Mortgage Demand Up Despite Rising Rates

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates rose again last week. In fact, increases were seen on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with both conforming and jumbo balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year loans. But, despite rising rates, purchase application demand – or the number of potential home buyers requesting applications for loans to buy homes – is still up 8 percent over last year at the same time. That means, home buyers are out in force and possibly looking to get a jump on the spring season – and potentially higher rates. Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist, says rates will likely continue to rise. “A strong job market, accelerating wage growth, and expectations of faster rate hikes from the Fed all have played roles in pushing up longer-term rates,” Fratantoni said. That means, as long as the economy continues to improve, we will likely see steadily increasing interest rates. However, though higher than they’ve been, rates are still low by historical standards. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

Buyer Basics: What Matters Most To Men Vs. Women

If you’re buying a house – rather than having one built to your specifications – you’re going to have to compromise. You’re probably not going to find everything on your wish list in one house, and certainly not in a home that also just happens to be perfectly in your price range. Which is to say, the home buying process will force you to make decisions about what matters most to you and what you would like but can live without. How you make these decisions will be based, in part, on your particular needs and goals but, according to one recent survey, it may also be based on gender. That’s because, when asked which home features mattered most to them, men and women had slightly different opinions. For example, the number of bedrooms in a home is nearly 7 percent more important to women than men. So is being close to good schools, which was 6.6 percent more important to women. On the other hand, the inclusion of exterior maintenance was 5.1 percent more important to men than women. Whatever the case, spending some time thinking about what home features matter most to you before heading out house hunting will make you a better prepared, and more decisive, buyer. More here.

Demand Rising Among Older Home Buyers

Though there is usually a lot of focus on first-time and younger home buyers, they aren’t the only Americans looking to make a move. In fact, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ 55+ Housing Market Index, older Americans are increasingly interested in buying a home and it’s led to a strengthening in the market. Robert Dietz, NAHB’s chief economist, says growing demand among older buyers is consistent with what’s happening in the market overall. “The strong performance of the 55+ HMI at the end of 2017 is consistent with recent increases in boarder measures of the housing market,” Dietz said. “We expect continued growth in the market for new 55+ housing in 2018 due to favorable demographics, rising home owner wealth, and the current tight supply of existing homes on the market.” In other words, older homeowners have seen an increase in the value of their homes and are now looking to use those gains to find a new home or condo. This has pushed the NAHB’s index to record heights and indicates there will be a high level of interest in home buying among older Americans this year. More here.

Home Sellers Realize Highest Return Since 2007

Naturally, as home prices have increased, so too has the amount of profit homeowners see when they sell their home. Now, according to new numbers from ATTOM Data Solutions, homeowner profits have reached their highest point in more than 10 years. In fact, according to their Q4 2017 U.S. Home Sales Report, the average home seller profit has reached 29.7 percent return on investment compared to the original purchase point. Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM, says now is the most profitable time to sell in years but homeowners aren’t moving as often as they used to. “It’s the most profitable time to sell a home in more than 10 years yet homeowners are staying put longer than we’ve ever seen,” Blomquist said. “While home sellers on the West Coast are realizing the biggest profits, rapid home price appreciation in red state markets is rivaling that of the high-flying coastal markets and producing sizable profits for home sellers in those middle-American markets as well.” More here.

Housing Market Has Momentum To Start The Year

If you look at just about any reading of the current housing market, you’ll find that there are a lot of Americans interested in buying a home right now. Whether it’s because of pent-up demand that built up in the years following the housing crash or a drive to buy now while mortgage rates are still well below their historical norm, the fact is buyer demand is high. The most recent National Association of Realtors’ Pending Home Sales Index provides more evidence of this. That’s because the index – which measures the number of signed contracts to buy homes – ended the year with its third consecutive monthly increase. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says the housing market has started the year with a little bit of momentum. “Another month of modest increases in contract activity is evidence that the housing market has a small trace of momentum at the start of 2018,” Yun said. “Jobs are plentiful, wages are finally climbing and the prospect of higher mortgage rates are perhaps encouraging more aspiring buyers to begin their search now. More here.

Mortgage Rates Move Higher For 2nd Straight Week

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates moved higher for the second consecutive week last week. Rates were up across all loan categories, including 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year loans. Joel Kan, an MBA economist, told CNBC that rates are being driven higher by economic conditions. “Rates moved higher last week driven by concerns over a weaker U.S. dollar, signs of more robust growth and rising rates abroad, and moderately strong fourth-quarter domestic growth,” Kan said. With rates rising, there was a decline in mortgage application demand. The number of homeowners looking to refinance and potential buyers requesting applications for loans to buy homes both saw a drop, with total demand falling 2.6 percent from the week before. However, mortgage rates still remain low by historical standards – though there is a belief that, with a strengthening economy, interest rates could rise further this year. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

Home Price Climb Means Buyers Need To Prepare

It isn’t news that home prices have been headed upward for awhile now. And, according to the latest S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, they are continuing to climb at around the same pace as they have been in recent months. Which is to say, the price increases haven’t yet slowed. Of course, how quickly prices are increasing depends on where you’re looking to buy. Large metropolitan areas – and especially those in the West – are seeing the sharpest increases, while the price gains are more muted in the Midwest. But, no matter where you are, the best way to prepare for higher prices is to know what you want, what you can afford, and where your limits are. In competitive and higher priced markets, having a firm idea of what you can spend and where you’ll compromise will make it less likely that you’ll end up going over budget because of a bidding war or buying more house than you can comfortably afford. Making sure you’re prepared before heading out to look at homes also means securing financing in advance, so you’ll be ready to make an offer when you find a home you love. More here.

Forecast Sees Little Change On The Horizon

Depending on the results of the most recent monthly housing report, you might get the impression that the market is horrible or just fine. Mainly, that’s because monthly real-estate reports often show an exaggerated amount of volatility. In other words, month-to-month results are typically far more up-and-down than what you’d see if you took the longer view. According to Fannie Mae’s most recent Economic and Housing Outlook, that’s especially true these days. Conditions have been pretty steady for the last year and will likely remain that way for the upcoming year. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist, says the real estate market will likely remain unchanged despite changes to tax laws and monetary policy. “The new tax laws are likely to motivate a mixed response in the housing market: Increased disposable household income should lead to greater housing demand, but changes to deductions essentially reduce the subsidy for homeownership,” Duncan said. “On balance, we expect the housing market in 2018 to encounter many of the same challenges as last year, including inventory shortages, particularly in the middle and lower-end of the market, and affordability headwinds.” More here.

Improvement In New Home Market Is Good For Buyers

The number of new homes being built and sold has become an important indicator for the housing market in recent years. That’s because, a shortage of homes for sale has caused prices to steadily increase. And, since the quickest way to add inventory to any particular market is to build new homes, there has been a lot of focus lately on the new home market and how it impacts home buyers and sellers. According to the latest numbers, last year saw an 8.3 percent increase in new home sales over the year before. That’s good news for real estate, as an increasing number of sales should lead to an increasing number of new homes being built. And, to that end, there were 295,000 new homes for sale at the end of December, which is the highest level since April 2009. In short, if builders continue to build more homes, the increased inventory should help moderate price increases which will make affordability conditions more favorable for the rising number of Americans who say they’re interested in buying a home. More here.

Existing Home Sales Reach 11-Year High

According to new numbers from the National Association of Realtors, last year was the best in more than a decade for sales of previously owned homes. Existing home sales ended the year at an estimated 5.51 million sales, surpassing last year’s mark and proving Americans have a strong desire for homeownership. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said sales should’ve been even higher. “Existing sales concluded the year on a softer note, but they were guided higher these last 12 months by a multi-year streak of exceptional job growth, which ignited buyer demand,” Yun said. “At the same time, market conditions were far from perfect. New listings struggled to keep up with what was sold very quickly, and buying became less affordable in a large swath of the country. These two factors ultimately muted what should have been a stronger sales pace.” However, Yun believes rising wages and an expanding economy will help boost housing even further in 2018, helping to push last year’s gains even higher. More here.