Buyer & Seller Perks in Today’s Housing Market

Buyer & Seller Perks in Today’s Housing Market | Simplifying The Market

Right now, the housing market is full of outstanding opportunities for both buyers and sellers. Whether you’re thinking of buying your first home, moving up to a bigger one, or selling so you can downsize this spring, there are perks today that are powering big moves for people across the country. Here are the top two to keep on the radar this season.

The Biggest Perk for Buyers: Low Mortgage Rates

 Today’s most compelling buyer incentive is low mortgage interest rates. The 30-year fixed-rate is now averaging just over 3%. While that’s slightly higher than the record-lows from 2020 and earlier this year, it’s still way lower than historic norms, making purchasing a home an ongoing perk for hopeful buyers (See graph below):Buyer & Seller Perks in Today’s Housing Market | Simplifying The MarketThis is a huge advantage for buyers and helps to make owning a home attainable for more households – and there’s good reason to strive for homeownership. The latest Homeowner Equity Report from CoreLogic shows how homeowners saw major gains in their net worth last year, all thanks to owning a home. Frank Martell, President and CEO of CoreLogic, explains:

Positive factors like record-low interest rates and a booming housing market encouraged many families to enter homeownership. This growing bank of personal wealth that homeownership affords was noticed by many but in particular for first-time buyers who want a piece of the cake. As a result, we may see more of those currently renting start to enter the market in the near future.”

Low mortgage rates are a plus for buyers right now, but experts forecast we’ll see them continue to rise as the year goes on. If you’re ready to purchase a home, it’s wise to get started on the process soon so you can secure today’s comparatively low rate.

The Biggest Perk for Sellers: Low Inventory

Today, there are simply not enough houses on the market for the number of buyers looking to purchase them, and it’s creating a serious sellers’ market. According to Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com:

“Total active inventory continues to decline, dropping 50 percent. With buyers active in the market and sellers still slow to put homes up for sale, homes are selling quickly and the total number actively available for sale at any point in time continues to decline.” (See map below):

Buyer & Seller Perks in Today’s Housing Market | Simplifying The MarketThe lack of houses for sale continues to challenge the market, and with low mortgage rates fueling buyer demand, homes are hard for buyers to find today. According to the latest Realtors Confidence Index Survey by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average house is now receiving 4.1 offers and is on the market for only 20 days.

Buyers are clearly eager to purchase, and because of the shortage of inventory available, they’re often entering bidding wars. This is one of the factors keeping home prices strong and giving sellers leverage in the negotiation process.

Homeowners who are in a position to sell shouldn’t wait to make their move. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel for today’s inventory shortage, so listing this spring will get your house on the market when conditions are most favorable. With low inventory and high buyer demand, homeowners can potentially earn a greater profit on their houses and sell them quickly in the fast-paced spring market.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re thinking about buying or selling a home, there are major perks available in today’s housing market. Let’s connect today to discuss how these favorable conditions play to your advantage in our local area.

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Should We Fear the Surge in Cash-Out Refinances?

Should We Fear the Surge in Cash-Out Refinances? | Simplifying The Market

Freddie Mac recently released their Quarterly Refinance Statistics report which covers refinances through 2020. The report explains that the dollar amount of cash-out refinances was greater in 2020 than in recent years. A cash-out refinance, as defined by Investopia, is:

“a mortgage refinancing option in which an old mortgage is replaced for a new one with a larger amount than owed on the previously existing loan, helping borrowers use their home mortgage to get some cash.”

The Freddie Mac report led to articles like the one published by The Real Deal titled, House or ATM? Cash-Out Refinances Spiked in 2020, which reports:

“Americans treated their homes like ATMs last year, withdrawing $152.7 billion amid a cash-out refinancing spree not seen since before the 2008 financial crisis.”

Whenever you combine the terms “spiked,” “homes like ATMs,” and “financial crisis,” it conjures up memories of the housing crash we experienced in 2008.

However, that comparison is invalid for three reasons:

1. Americans are sitting on much more home equity today.

Mortgage data giant Black Knight just issued information on the amount of tappable equity U.S. homeowners with a mortgage have. Tappable equity is the amount of equity available for homeowners to use and still have 20% equity in their home. Here’s a graph showing the findings from their report:Should We Fear the Surge in Cash-Out Refinances? | Simplifying The MarketIn 2006, directly before the crash, tappable home equity in the U.S. topped out at $4.6 trillion. Today, that number is $7.3 trillion.

As Black Knight explains:

“At year’s end, some 46 million homeowners held a total $7.3 trillion in tappable equity, the largest amount ever recorded…That’s an increase of more than $1.1 trillion (+18%) since the end of 2019, the largest percentage gain since 2013 and – you guessed it – the largest dollar value gain in history, to boot. All in all, it works out to roughly $158,000 on average per homeowner with tappable equity, up nearly $19,000 from the end of 2019.”

2. Homeowners cashed-out a much smaller amount this time.

In 2006, Americans cashed-out a total of $321 billion. In 2020, that number was less than half, totaling $153 billion. The $321 billion made up 7% of the total tappable equity in the country in 2006. On the other hand, the $153 billion made up only 2% of the total tappable equity last year.

3. Fewer homeowners tapped their equity in 2020 than in 2006.

Freddie Mac reports that 89% of refinances in 2006 were cash-out refinances. Last year, that number was less than half at 33%. As a percentage of those who refinanced, many more Americans lowered their equity position fifteen years ago as compared to last year.

Bottom Line

It’s true that many Americans liquidated a portion of the equity in their homes last year for various reasons. However, less than half of them tapped their equity compared to 2006, and they cashed-out less than one-third of that available equity. Today’s cash-out refinance situation bears no resemblance to the situation that preceded the housing crash.

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Americans See Major Home Equity Gains [INFOGRAPHIC]

Americans See Major Home Equity Gains [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Americans See Major Home Equity Gains [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights

  • Today’s home price appreciation is driving equity higher throughout the country.
  • If your needs are changing and you’re ready for a new home, your equity may be a great asset to power your next move.
  • Now is a great time to put your equity toward a down payment on the home of your dreams.

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To Renovate or Not To Renovate Before You Sell

To Renovate or Not To Renovate Before You Sell | Simplifying The Market

When thinking about selling, homeowners often feel they need to get their house ready with some remodeling to make it more appealing to buyers. However, with so many buyers competing for available homes right now, renovations may not be as vital as they would be in a more normal market. Here are two things to keep in mind if you’re thinking of selling this season.

1. There aren’t enough homes for sale right now.

A normal market has a 6-month supply of houses for sale, but today’s housing inventory sits far below that benchmark. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), there’s only a 1.9-month supply of homes available today. As a result, buyer competition is high and homes are only on the market for about 21 days, during which time many receive multiple offers from hopeful buyers.

In a competitive market that’s moving so quickly, it makes sense to sell your house when buyers are scooping homes up as fast as they’re being listed. Spending costly time and money on renovations before you sell might just mean you’ll miss your key window of opportunity. While certain repairs on your house may be important, your best move right now is to work with a real estate advisor to determine which improvements are truly necessary, and which ones are not likely to be deal-breakers for buyers.

Today, many buyers are more willing to take on home improvement projects themselves in order to get the home they’re after, even if it means putting in a little extra work. Home Advisor explains:

When it comes to the number of home improvement projects completed, Gen Z homeowners are leading the pack, completing an average of 3.5 projects. Millennials closely follow Gen Z, taking on an average of 3.3 projects, followed by Gen X at 2.8 projects. Boomers completed an average of 2 projects, and the Silent Generation completed the fewest projects, on average, at 1.8 per household. Compared to 2019, millennials are spending 60% more on home improvement and doing on average 30% more projects.”

In this market, it may be wise to let future homeowners remodel the bathroom or the kitchen to make design decisions that are best for their specific taste and lifestyle. As a seller, your dollars and time might be better spent working on small cosmetic updates, like refreshing some paint and power washing the exterior. Instead of over-investing in your home with upgrades that the buyers may change anyway, work with a real estate professional to determine the key projects that will maximize your listing, without overdoing it.

2. Focus on getting a good return on your investment.

When planning any bigger projects to tackle, you and your real estate agent will want to discuss the potential return on your investment and if those projects are worth the cost. Some homes do need a kitchen or bathroom renovation, roof repairs, or other major work, but definitely not all of them. You might be surprised by how well your house could fair in today’s sellers’ market. Hanley Wood states:

“The 2020 Cost vs. Value report shows a predictable increase in costs for all 22 remodeling projects but a consistent dip in the perceived value of those projects at the time of home sale, as estimated by real-estate professionals in more than 100 metro areas across the U.S. This results in a slight downturn on the return on investment for nearly all projects relative to the trends we saw in last year’s report.”

Ideally, homeowners getting ready to move should try to avoid over-investing in big renovations if they won’t make that money back when they sell their house. According to the 2020 State of Home Spending report from Home Advisor:

The average household spending on home services rose to $13,138, an increase over last year’s survey results, where homeowners who did projects spent $9,081 on average in 2019.”

Before you renovate, contact a local real estate professional to see if it’s the best course of action. You may find out that putting your house on the market as-is will help you sell quickly, and it may result in the best return on your investment. Every home is different, but a conversation with your agent is mission-critical to make sure you make the right moves when selling this season.

Bottom Line

We’re in a strong sellers’ market, and that means you have the leverage to sell your house on your terms. Let’s connect today to determine if renovating is really the best way to spend your time and money before you sell.

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What Is the Strongest Tailwind to Today’s Recovering Economy?

What Is the Strongest Tailwind to Today’s Recovering Economy? | Simplifying The Market

Last year started off with a bang. Unemployment was under 4%, forecasters were giddy with their projections for the economy, and the residential housing market had the strongest January and February activity in over a decade.

Then came the announcement on March 11, 2020, from the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic. Two days later, the White House declared it a national emergency. Businesses and schools were forced to close, shelter-in-place mandates were enacted, and the economy came to a screeching halt. As a result, unemployment in this country skyrocketed to 14.9%.

A year later, the economy is recovering, and the U.S. has regained more than half of the jobs that were originally lost. However, some businesses are still closed, and many schools are still struggling to reopen. Despite the past and current challenges, there is one industry that’s proven to be a tailwind helping to counter all of these headwinds to our economy. That industry is housing. Remarkably, the residential real estate market (including existing homes and new construction) has flourished over the last twelve months. Sales are up, prices are appreciating, and more new homes are being built. The housing market has been a pillar of strength in an otherwise slowly recovering economy.

How does the real estate market help the economy?

At the beginning of the pandemic, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released a report that explained:

“Real estate has been, and remains, the foundation of wealth building for the middle class and a critical link in the flow of goods, services, and income for millions of Americans. Accounting for nearly 18% of the GDP, real estate is clearly a major driver of the U.S. economy.”

The report calculated the total economic impact of real estate-related industries on the economy as well as the expenditures that resulted from a single home sale. At a national level, their research revealed that a single newly constructed home had an economic impact of $88,416.

Here’s how it breaks down:What Is the Strongest Tailwind to Today’s Recovering Economy? | Simplifying The MarketThe map below shows the impact by state:What Is the Strongest Tailwind to Today’s Recovering Economy? | Simplifying The MarketThe impact of an existing home sale is approximately $40,000.

Real estate has done more for our economic wellbeing than virtually any other industry over the last year. It’s been a beacon of light during a very challenging time in our nation’s history.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re buying a newly constructed home or one that already exists, you’re making a positive economic impact in your local community – and it’s a step toward your homeownership goals as well.

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What Is the #1 Financial Benefit of Homeownership?

What Is the #1 Financial Benefit of Homeownership? | Simplifying The Market

There are many financial and non-financial benefits of homeownership, and the greatest financial one is wealth creation. Homeownership has always been the first rung on the ladder that leads to forming household wealth. As Freddie Mac explains:

“Homeownership has cemented its role as part of the American Dream, providing families with a place that is their own and an avenue for building wealth over time. This ‘wealth’ is built, in large part, through the creation of equity…Building equity through your monthly principal payments and appreciation is a critical part of homeownership that can help you create financial stability.”

Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American, also notes:

“The wealth-building power of homeownership shows that home is not only where your heart is, but also where your wealth is…For the majority of households that transition into homeownership, the most recent data reinforces that housing is one of the biggest positive drivers of wealth creation.”

Last week, CoreLogic released their latest Homeowner Equity Insights Report, which reveals the surge in wealth created over the last twelve months through increased home equity. The report makes five key points:

  1. Roughly 38% of all homes are mortgage-free
  2. The average equity gain of mortgaged homes in the last year was $26,300
  3. The current average equity of mortgaged homes is greater than $200,000
  4. There was a 16.9% increase in total homeowner equity
  5. Total homeowner equity reached over $1.5 trillion

Here’s a map that shows the equity gains by state:What Is the #1 Financial Benefit of Homeownership? | Simplifying The MarketIncreasing equity is giving homeowners the power to better manage the challenges of the pandemic, especially for those spending more time at home. In the report, Frank Nothaft, Chief Economist for CoreLogic, explains:

“This equity growth has enabled many families to finance home remodeling, such as adding an office or study, further contributing to last year’s record level in home improvement spending.”

The financial advantage homeowners have has not gone unnoticed. In the same report, Frank Martell, President and CEO of CoreLogic, states:

“This growing bank of personal wealth that homeownership affords was noticed by many but in particular for first-time buyers who want a piece of the cake.”

Increasing wealth benefits more than just homeowners.

Last year, the Rosen Consulting Group released a report outlining the benefits of homeownership. In that report, they explained what an increase in net worth – which they call the “wealth effect” – means to the economy:

“In economic literature, the wealth effect is a term used to describe the fact that individuals have a tendency to increase their spending habits when their actual or perceived wealth increases. For homeowners, the latent savings achieved by building equity in their home and the growth in home values over time both contribute to increased net worth. Through the wealth effect, this in turn translates to households having a greater ability and willingness to spend money across a wide range of other types of goods and services that spur business activity and provide a positive multiplier effect that creates jobs and income throughout the economy.”

Bottom Line

Homeownership builds wealth through equity, and this creates a positive impact for homeowners and their communities. Let’s connect today if you’re ready to invest in a home of your own.

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Will the Housing Market Bloom This Spring?

Will the Housing Market Bloom This Spring? | Simplifying The Market

Spring is almost here, and many are wondering what it will bring for the housing market. Even though the pandemic continues on, it’s certain to be very different from the spring we experienced at this time last year. Here’s what a few industry experts have to say about the housing market and how it will bloom this season.

Danielle Hale, Chief Economist, realtor.com:

“Despite early weakness, we expect to see new listings grow in March and April as they traditionally do heading into spring, and last year’s extraordinarily low new listings comparison point will mean year over year gains. One other potential bright spot for would-be homebuyers, new construction, which has risen at a year over year pace of 20% or more for the last few months, will provide additional for-sale inventory relief.”

Ali Wolf, Chief Economist, Zonda:

“Some people will feel comfortable listing their home during the first half of 2021. Others will want to wait until the vaccines are widely distributed. This suggests more inventory will be for sale in late 2021 and into the spring selling season in 2022.”

Freddie Mac:

“Since reaching a low point in January, mortgage rates have risen by more than 30 basis points… However, the rise in mortgage rates over the next couple of months is likely to be more muted in comparison to the last few weeks, and we expect a strong spring sales season.”

Mark Fleming, Chief Economist, First American:

“As the housing market heads into the spring home buying season, the ongoing supply and demand imbalance all but assures more house price growth…Many find it hard to believe, but housing is actually undervalued in most markets and the gap between house-buying power and sale prices indicates there’s room for further house price growth in the months to come.”

Bottom Line

The experts are very optimistic about the housing market right now. If you pressed pause on your real estate plans over the winter, let’s chat to determine how you can re-engage in the homebuying process this spring.

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6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time

6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time | Simplifying The Market

Last March, many involved in the residential housing industry feared the market would be crushed under the pressure of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Instead, real estate had one of its best years ever. Home sales and prices were both up substantially over the year before. 2020 was so strong that many now fear the market’s exuberance mirrors that of the last housing boom and, as a result, we’re now headed for another crash.

However, there are many reasons this real estate market is nothing like 2008. Here are six visuals to show the dramatic differences.

1. Mortgage standards are nothing like they were back then.

During the housing bubble, it was difficult not to get a mortgage. Today, it’s tough to qualify. Recently, the Urban Institute released their latest Housing Credit Availability Index (HCAI) which “measures the percentage of owner-occupied home purchase loans that are likely to default—that is, go unpaid for more than 90 days past their due date. A lower HCAI indicates that lenders are unwilling to tolerate defaults and are imposing tighter lending standards, making it harder to get a loan. A higher HCAI indicates that lenders are willing to tolerate defaults and are taking more risks, making it easier to get a loan.

The index shows that lenders were comfortable taking on high levels of risk during the housing boom of 2004-2006. It also reveals that today, the HCAI is under 5 percent, which is the lowest it’s been since the introduction of the index. The report explains:

“Significant space remains to safely expand the credit box. If the current default risk was doubled across all channels, risk would still be well within the pre-crisis standard of 12.5 percent from 2001 to 2003 for the whole mortgage market.”

6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time | Simplifying The MarketThis is nothing like the last time.

2. Prices aren’t soaring out of control.

Below is a graph showing annual home price appreciation over the past four years compared to the four years leading up to the height of the housing bubble. Though price appreciation was quite strong last year, it’s nowhere near the rise in prices that preceded the crash.6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time | Simplifying The MarketThere’s a stark difference between these two periods of time. Normal appreciation is 3.8%. So, while current appreciation is higher than the historic norm, it’s certainly not accelerating out of control as it did in the early 2000s.

This is nothing like the last time.

3. We don’t have a surplus of homes on the market. We have a shortage.

The months’ supply of inventory needed to sustain a normal real estate market is approximately six months. Anything more than that is an overabundance and will causes prices to depreciate. Anything less than that is a shortage and will lead to continued appreciation. As the next graph shows, there were too many homes for sale in 2007, and that caused prices to tumble. Today, there’s a shortage of inventory, which is causing an acceleration in home values.6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time | Simplifying The MarketThis is nothing like the last time.

4. New construction isn’t making up the difference in inventory needed.

Some may think new construction is filling the void. However, if we compare today to right before the housing crash, we can see that an overabundance of newly built homes was a major challenge then, but isn’t now.6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time | Simplifying The MarketThis is nothing like the last time.

5. Houses aren’t becoming too expensive to buy.

The affordability formula has three components: the price of the home, the wages earned by the purchaser, and the mortgage rate available at the time. Fifteen years ago, prices were high, wages were low, and mortgage rates were over 6%. Today, prices are still high. Wages, however, have increased, and the mortgage rate is about 3%. That means the average homeowner pays less of their monthly income toward their mortgage payment than they did back then. Here’s a chart showing that difference:6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time | Simplifying The MarketAs Mark Fleming, Chief Economist for First American, explains:

“Lower mortgage interest rates and rising incomes correspond with higher house prices as home buyers can afford to borrow and buy more. If housing is appropriately valued, house-buying power should equal or outpace the median sale price of a home. Looking back at the bubble years, house prices exceeded house-buying power in 2006, but today house-buying power is nearly twice as high as the median sale price nationally.”

This is nothing like the last time.

6. People are equity rich, not tapped out.

In the run-up to the housing bubble, homeowners were using their homes as personal ATM machines. Many immediately withdrew their equity once it built up, and they learned their lesson in the process. Prices have risen nicely over the last few years, leading to over 50% of homes in the country having greater than 50% equity – and owners have not been tapping into it like the last time. Here’s a table comparing the equity withdrawal over the last three years compared to 2005, 2006, and 2007. Homeowners have cashed out almost $500 billion dollars less than before:6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time | Simplifying The MarketDuring the crash, home values began to fall, and sellers found themselves in a negative equity situation (where the amount of the mortgage they owed was greater than the value of their home). Some decided to walk away from their homes, and that led to a wave of distressed property listings (foreclosures and short sales), which sold at huge discounts, thus lowering the value of other homes in the area. With the average home equity now standing at over $190,000, this won’t happen today.

This is nothing like the last time.

Bottom Line

If you’re concerned that we’re making the same mistakes that led to the housing crash, take a look at the charts and graphs above to help alleviate your fears.

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How to Prepare Your House for a Winning Sale This Spring [INFOGRAPHIC]

How to Prepare Your House for a Winning Sale This Spring [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

How to Prepare Your House for a Winning Sale This Spring [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights

  • With so few homes available to buy today, houses are in high demand, and they’re selling fast.
  • That means it’s a great time to sell if you’re ready to make a move.
  • Let’s connect to make sure your house is ready for a top-dollar sale this spring. It may be closer than you think!

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Is It a Good Time to Sell My House?

Is It a Good Time to Sell My House? | Simplifying The Market

Last year, many homeowners thought twice about selling their houses due to the onset of the health crisis. This year, however, homeowners are beginning to regain their confidence when it comes to selling safely. The latest Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI) by Fannie Mae shows that 57% of consumers believe now is a good time to sell.

Doug Duncan, Vice President and Chief Economist at Fannie Mae, explains:

“Overall, the index’s monthly increase was driven largely by a substantial jump in the share of consumers reporting that it’s a good time to sell a home, with many citing favorable mortgage rates, high home prices, and low housing inventory as their primary rationale.”

Normally, spring is the busiest season in the housing market – the time when many homeowners decide to list their houses. While this is obviously not a normal year since the pandemic is still very much upon us, experts are optimistic that consumer positivity around selling will lead to more homeowners making moves this year. Duncan continues to say:

“We will pay close attention to see if this newfound optimism develops into a trend.”

What does this mean if you’re thinking of selling your house?

The fact that there are so few houses available for sale today is one driver that’s encouraging consumers to think more positively about selling. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) states:

“Total housing inventory at the end of January amounted to 1.04 million units, down 1.9% from December and down 25.7% from one year ago (1.40 million).”

With so few homes available to buy, your house will be more likely to rise to the top of an eager purchaser’s wish list in this competitive market. Today’s high buyer activity is creating upward pressure on home prices and more multiple-offer scenarios. According to the Realtors Confidence Index Survey from NAR, the average home for sale is receiving 3.7 offers today, up from 2.3 offers just one year ago. This makes selling even more enticing.

In this kind of sellers’ market, you have a huge advantage in the process. And here’s another win – you can also use your equity toward a down payment on a new home when you move.

Wondering where you’ll go if you try to move while it’s so challenging to find a home to buy? Well, in many areas, there are more homes available at the higher end of the market, so finding a move-up home may be less of an issue if you’re ready to search for your dream home this spring.

Bottom Line

If you pressed pause on selling your house last year, now may be the best time to put your plans back into motion while inventory is so low. Let’s connect today to get the process started.

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