Mortgage Rates hit another all-time LOW

The average U.S. rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage dropped to 3.15% last week. It is the lowest ever recorded in a Freddie Mac data series that goes back almost five decades.

The rate fell from 3.24% last week, setting a new record low for the third time in three months, according to the report.

Mortgage rates have fallen after the Federal Reserve began buying mortgage-backed securities to stimulate demand, said Chris Low, chief economist of FHN Financial in New York. The Fed has purchased more than half a trillion dollars of MBS after restarting in March a bond-buying program it used during the financial crisis more than a decade ago.

When the initial plan of buying $200 billion of MBS didn’t lower financing costs, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said on March 23 the central bank would buy whatever was needed to move rates. It worked.

“The Fed is by far the biggest player in the mortgage markets right now, the biggest buyer of mortgages, and because of that, they have almost complete control over the interest rate,” Low said.

That means the central bank has the ability to stimulate home sales by driving rates to lows that most people wouldn’t have thought possible a few years ago, said Low.

“Every economist had doubts about how housing would fare during COVID-19, but what we’ve seen has been absolutely remarkable,” Low said. “Home sales are holding up extraordinarily well, and that’s in large part because of the mortgage rates.”

Last week, applications for mortgages to purchase homes gained for the sixth consecutive week to a level that was 6.7% higher than a year ago, when the U.S. was having a normal “spring homebuying season”.

A seasonally adjusted index measuring purchase applications jumped 9%, the Mortgage Bankers Association said in a report on Wednesday. The so-called purchase apps were up 54% from early April when most U.S. states were under lockdown orders to keep people at home in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Is now the right time to purchase a new home or make investments in this real estate market?

Talk To Tammy, 636.931.9100 or via tammy@talktotammy.com

Will Coronavirus Create Multifamily Investment Opportunities?

The past several years have been marked by an increase in average rent prices in many major U.S. cities, a lack of affordable multifamily housing, and a tight rental market. The pandemic and potential recession that may result isn’t likely to lead to more affordable housing, but it could lead to opportunities for some investors ready to cash in on properties in secondary markets.

Here are 3 ways that the multifamily housing market might be impacted by the pandemic.

1. House Foreclosures Could Lead to More Rental Demand

For the immediate future, tenants may be stuck in place, unable to move either due to logistical or economic reasons. Some multifamily buildings are prohibiting new residents, while others only permit remote showings, which can make it harder for prospective tenants to make a decision.

A report from Attom Data Solutions showed nationwide foreclosure lows in February 2020. However, Chief Product Officer Todd Teta predicts a rise in foreclosures once courts lift the ban on foreclosures and evictions. This could lead to more people seeking apartments, which could create a market ripe for landlords.

Much depends on what happens once the country re-opens—and when that phased reopening occurs.

“We want states to open up at a safe pace, but obviously, as the economic situation gets worse, that will impact the opportunities available in the market,” says Brant Brown, COO and CFO of Westmount Realty Capital, a commercial real estate investment and development firm in Dallas. “We’re looking at what the unemployment story is going to be, what collections are going to be, and how quickly the states re-open.”

2. Tighter Lending Restrictions Will Force Investors Not to Over-Leverage

The NMHC report spotlights tighter lending restrictions, showing the Equity Financing Index dropping from 61 to 13, and the Debt Financing Index plummeting from 68 to 20.

According to the report’s statistics, 75% of respondents said that equity financing was less available than in the three months prior; 71% of respondents said debt financing conditions were less favorable.

Especially now, Brown advises investors to avoid over-leveraging property or not leaving enough cash in the bank for repairs and emergency expenses, which could include tenants not paying rent due to job loss.

“A lot of multifamily operators have been running their properties cash-poor. In times like this, it really catches up with them,” Brown says.

In spite of low interest rates, underwriters will be looking to make sure investors have sufficient capital to manage the property.

3. Investors could find opportunities in suburban markets.

The second month of the pandemic in the U.S. found many city-dwellers temporarily fleeing their apartments for more space and a change of scenery.

“The fundamental story of [urban] markets is attractive, so I wouldn’t place bets on what the long term [impact] will be,” Brown says. “In the short run, a lot of people are very concerned about [the spread of the virus], and they’re going to vote with their feet.”

Cities may become less desirable places to live as the risk of infection continues to weigh on communities and remote work has people spending more time at home. Residents may seek larger apartments with more amenities in less populated areas, says Brown. “Wherever they move, it probably won’t be those city centers.”

Most REALTORS® Confident That Home Prices Will Stand Firm

Many real estate professionals don’t foresee a significant drop in home prices from the COVID-19 pandemic, and certainly not to the degree of the Great Recession’s impact on the housing market. For residential property prices over the next 12 months, 38% of more than 4,000 REALTORS® say they expect prices to increase and 23% expect prices to remain stable, according to the March 2020 REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey, a monthly survey of real estate transactions conducted by the National Association of REALTORS®. 

“Although the pandemic continues to be a major disruption in regards to the timing of home sales, home prices have been holding up well,” Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said in a statement following a report on pending home sales in March. “In fact, due to the ongoing housing shortage, home prices are likely to squeeze out a gain in 2020 to a new record high.”

Home prices were still rising across the country as the pandemic widened in scope in the U.S. in March. As of March, the median home sales price increased 8% year over year to $282,500, according to NAR.

“Prices have held up due to a combination of measures under the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed plus the additional $484 billion funding passed April 23 to pay for unemployment insurance benefit claims and payroll assistance for small businesses,” Scholastica Cororaton, a research economist for NAR, notes on the association’s Economists’ Outlook blog.

The median list prices in several markets are still up compared to a year ago, according to realtor.com® data. For example, in Los Angeles, the median list price is up 16% compared to a year ago, while in Las Vegas and Denver, median listing prices are up by 3.6% and 3.5%, respectively, compared to a year ago. In the New York-New Jersey area, which has accounted for the largest share of coronavirus cases in the country, median listing prices are still up from one year ago by 2.9%.

As of April 18, 58 of the 100 largest metros were still seeing higher median listing prices when compared to a year prior, according to realtor.com® data. Properties were staying on the market longer—six more days during the week of April 18 compared to April 2019.

But markets like Washington, D.C., were seeing median list prices up by 4.4% the week of April 18 compared to a year prior.

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