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Where Have All the Houses Gone?

In today’s housing market, it seems harder than ever to find a home to buy. Before the health crisis hit us a year ago, there was already a shortage of homes for sale. When many homeowners delayed their plans to sell at the same time that more buyers aimed to take advantage of record-low mortgage rates and purchase a home, housing inventory dropped even further. Experts consider this to be the biggest challenge facing an otherwise hot market while buyers continue to compete for homes. As Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.comexplains:

“With buyers active in the market and seller participation lagging, homes are selling quickly and the total number available for sale at any point in time continues to drop lower. In January as a whole, the number of for sale homes dropped below 600,000.”

Where Have All the Houses Gone? | MyKCM

Every month, realtor.com releases new data showing the year-over-year change in inventory of existing homes for sale. As you can see in the map below, nationwide, inventory is 42.6% lower than it was at this time last year:

Does this mean houses aren’t being put on the market for sale?

Not exactly. While there are fewer existing homes being listed right now, many homes are simply selling faster than they’re being counted as current inventory. The market is that competitive! It’s like when everyone was trying to find toilet paper to buy last spring and it was flying off the shelves faster than it could be stocked in the stores. That’s what’s happening in the housing market: homes are being listed for sale, but not at a rate that can keep up with heavy demand from competitive buyers.

In the same realtor.com report, Hale explains:

Time on the market was 10 days faster than last year meaning that buyers still have to make decisions quickly in order to be successful. Today’s buyers have many tools to help them do that, including the ability to be notified as soon as homes meeting their search criteria hit the market. By tailoring search and notifications to the homes that are a solid match, buyers can act quickly and compete successfully in this faster-paced housing market.”

The Good News for Homeowners

The health crisis has been a major reason why potential sellers have held off this long, but as vaccines become more widely available, homeowners will start making their moves. Ali Wolf, Chief Economist at Zondaconfirms:

“Some people will feel comfortable listing their home during the first half of 2021. Others will want to wait until the vaccines are widely distributed.”

With more homeowners getting ready to sell later this year, putting your house on the market sooner rather than later is the best way to make sure your listing shines brighter than the rest.

When you’re ready to sell your house, you’ll likely want it to sell as quickly as possible, for the best price, and with little to no hassle. If you’re looking for these selling conditions, you’ll find them in today’s market. When demand is high and inventory is low, sellers have the ability to create optimal terms and timelines for the sale, making now an exceptional time to move.

Bottom Line

Today’s housing market is a big win for sellers, but these conditions won’t last forever. If you’re in a position to sell your house now, you may not want to wait for your neighbors to do the same. Let’s connect to discuss how to sell your house safely so you’re able to benefit from today’s high demand and low inventory.

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3 Reasons We’re Definitely Not in a Housing Bubble

Home values appreciated by about ten percent in 2020, and they’re forecast to appreciate by about five percent this year. This has some voicing concern that we may be in another housing bubble like the one we experienced a little over a decade ago. Here are three reasons why this market is totally different.

1. This time, housing supply is extremely limited

The price of any market item is determined by supply and demand. If supply is high and demand is low, prices normally decrease. If supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally increase.

In real estate, supply and demand are measured in “months’ supply of inventory,” which is based on the number of current homes for sale compared to the number of buyers in the market. The normal months’ supply of inventory for the market is about 6 months. Anything above that defines a buyers’ market, indicating prices will soften. Anything below that defines a sellers’ market in which prices normally appreciate.

Between 2006 and 2008, the months’ supply of inventory increased from just over 5 months to 11 months. The months’ supply was over 7 months in twenty-seven of those thirty-six months, yet home values continued to rise.

Months’ inventory has been under 5 months for the last 3 years, under 4 for thirteen of the last fourteen months, under 3 for the last six months, and currently stands at 1.9 months – a historic low.

Remember, if supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally increase.

2. This time, housing demand is real

During the housing boom in the mid-2000s, there was what Robert Schiller, a fellow at the Yale School of Management’s International Center for Finance, called “irrational exuberance.” The definition of the term is, “unfounded market optimism that lacks a real foundation of fundamental valuation, but instead rests on psychological factors.” Without considering historic market trends, people got caught up in the frenzy and bought houses based on an unrealistic belief that housing values would continue to escalate.

The mortgage industry fed into this craziness by making mortgage money available to just about anyone, as shown in the Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI) published by the Mortgage Bankers Association. The higher the index, the easier it is to get a mortgage; the lower the index, the more difficult it is to obtain one. Prior to the housing boom, the index stood just below 400. In 2006, the index hit an all-time high of over 868. Again, just about anyone could get a mortgage. Today, the index stands at 122.5, which is well below even the pre-boom level.

In the current real estate market, demand is real, not fabricated. Millennials, the largest generation in the country, have come of age to marry and have children, which are two major drivers for homeownership. The health crisis is also challenging every household to redefine the meaning of “home” and to re-evaluate whether their current home meets that new definition. This desire to own, coupled with historically low mortgage rates, makes purchasing a home today a strong, sound financial decision. Therefore, today’s demand is very real.

Remember, if supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally increase.

3. This time, households have plenty of equity

Again, during the housing boom, it wasn’t just purchasers who got caught up in the frenzy. Existing homeowners started using their homes like ATM machines. There was a wave of cash-out refinances, which enabled homeowners to leverage the equity in their homes. From 2005 through 2007, Americans pulled out $824 billion dollars in equity. That left many homeowners with little or no equity in their homes at a critical time. As prices began to drop, some homeowners found themselves in a negative equity situation where the mortgage was higher than the value of their home. Many defaulted on their payments, which led to an avalanche of foreclosures.

Today, the banks and the American people have shown they learned a valuable lesson from the housing crisis a little over a decade ago. Cash-out refinance volume over the last three years was less than a third of what it was compared to the 3 years leading up to the crash.

This conservative approach has created levels of equity never seen before. According to Census Bureau data, over 38% of owner-occupied housing units are owned ‘free and clear’ (without any mortgage). Also, ATTOM Data Solutions just released their fourth quarter 2020 U.S. Home Equity Report, which revealed:

“17.8 million residential properties in the United States were considered equity-rich, meaning that the combined estimated amount of loans secured by those properties was 50 percent or less of their estimated market value…The count of equity-rich properties in the fourth quarter of 2020 represented 30.2 percent, or about one in three, of the 59 million mortgaged homes in the United States.”

If we combine the 38% of homes that are owned free and clear with the 18.7% of all homes that have at least 50% equity (30.2% of the remaining 62% with a mortgage), we realize that 56.7% of all homes in this country have a minimum of 50% equity. That’s significantly better than the equity situation in 2008.

Bottom Line

This time, housing supply is at a historic low. Demand is real and rightly motivated. Even if there were to be a drop in prices, homeowners have enough equity to be able to weather a dip in home values. This is nothing like 2008. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

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What Experts Are Saying about the 2021 Job Market

Earlier this month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their most recent Jobs Report. The report revealed that the economy lost 140,000 jobs in December. That’s a devastating number and dramatically impacts those households that lost a source of income. However, we need to give it some context. Greg Ip, Chief Economics Commentator at the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), explains:

“The economy is probably not slipping back into recession. The drop was induced by new restrictions on activity as the pandemic raged out of control. Leisure and hospitality, which includes restaurants, hotels, and amusement parks, tumbled 498,000.”

In the same report, Michael Pearce, Senior U.S. Economist of Capital Economics, agreed:

“The 140,000 drop in non-farm payrolls was entirely due to a massive plunge in leisure and hospitality employment, as bars and restaurants across the country have been forced to close in response to the surge in coronavirus infections. With employment in most other sectors rising strongly, the economy appears to be carrying more momentum into 2021 than we had thought.”

Once the vaccine is distributed throughout the country and the pandemic is successfully under control, the vast majority of those 480,000 jobs will come back.

Here are two additional comments from other experts, also reported by the WSJ that day:

Nick Bunker, Head of Research in North America for Indeed:

“These numbers are distressing, but they are reflective of the time when coronavirus vaccines were not rolled out and federal fiscal policy was still deadlocked. Hopefully, the recent legislation can help build a bridge to a time when vaccines are fully rolled out and the labor market can sustainably heal.”

Michael Feroli, Chief U.S. Economist for JPMorgan Chase:

“The good news in today’s report is that outside the hopefully temporary hit to the food service industry, the rest of the labor market appears to be holding in despite the latest public health challenges.”

What impact will this have on the real estate market in 2021?

Some are concerned that with millions of Americans unemployed, we may see distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) dominate the housing market once again. Rick Sharga, Executive Vice President at RealtyTrac, along with most other experts, doesn’t believe that will be the case:

“There are reasons to be cautiously optimistic despite massive unemployment levels and uncertainty about government policies under the new Administration. But while anything is possible, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see another foreclosure tsunami or housing market crash.”

Bottom Line

For the households that lost a wage earner, these are extremely difficult times. Hopefully, the new stimulus package will lessen some of their pain. The health crisis, however, should vastly improve by mid-year with expectations that the jobs market will also progress significantly.

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Will Forbearance Plans Lead to a Tsunami of Foreclosures?

At the onset of the economic disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic, the government quickly put into place forbearance plans to allow homeowners to remain in their homes without making their monthly mortgage payments. Today, almost three million households are actively in a forbearance plan. Though 29.4% of those in forbearance have continued to stay current on their payments, many have not.

Yanling Mayer, Principal Economist at CoreLogic, recently revealed:

“A distributional analysis of forborne loans’ payment status reveals that more than one third (39.1%) of all forborne loans are now 150+ days behind payment, while as many as 1-in-4 (25.5%) are 180+ days past due.”

These homeowners have been given permission to not make their payments, but the question now is: how many of them will be able to catch up after their forbearance program ends? There’s speculation that a forthcoming wave of foreclosures could be the result, and that could lead to another crash in home values like we saw a decade ago.

However, today’s situation is different than the 2006-2008 housing crisis as many homeowners have tremendous amounts of equity in their homes.

What are the experts saying?

Over the last 30 days, several industry experts have weighed in on this subject.

Michael Sklarz, President at Collateral Analytics:

“We may very well see a meaningful increase in the number of homes listed for sale as these borrowers choose to sell at what is arguably an intermediate top in the market and downsize to more affordable homes rather than face foreclosure.”

Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American:

“The foreclosure process is based on two steps. First, the homeowner suffers an adverse economic shock…leading to the homeowner becoming delinquent on their mortgage. However, delinquency by itself is not enough to send a mortgage into foreclosure. With enough equity, a homeowner has the option of selling their home, or tapping into their equity through a refinance, to help weather the economic shock. It is a lack of sufficient equity, the second component of the dual trigger, that causes a serious delinquency to become a foreclosure.”

Don Layton, Senior Industry Fellow at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University:

“With a greater cushion of equity, troubled homeowners have dramatically improved options: a greater ability to access funding (e.g. home equity lines) to keep paying monthly expenses until family finances might recover, improved ability to qualify for and support a loan modification, and, if push comes to shove, the ability to sell the home and monetize their increased net worth while reducing monthly payment obligations. So, what should lenders and servicers expect: a large number of foreclosures or only a modest increase? I believe the latter.”

With today’s positive equity situation, many homeowners will be able to use a loan modification or refinance to stay in their homes. If not, some will go to foreclosure, but most will be able to sell and walk away with their equity.

Won’t the additional homes on the market impact prices?

Distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) sell at a significant discount. If homeowners sell instead of going into foreclosure, the impact on the housing market will be much less severe.

We must also realize there is currently an unprecedented lack of inventory on the market. Just last week, realtor.com explained:

“Nationally, the number of homes for sale was down 39.6%, amounting to 449,000 fewer homes for sale than last December.”

It’s important to remember that there weren’t enough homes for sale even then, and inventory has only continued to decline.

The market has the potential to absorb half a million homes this year without it causing home values to depreciate.

Bottom Line

The pandemic has led to both personal and economic hardships for many American households. The overall residential real estate market, however, has weathered the storm and will continue to do so in 2021.

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Homeowner Equity Increases an Astonishing $1 Trillion

In a year that was financially devastating for many Americans, some good news for most homeowners is the dramatic gain in home equity over the last twelve months. Last week, CoreLogic released its 2020 3rd Quarter Homeowner Equity Insights report, which reveals four major findings:

  1. U.S. homeowners with mortgages have seen their equity increase by a total of $1 trillion since the third quarter of 2019.
  2. The average homeowner gained approximately $17,000 in equity over the past year.
  3. This is a 10.8% increase in equity over last year.
  4. The average household with a mortgage now has $194,000 in home equity.

This has given many homeowners the ability to redesign their homes to meet their changing needs. Frank Martell, President and CEO of CoreLogic, explains in the report:

“The housing market has remained a strong pillar in an otherwise tumultuous economic year. A sharp rise in demand, spurred by record-low interest rates, continues to bolster homeowner equity. And with many people now spending more time than ever before at home, some homeowners have tapped into their strengthening equity to fund renovations.”

This build-up in equity also gives more options to homeowners who have been financially impacted by the pandemic. Today, homeowners with substantial equity are in a much better position to work out a deal with their lender if they cannot pay their mortgage. Alternatively, they also have the power to sell and walk away with their equity in the form of cash or as a down payment toward a more affordable house. Frank Nothaft, Chief Economist for CoreLogic, addresses the issue in the report:

“Over the past year, strong home price growth has created a record level of home equity for homeowners…This provides an important buffer to protect families if they experience financial difficulties and is one reason for the generational-low in foreclosure rates reported.”

Homeowner Equity Increases an Astonishing $1 Trillion | MyKCM

Here’s a map showing equity gains by state:This gain in home equity is a blessing for homeowners in these trying times, and it seems that the next two years will continue to reward those who own a home.

Last week, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) held their 2020 Real Estate Forecast SummitAt the summit, they shared the results of a recent survey of 23 economic and housing market experts. The median forecast among the experts called for home values to increase further by 8% in 2021 and 5.5% in 2022.

Bottom Line

In a year that has many of us reevaluating what “home” really means, those who own their homes have been rewarded with a financial windfall that averages $17,000 individually and totals $1 trillion nationally.

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3 Reasons to Be Optimistic about Real Estate in 2021

This year will be remembered for many reasons, and optimism is one thing that’s been in short supply since the spring. We’re experiencing a global pandemic, social unrest, an economic downturn, and natural disasters, just to name a few. The challenges brought on by the health crisis have also forced many homeowners to reevaluate their space and what they need in a home going into 2021. So, experts are forecasting that next year is one in which we can be optimistic about real estate for three key reasons.

1. The Economy Is Expected to Continue Improving

Tim Duy from the University of Oregon puts it this way:

“There is nothing fundamentally ‘broken’ in the economy that needs to heal…there was no obvious financial bubble driving excessive activity in any one economic sector when the pandemic hit…With Covid-19 cases surging again, it is understandably hard to look optimistically to the other side of this winter…Don’t let the near-term challenges distract from the economic stage being set for next four years.”

2. Interest Rates Are Projected to Stay Low

3 Reasons to Be Optimistic about Real Estate in 2021 | MyKCM

In the latest projections from Freddie Mac, interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage are expected to remain at or near 3% next year. These low rates will continue to make homes more affordable, driving demand for housing in 2021.

3. Future Home Sales Are Forecasted to Grow

While the economy improves and interest rates remain low, homes are also expected to continue appreciating as more people buy in the coming year. Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.comsays:

“We expect home sales in 2021 to come in 7.0% above 2020 levels, following a more normal seasonal trend and building momentum through the spring and sustaining the pace in the second half of the year.”

Bottom Line

Experts forecast that buyers and sellers are going to be active in 2021. If you’ve thought about buying or selling your home this year but have held off, now may be the time to take advantage of this market. Let’s connect to take the first step toward your new home today.

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Are Home Prices Headed Toward Bubble Territory?

Talk of a housing bubble is beginning to crop up as home prices have appreciated at a rapid pace this year. This is understandable since the appreciation of residential real estate is well above historic annual averages. According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), annual appreciation since 1991 has averaged 3.8%. Here are the latest 2020 appreciation numbers from three reliable sources:

It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that house appreciation is out of control in today’s market. However, we need to put these numbers into context first.

Inflation and the Comeback from the Housing Crash

Following the housing crash, home values depreciated dramatically from 2007-2011. Values are still recovering from that unusually long period of falling prices. We must also realize that normal inflation has had an impact.

Bill McBride, the founder of the well-respected Calculated Risk blog, recently summed it up this way:

“It has been over fourteen years since the bubble peak. In the Case-Shiller release today, the seasonally adjusted National Index, was reported as being 22.2% above the previous bubble peak. However, in real terms (adjusted for inflation), the National index is still about 2% below the bubble peak…As an example, if a house price was $200,000 in January 2000, the price would be close to $291,000 today adjusted for inflation.”

The COVID Impact on Home Prices

The pandemic caused many households to reconsider whether their current home still fulfills their lifestyle. Many homeowners now want larger yards that are both separate and private.

Their needs on the inside of the home have changed too. People now want home offices, gyms, and living rooms well-suited for video conferencing. Barbara Ballinger, a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, recently wrote:

“While homeowners continue to want their outdoor spaces that offer a safe retreat, that appeal has shifted into other parts of the home, coupling comfort with function. In other words, homeowners want amenities for work and leisure, and they plan to enjoy them long after the pandemic.”

At the same time, concerns about the pandemic have caused many homeowners to put their plans to sell on hold. Realtor.com just released their November Monthly Housing Market Trends Report. It explains:

“Nationally, the inventory of homes for sale decreased 39.2% over the past year in November…This amounted to 490,000 fewer homes for sale compared to November of last year.”

More people buying and fewer people selling has caused home prices to escalate. However, with a vaccine on the horizon, more homeowners will be putting their houses on the market. This will better balance supply with demand and slow down the rapid appreciation.

That’s why major organizations in the housing industry are calling for much more moderate home appreciation next year. Here are the most recent forecasts for 2021:

This Is Nothing Like 2006

Finally, let’s put to rest some of the concerns that today’s scenario is anything like what led up to the last housing crash. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), explains why this is nothing like 2006:

“Such a frenzy of activity, reminiscent of 2006, raises questions about a bubble and the potential for a painful crash. The answer: There’s no comparison. Back in 2006, dubious adjustable-rate mortgages taxed many buyers’ budgets. Some loans didn’t even require income documentation. Today, buyers are taking out 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. Fourteen years ago, there were 3.8 million homes listed for sale, and home builders were putting up about 2 million new units. Now, inventory is only about 1.5 million homes, and home builders are underproducing relative to historical averages.”

Bottom Line

Most aspects of life have been anything but normal in 2020. That includes buying and selling real estate. High demand coupled with restricted supply has caused home prices to appreciate above historic levels. With the end of the health crisis in sight, we will see price appreciation return to more normal levels next year.

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An Honest Look at Unemployment Numbers

Last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the November Jobs Report. It revealed that, though headed in the right direction, the nation’s job recovery has slowed. The consensus reaction is best exemplified by a quote from Glassdoor Senior Economist, Daniel Zhao:

“We saw positive job gains, but I think the sentiment is largely negative because we know that we’re heading into a dark winter.”

There’s no doubt that millions of households have been – and continue to be -devastated by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

We should, however, put the current situation into perspective. Where we currently stand is much better than where most experts thought we would be at this time. Jed Kolko, Chief Economist of Indeed, explained in his State of the Labor Market that, though the situation is not good, we’re doing better than original expectations:

“Though the labor market rebound is incomplete, it has nevertheless surpassed expectations. In May, after payrolls plunged and unemployment spiked, the Wall Street Journal panel of economic forecasters projected unemployment would be over 11% in December 2020 and not fall below 7% until the first half of 2022 — a milestone already passed in October.”

With the announcement that vaccines should be available soon, we’re not far from the most damaged segments of the economy gaining momentum again.

Jeff Sparshott of the Wall Street Journal recently wrote:

“Even with signs of a recent slowdown, the labor-market recovery since this spring has been stronger than most economists expected. Many now project widespread vaccine distribution will eventually help lift the economy further as businesses are allowed to reopen and consumers feel more comfortable traveling, going to the movies.”

Bottom Line

Though millions of Americans are still out of work, the situation was forecasted to be even direr than it is today. Once a vaccine becomes available, the economy should complete its comeback, and so should the labor market.

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Chances of Another Foreclosure Crisis? “About Zero Percent.”

There seems to be some concern that the 2020 economic downturn will lead to another foreclosure crisis like the one we experienced after the housing crash a little over a decade ago. However, there’s one major difference this time: a robust forbearance program.

During the housing crash of 2006-2008, many felt homeowners should be forced to pay their mortgages despite the economic hardships they were experiencing. There was no empathy for the challenges those households were facing. In a 2009 Wall Street Journal article titled Is Walking Away From Your Mortgage Immoral?, John Courson, Chief Executive of the Mortgage Bankers Association, was asked to comment on those not paying their mortgage. He famously said:

“What about the message they will send to their family and their kids?”

Courson suggested that people unable to pay their mortgage were bad parents.

What resulted from that lack of empathy? Foreclosures mounted.

This time is different. There was an immediate understanding that homeowners were faced with a challenge not of their own making. The government quickly jumped in with a mortgage forbearance program that relieved the financial burden placed on many households. The program allowed many borrowers to suspend their monthly mortgage payments until their economic condition improved. It was the right thing to do.

What happens when forbearance programs expire?

Some analysts are concerned many homeowners will not be able to make up the back payments once their forbearance plans expire. They’re concerned the situation will lead to an onslaught of foreclosures.

The banks and the government learned from the challenges the country experienced during the housing crash. They don’t want a surge of foreclosures again. For that reason, they’ve put in place alternative ways homeowners can pay back the money owed over an extended period of time.

Another major difference is that, unlike 2006-2008, today’s homeowners are sitting on a record amount of equity. That equity will enable them to sell their houses and walk away with cash instead of going through foreclosure.

Bottom Line

The differences mentioned above will be the reason we’ll avert a surge of foreclosures. As Ivy Zelman, a highly respected thought leader for housing and CEO of Zelman & Associates, said:

“The likelihood of us having a foreclosure crisis again is about zero percent.”

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Winter Will Bring a Flurry of Activity to the Housing Market

In the second half of this year, the housing market surged with activity. Today, real estate experts are looking ahead to the winter season and the forecast is anything but chilly. As Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), notes:

“It will be one of the best winter sales years ever.”

The typical winter slowdown in the housing market is simply not on the radar. Here’s why.

While today’s historically low mortgage rates are expected to remain low, they won’t be this low for much longer. This could be the last chance for homebuyers to secure such low rates, and they’re ready to take action. In a recent articleBankrate explained:

“If you’re looking to buy a home…expect mortgage rates to remain low into 2021. However, the possibility of rates falling to 2.5 percent or lower has faded as the U.S. economy has rebounded.”

As long as we continue to see low interest rates, we’ll see hopeful buyers on the hunt for their dream homes. Yun confirmed:

“The demand for home buying remains super strong…And we’re still likely to end the year with more homes sold overall in 2020 than in 2019…With persistent low mortgage rates and some degree of a continuing jobs recovery, more contract signings are expected in the near future.”

The challenge, however, is the lack of homes available for sale. With that in mind, all eyes are on homeowners to see if they’ll sell this winter or wait until spring. Danielle Hale, Chief Economist for realtor.comsays it’s best for sellers to capitalize on this moment sooner rather than later:

“We currently see buyers sticking around in the housing market much later than we usually do this fall. If that trend continues, we will see more buyers in the market this winter, too. So, this winter is likely to be a good time to sell.”

With buyers ready to stay active this winter, sellers who want to close a deal on the best possible terms shouldn’t wait until spring to put their homes on the market.

Bottom Line

Experts agree the winter housing market could potentially be bigger than ever. Whether you’re ready to buy or sell, let’s connect today so you can be in your dream home by the new year.