Housing inventory is at an all-time low. Realtor.com just reported that there are 39% fewer homes for sale today than there were last year. At the same time, buyer demand remains strong. In a recent newsletter, research analyst Ivy Zelman explained:
“Although the headwind of severe supply constraints in most markets has contributed to slight moderation in seasonally-adjusted and year-over-year new pending contract growth for two consecutive months (albeit still growing strongly), the underlying strength of buyer demand, particularly for this time of year, remains apparent.”
Whenever there’s a shortage in the supply of an item that’s in high demand, the price of that item increases. That’s exactly what’s happening in the real estate market right now. As a result, home values are surging.
This is great news if you’re planning to sell your house. On the other hand, as either a first-time or repeat buyer, this may instead seem like troubling news. Purchasers, however, should realize that the price of a house is not as important as the monthly cost. Here’s how it breaks down.
There are several factors that influence the cost of a home. Two of the major ones are:
- The price of the home
- The mortgage rate at which a buyer can borrow the funds necessary to purchase the home
How do these factors impact affordability?
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) produces a Housing Affordability Index which takes these factors into account and determines an overall affordability score for housing. According to NAR, the index:
“…measures whether or not a typical family earns enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a typical home at the national and regional levels based on the most recent price and income data.”
Their methodology states:
“To interpret the indices, a value of 100 means that a family with the median income has exactly enough income to qualify for a mortgage on a median-priced home. An index above 100 signifies that family earning the median income has more than enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a median-priced home, assuming a 20 percent down payment.”
So, the higher the index, the more affordable it is to purchase a home. Here’s a graph of the index going back to 1990:The blue bar represents today’s affordability. We can see that homes are more affordable now than they were from:
- 1990 to 2008
- 2017 to 2018
Buying a home today is just a little less affordable than it was last year, but still very affordable compared to historical housing market trends.
Note: During the housing crash from 2009 to 2015, distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) dominated the market. Those properties were sold at large discounts not seen before in the housing market.
Why are homes still affordable today?
The number one factor impacting today’s homebuying affordability is record-low mortgage rates. There’s no doubt that prices are on the rise. However, mortgage rates have fallen dramatically. Last week, Freddie Mac announced that the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 2.72%. Last year at this time, the average rate was 3.68%.
If you’re considering purchasing your first home or moving up to the one you’ve always hoped for, it’s important to understand how affordability plays into the overall cost of your home. With that in mind, buying while mortgage rates are as low as they are now may save you quite a bit of money over the life of your home loan.
At this point, home purchase affordability is still in a historically good place. However, we need to watch price increases going forward. As Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, noted in a recent post:
“Faster nominal house price appreciation can erode, or even eliminate, the boost in affordability from lower mortgage rates, especially if household income growth doesn’t keep up.”
In a year when we’re learning to do so much remotely, homebuying is no exception. From going to work to attending school, grocery shopping, and even seeing our doctors online, digital practices have changed the way we live.
This year, rather than delaying their home purchases, buyers – alongside their trusted real estate professionals – turned to the Internet to do more than just a typical home search. In some cases, they bought homes without even stepping foot inside. Jessica Lautz, Vice President of Demographics and Behavioral Insights at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), says:
“People really didn’t buy houses sight-unseen, traditionally. It’s still not a huge number, but it has gone up, and we have definitely seen that trend accelerate.”
According to NAR, throughout the coronavirus pandemic, one in every 20 homebuyers purchased a house sight-unseen.
How Your Real Estate Agent Will Pave the Way
Today, real estate professionals are using digital practices to help homebuyers and sellers walk through many steps in the process virtually. While following the regulations set forth by the CDC and all local guidelines, this year, agents quickly empowered buyers and sellers with virtual tours, 3D floor plans, high-quality photos, videos, online open houses, and more. For those who had homebuying and selling needs in 2020, trusted advisors made it possible in many markets.
Here’s a graph showing some of the digital options buyers found most helpful in their searches this year, as noted by NAR in the 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers:The report also mentions that buyers this year generally searched for eight weeks. Throughout that search, they viewed a median of 9 homes, but not all of them were seen in-person. Yahoo Finance notes:
“Buyers viewed five homes online and four homes in-person during the pandemic, compared to nine homes in-person in 2019, according to NAR. This was the first year NAR asked buyers to specify the number of homes toured virtually.”
In true 2020 fashion, virtual practices helped buyers safely narrow down their top choices, so they didn’t have to unnecessarily walk into more homes than they needed to see throughout the process. Here’s the breakdown by region:At a time when health and safety are top priorities, current technology is making it possible for buyers and sellers to move their real estate plans forward at their own comfort levels, even through a worldwide pandemic. For many, this means buyers no longer have to physically tour every home they want to see, and sellers don’t need to open their doors over and over again throughout the process. Safety can come first, and trusted real estate professionals are here to help.
If you’re ready to make a move, you may not have to press pause on your plans this season. Let’s connect to determine the safe and effective options to buy or sell a home in our area or wherever you’re looking to move.
Back in March, as the nation’s economy was shut down because of the coronavirus, many were predicting the real estate market would face a major collapse. Some forecasts called for a 15-20% decline in transactions. However, six months later, it seems as though the housing market has fully recovered.
Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, announced last week:
“Since hitting a low point during the initial stages of the pandemic, the only major industry to display immunity to the economic impacts of the coronavirus is the housing market. Housing has experienced a strong V-shaped recovery and is now exceeding pre-pandemic levels.”
The Economic & Strategic Research Group at Fannie Mae upgraded its forecast for home sales last week:
“Housing data over the past month continued to show a strong V-shape rebound, helping drive the broader economy. Existing home sales jumped to a pace not seen since 2006…We have substantially upgraded our forecasts for both new and existing home sales. For 2020, total home sales are now expected to be 1.3% higher than in 2019.”
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) agrees. In their last Pending Sales Report, NAR shared projections from Chief Economist Lawrence Yun:
“Yun forecasts existing-home sales to ramp up to 5.8 million in the second half. That expected rebound would bring the full-year level of existing-home sales to 5.4 million, a 1.1% gain compared to 2019.”
Yun’s forecast for 2021 was even more optimistic, stating, “Home sales will ramp up again next year, increasing between 8% – 12%.”
The housing market has come roaring back and looks as though it may even surpass last year’s success.
Frank Martell, President and CEO of CoreLogic, hit the nail on the head when he said, “On an aggregated level, the housing economy remains rock solid despite the shock and awe of the pandemic.”
When shelter-in-place orders brought the economy to a screeching halt earlier this year, many believed the residential housing market would follow suit. Countless analysts predicted buyer demand would disappear and home values would depreciate for the first time in almost a decade. That, however, didn’t happen. It appears the opposite is taking place.
After the bottom fell out of the real estate market immediately following the shutdown, it has come roaring back – and seems to still be gaining steam. Here’s a look at two recent reports – one from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and one from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) – showing this growing strength.
Builder Confidence Hits All-Time High
Last week, it was reported that applications for new home purchases with home builders were 39% higher than in July of 2019. That has builder confidence soaring.
Each month, NAHB releases its Housing Market Index, a survey of NAHB members who rate market conditions for the sale of new homes at the present time and over the next six months, as well as prospective buyer traffic for new homes.
This month, they reported that builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes increased to the highest reading in the 35-year history of the series. NAHB Chairman, Chuck Fowke, explained:
“The demand for new single-family homes continues to be strong, as low interest rates and a focus on the importance of housing has stoked buyer traffic to all-time highs…Housing has clearly been a bright spot during the pandemic and the sharp rebound in builder confidence over the summer has led NAHB to upgrade its forecast for single-family starts, which are now projected to show only a slight decline for 2020.”
The number of newly constructed homes being built will be almost at the same level as last year, even though the economic shutdown crushed home building earlier in the year.
Existing Homes Are Also Selling Like Hotcakes
Last Friday, NAR released its Existing Home Sales Report. The report revealed that month-over-month sales increased by 24.7%, setting another record for the category. The Wall Street Journal reported that the increase crushed expert forecasts:
“Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected a 14.2% monthly increase in sales of previously-owned homes, which make up most of the housing market.”
Home sales increased by 8.7% year-over-year.
Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for NAR, explained how the resale market is just as hot as the new construction market:
“The housing market is well past the recovery phase and is now booming with higher home sales compared to the pre-pandemic days. With the sizable shift in remote work, current homeowners are looking for larger homes and this will lead to a secondary level of demand even into 2021.”
In addition, the Housing Market Recovery Index, which is released monthly by realtor.com, also showed the market is recovering nicely. The latest index reading was 104.8, which means the housing market is doing better than it was in January and February of this year. As a reference, the highest point in the index was a 106.5 in early March, just prior to the health crisis setting in.
Both the newly constructed and existing home sale markets are posting numbers greater than a year ago. Real estate is back. If you’re thinking of buying or selling, let’s connect so you have the expert counsel you need along the way.
Last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its latest Employment Situation Summary. Going into the release, the expert consensus was for 1.58 million jobs to be added in July, and for the unemployment rate to fall to 10.5%.
When the official report came out, it revealed that 1.8 million jobs were added, and the unemployment rate fell to 10.2% (from 11.1% last month). Once again, this is excellent news as this was the third consecutive month the unemployment rate decreased.There is, however, still a long way to go before the job market fully recovers. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) put a potential date on that recovery:
“July’s payroll growth, at 1.8 million, still leaves total payrolls 12.9 million lower than in February. And yet if job gains continued at July’s pace, that deficit will be erased by March 2021. If payrolls reclaim their last peak in 13 months, that would be remarkably fast. It took more than six years after the last recession.”
Permanent vs. Temporary Unemployment
During a pandemic, it’s important to differentiate those who have lost their jobs on a temporary basis from those who have lost them on a permanent basis. Morgan Stanley economists noted in the same WSJ article:
“The rate of churn in the labor market remains incredibly high, but a notable positive detail in this month’s report was the downtick in the rate of new permanent layoffs.”
To address this, the core unemployment rate becomes increasingly important. It identifies the number of people who have permanently lost their jobs. This measure subtracts temporary layoffs and adds unemployed who did not search for a job recently. Jed Kolko, Chief Economist at Indeed and the founder of the index reported:
“Core unemployment fell in July for the first time in the pandemic. That’s the good news I was hoping for.”
What about the housing market?
The housing market has continued to show tremendous resilience during the pandemic. Commenting on the labor report, Robert Dietz, Chief Economist for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), tweeted:
“Housing continues to rebound in another positive labor market report. Home builder and remodeler job gains of 24K for July. Residential construction employment down just 56.4K compared to a year ago. Total residential construction employment at 2.85 million.”
We should remain cautious in our optimism, as the recovery is ultimately tied to our future success in mitigating the ongoing health crisis. However, as Mike Fratantoni, Chief Economist for the Mortgage Bankers Association, reminds us: “The pace of job growth slowed in July, but the gains over the past three months represent an impressive rebound during the ongoing economic challenges brought forth by the pandemic.”
With the strength of the current housing market growing every day and more Americans returning to work, a faster-than-expected recovery in the housing sector is already well underway. Regardless, many are still asking the question: will we see a wave of foreclosures as a result of the current crisis? Thankfully, research shows the number of foreclosures is expected to be much lower than what this country experienced during the last recession. Here’s why.
According to Black Knight Inc., the number of those in active forbearance has been leveling-off over the past month (see graph below):Black Knight Inc. also notes, of the original 4,208,000 families granted forbearance, only 2,588,000 of these homeowners got an extension. Many homeowners have once again started to pay their mortgages, paid off their homes, or never went delinquent on their payments in the first place. They may have applied for forbearance out of precaution, but never fully acted on it (see graph below):The housing market, and homeowners, therefore, are in a much better position than many may think. Much of that has to do with the fact that today’s homeowners have more equity than most realize. According to John Burns Consulting, over 42% of homes are owned free and clear, meaning they are not tied to a mortgage. Of the remaining 58%, the average homeowner has $177,000 in equity. That number is keeping many homeowners afloat today and giving them options to avoid foreclosure.
While ATTOM Data Solutions indicates that there is a potential for the number of foreclosures to increase throughout the country, it’s important to understand why they won’t rock the housing market this time around:
“The United States faces a possible foreclosure surge over the coming months that could more than double the number of households threatened with eviction for not paying their mortgages.”
That number may sound massive, but it is actually much smaller than it seems at first glance. Today’s actual quarterly active foreclosure number is 74,860. That’s over 7.5x lower than the number of foreclosures the country saw at the peak of the housing crash in 2009. When looking at the graph below, it’s clear that even if the number of quarterly foreclosures today doubles, as ATTOM Data Solutions indicates is a possibility (not a given), they will only reach what historically-speaking is a normalized range, far below what up-ended the housing market roughly 10 years ago.Equity is growing, jobs are returning, and the economy is slowly recovering, so the perfect storm for a wave of foreclosures is not realistically in the housing market forecast. As Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist for First American notes:
“Alone, economic hardship and a lack of equity are each necessary, but not sufficient to trigger a foreclosure. It is only when both conditions exist that a foreclosure becomes a likely outcome.”
While our hearts are with anyone who may end up in foreclosure as a result of this crisis, we do know that today’s homeowners have more options than they did 10 years ago. For some, it may mean selling their house and downsizing with that equity, which is a far better outcome than foreclosure.
Homeowners today have many options to avoid foreclosure, and equity is surely helping to keep many afloat. Even if today’s rate of foreclosures doubles, it will still only hit a mark that is more in line with a historically normalized range, a very good sign for homeowners and the housing market.
In a recent survey of home sellers by Qualtrics, 87% of respondents said they were concerned their home won’t sell because of the pandemic and resulting economic recession. Of the respondents, 51% said they are “seriously worried.” That concern seems reasonable considering the current condition of the economy. The data, however, is showing that home purchasers are still very active despite the disruptions American families have experienced this year.
The latest Existing Home Sales Report published by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) revealed that 340,000 single-family homes sold in this country last month. NAR’s most recent Pending Sales Report (homes going into contract) surpassed last month’s number by over 44%, which far exceeded analysts’ projections of 15%. ShowingTime reported that appointments to see homes (both virtually and in-person) have increased in every region of the country and are up 21.4% nationwide over the same time last year.
While buyer activity is surging, the number of listings has fallen to an all-time low. Zelman Associates, in their latest residential real estate report, revealed that housing inventory as a percentage of households has fallen to 1.2%, which is half of the long-term average and lower than any other time in our history.
Bidding Wars Heating Up Again
With buyer demand growing and the supply of available homes shrinking, purchasers are again finding themselves needing to outbid other buyers. NAR, in a recent blog post, revealed:
“On average, there were about three offers on a home that closed in May, up from just about two in April 2020 and in May 2019 (2.3 offers).”
Bidding wars guarantee houses sell quickly at a price near or even slightly over the listing price.
If you’re thinking of selling, don’t be concerned about putting your house on the market right now. There’s no better time to sell an item than when demand for it is high and supply is low. It is exactly at that time when you will negotiate your best possible deal.
- Real estate has outranked stocks, savings accounts, and gold as the best long-term investment among Americans for the past 7 years.
- The belief in the stability of housing as a long-term investment remains strong, despite the many challenges our economy faces today.
- Of the four listed, real estate is also the only investment you can also live in. That’s a big win!
Last week, a very well-respected real estate analytics firm surprised many with their home price projection for the next twelve months. CoreLogic, in their latest Home Price Index said:
“The economic downturn that started in March 2020 is predicted to cause a 6.6% drop in the HPI by May 2021, which would be the first decrease in annual home prices in over 9 years.”
The forecast was surprising as it was strikingly different than any other projection by major analysts. Six of the other eight forecasts call for appreciation, and the two who project depreciation indicate it will be one percent or less.
Here is a graph showing all of the projections:There’s a simple formula to determine the future price of any item: calculate the supply of that item in ratio to the demand for that item. In housing right now, demand far exceeds supply. Last week mortgage applications to buy a home were 33% higher than they were at the same time last year. The available inventory of homes for sale is 31% lower than it was last year. Normally, these numbers should call for homes to continue to appreciate.
Because of the uncertainty with the pandemic, any economic prediction is extremely difficult. However, looking at the limited supply of homes for sale and the tremendous demand for housing, it is difficult to disagree with the majority of analysts who are calling for price appreciation.
Earlier this month, realtor.com announced the release of their initial Housing Recovery Index, a weekly guide showing how the pandemic has impacted the residential real estate market. The index leverages a weighted average of four key components of the housing industry, tracking each of the following:
- Housing Demand – Growth in online search activity
- Home Price – Growth in asking prices
- Housing Supply – Growth of new listings
- Pace of Sales – Difference in time-on-market
The index then compares the current status “to the last week of January 2020 market trend, as a baseline for pre-COVID market growth. The overall index is set to 100 in this baseline period. The higher a market’s index value, the higher its recovery and vice versa.”
The graph below charts the index by showing how the real estate market started out strong in early 2020, and then dropped dramatically at the beginning of March when the pandemic paused the economy. It also shows the strength of the recovery since the beginning of May.It’s clear to see that the housing market is showing promising signs of recovery from the deep economic cuts we experienced earlier this spring. As noted by Dean Mon, Chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB):
“As the nation reopens, housing is well-positioned to lead the economy forward.”
The data today indicates the housing market is already on the way up.
Staying connected to the housing market’s performance over the coming months will be essential, as we continue to evaluate exactly how the housing market is doing in this uncharted time ahead.