2017 SCE HOUSING SURVEY FINDS INCREASED OPTIMISM ABOUT HOME PRICE GROWTH

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The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has released results from its February 2017 SCE Housing Survey, which provides information on consumers’ housing-related experiences and expectations. The survey, which is part of the broader Survey of Consumer Expectations, shows an increase in home price growth expectations, especially for growth during the next year. In addition, the majority of households continue to view housing as a good financial investment; expected changes in mortgage rates have slightly increased since last year’s survey; and renters’ perceived access to mortgage credit has continued to ease.

Here, the key findings from the February 2017 survey:

Home prices/rents

Average home price change expectations at both the one- and five-year horizons increased from 2016. For example, the mean one-year ahead expected change in home prices in 2017 was 5.1 percent, which is 1.8 percentage points higher than last year and the highest level since the inception of the survey in 2014. Five-year growth expectations also increased from last year, but remain at or below the levels in 2014 and 2015.

There was a drop in the perceived downside risk in home prices over both the one- and five-year horizons. At the one-year horizon, the average probability of home prices decreasing declined from 43 percent in 2016 to 37.5 percent.

Rent change expectations increased at both the 1- and 5-year horizons, by 0.8 and 0.5 percentage points, respectively.

Housing outlook

Attitudes toward housing continued to remain positive: 60.4 percent of all respondents think that buying property in their zip code is a very or somewhat good investment, and 12.7 percent think it is a bad investment. Although slightly less optimistic than respondents overall, most renters are also enthusiastic about buying property, with 55.9 percent viewing it as a good investment and 15.6 percent viewing it as a bad investment. Higher-income (annual income of $60,000 or more) and more educated (a bachelor’s degree or more) households continue to have a more optimistic outlook of housing compared to their counterparts.

The average probability of buying a home, conditional on moving within the next three years, was largely unchanged from 2016 at 63.6 percent. The average probability of moving during the next year declined slightly, from 19.2 percent to 17.8 percent.

Mortgage rates

On average, households perceive mortgage rates for themselves and nationally to have increased by about 40-50 basis points from 2016. This change is roughly in line with the increase in actual mortgage rates. Less-educated and lower-income households perceived larger increases.

Average expectations of future mortgage rates similarly increased for both the one- and three-year-ahead horizons. For example, the average year-ahead mortgage rate expectation was 5.6 percent, up from 5.2 percent in 2016. The average probability that mortgage rates will increase over the next year rose from 49.5 percent in 2016 to 52 percent; this is primarily driven by older respondents (ages 50 or older).

Owners

The average probability of mortgage refinancing over the next year declined to 10.2 percent, from 11.3 percent in 2016.

The average probability of investing at least $5,000 in the home over the one- and three-year horizons remained steady. The average probability for the one-year horizon stands at 32.4 percent; the corresponding value for the three-year horizon is at 46 percent.

Renters

Renters continue to perceive obtaining a mortgage (if they want to buy a home) as difficult, with 65 percent stating that it would be somewhat or very difficult to get a mortgage. However, renters are gradually beginning to perceive credit access as becoming easier. For instance, this year 20 percent of renters stated it would be somewhat or very easy for them to obtain a mortgage if they wanted to, compared to fewer than 15 percent in 2014 and 2015. These movements held across demographic groups, although they are less pronounced for older renters.

Renters continue to report a strong preference for owning homes. The share of renters who report preferring or strongly preferring to own instead of rent (if they had the financial resources to do so) stood at 72.3 percent, a slight decrease from 74.1 percent in 2016. Younger and less-educated respondents are particularly likely to express a strong preference for owning.esplanade

Test Drive a Home Before an Offer

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While that newly renovated home looks great in photos, what’s really behind that real estate listing could be too good to be true. When it comes to assessing a potential new home, the savvy buyer knows to relentlessly sleuth for any hidden problems. Like you would at a car dealership, test drive your potential future home for important features that easily go unnoticed. Here, Trulia.com explains how to make like a crime-scene detective and put your potential home to the test—before you submit an offer.

1. See what the neighbors are like

Before you step foot into a potential new place, drive by a few times. What’s the foot traffic like in the neighborhood? Do the strolling neighbors look more like young professionals or married couples with children? How much noise do the neighbors make? (Sneak in a Saturday night visit to get the full taste.) If you drive to work, test your morning and evening commutes and time how long it takes you.

2. Head out on a walking tour

Once you’ve examined the place by vehicle, it’s time to repeat on foot. See how long it takes you to get to the nearest coffee shop or restaurant, and make sure you love the local cuisine or cup of joe. (A walkability score considers only quantity, not quality, of amenities.) Scope out the nearest public transportation stations while gauging the condition of sidewalks and public plantings—a well-manicured neighborhood usually suggests stronger civic engagement.

3. Test out the plumbing

Don’t get seduced by the stand-up shower with the exposed copper pipes and wraparound glass doors—try it out yourself. How hard is the pressure? How quickly does the water heat? Test the bathroom and kitchen sinks while you’re at it. Water pressure shouldn’t be a deal breaker, but low pressure could indicate a damaging leak and more water problems (and expenses) down the road.

4. Open the windows

Even if it’s chilly, open a few windows, especially in the room that may be your future master bedroom. This is a good way to check if any windows are stuck, but also an opportunity to listen. Can you hear a lot of traffic or neighborly noise? Do your windows seem to bring in a lot of cross breezes, or do neighboring buildings block the airflow? When the windows are closed, can you feel drafts around the edge of the frames? Windows are crucial for the look and feel of your home.

5. Inspect the home’s natural lighting

If the open house happens on a cloudy day, schedule a follow-up visit when the sun is shining. See how the natural light flows through each room, especially high-traffic areas. If a room seems especially dark, consider whether the paint color is causing the problem. On the same note, you’ll want to see how dark the bedrooms can get. Close all the shades in all the bedrooms and see if the light still filters through; you might want to throw room-darkening shades onto your shopping list.

6. Keep your ears open for any unwanted noise

This is a biggie—condo sounds, in particular, can drive homeowners insane. Make multiple visits to a unit to catch surrounding neighbors when they’re home and making noise. If there are multiple condos for sale in the building, bring a friend and walk around upstairs or in the adjacent unit to see how noise travels. And be sure to ask if children live in the building; the pitter-patter of little feet is far less charming to those who live below them.
Once you’ve assessed noise levels, you should determine how sound travels within the home. Turn on the dryer to hear how loud it is. March around in the guest bedroom to determine how thick the walls are. If you’ll need to invest in sound insulation and throw rugs, it’s better to know now.

7. Scope out storage space

Some sellers clear their homes of all clutter, but many don’t. Rather than turn up your nose at an overstuffed bedroom closet, take out the tape measure and record some dimensions. The space may be larger than it seems; you can also take those measurements home and plan out a closet scheme online to see how much stuff it can really handle.

8. Don’t forget your marbles

Are those newly stained hardwood floors level? Bring a marble to find out. Discreetly place the marble on the hardwood floors: Does it stay put or start rolling? If the slope is especially steep, there might be a structural problem at play, but even a slightly uneven floor can become a bargaining chip.

BABY BOOMERS POISED TO INFLUENCE THE HOUSING MARKET

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Baby-Boomers-Poised-to-Influence-the-Housing-Market-240x170Whether they decide to move from their current homes or age in place, the decisions baby boomers and other older homeowners make during the next few years could significantly impact the single-family housing market. Today, baby boomers and other homeowners age 55 and older control almost two-third (or about $8 trillion) of the nation’s home equity. There also are more than 67 million 55-plus homeowners.

The new “Freddie Mac 55+ Survey”—which polled 4,900 homeowners born before 1961 regarding their current housing situations, plans and willingness to help their grown children become homeowners —found that this generation has the potential to generate significant new demand for mortgage credit and to tighten home-buying competition, especially for millennials and other first-time home buyers.

Here are some of the survey’s key findings:

• Consistent majorities said they are “very satisfied” with their current homes (64 percent), their communities (59 percent) and quality of life (54 percent). Nearly 90 percent of the respondents said people their age should own a home.

• Seventy-six percent of homeowners were confident they would have a comfortable retirement. These feelings were echoed across racial lines and shared by 55-plus homeowners who are still working, as well as retirees, and the 44 percent of homeowners surveyed had a mortgage.

• Consistent majorities said homeownership makes financial sense for married people with children (96 percent) and without children (85 percent), as well as single people with children (79 percent) and without children (53 percent). Almost 25 percent of the respondents also said they have offered down payment assistance to someone.

• This works out to an estimated 42 million homeowners who don’t plan to move. About a quarter (23 percent) indicated they would need major renovations to keep their homes accessible and a third (34 percent) would pay for improvements by refinancing their mortgage or taking out a second loan or home equity line of credit.

• Although movers were in the minority, it was a big minority. According to the survey, almost 40 percent of all 55-plus homeowners said they would like to move at least once more if they had complete control over it. This isn’t just about downsizing to a rental or nursing home; 19 million planned to buy a home and nearly 8 million expected to move within the next four years. Half of the 19 million likely movers also expected to buy less expensive homes.

SPRING USHERS IN ROBUST HOME MARKET

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Spring-Ushers-in-Robust-Home-Market-240x170This spring’s real estate market is coming in strong. New data released by realtor.com shows that homes in May are moving off the market at the fastest pace seen since the housing recovery began, despite record-high asking prices.

Based on realtor.com’s preliminary findings, homes spent a median of 65 days on the market in May—the same length of time as a year ago and three days quicker than April. The median home was listed at $250,000—9 percent higher than a year ago and 2 percent higher than the past month. For-sale housing inventory also has continued to increase on a monthly basis, but remains lower than a year ago.

Meanwhile, more than 550,000 listings have been added to the market to date in May (a 4 percent increase), but the level of inventory remains 4 percent lower than a year ago. Site traffic data on realtor.com shows a 30 percent growth in searches for homes for sale, compared with May 2015.

“Pent-up demand and low mortgage rates are driving consumers into the market with urgency,” says realtor.com Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke in a statement. “However, the recurring issue of limited supply is leading to higher prices.”

Thankfully, Smoke adds, gains in new single-family construction and new home sales are providing a pressure release. “Potential buyers are finding they can avoid a competitive bid situation if they elect to sign a contract on a home to be built,” he says. “As the share of new homes sold goes up, we should eventually see signs of more balance in the existing home market, like lower price appreciation. However, we clearly aren’t there yet.”

Here is a snapshot of the realtor.com’s May data:

• Median age of inventory is estimated to end at 65 days, the same as May 2015 and down 4 percent from April.

• Median listing price for May should reach a record high of $250,000—a 9 percent increase year over year and a 2 percent increase month over month.

• Listing inventory in May is showing a 4 percent increase over April. However, inventory decreased 4 percent year over year.

HOW SINGLE WOMEN ARE CHANGING THE HOME BUYING MARKET

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How-Single-Women-Are-Changing-the-Home-Buying-Market-240x170Single women are quickly becoming major players in the home buying market. According to the National Association of Realtors’ recent report on Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends, single women made 60 percent more of recent home purchases than single men across all age groups. Single women also have emerged as largest home buying demographic after married couples.

And this trend of single female home ownership is only expected to continue in the coming years, thanks to various factors including a decreasing gender-pay gap that is giving women increased financial independence. In some areas, their incomes are even increasing faster than their male counterparts.

So, as the housing market continues to change, marketing to single women of all age groups is going to become highly important. From baby boomers to millennials, this means offering them a variety of choices and designs, along with features such as easy parking, safety and overall affordability—all with an obvious appeal for all single females. Here is a look at what each of these age groups is likely to desire when entering the housing market.

Baby boomers
NAR found that single female baby boomers buy twice as many homes as single men do and account for one out of every five houses sold in their own age group, making it wise to consider their preferences. Boomers tend to live in the suburbs and have more space than other generations who live in smaller city apartments. Custom hardwood cabinetry, granite or marble countertops, as well as the ability to customize all of a home’s features, are attractive options for single female baby boomers. This consumer will not turn away from affordable luxury, like a glass-gated walk-in shower or custom bathtub.

Millennials
This age group tends to live in smaller spaces within major cities, close to their workplaces and social centers. Millennial women also tend to get married later and are well educated. Their demand for housing likely will increase, along with their salaries. McMansion-style designs will not sell well within this demographic, which seeks to differentiate themselves from their parents. They tend to favor unique, stylish, but practical, designs. This could mean an in-kitchen cocktail/bar space for entertaining or a shower with a top-mounted rainfall shower head that adds comfort and class to a small space. Location will be particularly important for this group. On the upper end of this market, a preference for condos in dense communities with vibrant street life is expected.

WILL ZERO-ENERGY HOMES ALTER THE FUTURE OF REAL ESTATE?

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Zero-Energy-Homes-240x170There’s been a lot of buzz recently about the zero-energy building trend, especially in California, which recently mandated that all new residential buildings must be built to zero-net energy specifications by 2020. If you’re not up-to-speed with the zero-energy building concept — relying on a home’s extraordinary energy conservation and on-site renewable energy to meet heating, cooling and energy needs — here is some info from RIS Media on what you can expect to see when builders start taking green homes to a whole new level:

• These high-performance homes will produce as much energy as they consume by incorporating a photovoltaic system (a linked collection of solar panels) — or other renewables — into the mix. With the majority of these homes still connected to the grid, any excess energy that’s accumulated throughout the day is fed back to the grid, so it can be used at night or on cloudy days.

• Not only are zero-energy homes designed and built as energy-efficiently as possible, residents can look forward to zero energy bills — other than the monthly fee required to connect to the grid — and zero carbon emissions.

• While zero-energy homes look like any other home from the outside, their exterior walls tend to be thicker than those found in traditional homes. They also incorporate heating and cooling systems that are a lot more efficient than typical systems, affording homeowners the luxuries they would expect in a home today.

DISPELLING THE MYTH ABOUT MILLENNIALS AND HOMEOWNERSHIP

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mythaboutmillenialsandhomeownership-240x170“The American Dream of homeownership is as strong today as ever.” That’s the belief of HUD Secretary Julián Castro, who in a May 10 address at the National Association of Realtors’ Regulatory Issues Forum said millennials are just as committed to homeownership as their parents and grandparents.

Despite a widespread impression that members of the younger generation are not interested in owning a home, Castro noted a recent survey by TD Bank that found 40 percent of millennials are planning on buying their first homes during the next year.

Student loan debt has been the main obstacle to millennials buying a home, Castro said. About 40 million Americans have some amount of student loan debt and about 70 percent of students graduate with student loan debt, with the average amount of debt at graduation spiking by 56 percent from 2004-2014. The increase has been so great that it has caused many parents and grandparents of millennials to shoulder that debt, with 20 percent of millennials now providing some type of financial assistance to their parents and grandparents.

But things are beginning to improve, Castro said. The number of student-loan delinquencies is declining, and economic improvements have resulted in the creation of 14.5 million jobs during the past 74 months. The average hourly wage also has risen 14 cents in March and April, and the current unemployment rate of 5 percent is the lowest it has been post-recession.

The housing market is a part of the nation’s overall economic strength, he added. “Real residential investment has grown by more than 8 percent for six straight quarters, highlighting the housing sector’s solid, steady recovery,” Castro said. “In fact, growth in residential investment has substantially outpaced growth in overall GDP.”

Castro noted that 1.3 million families have taken advantage of the FHA’s lower mortgage insurance premiums since the association sliced its premium by 50 basis points in January 2015. The immediate result of the mortgage insurance premium cut was a 27-percent increase in the number of home loans endorsed by the FHA from 2014-2015 (up to 753,000), with many of these loans being secured by first-time homebuyers.

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