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.”

More Homeowners Sprucing up their Gardens and Curb Appeal in the Time of Coronavirus

One positive thing that appears be to happening in the time of coronavirus sheltering /staying in place orders is that people are engaging in more home hobbies and creative activities that they may have not had time for before due to social activities. One can see a lot of articles about staying creative or why the quarantine can make one more creative.  One activity that Americans apparently have spent more time and money on is gardening, based on retail sales and employment data.  This is a good time for homeowners because gardening, yard improvements, and minor home renovation or simple do-it-yourself projects (deck) improve curbside appeal and reflect the kind of care and maintenance that homeowners put into their homes, both external and internal. Attractive gardens, a clean yard, freshly coated fences, mended pathways will make a home attractive to buyers, in the time of and after the coronavirus social distancing period.

Building materials/gardening store sales and employment are up compared to retail trade

Retail sales data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that retail sales of building materials, garden equipment, and supply dealer stores (NAICS 444) increased 1% in March from February and was up 7% on a year-over-year basis. In comparison, retail sales and food services fell 9% on a month-over-month basis and 6% on a year-over-year basis.  Other industries that had higher sales in March were grocery stores (+27% m/m and +29% y/y); health and personal care stores (+4% m/m, +4% y/y), and general merchandise stores that includes department stores and other general merchandise stores (6% m/m, 7% y/y).

In 2019, Americans spent nearly $380 billion (retail sales) on building materials, garden equipment, and supplies. Building materials and supply stores (paint and wallpaper stores and hardware stores) sold $334 billion (so $41 billion is garden supplies).

While brick-and-mortar retail stores have shed about 300,000 jobs since January 2017, the employment in brick and mortar stores has remained relatively flat at 1.3 million. In March 2020, it is one of the few sectors that posted year-over-year employment gains, of 11,500 jobs. However, employment did fall by nearly 4,000 from February to March.

Impact of landscaping on home values

What’s the impact of projects that improve a home’s curb appeal on the likelihood of selling a home and home values? According to NAR’s 2018 Remodeling Impact Report: Outdoor Features,  “74% of REALTORS® suggested sellers complete a landscape maintenance program before attempting to sell, and 17 percent said the project most recently sealed a deal for them, resulting in a closed transaction.” The cost in 2018 was $3,000 and 100% was recovered when the home was sold.

Single-family detached homes with green spaces: part of the American dream

Since 2009, the prices of single-family homes have also picked up faster than condominiums, as low mortgage rates have made a home purchase more affordable, as well as due to difficulty obtaining individual-unit mortgage financing in condominium projects that are not FHA-approved.1 As of March 2020, the median sales price of single-detached as $282,500, or nearly $20,000 more than the median sales price of condominiums/coops of $263,400.  Since January 2012, the median sales price of single-family detached homes has increased by 83% compared to 70% for condominiums/coops. The higher price of single-family homes reflects the preference of buyers for these homes, perhaps because the house with the picket fence and green yard embodies the attainment of the American dream of homeownership.

We can help you sell your house or support you finding a new home,

Talk To Tammy: 636-931-9100 or contact us via tammy@talktotammy.com

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.

For more info, Talk To Tammy: 636-931-9100 !

Should I Sell My Home During The Coronavirus Pandemic Or Wait?

Jefferson County is considering easing restrictions on its stay-at-home order because of the coronavirus outbreak -businesses in downtown Hillsboro and throughout Jefferson County will be finding out soon about new guidelines for operations when they reopen on May 4th.

In the residential real estate market, we’ve begun to make the changes necessary to have a functioning seller market.  Here are some of the changes that have been made in the Greater St. Louis Metropolitan Area:

  • No more open houses crammed with people
  • Wearing masks and gloves during showings
  • The institution of a new contract rider for coronavirus
  • Title services are now also done as a drive up service.

County Executive Gannon says businesses will be operating under a new normal with some restrictions in place when they reopen. He hopes to have those new guidelines finalized soon. The stay-at-home order ends May 3rd.

Don’t sell your home because of a pandemic –  don’t sell your home because your neighbor is panicking.  Look at all the data you have in front of you and make a decision that you are most comfortable with. 

We are here to help you find the perfect buyer, call: 636-931-9100 !

Will COVID-19 Shift Conditions to a Buyer’s Market or Seller’s Market?

The current market stall in response to COVID-19 presents a unique challenge for market tracking moving forward, and likewise for buyers and sellers trying to understand the housing market that they are walking into. Months’ supply represents the dynamic between listings and sales. As each side of the homebuying transaction responds distinctly to the COVID-19 situation, this dynamic shifts, and “buyer’s market” and “seller’s market” labels along with it.

So, will COVID-19 shift conditions to a buyer’s market, or a seller’s market?

On the one hand, the rate of new listings entering the market has gone down dramatically, adding very little new inventory to the national pool of listings. Likewise, there are fewer closed sales due to social distancing measures. The lack of new listings bottlenecks the potential of sales. If the downturn is roughly equal in listings and sales, then months’ supply as a metric would continue its current trend.

However, as the market resets and picks back up later in the year, listings and sales will likely ramp up at different times, which will have distinct effects on this buyer/seller relationship. As listings reach a critical mass to entice prospective buyers, this accumulation of listings will drive up months’ supply figures, temporarily shifting us to a buyer’s market. Then, as the rate of buyers catches up to listings, this sales and listings dynamic will continue to balance out. Where it ends up at the end of the year, however, remains to be seen.

FAQs during these hard times…

I’m worried about my credit score. What should I do if a miss a few payments due to the crisis?

The CARES Act implemented provisions to protect credit scores from January 30, 2020 through 120 days after enactment of the national emergency. If customers are making payments, or made arrangement to not make payments, customers must be reported as being current. If a customer was delinquent, but was able to make an arrangement with the servicer and is now current, then their account must be reported as current. The important thing is to reach out to your servicer, bank or credit card company if you are having trouble making your payments.

I have heard that the FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac have raised rates and fees on borrowers with lower credit scores or smaller down payments?

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have not made any changes to credit scoring or down payment requirements. The only change they have made for borrowers is to allow MORE flexibility in how a lender can verify employment. Many individual lenders are adding their own, higher standards on these products. The rational is that the cost of servicing these loans has surged due to the widespread forbearance that is taxing servicers’ resources. Under forbearance, the servicer must continue to pay PITI to the investor, but the sheer volume of forbearance to deal with the COVID-19 response is unprecedented. Since lower-credit borrowers are more likely to take forbearance and servicing is harder to get, lenders are less willing to extend this credit regardless of the FHA or GSEs’ standards.

I’m not sure I will be able to pay or file my taxes on time for 2019; What do I do?

The IRS has delayed the due date to file and pay any taxes that are due to July 15, 2020, without penalties or interest. For more IRS information, check here.

We’re still here for all of your real estate needs, call: 636-931-9100!

Your #TalkToTammyTeam

HOW YOU CAN FINANCE YOUR HOME RENOVATION

How You Can Finance Your Home Renovation

Outdated kitchen. Overrun backyard. Unusable basement space. If you have a home renovation project on the mind, the first thing you have to consider is how you are going to finance it. Here are the most common options to make your dreams become a reality.

Cash. Paying in cash is the most straightforward financing option, just save until you have enough money to cover the expenses. This will help eliminate spending outside your budget; however, it can also extend your timeline.

Mortgage Refinance. If you’ve been making payments on your home for a few years and your interest rate is higher than current market rates, you may be eligible for a mortgage refinance, reducing your payments and freeing up some money.

Cash-Out Refinance. You can tap into your home equity and borrow up to 80 percent of your home’s value to pay off your current mortgage plus take out more cash to cover the renovations. This option is encouraged only when you’re making improvements that will increase the value of your home, as it can add a lot of interest and fees.

Home Equity. Getting a home equity line of credit allows you to borrow money against the value of your home. You receive usually up to 80 percent of your home’s value, minus the amount of your loan.

Retirement Funds. Homeowners can consider pulling money from a 401K or IRA account, even though they aren’t specifically meant to cover a home renovation. This option might incur additional penalties or tax payments, but may be worth it when making improvements that will benefit them financially in the long run.

The #1 Misconception in the Homebuying Process

After over a year of moderating home prices, it appears home value appreciation is about to reaccelerate. Skylar Olsen, Director of Economic Research at Zillow, explained in a recent article:

 “A year ago, a combination of a government shutdown, stock market slump and mortgage rate spike caused a long-anticipated inventory rise. That supposed boom turned out to be a short-lived mirage as buyers came back into the market and more than erased the inventory gains. As a natural reaction, the recent slowdown in home values looks like it’s set to reverse back.”

CoreLogic, in their January 2020 Market Pulse Report, agrees with Olsen, projecting home value appreciation in all fifty states this year. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 21 states appreciating 5% or more
  • 26 states appreciating between 3-5%
  • Only 3 states appreciating less than 3%

The Misconception

Many believe when real estate values are increasing, owning a home becomes less affordable. That misconception is not necessarily true.

In most cases, homes are purchased with a mortgage. The current mortgage rate is a major component of the affordability equation. Mortgage rates have fallen by almost a full percentage point since this time last year.

Another major piece of the equation is a buyer’s income. The median family income has risen by 5% over the last year, contributing to the affordability factor.

Black Knight, in their latest Mortgage Monitor, addressed this exact issue:

 “Despite the average home price increasing by nearly $13,000 from just over a year ago, the monthly mortgage payment required to buy that same home has actually dropped by 10% over that same span due to falling interest rates…

Put another way, prospective homebuyers can now purchase a $48K more expensive home than a year ago while still paying the same in principal and interest, a 16% increase in buying power.”

Bottom Line

If you’re thinking about purchasing a home, realize that homes are still affordable even though prices are increasing. As the Black Knight report concluded:

“Even with home price growth accelerating, today’s low-interest-rate environment has made home affordability the best it’s been since early 2018.”