Simply put, equity refers to the value of your home minus the amount of money you still owe on your mortgage. It is the factor that separates homeowners from renters and is among the greatest creators of wealth for average Americans. But how much equity does the typical homeowner have? Well, according to new numbers from Zillow, the median homeowner with a mortgage has $78,683 in equity. Homeowners who have paid off their mortgage, on the other hand, have $177,158. And while there are a number of variables that determine how much equity an individual homeowner may have, it is clear that the increase in home prices over the past few years has helped homeowners build back value in their homes. The study did find, however, that some homeowners are doing better than others. When broken down demographically, homeowners between the ages of 35 and 50 tend to have a lower percentage of equity than other generations. Why is that? Well, one reason could be that Generation X home buyers were most affected by the housing crash, as they would’ve been at the prime buying age for a first home in the years just before prices fell. More here.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates were down or unchanged across all loan categories last week. Rates for 30-year fixed-rate loans with conforming balances remained unmoved from the week before, while rates for jumbo loans, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate loans all fell. Joel Kan, an MBA economist, told CNBC mortgage rates were steady mostly because of recent testimony from Fed Chair, Janet Yellen. “Treasury yields were slightly lower last week as testimony from Yellen was perceived to be more dovish than expected, and as the market received data signaling weaker inflation and retail sales for June,” Kan said. “These factors kept the 30-year fixed-contract rate flat over the week.” Flat mortgage rates led to a surge in mortgage activity, though. In fact, refinance activity was up 13 percent from the previous week, while demand for loans to buy homes was up slightly and remains 7 percent higher than at the same time last year. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.
Buyer demand for new homes remains strong, according to the most recent Housing Market Index from the National Association of Home Builders. The Index – which measures builders’ confidence in the new home market on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders view conditions as good than poor – was at 64 in July. Additionally, individual components measuring current sales conditions and expectations over the next six months both scored 70 or above. Robert Dietz, NAHB’s chief economist, says buyer demand is strong but there are other factors slowing the rate of new home construction. “The HMI measures of currents sales conditions has been at 70 or higher for eight straight months, indicating strong demand for new homes,” Dietz said. “However, builders will need to manage some increasing supply-side costs to keep home prices competitive.” Specifically, builders have expressed concern over the cost of lumber. Naturally, higher lumber prices effect the overall cost of new homes and the number of buyers that can afford them. In other words, the reason more new homes aren’t being built isn’t because of a lack of demand and, in many cases, has more to do with higher material prices and a fewer available lots to build on. More here.
At the start of the year, unusually warm winter weather across much of the country led to a boost in housing numbers. Most significantly, construction of new homes benefited from the opportunity to build in areas usually limited by snow and bitter cold. And, because new home construction helps control price increases, the housing market was looking particularly well positioned for continued growth throughout the year. But, though most numbers do remain above last year’s level, there is a bit of a slowdown on the horizon, according to Fannie Mae’s most recent Economic And Housing Outlook. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist, says the news is good and bad. “Construction activity has lost some steam following the first quarter’s weather-driven boost,” Duncan said. “Meanwhile, very lean inventory continues to act as a boon for home prices and a bane for affordability, particularly among potential first-time homeowners.” So what does this mean for home buyers and sellers through the remainder of the summer? Well, it means there shouldn’t be much change from current conditions. Buyers should expect some competition for the homes that are available for sale and sellers should expect to enjoy steady traffic from buyers interested in making a move before the fall. More here.
Naturally, home prices are a big part of any discussion of where the housing market is and where it’s headed. That’s because it’s an easy metric for home buyers and sellers to follow. It’s also because it’s an important factor in making decisions about when to make a move. However, recent news of rising prices may have hopeful homeowners getting ahead of themselves a bit. In fact, a recent study looking at the difference between what homeowners think their house is worth and what it actually appraises for found that owners are overestimating their home’s value by about 1.7 percent. And, though that might not seem like much, having a home appraise for less than its sale price could complicate the closing process, or worse, derail the sale altogether. That’s why it’s important to realize that, though home prices are up overall, how much your home’s particular value has gone up or down depends on where you are. This also reinforces why it’s so valuable to both homeowners looking to sell and buyers on the hunt for a new home to have the advice and guidance of a Realtor who knows their neighborhood. More here.
The vast majority of surveyed Americans say they believe owning a house is a solid investment, according to a new survey from Digital Risk. And that doesn’t just include homeowners and prospective buyers. In fact, 83 percent of renters agreed with current homeowners who said that buying a house was a good investment. Jeff Taylor, managing director for Digital Risk, says the perception of homeownership has come a long way over the past several years. “It’s important to remember how far we’ve come in a decade,” Taylor said. “The fact that the American dream of owning a home is once again considered a smart investment suggests the housing market has years of strong performance ahead of it.” But though overwhelming numbers say they think buying a house is a good financial move, renters also face some challenges when making the jump. Among them, insufficient income and not being able to save enough for a down payment rank high. Still, the fact that homeownership has regained it’s reputation as an essential part of the American Dream and a good way to build wealth is a good indication that, despite those challenges, Americans will continue to aspire to homeownership. More here.
In the years following the housing crash, average mortgage rates hovered near or at all-time lows. Combined with lower home prices, historically low rates provided a great incentive for interested buyers to take advantage of affordability conditions and buy a house. As the economy and housing market has recovered, however, mortgage rates have begun to inch upward. For example, the Mortgage Bankers Association’s most recent Weekly Applications Survey found average mortgage rates up again last week, reaching their highest level since May. Michael Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist, told CNBC recent increases have been driven by the Fed. “Rates continued to increase last week given increasing evidence that the Fed and other central banks are more likely to raise rates given the pickup in economic growth in their respective economies,” Fratantoni said. In other words, the stronger the economy is, the more likely mortgage rates will climb. Still, rates remain low by historical standards and have not deterred home buyers in the same way higher home prices have. That’s because mortgage rates are still favorable for buyers, even if slightly higher than they’ve been over the past few years. More here.
Your credit score is a pretty significant number. Though you may not think about it all that often, it has an effect on your ability to qualify for a loan and the terms you’ll receive if you’re approved. In other words, your credit score can cost you money. That’s why it’s important to maintain good financial habits and check in on your history from time to time, in case there are any errors that can be cleared up. But what is an average score? Well, according to FICO, scores range between 300 and 850 and the current average is at an all-time high. In fact, the most recent data shows the average credit score has reached 700 for the first time ever. For comparison, the average fell to 686 following the housing crash. Ethan Dornhelm, vice president for scores and analytics at FICO, told CNBC 700 is considered a very good score and would mean a borrower would “likely qualify for the credit they want at favorable terms.” However, if your credit score isn’t at 700 or above, that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t qualify for a mortgage. It does mean it’d be worth your time to investigate ways you can improve it, though. More here.
If you’re in the process of, or thinking about, buying a house, you’ve probably done some calculations in your head about how much you’ll need for a down payment and what your prospective mortgage payment might look like. But you may not have given any consideration to how much you might spend after you’ve closed the deal. Simply put, you’re going to want to leave the closing table with a substantial amount of money left over because new home buyers spend about $10,601 in their first year as owners, according to new numbers released by the National Association of Home Builders. That includes things like furniture, appliances, and remodeling or home improvement projects. But in total, new homeowners spend nearly three times as much in their first year than a typical homeowner would in an average year. Of course, the condition of the home you buy will play a large role in how much money you end up spending after the move. But, no matter how move-in ready the home is, you’re likely going to want to make some changes once you’ve settled in. That’s why it’s important to stick to a budget and not totally deplete your savings when choosing a house to buy. More here.
How are Americans feeling about the real estate market this summer? Well, according to Fannie Mae’s monthly Home Purchase Sentiment Index, as good as ever. The index – which measures consumers’ attitudes about home prices, buying and selling, mortgage rates, etc. – found overall sentiment up in June, even matching February’s all-time high. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s senior vice president and chief economist, said Americans are feeling optimistic overall but particularly about selling a house. “The June HPSI reading matches the previous record set in February and reflects the trend toward a sellers’ market that respondents indicated last month,” Duncan said. “Consumers are also growing more optimistic about their ability to get a mortgage, and lenders expect credit standards to ease further going forward, as shown in our Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey.” But despite the good news, Duncan warns that, with fewer homes for sale this season, easing credit standards could have the unintended consequence of pushing home prices higher. Still, even with the challenges today’s market presents, buyers remain eager. In fact, the number of respondents who said now was a good time to buy a house was up 3 percent in June. More here.