Sales Numbers Show Homes Selling Quickly

Though the number of previously owned homes sold in February fell from the month before, homes sales are still up from one year ago. There’s also no shortage of interested home buyers, according to a new report from the National Association of Realtors. In fact, Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says buyer traffic is stronger than last year and it’s leading to quick sales. “Realtors are reporting stronger foot traffic from a year ago, but low supply in the affordable price range continues to be the pest that’s pushing up price growth and pressuring the budgets of prospective buyers,” Yun says. “Newly listed properties are being snatched up quickly so far this year and leaving behind minimal choices for buyers trying to reach the market.” A closer look at the numbers shows that for-sale properties typically stayed on the market for 45 days in February – down from 59 days last year at the same time. In other words, until more homeowners decide to sell, buyers should be prepared to move quickly. Fortunately, though, the number of available homes for sale rose 4.2 percent last month and a recent survey found an increasing number of current homeowners who said they feel it’s a good time to sell. As more homeowners put their homes up for sale, the market should begin to balance and give buyers more opportunities. More here.

Average Mortgage Rates Mostly Steady Last Week

Demand for home loans dropped last week, according to new figures from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The MBA’s Weekly Applications Survey – which tracks mortgage rates and application demand – showed a 2.7 percent decline in the number of Americans requesting applications for home loans. This time, however, the drop wasn’t related to a significant increase in mortgage rates. In fact, average rates were unchanged for 30-year fixed-rate loans with conforming loan balances, down for jumbo loans, and up only slightly for FHA and 15-year fixed-rate loans. In other words, mortgages rates were relatively steady from the week before. However, they are up from where they were last fall. Because of this, Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist, says home buyers are beginning to turn to adjustable rate mortgages. “Home buyers in a strong housing market are looking for ways to extend their purchasing power and ARMs are one way to do that,” Fratantoni told CNBC. Last week, adjustable rate mortgages increased to 9 percent of total application demand. But though that’s the highest it’s been in nearly three years, it’s still far below what it was before the housing crash, when it hit a peak of 35 percent. The MBA’s weekly survey covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications and has been conducted since 1990. More here.

City Living May Cost More Than Move To Suburbs

Whether you prefer to live in the city or suburbs depends on a lot of factors. From the size of your family to your age and career, there are many different considerations that come into play when deciding where you might want to settle down. Of course, money is always a major one. Joyce Hodel, a data scientist at – who recently partnered with Zillow on a cost of living analysis that looked at average housing and child care costs in cities as opposed to suburbs – says choosing where to settle down is a big decision for any family. “Figuring out where your family will live and grow is arguably one of the most exciting and daunting times in a parent’s life,” Hodel says. “While moving to the suburbs often brings significant cost savings, city living can still be the right choice for some families and is less expensive in certain metro areas.” In fact, according to the research, families spend an average of just over $9,000 a year more on basic housing and child care costs when living in cities. However, in some metro areas like Philadelphia and Baltimore, living in the city can actually be the more affordable option. More here.

Financial Optimism May Boost Housing Market

The number of American households that believe the economy is improving has jumped 14 percent since last year at this time, according to the recently released results of a quarterly survey from the National Association of Realtors. That improvement could have an impact on home buyers and sellers as the spring season begins. That’s because, the more confident a person is in their personal financial situation, the more likely they are to make big life decisions, such as buying or selling a house. And, according to the survey, renewed economic optimism is already having an effect. In fact, a majority of Americans answered positively when asked whether or not it’s a good time to buy a home. Additionally, 69 percent said it’s a good time to sell. William E. Brown, NAR’s president, says if you’re someone looking to make a move this spring, it’s best to have a plan – especially if you’re a current homeowner. “Demand far outpaces supply in many parts of the country right now, which means homeowners will likely sell their home much quicker than the time it takes to buy another,” Brown said. “Before listing, it’s best to have a carefully crafted plan in place.” More here.

Will This Year Be Better For Buyers Or Sellers?

If you want to know whether this year is going to be good for buyers or sellers or both, you need to watch for a couple of factors. First, take a look at the housing market. A recent uptick in mortgage rates, combined with higher prices and lower inventory, have made buying a home slightly less affordable than it was a couple of years ago. However, mortgage rates are still historically low and, though prices continue to rise, they have slowed down in many markets. That means, though affordability isn’t what it was a few years ago, buying a home remains an affordable choice. This is especially true when taken together with recent economic data. That’s because, whether or not higher rates will deter potential buyers really depends more on whether or not those buyers feel financially secure and optimistic about their prospects. In other words, if Americans continue to see better job opportunities and higher wages, they’ll be less likely to hesitate when thinking about buying a house regardless of where rates and prices go. According to the most recent outlook from Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research Group, how things play out will depend largely on young Americans. “Tight inventory remains a boon to home prices and Americans’ net worth, but it also continues to price out many would-be first-time homebuyers,” Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist, said. “However, our research suggests that aging millennials, now boasting higher real wages, are beginning to narrow the homeownership attainment gap.” More here.

Builder Confidence Reaches 12-Year High

There are a lot of stages a house goes through on its way to becoming someone’s home. And one of the most important steps along that path is its construction. Because builders are there at the beginning of the process, they have an unique perspective on, not only the market, but also home buyers and their preferences. For this reason, the National Association of Home Builders surveys builders each month to get their perspective on the market for new homes. According to the most recent results, builders are more confident than they’ve been at any time since June 2005. But though their optimism hit a 12-year high, Robert Dietz, NAHB’s chief economist, says builders still face some challenges. “While builders are clearly confident, we expect some moderation in the index moving forward,” Dietz said. “Builders continue to face a number of challenges, including rising material prices, higher mortgage rates, and shortages of lots and labor.” Still, optimism is high, not only about current sales conditions, but also future prospects. In fact – on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders view conditions as good than poor – the index component measuring sales expectations over the next six months was up five points to 78. This is encouraging news for buyers because a strong new home market means more new homes get built and more new home construction means less upward pressure on home prices. More here.

Mortgage Demand And Rates Both Climb Higher

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates increased 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. But despite higher rates, demand for mortgage applications also rose from the week before. In fact, refinance activity was up 4 percent and demand for loans to buy homes moved 2 percent higher than one week earlier. One possible reason for the increase could be a wave of homeowners and prospective buyers trying to lock in rates before they move any higher. But another factor could be job growth. Michael Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist, told CNBC they expect Americans’ improving financial health to outweigh the potential negatives of higher mortgage rates. “February’s job report showed strong job growth and faster wage growth,” Fratantoni said. “We expect that the benefits from growing household incomes will continue to outweigh the headwind of slightly higher mortgage rates.” The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

The Nation’s Best Cities For Selling A Home

With spring quickly approaching, now is the time of year when home buyers start getting serious about finding a house to buy. That means, it’s also the best time of year for homeowners who have been thinking about putting their home up for sale. With for-sale inventory low in many markets, it’s a good time to be a home seller. How good depends, however, on where you live. A recent analysis from SmartAsset looked at five factors important to home sellers and determined the nation’s best cities for selling a house. Using the change in median home values, average number of days a home stays on the market before selling, the percentage of homes that sold for a loss, average closing costs, and the number of real-estate offices per 1,000 residents, the analysis scored 161 cities across the country. Surprisingly, among the top 10 cities for selling a house, nine of them were in either Colorado or Texas – with Denver taking the top spot. The only city outside of Colorado and Texas to make the top 10 was Portland. However, the results do show favorable conditions across a wide geographic area. Cities from every region of the country made the list, from Boston, Mass. to Irvine, Calif., Lexington, Ky. to Charlotte, N.C. More here.

Will Your Next Home Be Bigger Or Smaller?

Over the past 40 years, the typical new home has grown about 1,000 square feet. It seems, for American homeowners, their current home is always smaller than the home they hope to one day buy. But is that always the case? Well, not according to a recent survey from Trulia. Sure, the results show just 32 percent of homeowners say they’d move into a house the same size as the one they currently own. But whether that’s because they feel their house is too big or too small depends on some other factors. Generally, older homeowners and people currently living in homes larger than 2,000 square feet say they’d prefer to downsize, while younger buyers and those living in smaller homes dream of a bigger house. Most of that makes perfect sense. For example, older homeowners may prefer a smaller house due to the maintenance and upkeep issues that a bigger home presents. But when the number of people who say they’d prefer a smaller house rises along with the square footage of their current home, it suggest that there may be, in fact, a point when a house has more space than necessary, regardless of your age. In short, though new homes may keep getting bigger, whether or not you want one probably has more to do with the size of your family, your financial situation, and future life goals. More here.

Why Aren’t More Homeowners Looking To Sell?

Recent real estate data shows home buyer demand is high. There are a lot of buyers looking to take advantage of current conditions out of concern that mortgage rates may go up this year or prices will rise further. That, along with pent-up demand from younger buyers and previously underwater homeowners looking to finally move, means it should be a great time to sell a house. So, if buyer demand is up and conditions are right, why aren’t more homeowners putting their homes up for sale? Well one reason, according to a recent survey, is that they’re afraid they won’t be able to find a suitable replacement for their current home. With inventory tight in many markets, some homeowners – who may otherwise be ready to sell – say they’re hesitant. However, as more homeowners get in the market and off the sidelines, that will begin to change. In the meantime, buyers looking to purchase a home this spring should expect to see available homes for sale selling more quickly than they did last year. In other words, there will likely be some competition for hot properties. That means, interested buyers will have to move fast. One way to beat the competition is to be prepared. If you’re a buyer, have your financing lined up in advance. That way, when you find a home you’re interested in, you’ll have a better shot at getting in the first offer. More here.