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Is the Health Crisis Driving Buyers Out of Urban Areas?

The pandemic has caused consumers to re-examine the components that make up the “perfect home.” Many families are no longer comfortable with the locations and layouts of their existing homes. The allure of city life (more congested) seems to be giving way to either suburban or rural life (less congested). The fascination with an open floor plan seems to be fading as people are finding a need for more privacy while working from home.

Recently, news.com released a report that revealed how buyers’ views of listings are leaning heavily to more suburban and rural properties. Here are the year-over-year percentage increases in views per property type:

  • Urban – 7%
  • Suburban – 13%
  • Rural – 16%

In the report, Javier Vivas, Director of Economic Research for realtor.com, gives these numbers some context:

“This migration to the suburbs is not a new trend, but it has become more pronounced. After several months of shelter-in-place orders, the desire to have more space and the potential for more people to work remotely are likely two of the factors contributing to the popularity of the burbs.”

Realtor Magazine also just reported that the desire to move is strongest in our city markets:

“Nearly 30% of respondents living in a high-density urban area say that the pandemic is prompting them to want to move by the end of the year…This is more than double the rate of those living in rural parts of the country, where residents are much more likely to stay put rather than to relocate.”

New Construction Also Seeing a Surge in Views

Since the pandemic has altered how consumers think about floor plans, builders are anticipating how future homes will change. In a recent press release by Zillow, it was explained that:

  • Builders believe as people spend more time at home during the pandemic, buyers are realizing which features of their homes are working and not working.
  • Homebuilders predict open-concept floor plans will be a thing of the past, as people now value more walls, doors, and overall privacy.
  • New construction, which offers the chance to personalize home features, saw its listing page views grow by 73% over last May.

The Virus is Even Impacting the Luxury Second-Home Market

It appears that COVID-19 is impacting the luxury market too. In an article released last week titled, Luxury Buyers Return to Market in Force, Danielle Hale, Chief Economist for realtor.com reported:

“Stay at home orders and social distancing have put a new value on the extra space. We’re seeing this in the luxury market as well, which could mean there is renewed interest from high-end buyers to find a second-home that is within driving distance from their primary residence.

Much like the suburbs are gaining favor with home shoppers, second home markets are seeing increased interest from luxury buyers…Views of luxury properties accelerated 56% in The Hamptons, 28% in Palm Springs and 24% in Greenwich compared to January trends.”

Bottom Line

It appears that a percentage of people are preparing to leave many American cities. Some of these moves will be permanent, while others will be temporary (such as a getaway to a second home). In either case, many consumers are on the move. Real estate professionals are ready and willing to help in any way they can.

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A Historic Rebound for the Housing Market

Pending Home Sales increased by 44.3% in May, registering the highest month-over-month gain in the index since the National Association of Realtors (NAR) started tracking this metric in January 2001. So, what exactly are pending home sales, and why is this rebound so important?

According to NAR, the Pending Home Sales Index (PHS) is:

“A leading indicator of housing activity, measures housing contract activity, and is based on signed real estate contracts for existing single-family homes, condos, and co-ops. Because a home goes under contract a month or two before it is sold, the Pending Home Sales Index generally leads Existing-Home Sales by a month or two.”

In real estate, pending home sales is a key indicator in determining the strength of the housing market. As mentioned before, it measures how many existing homes went into contract in a specific month. When a buyer goes through the steps to purchase a home, the final one is the closing. On average, that happens about two months after the contract is signed, depending on how fast or slow the process takes in each state.

Why is this rebound important?

A Historic Rebound for the Housing Market | MyKCM

With the COVID-19 pandemic and a shutdown of the economy, we saw a steep two-month decline in the number of houses that went into contract. In May, however, that number increased dramatically (See graph below):This jump means buyers are back in the market and purchasing homes right now. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR mentioned:

“This has been a spectacular recovery for contract signings and goes to show the resiliency of American consumers and their evergreen desire for homeownership…This bounce back also speaks to how the housing sector could lead the way for a broader economic recovery.”

But in order to continue with this trend, we need more houses for sale on the market. Yun continues to say:

“More listings are continuously appearing as the economy reopens, helping with inventory choices…Still, more home construction is needed to counter the persistent underproduction of homes over the past decade.”

A Historic Rebound for the Housing Market | MyKCM

As we move through the year, we’ll see an increase in the number of houses being built. This will help combat a small portion of the inventory deficit. The lack of overall inventory, however, is still a challenge, and it is creating an opportunity for homeowners who are ready to sell. As the graph below shows, during the last 12 months, the supply of homes for sale has been decreasing year-over-year and is not keeping up with the demand from homebuyers.

Bottom Line

If you decided not to sell this spring due to the health crisis, maybe it’s time to jump back into the market while buyers are actively looking for homes. Let’s connect today to determine your best move forward.

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Latest Unemployment Report: Great News…for the Most Part

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest Employment Situation Summary last Thursday, and it again beat analysts’ expectations in a big way. The consensus was for 3,074,000 jobs to be added in June. The report revealed that 4,800,000 jobs were added. The unemployment rate fell to 11.1% from 13.3% last month. Again, excellent news as the unemployment rate fell for the second consecutive month. However, there’s still a long way to go before the economy fully recovers as 17.8 million Americans remain unemployed.

Here are two interesting insights on the report:

What about a supposed misclassification?

The BLS addressed this at length in a blog post last week, and concluded by saying:

“Regardless of the assumptions we might make about misclassification, the trend in the unemployment rate over the period in question is the same; the rate increased in March & April and eased in May.”

They specifically noted the issue in the latest report by explaining that if they adjusted the rate for the potential miscalculation, it would increase from 11.1% to 12.1% (which is lower than the adjusted rate of 16.4% last month). They went on to say:

“However, this represents the upper bound of our estimate of misclassification and probably overstates the size of the misclassification error.”

Does the shutdown of parts of the economy skew the unemployment numbers?

Because the uniqueness of 2020 impacts the employment situation in so many ways, each jobs report is now examined with a microscope to make sure the headlines generated by the report accurately convey what’s happening in the job market.

One such analysis is done by Jed Kolko, Chief Economist at Indeed. He believes the extraordinary number of people in the “temporary” unemployed category confuses the broader issue of how many people have permanently lost their job. He adjusts for this when calculating his “core unemployment rate” (which subtracts temporary layoffs and adds unemployed who didn’t search for a job recently).

The bad news is that his analysis reveals that the number of permanently unemployed is still rising (from 4.6% in April to 5.9% last month). The good news, however, is when you use his methodology to look back at the Great Recession, today’s “core unemployment rate” is significantly lower (5.9% versus 10.5% in April 2010).

Bottom Line

Last week’s jobs report was much better than most expected. However, we should remain cautious in our optimism. As the Wall Street Journal explained in their analysis of the jobs report:

“U.S. job growth surged last month, underscoring the economy’s capacity for a quick rebound if businesses continue to reopen and consumers regain confidence. A recent coronavirus spike, however, could undermine trends captured in the latest jobs report.”

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What Are Experts Saying About the Rest of 2020?

One of the biggest questions on everyone’s minds these days is: What’s going to happen to the housing market in the second half of the year? Based on recent data on the economy, unemployment, real estate, and more, many economists are revising their forecasts for the remainder of 2020 – and the outlook is extremely encouraging. Here’s a look at what some experts have to say about key areas that will power the industry and the economy forward this year.

Mortgage Purchase Originations: Joel Kan, Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry ForecastingMortgage Bankers Association

“The recovery in housing is happening faster than expected. We anticipated a drop off in Q3. But, we don’t think that’s the case anymore. We revised our Q3 numbers higher. Before, we predicted a 2 percent decline in purchase originations in 2020, now we think there will be 2 percent growth this year.”

Home Sales: Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist, National Association of Realtors

“Sales completed in May reflect contract signings in March and April – during the strictest times of the pandemic lock down and hence the cyclical low point…Home sales will surely rise in the upcoming months with the economy reopening, and could even surpass one-year-ago figures in the second half of the year.”

Inventory: George Ratiu, Senior Economist, realtor.com

“We can project that the next few months will see a slow-yet-steady improvement in new inventory…we projected a stepped improvement for the May through August months, followed by a return to historical trend for the September through December time frame.”

Mortgage Rates: Freddie Mac

“Going forward, we forecast the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage to remain low, falling to a yearly average of 3.4% in 2020 and 3.2% in 2021.”

New Construction: Doug Duncan, Chief Economist, Fannie Mae

“The weaker-than-expected single-family starts number may be a matter of timing, as single-family permits jumped by a stronger 11.9 percent. In addition, the number of authorized single-family units not yet started rose 5.4 percent to the second-highest level since 2008. This suggests that a significant acceleration in new construction will likely occur.”

Bottom Line

The experts are optimistic about the second half of the year. If you paused your 2020 real estate plans this spring, let’s connect today to determine how you can re-engage in the process.

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Should We Be Looking at Unemployment Numbers Differently?

The New York Times recently ran an article regarding unemployment titled: Don’t Cheer Too Soon. Keep an Eye on the Core Jobless Rate. The piece suggests we should look at unemployment numbers somewhat differently. The author of the article, Jed Kolko, is a well-respected economist who is currently the Chief Economist at Indeed, the world’s largest online jobs site. Previously, he was Chief Economist and VP of Analytics at Trulia, the online real estate site.

Kolko suggests “the coronavirus pandemic has broken most economic charts and models, and all the numbers we regularly watch need a closer look.” He goes on to explain that the decline in the unemployment number reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) earlier this month was driven by a drop in temporary layoffs. If we strip those out, we’re left with what Kolko calls the core unemployment rate. Many economists have struggled with how to deal with the vast number of temporary layoffs, as a complete shutdown of the economy has never happened before. As the article states, in the last unemployment report:

“73 percent of all unemployed people said they were temporarily unemployed, which means they had a return-to-work date or they expected to return to work in six months. Before the pandemic, temporary unemployment was never more than one-quarter of total unemployment.”

The core unemployment rate handles this issue and also deals with another concern economists have discussed for years: the exclusion of the marginally attached. These are people who are available and want to work, but count as out of the labor force rather than unemployed because they haven’t searched for work in the past four weeks.

Kolko’s core rate does three things:

  1. Takes out temporary unemployment
  2. Retains the rest of the standard unemployment definition: permanent job losers, job leavers, and people returning to or entering the labor force
  3. Adds in the marginally attached

Removing the temporarily unemployed makes sense according to the article:

“Initial pandemic relief efforts focused on money for people to manage a temporary loss of income and funds to keep businesses afloat until they could bring their workers back. The hope and the goal is for the temporarily unemployed to return to their old jobs, rather than have them lose their jobs and have to search for new ones when jobs have become scarcer.”

The Bad News and the Good News

Clearly, the adjustments Kolko makes dramatically impact the way we look at unemployment. The bad news is, using his core rate, there was an increase in unemployment from April to May. The conventional rate reported by the BLS showed a decrease in unemployment.

Should We Be Looking at Unemployment Numbers Differently? | MyKCM

The good news is that the core rate compares more favorably to the last recession in 2008. Here’s the breakdown:

Bottom Line

The unemployment rate is a key indicator of how the economy is doing. Heading into a highly contested election this November, the BLS report releasing next week will be scrutinized like no other by members on both sides of the aisle. Mr. Kolko’s take is just one additional way to evaluate how unemployment is impacting American families.

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Is the Economic Recovery Already Underway?

The Wall Street Journal just released their latest monthly Survey of Economists. In an article on the findings, they reported:

“The U.S. economy will be in recovery by the third quarter of this year, economists said in a survey that also concluded the labor market will fare better than previously expected following the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Clearly, the latest jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed the labor market is outperforming expectations, as it revealed that 2.5 million jobs were added. Directly before the release, experts forecasted that we would lose over 8 million jobs.

Is the Economic Recovery Already Underway? | MyKCM

A second revelation indicating the economy is already about to turn around was also somewhat unexpected. More than 9 out of 10 economists surveyed believe the recovery has already begun this quarter or will begin in the third quarter. Here are the results of the survey question asking when the recovery will begin:The survey also asked what type of recovery the economists expect.

More than 8 out of 10 believe it will be a form of a ‘V’ recovery:

  • A true ‘V’ with a sharp drop and a sharp rebound
  • A ‘Nike Swoosh’ with a sharp drop and a more gradual recovery, coined after the company’s logo

Some experts, possibly concerned about a second wave of COVID-19, call for a ‘W’ recovery – a double dip recession.

Others call for a ‘U’ with a prolonged bottom.

A very small percentage project the dreaded ‘L’ recovery, which is no recovery at all for the foreseeable future (think of the Great Recession).

Is the Economic Recovery Already Underway? | MyKCM

Here’s the breakdown:

Bottom Line

Though we still have a long and difficult journey ahead, it appears the worst for both the economy and the unemployment situation may be in our rearview mirror.

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Are You Ready for the Summer Housing Market?

As the health crisis started making its way throughout our country earlier this spring, sellers have been cautious about putting their homes on the market. This hesitation stemmed primarily from fear of the spread of the coronavirus, and understandably so. This abundant caution has greatly impacted the number of homes for sale and slowed the pace of a typically busy spring real estate season. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American notes:

“As more homeowners are reluctant to list their homes for sale amid the pandemic, the supply of homes available to potential home buyers continues to dwindle.”

With many states beginning a phased approach to reopening, virtual best practices and health and safety guidelines for the industry are in place to increase the comfort level of buyers and sellers. What we see today, though, is that sellers are still making a very calculated return to the market. In their latest Weekly Housing Trends Report, realtor.com indicates:

“New listings: On the slow path to recovery. Nationwide the size of declines held mostly steady this week, dropping 23 percent over last year, a slight increase over last week but still an improvement over the 30 percent declines in the first half of May.”

Although we’re starting to inch our way toward more homes for sale throughout the country, the number of homes on the market is still well below the demand from buyers. In the same report, Javier Vivas, Director of Economic Research for realtor.com shares:

“Sellers have yet to come back in full force, limiting the availability of homes for sale. Total active listings are declining from a year ago at a faster rate than observed in previous weeks, and this trend could worsen as buyers regain confidence and come back to the market before sellers.”

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR) seems to agree:

“In the coming months, buying activity will rise as states reopen and more consumers feel comfortable about homebuying in the midst of the social distancing measures.”

What we can see today is that homebuyers are more confident than the sellers, and they’re ready to make up for lost time from the traditional spring market. Summer is gearing up to be the 2020 buying season, so including your house in the mix may be your best opportunity to sell yet. Interest in your house may be higher than you think with so few sellers on the market today. As Vivas says:

“More properties will have to enter the market in June to bring the number of options for buyers back to normal levels for this time of the year, nationwide and in all large markets.”

Bottom Line

If you’re ready to sell your house this summer, let’s connect today. Buyers are interested and they may be looking for a house just like yours.

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Summer is the New Spring for Real Estate

Some Highlights

  • The health crisis slowed the market this spring, so buyers are jumping back into the market to make their moves this summer.
  • Check these 10 items off your to-do list so your house is ready to sell while buying is hot!
  • Let’s connect today to prepare your house for the sizzling summer market.
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Is a Recession Here? Yes. Does that Mean a Housing Crash? No.

On Monday, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) announced that the U.S. economy is officially in a recession. This did not come as a surprise to many, as the Bureau defines a recession this way:

“A recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, normally visible in production, employment, and other indicators. A recession begins when the economy reaches a peak of economic activity and ends when the economy reaches its trough. Between trough and peak, the economy is in an expansion.”

Everyone realizes that the pandemic shut down the country earlier this year, causing a “significant decline in economic activity.”

Though not surprising, headlines announcing the country is in a recession will cause consumers to remember the devastating impact the last recession had on the housing market just over a decade ago.

The real estate market, however, is in a totally different position than it was then. As Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First Americanexplained:

“Many still bear scars from the Great Recession and may expect the housing market to follow a similar trajectory in response to the coronavirus outbreak. But, there are distinct differences that indicate the housing market may follow a much different path. While housing led the recession in 2008-2009, this time it may be poised to bring us out of it.”

Four major differences in today’s real estate market are:

  1. Families have large sums of equity in their homes
  2. We have a shortage of housing inventory, not an overabundance
  3. Irresponsible lending no longer exists
  4. Home price appreciation is not out of control

We must also realize that a recession does not mean a housing crash will follow.  In three of the four previous recessions prior to 2008, home values increased. In the other one, home prices depreciated by only 1.9%.

Bottom Line

Yes, we are now officially in a recession. However, unlike 2008, this time the housing industry is in much better shape to weather the storm.

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The Shocking News in the Unemployment Report

Last Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released their May Employment Situation SummaryLeading up to the release, most experts predicted the unemployment rate would jump up to approximately 20% from the 14.7% rate announced last month.

The experts were shocked.

The Wall Street Journal put it this way:

“The May U.S. jobless rate fell to 13.3% and employers added 2.5 million jobs, blowing Wall Street expectations out of the water: Economists had forecast a loss of 8.3 million jobs and a 19.5% unemployment rate.”

In addition, CNBC revealed:

“The May gain was by far the biggest one-month jobs surge in U.S. history since at least 1939.”

Here are some of the job gains by sector:

  • Food Service and Bartenders – 1,400,000
  • Construction – 464,000
  • Education and Health Services – 424,000
  • Retail – 368,000
  • Other Services – 272,000
  • Manufacturing – 225,000
  • Professional Services – 127,000

There’s still a long way to go before the economy fully recovers, as 21 million Americans remain unemployed. That number is down, however, from 23 million just last month. And, of the 21 million in the current report, 73% feel their layoff is temporary. This aligns with a recent Federal Reserve Bank report that showed employers felt 75% of the job losses are temporary layoffs and furloughs.

The Employment Situation Summary was definitely a pleasant surprise, and evidence that the country’s economic turnaround is underway. The data also offers a labor-market snapshot from mid-May, when the government conducted its monthly survey of households and businesses. Many states did not open for business until the second half of May. This bodes well for next month’s jobs report.

Bottom Line

We cannot rejoice over a report that reveals millions of American families are still without work. We can, however, feel relieved that we are headed in the right direction, and much more quickly than most anticipated.