is why this time is different.

There Will Be Very Few Strategic Defaults

During the housing crash twelve years ago, many homeowners owned a house that was worth less than the mortgage they had on that home (called negative equity or being underwater). Many decided they would just stop making their payments and walk away from the house, which then resulted in the bank foreclosing on the property. These foreclosures were known as strategic defaults. Today, the vast majority of homeowners have significant equity in their homes. This dramatically decreases the possibility of strategic defaults.

Aspen Grove Solutions, a business consulting firm, recently addressed the issue in a study titled Creating Positive Forbearance Outcomes:

“Unlike in 2008, strategic defaults have not emerged as a serious problem and seems unlikely to emerge given stronger expectations for property price increases, a record low inventory of homes, and stable residential underwriting standards leading up to the crisis which has reduced the number of owners who are underwater.”

There Are Other Options That Were Not Available the Last Time

A decade ago, there wasn’t a forbearance option, and most banks did not put in other programs, like modifications and short sales, until very late in the crisis.

Today, homeowners have several options because banks understand the three fundamental differences in today’s real estate market as compared to 2008:

1. Most homeowners have substantial equity in their homes.

2. The real estate market has a shortage of listings for sale. In 2008, homes for sale flooded the market.

3. Prices are appreciating. In 2008, prices were depreciating dramatically.

These differences allow banks to feel comfortable giving options to homeowners when exiting forbearance. Aspen Grove broke down some of these options in the study mentioned above:

  • Refinance Repay: Capitalize forbearance amount – For borrowers who have strong credit, have good or improved equity in their homes, possibly had a higher interest rate on their original loan, have steady employment/no significant wage loss, and income.
  • Repayment Plan: Pay it back in higher monthly payments – For people who cannot reinstate using savings, but have increased monthly income, and do not want to use a deferral program.
  • Deferral Program: Shift payments to the end of the loan term – For borrowers who lost income temporarily and regained most or all of their income but are not in a position to refinance due to credit score, home equity, low total loan value relative to closing costs, or simple apathy.
  • Modification: Flex modification or other mod – For households that permanently lost 20% to 30% of their income, but not all of their income, and want to remain in their home.

Each one of these programs enables the homeowner to remain in the home.

What about Those Who Don’t Qualify for These Programs?

Homeowners who can’t catch up on past payments and don’t qualify for the programs mentioned have two options: sell the house or let it go to foreclosure. Some experts think most will be forced to take the foreclosure route. However, an examination of the data shows that probably won’t be the case.

A decade ago, homeowners had very little equity in their homes. Therefore, selling was not an option unless they were willing to tap into limited savings to cover the cost of selling, like real estate commission, closing costs, and attorney fees. Without any other option, many just decided to stay in the house until they were served a foreclosure notice.

As mentioned above, today is different. Most homeowners now have a large amount of equity in their homes. They will most likely decide to sell their home and take that equity rather than wait for the bank to foreclose.

In a separate report, Black Knight highlighted this issue:

“In total, an estimated 172K loans are in forbearance, have missed three or more payments under their plans and have less than 10% equity in their homes.”

In other words, of the millions currently in a forbearance plan, there are few that likely will become a foreclosure.

Bottom Line

Some analysts are talking about future foreclosures reaching 500,000 to over 1 million. With the options today’s homeowners have, that doesn’t seem likely.

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Americans Are Gaining Confidence in the Economy

The September Jobs Report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate dropped to 7.9%. Though that percentage is well below what experts projected earlier this year, it still means millions of people are without work. There’s no way to minimize the tremendous impact this pandemic-induced recession continues to have on many Americans.

However, the latest Home Purchase Sentiment Index from Fannie Mae shows how more and more Americans believe the worst is behind us, and their personal employment situation is good. The index revealed:

“The percentage of respondents who say they are not concerned about losing their job in the next 12 months increased from 78% to 83%, while the percentage who say they are concerned decreased from 22% to 16%. As a result, the net share of Americans who say they are not concerned about losing their job increased 11 percentage points.”

Americans Are Game-Changers Too

Americans are naturally optimistic and have always responded to challenges with both resiliency and resourcefulness. Today is no different. As an example, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) just reported:

“Americans are starting new businesses at the fastest rate in more than a decade, according to government data, seizing on pent-up demand and new opportunities after the pandemic shut down and reshaped the economy.”

Why would someone start a business in the middle of an economic crisis? The WSJ explains:

“The jump may be one sign that the pandemic is speeding up ‘creative destruction,’ the concept…to describe how new, innovative businesses often displace older, less-efficient ones, buoying long-term prosperity.”

The WSJ also notes that these new businesses will have a positive impact on the overall employment situation, as new businesses “are a critical engine of job creation. Startups have historically accounted for around one-fifth of job creation.”

Bottom Line

For the millions of Americans still unemployed, we hope for a quick return to the workforce. We should, however, realize that over 90% of people are still employed, and some are venturing into new business start-ups. Perhaps the next big game-changing company is right around the corner.

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Real Estate Continues to Show Unprecedented Strength This Year

The 2020 housing market has surpassed all expectations and continues to drive the nation’s economic recovery. The question is, will this positive trend continue throughout the rest of the year, especially given the uncertainty around the current health crisis, the upcoming election, and more?

Here’s a look at what several industry-leading experts have to say.

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist, National Association of Realtors

“Home sales continue to amaze, and there are plenty of buyers in the pipeline ready to enter the market…Further gains in sales are likely for the remainder of the year, with mortgage rates hovering around 3% and with continued job recovery.”

Frank Martell, President and CEO, CoreLogic

“Homeowners’ balance sheets continue to be bolstered by home price appreciation, which in turn mitigated foreclosure pressures…Although the exact contours of the economic recovery remain uncertain, we expect current equity gains, fueled by strong demand for available homes, will continue to support homeowners in the near term.”

Zillow

Zillow’s predictions for seasonally adjusted home prices and pending sales are more optimistic than previous forecasts because sales and prices have stayed strong through the summer months amid increasingly short inventory and high demand.

The pandemic also pushed the buying season further back in the year, adding to recent sales. Future sources of uncertainty including lapsed fiscal relief, the long-term fate of policies supporting the rental and mortgage market, and virus-specific factors, were incorporated into this outlook.”

Bottom Line

Many economists are in unison, indicating the housing market will continue to fuel the economy through the end of the year, maintaining this unprecedented strength.

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How to Prepare for a Bidding War [INFOGRAPHIC]

How to Prepare for a Bidding War [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights

  • With so few houses available on the market today, being ready for a bidding war is essential for prospective homebuyers.
  • From pre-approval to making your best offer, here are three tips to make sure you can act quickly and confidently when you find the perfect home.
  • Let’s connect today to be sure you have the guidance you need as the competition for homes heats up this season.

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Do You Need to Know More about Forbearance and Mortgage Relief Options?

Earlier this year when the nation pressed pause on the economy and unemployment rates jumped up significantly, many homeowners were immediately concerned about being able to pay their mortgages, and understandably so. To assist in this challenging time, two protection plans were put into place to help support those in need.

First, there was a pause placed on initiating foreclosures for government-backed loans. This plan started on March 18, 2020, and it extends at least through December 31, 2020. Second, homeowners were able to obtain forbearance for up to 180 days, followed by a potential extension for up to another 180 days. This way, there is a relief period in which homeowners have the opportunity to halt payments on their mortgages for up to one year.

Not Everyone Understands Their Options

The challenge, according to Matt Hulstein, Staff Attorney at non-profit Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, is, “A lot of homeowners aren’t aware of this option.”

There’s definitely traction behind this statement. In a recent survey by The National Housing Resource Center, housing counselors from across the country noted that many homeowners really don’t know that there is help available. The following graph indicates the reasons why people who are in this challenging situation are not choosing to enter forbearance:Do You Need to Know More about Forbearance and Mortgage Relief Options? | Simplifying The MarketThe Urban Institute explained:

“530,000 homeowners who became delinquent after the pandemic began did not take advantage of forbearance, despite being eligible to ask for the plan…These responses reflect a need to provide better information to all homeowners. (Lump-sum payment is not the only repayment option.)

Additionally, 205,000 homeowners who did not extend their forbearance after its term ended in June or July became delinquent on their loans. We need to examine who these people are and why are they not extending their option.”

Clearly, a more focused effort on education about forbearance and relief programs may make a big difference for many people, and a clear understanding of their options is mission-critical. Some communities, however, have been impacted by the economic challenges of the pandemic more so than others, further confirming the need to deliver education more widely. The Urban Institute also indicates:

“Black and Hispanic homeowners have been hit harder than white homeowners…nearly 21 percent of both Black and Hispanic homeowners missed or deferred the previous month’s mortgage payment, compared with 10 percent of white homeowners and about 13 percent of all homeowners with payments due.”

Options Available

It’s important to note that any homeowner experiencing financial hardship has the right to request forbearance. If you’re unfamiliar with the plans available, contact your mortgage provider (the company you send your mortgage payment to each month) to discuss your options. It is a necessary next step, as you may qualify for mortgage relief options or forbearance.

One option many homeowners may not realize they have is the ability to sell their house in this time of need. With the growing equity that homeowners have available today, making a move might be the best option to protect your financial future.

Bottom Line

If you need additional information on your options, you can review the Protect Your Investment guide from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Homeowner’s Guide to Success from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). For the majority of people, our home is the most important asset we have, and you should use all the help available right now to be able to preserve your investment.

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