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Are We in a Housing Bubble? Experts Say No.

Are We in a Housing Bubble? Experts Say No. | Simplifying The Market

The question of whether the real estate market is a bubble ready to pop seems to be dominating a lot of conversations – and everyone has an opinion. Yet, when it comes down to it, the opinions that carry the most weight are the ones based on experience and expertise.

Here are four expert opinions from professionals and organizations that have devoted their careers to giving great advice to the housing industry.

The Joint Center for Housing Studies in their The State of the Nation’s Housing 2021 report:

“… conditions today are quite different than in the early 2000s, particularly in terms of credit availability. The current climb in house prices instead reflects strong demand amid tight supply, helped along by record-low interest rates.”

Nathaniel Karp, Chief U.S. Economist at BBVA:

“The housing market is in line with fundamentals as interest rates are attractive and incomes are high due to fiscal stimulus, making debt servicing relatively affordable and allowing buyers to qualify for larger mortgages. Underwriting standards are still strong, so there is little risk of a bubble developing.”

Bill McBride of Calculated Risk:

“It’s not clear at all to me that things are going to slow down significantly in the near future. In 2005, I had a strong sense that the hot market would turn and that, when it turned, things would get very ugly. Today, I don’t have that sense at all, because all of the fundamentals are there. Demand will be high for a while, because Millennials need houses. Prices will keep rising for a while, because inventory is so low.”

Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American:

Looking back at the bubble years, house prices exceeded house-buying power in 2006 nationally, but today house-buying power is nearly twice as high as the median sale price nationally…

Many find it hard to believe, but housing is actually undervalued in most markets and the gap between house-buying power and sale prices indicates there’s room for further house price growth in the months to come.”

Bottom Line

All four strongly believe that we’re not in a bubble and won’t see crashing home values as we did in 2008. And they’re not aloneGoldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, and Merrill Lynch share the same opinion.

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What Do Experts See on the Horizon for the Second Half of the Year?

What Do Experts See on the Horizon for the Second Half of the Year? | Simplifying The Market

As we move into the latter half of the year, questions about what’s to come are top of mind for buyers and sellers. Near record-low mortgage rates coupled with rising home price appreciation kicked off a robust housing market in the first half of 2021, but what does the forecast tell us about what’s on the horizon?

Mortgage Rates Will Likely Increase, but Remain Low

Many experts are projecting a rise in interest rates. The latest Quarterly Forecast from Freddie Mac states:

We forecast that mortgage rates will continue to rise through the end of next year. We estimate the 30-year fixed mortgage rate will average 3.4% in the fourth quarter of 2021, rising to 3.8% in the fourth quarter of 2022.”

However, even as mortgage rates rise, the anticipated increase is expected to be modest at most, and still well below historical averages. Rates remaining low is good news for homebuyers who are looking to maximize their purchasing power. The same report from Freddie Mac goes on to say:

“While higher mortgage rates will help slow the pace of home sales and moderate house price growth, we expect overall housing market activity will remain robust. Our forecast has total home sales, the sum of new and existing home sales, at 7.1 million in 2021….”

Home Price Appreciation Will Continue, but Price Growth Will Likely Slow

Joe Seydl, Senior Markets Economist at J.P. Morgan, projects home prices to continue rising as well, indicating buyers interested in purchasing a home should do so sooner rather than later. Waiting for rates or home prices to fall may not be wise:

“Homebuyers—interest rates are still historically low, though they are inching up. Housing prices have spiked during the last six-to-nine months, but we don’t expect them to fall soon, and we believe they are more likely to keep rising. If you are looking to purchase a new home, conditions now may be better than 12 months hence.”

Other experts remain optimistic about home prices, too. The graph below highlights 2021 home price forecasts from multiple industry leaders:
What Do Experts See on the Horizon for the Second Half of the Year? | Simplifying The Market

Inventory Remains a Challenge, but There’s Reason To Be Optimistic

Home prices are rising, but they should moderate as more housing inventory comes to market. George Ratiu, Senior Economist at realtor.com, notes there are signs that we may see the current inventory challenges lessen, slowing the fast-paced home price appreciation and creating more choices for buyers:

We have seen more new listings this year compared with 2020 in 11 of the last 13 weeks. The influx of new sellers over the last couple of months has been especially helpful in slowing price gains.”

New home starts are also showing signs of improvement, which further bolsters hopes of more options coming to market. Robert Dietz, Chief Economist at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), writes:

“As an indicator of the economic impact of housing, there are now 652,000 single-family homes under construction. This is 28% higher than a year ago.”

Finally, while it may not fundamentally change the market conditions we’re currently experiencing, another reason to be optimistic more homes might come to market: our improving economy. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, notes:

“A growing economy in the summer months has multiple implications for the housing market. Growing consumer confidence, a stronger labor market, and higher wages bode well for housing demand. While a growing economy and improving public health conditions may also spur hesitant existing owners to list their homes for sale, it’s unlikely to significantly ease the super sellers’ market conditions.

Bottom Line

As we look at the forecast for prices, interest rates, inventory, and home sales, experts remain optimistic about what’s on the horizon for the second half of 2021. Let’s connect today to discuss how we can navigate the market together in the coming months.

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What To Expect as Appraisal Gaps Grow

What To Expect as Appraisal Gaps Grow | Simplifying the Market

In today’s real estate market, low inventory and high demand are driving up home prices. As many as 54% of homes are getting offers over the listing price, based on the latest Realtors Confidence Index from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Shawn Telford, Chief Appraiser at CoreLogic, elaborates:

“The frequency of buyers being willing to pay more than the market data supports is increasing.”

While this is great news for today’s sellers, it can be tricky to navigate if the price of your contract doesn’t match up with the appraisal for the house. It’s called an appraisal gap, and it’s happening more in today’s market than the norm.

According to recent data from CoreLogic, 19% of homes had their appraised value come in below the contract price in April of this year. That’s more than double the percentage in each of the two previous Aprils.

The chart below uses the latest insights from NAR’s Realtors Confidence Index to showcase how often an issue with an appraisal slowed or stalled the momentum of a house sale in May of this year compared to May of last year.What To Expect as Appraisal Gaps Grow | Simplifying the MarketIf an appraisal comes in below the contract price, the buyer’s lender won’t loan them more than the house’s appraised value. That means there’s going to be a gap between the amount of loan the buyer can secure and the contract price on the house.

In this situation, both the buyer and seller have a vested interest in making sure the sale moves forward with little to no delay. The seller will want to make sure the deal closes, and the buyer won’t want to risk losing the home. That’s why it’s common for sellers to ask the buyer to make up the difference themselves in today’s competitive market.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re buying or selling, let’s connect so you have an ally throughout the process to help you navigate the unexpected, including appraisal gaps.

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Save Time and Effort by Selling with an Agent

Save Time and Effort by Selling with an Agent | Simplifying the Market

Selling a house is a time-consuming process – especially if you decide to do it on your own, known as a For Sale By Owner (FSBO). From conducting market research to reviewing legal documents, handling negotiations, and more, it’s an involved and highly detailed process that requires a lot of expertise to navigate effectively. That’s one of the reasons why the percentage of people selling their own house has declined from 19% to 8% (See graph below):Save Time and Effort by Selling with an Agent | Simplifying the MarketTo help you understand just how much time and effort it takes to sell on your own, here’s a look at a few of the things you need to think about before putting that “For Sale” sign up in your yard.

1. Making a Good First Impression

While it may sound simple, there are a lot of proven best practices to consider when prepping a house for sale.

  • Do you need to take down your personal art?
  • What’s the right amount of landscaping to boost your curb appeal?
  • What wall colors are most appealing to buyers?

If you do this work on your own, you may invest capital and many hours into the wrong things. Your time is money – don’t waste it. An agent can help steer you in the right direction based on current market conditions to save you time and effort. Since we’re in a hot sellers’ market, you don’t want to delay listing your house by focusing on things that won’t change your bottom line. These market conditions may not last, so lean on an agent to capitalize on today’s low inventory while you can.

2. Pricing It Right

Real estate professionals have mission-critical information on what sells and how to maximize your profit. They’re experienced when it comes to looking at recent comparable homes that have sold in your area and understanding what price is right for your neighborhood. They use that data to price your house appropriately, maximizing your return.

In a FSBO, you’re operating without this expertise, so you’ll have to do your own homework on how to set a price that’s appropriate for your area and the condition of your home. Even with your own research, you may not find the most up-to-date information and could risk setting a price that’s inaccurate or unrealistic. If you price your house too high, you could turn buyers away before they’re even in the front door, or run into problems when it comes time for the appraisal.

3. Maximizing Your Buyer Pool (and Profit)

Contrary to popular belief, FSBOs may actually net less profit than sellers who use an agent. One of the factors that can drive profit up is effective exposure. Simply put, real estate professionals can get your house in front of more buyers via their social media followers, agency resources, and proven sales strategies. The more buyers that view a home, the more likely a bidding war becomes. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average house for sale today gets 5 offers. Using an agent to boost your exposure may help boost your sale price too.

4. Navigating Negotiations

When it comes to selling your house as a FSBO, you’ll have to handle all of the negotiations. Here are just a few of the people you’ll work with:

  • The buyer, who wants the best deal possible
  • The buyer’s agent, who will use their expertise to advocate for the buyer
  • The inspection company, which works for the buyer and will almost always find concerns with the house
  • The appraiser, who assesses the property’s value to protect the lender

As part of their training, agents are taught how to negotiate every aspect of the real estate transaction and how to mediate potential snags that may pop up. When appraisals come in low and in countless other situations, they know what levers to pull, how to address the buyer and seller emotions that come with it, and when to ask for second opinions. Navigating all of this on your own takes time –a lot of it.

5. Juggling Legal Documentation

Speaking of time, consider how much free time you have to review the fine print. Just in terms of documentation, more disclosures and regulations are now mandatory. That means the stack of legal documents you need to handle as the seller is growing. It can be hard to know and truly understand all the terms and requirements. Instead of going at it alone, use an agent as your shield and advisor to help you avoid potential legal missteps.

Bottom Line

Selling your house on your own is a lot of responsibility. It’s time consuming and requires an immense amount of effort and expertise. Before you decide to sell your house yourself, let’s discuss your options so we can make sure you get the most out of the sale.

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Demand for Vacation Homes Is Still Strong

Demand for Vacation Homes Is Still Strong | Simplifying The Market

The pandemic created a tremendous interest in vacation homes across the country. Throughout the last year, many people purchased second homes as a safe getaway from the challenges of the health crisis. With many professionals working from home and many students taking classes remotely, it made sense to see a migration away from cities and into counties with more vacation destinations.

The 2021 Vacation Home Counties Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that this increase in vacation home sales continues in 2021. The report examines sales in counties where “vacant seasonal, occasional, or recreational use housing account for at least 20% of the housing stock” and compares that data to the overall residential market.

Their findings show:

  • Vacation home sales rose by 16.4% to 310,600 in 2020, outpacing the 5.6% growth in total existing-home sales.
  • Vacation home sales are up 57.2% year-over-year during January-April 2021 compared to the 20% year-over-year change in total existing-home sales.
  • Home prices rose more in vacation home counties – the median existing price rose by 14.2% in vacation home counties, compared to 10.1% in non-vacation home counties.

This coincides with data released by Zelman & Associates on the increase in sales of second homes throughout the country last year.

As the data above shows, there is still high demand for second getaway homes in 2021 even as the pandemic winds down. While we may see a rise in second-home sellers as life returns to normal, ongoing low supply and high demand will continue to provide those sellers with a good return on their investment.

Bottom Line

If you’re one of the many people who purchased a vacation home during the pandemic, you’re likely wondering what this means for you. If you’re considering selling that home as life returns to normal, you have options. There are still plenty of buyers in the market. If, on the other hand, you want to keep your second home, enjoy it! Current market conditions show that it’s a good ongoing investment.

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Homes Across the Country Are Selling Fast [INFOGRAPHIC]

Homes Across the Country Are Selling Fast [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Homes Across the Country Are Selling Fast [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights

  • In today’s whirlwind real estate market, houses are selling at astonishing speed – from sea to shining sea.
  • Four years ago, the average house spent 39 days on the market. Two years ago, homes were on the market for about 24 days. Today, that number has dropped to just 17 short days.
  • If you’re looking to sell your house quickly and on the best possible terms, today’s market can’t be beat. Let’s connect to discuss how to secure a speedy, top-dollar sale for your house.
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How Misunderstandings about Affordability Could Cost You

How Misunderstandings about Affordability Could Cost You | Simplifying The Market

There’s a lot of discussion about affordability as home prices continue to appreciate rapidly. Even though the most recent index on affordability from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows homes are more affordable today than the historical average, some still have concerns about whether or not it’s truly affordable to buy a home right now.

When addressing this topic, there are various measures of affordability to consider. However, very few of the indexes compare the affordability of owning a home to renting one. In a paper just published by the Urban Institute, Homeownership Is Affordable Housing, author Mike Loftin examines whether it’s more affordable to buy or rent. Here are some of the highlights included.

1. Renters pay a higher percentage of their income toward their rental payment than homeowners pay toward their mortgage.

The report explains:

“When we look at the median housing expense ratio of all households, the typical homeowner household spends 16 percent of its income on housing while the typical renter household spends 26 percent. This is true, you might say, because people who own their own home must make more money than people who rent. But if we control for income, it is still more affordable to own a home than to rent housing, on average.”

Here’s the data from the report shown in a graph:How Misunderstandings about Affordability Could Cost You | Simplifying The Market

2. Renters don’t have extra money to invest in other assets.

The report goes on to say:

“Buying a home is not a decision between investing in real estate versus investing in stocks, as financial advisers often claim. Instead, the home buying investment simply converts some portion of an existing expense (renting) into an investment in real estate.”

It explains that you still have a housing expense (rent payments) even if you don’t buy a home. You can’t live in your 401K, but you can transfer housing expenses to your real estate investment. A mortgage payment is forced savings; it goes toward building equity you will likely get back when you sell your home. There’s no return on your rent payments.

3. Your mortgage payment remains relatively the same over time. Your rent keeps going up.

The report also notes:

“Whereas renters are continuously vulnerable to cost increases, rising home prices do not affect homeowners. Nobody rebuys the same home every year. For the homeowner with a fixed-rate mortgage, monthly payments increase only if property taxes and property insurance costs increase. The principal and interest portion of the payment, the largest portion, is fixed. Meanwhile, the renter’s entire payment is subject to inflation.

Consequently, over time, the homeowner’s and renter’s differing trajectories produce starkly different economic outcomes. Homeownership’s major affordability benefit is that it stabilizes what is likely the homeowner’s biggest monthly expense, assuming a buyer has a fixed-rate mortgage, which most American homeowners do. The only portion of the homeowner’s housing expenses that can increase is taxes and insurance. The principal and interest portion stays the same for 30 years.”

A mortgage payment remains about the same over the 30 years of the mortgage. Here’s what rents have done over the last 30 years:How Misunderstandings about Affordability Could Cost You | Simplifying The Market

4. If you want to own a home and can afford it, waiting could cost you.

As the report also indicates:

“We need to stop seeing housing as a reward for financial success and instead see it as a critical tool that can facilitate financial success. Affordable homeownership is not the capstone of economic well-being; it is the cornerstone.”

Homeownership is the first rung on the ladder of financial success for most households, as their home is most often their largest asset.

Bottom Line

If the current headlines reporting a supposed drop-off in home affordability are making you nervous, let’s connect to go over the real insights into our area.

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Buying a Home Is Still Affordable

Buying a Home Is Still Affordable | Simplifying The Market

The last year has put emphasis on the importance of one’s home. As a result, some renters are making the jump into homeownership while some homeowners are re-evaluating their current house and considering a move to one that better fits their current lifestyle. Understanding how housing affordability works and the main market factors that impact it may help those who are ready to buy a home narrow down the optimal window of time in which to make a purchase.

There are three main factors that go into determining how affordable homes are for buyers:

  1. Mortgage Rates
  2. Mortgage Payments as a Percentage of Income
  3. Home Prices

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) produces a Housing Affordability Index. It takes these three 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:Buying a Home Is Still Affordable | Simplifying The MarketThe blue bar represents today’s affordability. We can see that homes are more affordable now than they’ve been at any point since the housing crash when distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) dominated the market. Those properties were sold at large discounts not seen before in the housing market for almost one hundred years.

Why are homes so affordable today?

Although there are three factors that drive the overall equation, the one that’s playing the largest part in today’s homebuying affordability is historically low mortgage rates. Based on this primary factor, we can see that it’s more affordable to buy a home today than at any time in the last eight years.

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.

Bottom Line

If you feel ready to buy, purchasing a home this summer may save you a significant amount of money over time based on historical affordability trends. Let’s connect today to determine if now is the right time for you to make your move.