A ‘Soft’ Housing Market? We Beg to Differ!

A ‘Soft’ Housing Market? We Beg to Differ! | Keeping Current Matters

There are some pundits lamenting the softness of the 2014 housing market. We can’t understand why. Though it is true that the early part of the year disappointed because of a myriad of reasons (ex. weather, lack of inventory, less distressed sales), the recent housing news is extremely encouraging. Let’s give some examples:

Spring Home Buying Season is Healthiest in 3 Years

Move, Inc. just last week revealed that this spring’s housing market finished stronger than any time in the last three years. In the report, Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for realtor.com explained:

“This is the first time, since the beginning of the recovery that we expect to see positive momentum throughout the second half of the year. While seasonal patterns are emerging in July month-to-month comparisons, all other metrics point to fundamental market health and a build-up of momentum.”

Existing Home Sales are Up

In their latest Existing Home Sales Report, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) announced existing-home sales increased in July to their highest annual pace of the year. That is even though distressed property sales fell to 9%, the first time they were in the single-digits since NAR started tracking the category in October 2008. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR explained:

“The number of houses for sale is higher than a year ago and tamer price increases are giving prospective buyers less hesitation about entering the market. More people are buying homes compared to earlier in the year and this trend should continue.”

New Construction Surging

According to an article on Market Watch, new constructing is surging:

“Construction on new U.S. homes jumped 15.7% in July to the highest level in eight months and starts were revised up sharply for June, indicating a pickup in home building after an early-year lull. Housing starts climbed to an annual rate of 1.09 million last month…Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected starts to climb to a seasonally adjusted 975,000 in July.”

Foot Traffic at Year High Numbers

Foot traffic (the number of people out actually physically looking at homes) has a strong correlation with future contracts and home sales, so it can be viewed as a peek ahead at sales trends two to three months into the future.

The latest foot traffic numbers show that there are more prospective purchasers currently looking at homes than at any other time in the last twelve months which includes the latest spring buyers’ market.

Bottom Line

The spring market finished stronger than any time in the last three years. Home sales are at year long highs. New construction is beating estimates. There are more buyers out than at any time in the last twelve months.

We think the housing market is doing just fine.

Still a Great Time to Buy a Home…but HURRY!!

Still a Great Time to Buy a Home…but HURRY!! | Keeping Current Matters

Kevin Kelly, Chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), recently explained that:

“With interest rates near historically low levels and strengthening job growth, now continues to be a great opportunity to buy a home.”

We couldn’t agree more. However, one must realize that, with prices and interest rates both projected to increase, waiting could be costly.

There are two organizations that look at the affordability of purchasing and actually measure it over time. The National Association of Home Builders has their Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) and the National Association of Realtors’ has the Housing Affordability Index.

Both indexes are reporting the same thing. The cost of buying a home is beginning to increase leading the affordability indexes to dip.

Both indexes say we passed the bottom of the housing market

According to NAHB’s HOI housing affordability dipped slightly in the second quarter of 2014. NAHB’s Chief Economist David Crowe explains:

“The second quarter HOI reflects the slow but steady march toward the historic levels of price appreciation and interest rates that result in affordability levels we experienced before the mid-2000s boom.”

According to NAR in a recent Economists’ Outlook post, home affordability is down from both one month ago and one year ago in all regions.

Michael Hyman, Research Assistant at NAR said:

“At the national level, housing affordability is down for the month of June due to higher prices and qualifying income levels despite the lowest mortgage rates of the year.”

In a recent article, the Wall Street Journal also revealed that the cost of home ownership is higher than any time in over five years:

“Housing affordability hit its lowest level in nearly six years in June as home prices continued to climb.”

Bottom Line

If you were waiting for the bottom of the market, you missed it. Yet, with prices below values of seven years ago in most parts of the country and interest rates near historic lows, it is still a great time to buy a home…but hurry!

With Interest Rates and Home Prices on the rise, do you know the true Cost of Waiting?

With Interest Rates and Home Prices on the rise, do you know the true Cost of Waiting? | Keeping Current Matters

Today we are excited to have Morgan Tranquist as our guest blogger. Morgan is the Marketing & Graphics Director for The KCM Crew and provides insight into what the Millennial Generation needs to hear from their agents.

At Keeping Current Matters, we have often broken down the opportunity that exists now for Millennials who are willing and able to purchase a home NOW… Here are a couple other ways to look at the cost of waiting.

Let’s say you’re 30 and your dream house costs $250,000 today, at 4.12% your monthly Mortgage Payment with Interest would be $1,210.90.

But you’re busy, you like your apartment, moving is such a hassle…You decide to wait till the end of next year to buy and all of a sudden, you’re 31, that same house is $270,000, at 5.3%. Your new payment per month is $1,499.32.

The difference in payment is $288.42 PER MONTH!

That’s basically like taking a $10 bill and tossing it out the window EVERY DAY!

Or you could look at it this way:

  • That’s your morning coffee everyday on the way to work (average $2) with $11 left for lunch!
  • There goes Friday Sushi Night! ($72 x 4)
  • Stressed Out? How about 3 deep tissue massages with tip!
  • Need a new car? You could get a brand new $20,000 car for $288.00 per month.

Let’s look at that number annually! Over the course of your new mortgage at 5.3%, your annual additional cost would be $3,461.04!

Had your eye on a vacation in the Caribbean? How about a 2-week trip through Europe? Or maybe your new house could really use a deck for entertaining.  We could come up with 100’s of ways to spend $3,461, and we’re sure you could too!

Over the course of your 30 year loan, now at age 61, hopefully you are ready to retire soon, you would have spent an additional $103,831, all because when you were 30 you thought moving in 2014 was such a hassle or loved your apartment too much to leave yet.

Or maybe there wasn’t an agent out there who educated you on the true cost of waiting a year. Maybe they thought you wouldn’t be ready, but if they showed you that you could save $103,831, you’d at least listen to what they had to say.

They say hindsight is 20/20, we’d like to think that 30 years from now when you are 60, looking back, you would say to buy now…

5 Reasons to Hire a Real Estate Professional

5 Reasons to Hire a Real Estate Professional | Keeping Current Matters

Whether you are buying or selling a home, it can be quite an adventurous journey. You need an experienced Real Estate Professional to lead you to your ultimate goal. In this world of instant gratification and internet searches, many sellers think that they can For Sale by Owner or FSBO. The 5 Reasons You NEED a Real Estate Professional in your corner haven’t changed, but have rather been strengthened in recent months due to the projections of higher mortgage interest rates & home prices as the market continues to recover.

1. What do you do with all this paperwork?

Each state has different regulations regarding the contracts required for a successful sale, and these regulations are constantly changing. A true Real Estate Professional is an expert in their market and can guide you through the stacks of paperwork necessary to make your dream a reality.

2. Ok, so you found your dream house, now what?

According to the Orlando Regional REALTOR Association, there are over 230 possible actions that need to take place during every successful real estate transaction. Don’t you want someone who has been there before, who knows what these actions are to make sure that you acquire your dream?

3. Are you a good negotiator?

So maybe you’re not convinced that you need an agent to sell your home. However, after looking at the list of parties that you need to be prepared to negotiate with, you’ll realize the value in selecting a Real Estate Professional. From the buyer (who wants the best deal possible), to the home inspection companies, to the appraiser, there are at least 11 different people that you will have to be knowledgeable with and answer to, during the process.

4. What is the home you’re buying/selling really worth?

It is important for your home to be priced correctly from the start to attract the right buyers and shorten the time that it’s on the market. You need someone who is not emotionally connected to your home to give you the truth as to your home’s value. According to the National Association of REALTORS, “the typical FSBO home sold for $184,000 compared to $230,000 among agent-assisted home sales.” Get the most out of your transaction by hiring a professional.

5. Do you know what’s really going on in the market?

There is so much information out there on the news and the internet about home sales, prices, mortgage rates; how do you know what’s going on specifically in your area? Who do you turn to in order to competitively price your home correctly at the beginning of the selling process? How do you know what to offer on your dream home without paying too much, or offending the seller with a low-ball offer?

Dave Ramsey, the financial guru advises:

“When getting help with money, whether it’s insurance, real estate or investments, you should always look for someone with the heart of a teacher, not the heart of a salesman.”

Hiring an agent who has their finger on the pulse of the market will make your buying/selling experience an educated one. You need someone who is going to tell you the truth, not just what they think you want to hear.

Bottom Line:

You wouldn’t hike up Mt. Everest without a Sherpa, or replace the engine in your car without a trusted mechanic. Why would you make one of your most important financial decisions of your life without hiring a Real Estate Professional?

Harvard’s 5 Financial Reasons to Buy a Home

Harvard’s 5 Financial Reasons to Buy a Home | Keeping Current Matters

Eric Belsky is Managing Director of the Joint Center of Housing Studies at Harvard University. He also currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Housing Research and Housing Policy Debate. Last year, he released a paper on homeownership – The Dream Lives On: the Future of Homeownership in America. In his paper, Belsky reveals five financial reasons people should consider buying a home.

Here are the five reasons, each followed by an excerpt from the study:

1.) Housing is typically the one leveraged investment available.

“Few households are interested in borrowing money to buy stocks and bonds and few lenders are willing to lend them the money. As a result, homeownership allows households to amplify any appreciation on the value of their homes by a leverage factor. Even a hefty 20 percent down payment results in a leverage factor of five so that every percentage point rise in the value of the home is a 5 percent return on their equity. With many buyers putting 10 percent or less down, their leverage factor is 10 or more.”

2.) You’re paying for housing whether you own or rent. 

“Homeowners pay debt service to pay down their own principal while households that rent pay down the principal of a landlord.”

3.) Owning is usually a form of “forced savings”.

“Since many people have trouble saving and have to make a housing payment one way or the other, owning a home can overcome people’s tendency to defer savings to another day.”

4.) There are substantial tax benefits to owning.

“Homeowners are able to deduct mortgage interest and property taxes from income…On top of all this, capital gains up to $250,000 are excluded from income for single filers and up to $500,000 for married couples if they sell their homes for a gain.”

5.) Owning is a hedge against inflation.

“Housing costs and rents have tended over most time periods to go up at or higher than the rate of inflation, making owning an attractive proposition.”

Bottom Line

We realize that homeownership makes sense for many Americans for an assortment of social and family reasons. It also makes sense financially.

Either Way, You’re Still Paying a Mortgage

Either Way, You're Still Paying A Mortgage | Keeping Current Matters

There are some people that have not purchased a home because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that, unless you are living with your parents rent free, you are paying a mortgage – either your mortgage or your landlord’s. As a paper from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University explains:

“Households must consume housing whether they own or rent. Not even accounting for more favorable tax treatment of owning, homeowners pay debt service to pay down their own principal while households that rent pay down the principal of a landlord plus a rate of return. That’s yet another reason owning often does—as Americans intuit—end up making more financial sense than renting.”

Also, if you purchase with a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, your ‘housing expense’ is locked in over the thirty years for the most part. If you rent, the one guarantee you will have is that your rent will increase over that same thirty year time period.

And, as an owner, the mortgage payment is a ‘forced savings’ which will allow you to have equity in your home you can tap into later in your life. As a renter, you guarantee the landlord is the person with that equity.

Whether you are looking for a primary residence for the first time or are considering a vacation home on the shore, owning might make more sense than renting since home values and interest rates are still at bargain prices.

You’ve Played the Housing Market Perfectly. Don’t Blow it Now!

You've Played the Real Estate Market Perfectly! Don't Blow It Now! | Keeping Current Matters

Many people suffered through the housing crisis. We realize that most of the heartache was the result of a housing and mortgage market gone wild. Many consumers were swept away by the waters of a frenzied real estate market that resulted in a crisis even the experts didn’t see coming.

However, some of the suffering was caused by home buyers and home owners simply making bad decisions. NOT YOU! You didn’t buy that house that stretched your family finances past the point of sustainability. You didn’t take out a home equity loan and buy new water skis. You didn’t do a cash-out refinance for the maximum amount possible.

Instead, you bought a home your family could enjoy – and afford! You waited for interest rates to drop to historic lows and then refinanced your mortgage; not for the sake of taking cash out but instead to lower your monthly payment.

You have equity in your house and a nice, low mortgage payment. You played the housing market perfectly.

Don’t Miss the Last Move

Yet, there is one more move many should consider. With interest rates still at historic lows, and prices projected to increase by almost 20% over the next four and a half years, this may be time to buy a new home.

Whether, you are a growing family ready to move-up to that waterfront home you always wanted or an empty nester downsizing to a home that makes more sense, now may be the time to buy. If you have considered buying a vacation/retirement home, there may never be a better time to move forward with that plan.

You have been fiscally astute enough to navigate the treacherous waters of a housing market that sank many a homeowner. Now, that the seas have settled, don’t think there aren’t even greater opportunities on the horizon.

Homeownership’s Impact on Net Worth

Homeownership's Impact on Net Worth | Keeping Current Matters

Over the last six years, homeownership has lost some of its allure as a financial investment. As homeowners suffered through the housing bust, more and more began to question whether owning a home was truly a good way to build wealth. A study by the Federal Reserve formally answered this question.

Some of the findings revealed in their report:

  • The average American family has a net worth of $77,300
  • Of that net worth, 61.4% ($47,500) of it is in home equity
  • A homeowner’s net worth is over thirty times greater than that of a renter
  • The average homeowner has a net worth of $174,500 while the average net worth of a renter is $5,100

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Bottom Line

The Fed study found that homeownership is still a great way for a family to build wealth in America.