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Don’t Be Fooled by Remarkable Real Estate Headlines

Don’t be impressed by the headlines reporting year-over-year housing numbers for the next several months (data covering March, April, May, and June). The data will most likely show eye-popping one-year increases.

While the year-over-year jumps will certainly be striking, consumers should take these numbers with a grain of salt, as the situation highlights a short-term quirk in the reporting of this data. Essentially, the increases will reflect a combination of two things: sharply lower housing numbers during last year’s virus-related market collapse and the subsequent strong rebound. This will result in what will appear to be unbelievable growth.

Don’t Be Fooled by Remarkable Real Estate Headlines | MyKCM

Let’s use single-family home sales as an example:As the graph reveals, last spring’s buying market was anything but typical. Instead of sales increasing, they fell sharply as a result of stay-at-home orders that virtually shut the real estate industry down.

This spring’s real estate market will bounce back with more normal seasonal sales increases. The percentage increase in sales will be astronomical – not because sales have skyrocketed, but instead because they will be compared to last year’s low numbers.

Bottom Line

There are likely to be some sensational headlines about real estate over the coming months. However, don’t be fooled. The actual story is that the real estate market is finally back to normal.

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4 Major Reasons Households in Forbearance Won’t Lose Their Homes to Foreclosure

There has been a lot of discussion as to what will happen once the 2.3 million households currently in forbearance no longer have the protection of the program. Some assume there could potentially be millions of foreclosures ready to hit the market. However, there are four reasons that won’t happen.

1. Almost 50% Leave Forbearance Already Caught Up on Payments

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), data through March 28 show that 48.9% of homeowners who have already left the program were current on their mortgage payments when they exited.

  • 6% made their monthly payments during their forbearance period
  • 7% brought past due payments current
  • 6% paid off their loan in full

This doesn’t mean that the over two million still in the plan will exit exactly the same way. It does, however, give us some insight into the possibilities.

2. The Banks Don’t Want the Houses Back

Banks have learned lessons from the crash of 2008. Lending institutions don’t want the headaches of managing foreclosed properties. This time, they’re working with homeowners to help them stay in their homes.

As an example, about 50% of all mortgages are backed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). In 2008, the FHFA offered 208,000 homeowners some form of Home Retention Action, which are options offered to a borrower who has the financial ability to enter a workout option and wants to stay in their home. Home retention options include temporary forbearances, repayment plans, loan modifications, or partial loan deferrals. These helped delinquent borrowers stay in their homes. Over the past year, the FHFA has offered that same protection to over one million homeowners.

Today, almost all lending institutions are working with their borrowers. The report from the MBA reveals that of those homeowners who have left forbearance,

  • 5% have worked out a repayment plan with their lender
  • 5% were granted a loan deferral where a borrower does not have to pay the lender interest or principal on a loan for an agreed-to period of time
  • 9% were given a loan modification

3. There Is No Political Will to Foreclose on These Households

The government also seems determined not to let individuals or families lose their homes. Bloomberg recently reported:

“Mortgage companies could face penalties if they don’t take steps to prevent a deluge of foreclosures that threatens to hit the housing market later this year, a U.S. regulator said. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) warning is tied to forbearance relief that’s allowed millions of borrowers to delay their mortgage payments due to the pandemic…mortgage servicers should start reaching out to affected homeowners now to advise them on ways they can modify their loans.”

The CFPB is proposing a new set of guidelines to ensure people will be able to retain their homes. Here are the major points in the proposal:

  • The proposed rule would provide a special pre-foreclosure review period that would generally prohibit servicers from starting foreclosure until after December 31, 2021.
  • The proposed rule would permit servicers to offer certain streamlined loan modification options to borrowers with COVID-19-related hardships based on the evaluation of an incomplete application.
  • The proposal rule wants temporary changes to certain required servicer communications to make sure borrowers receive key information about their options at the appropriate time.

A final decision is yet to be made, and some do question whether the CFPB has the power to delay foreclosures. The entire report can be found hereProtections for Borrowers Affected by the COVID-19 Emergency Under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), Regulation X.

4. If All Else Fails, Homeowners Will Sell Their Homes Before a Foreclosure

Homeowners have record levels of equity today. According to the latest CoreLogic Home Equity Report, the average equity of mortgaged homes is currently $204,000. In addition, 38% of homes do not have a mortgage, so the level of equity available to today’s homeowners is significant.

Just like the banks, homeowners learned a lesson from the housing crash too.

“In the same way that grandparents and great grandparents were shaped by the Great Depression, much of the public today remembers the 2006 mortgage meltdown and the foreclosures, unemployment, and bank failures it created. No one with any sense wants to repeat that experience…and it may explain why so much real estate equity remains mortgage-free.”

What does that mean to the forbearance situation? According to Black Knight:

“Just one in ten homeowners in forbearance has less than 10% equity in their home, typically the minimum necessary to be able to sell through traditional real estate channels to avoid foreclosure.”

Bottom Line

The reports of massive foreclosures about to come to the market are highly exaggerated. As Ivy Zelman, Chief Executive Officer of Zelman & Associates with roughly 30 years of experience covering housing and housing-related industries, recently proclaimed:

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

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Your Tax Refund and Stimulus Savings May Help You Achieve Homeownership This Year

If you’re planning to buy a home this year, saving for a down payment is one of the most important steps in the process. One of the best ways to jumpstart your savings is by starting with the help of your tax refund.

Your Tax Refund and Stimulus Savings May Help You Achieve Homeownership This Year | MyKCM

Using data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), it’s estimated that Americans can expect an average refund of $2,925 when filing their taxes this year. The map below shows the average anticipated tax refund by state:Thanks to programs from the Federal Housing Authority, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae, many first-time buyers can purchase a home with as little as 3% down. In addition, Veterans Affairs Loans allow many veterans to put 0% down. You may have heard the common myth that you need to put 20% down when you buy a home, but thankfully for most homebuyers, a 20% down payment isn’t actually required. It’s important to work with your real estate professional and your lender to understand all of your options.

How can your tax refund help?

If you’re a first-time buyer, your tax refund may cover more of a down payment than you realize.

Your Tax Refund and Stimulus Savings May Help You Achieve Homeownership This Year | MyKCM

If you take into account the median home sale price by state, the map below shows the percentage of a 3% down payment that’s covered by the average anticipated tax refund:The darker the blue, the closer your tax refund gets you to homeownership when you qualify for one of the low down payment programs. Maybe this is the year to plan ahead and put your tax refund toward the down payment on a home.

Not enough money from your tax return? 

A recent paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that, of the households that received a stimulus check last year, “One third report that they primarily saved the stimulus money.” If you had the opportunity to save your Economic Impact Payments, you may consider putting that money toward your down payment or closing costs as well. Your trusted real estate professional can also advise you on the down payment assistance programs available in your area.

Bottom Line

Saving for a down payment can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. This year, your tax refund and your stimulus savings could add up big when it comes to reaching your homeownership goals.

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Why You Should Think About Listing Prices Like an Auction’s Reserve Price

For generations, the homebuying process never really changed. The seller would try to estimate the market value of the home and tack on a little extra to give themselves some negotiating room. That figure would become the listing price of the house. Buyers would then try to determine how much less than the full price they could offer and still get the home. The asking price was generally the ceiling of the negotiation. The actual sales price would almost always be somewhat lower than the list price. It was unthinkable to pay more than what the seller was asking.

Today is different.

The record-low supply of homes for sale coupled with very strong buyer demand is leading to a rise in bidding wars on many homes. Because of this, homes today often sell for more than the list price. In some cases, they sell for a lot more.

According to the Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends report just released by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 45% of buyers paid full price or more.

You may need to change the way you look at the asking price of a home.

In this market, you likely can’t shop for a home with the old-school mentality of refusing to pay full price or more for a house.

Because of the shortage of inventory of houses for sale, many homes are actually being offered in an auction-like atmosphere in which the highest bidder wins the home. In an actual auction, the seller of an item agrees to take the highest bid, and many sellers set a reserve price on the item they’re selling. A reserve price is the minimum amount a seller will accept as the winning bid.

When navigating a competitive housing market, think of the list price of the house as the reserve price at an auction. It’s the minimum the seller will accept in many cases. Today, the asking price is often becoming the floor of the negotiation rather than the ceiling. Therefore, if you really love a home, know that it may ultimately sell for more than the sellers are asking. So, as you’re navigating the homebuying process, make sure you know your budget, know what you can afford, and work with a trusted advisor who can help you make all the right moves as you buy a home.

Bottom Line

Someone who’s more familiar with the housing market of the past than that of today may think offering more for a home than the listing price is foolish. However, frequent and competitive bidding wars are creating an auction-like atmosphere in many real estate transactions. Let’s connect so you have the best advice on how to make a competitive offer on a home in our local market.

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Should We Fear the Surge in Cash-Out Refinances?

Freddie Mac recently released their Quarterly Refinance Statistics report which covers refinances through 2020. The report explains that the dollar amount of cash-out refinances was greater in 2020 than in recent years. A cash-out refinance, as defined by Investopia, is:

“a mortgage refinancing option in which an old mortgage is replaced for a new one with a larger amount than owed on the previously existing loan, helping borrowers use their home mortgage to get some cash.”

The Freddie Mac report led to articles like the one published by The Real Deal titled, House or ATM? Cash-Out Refinances Spiked in 2020, which reports:

“Americans treated their homes like ATMs last year, withdrawing $152.7 billion amid a cash-out refinancing spree not seen since before the 2008 financial crisis.”

Whenever you combine the terms “spiked,” “homes like ATMs,” and “financial crisis,” it conjures up memories of the housing crash we experienced in 2008.

However, that comparison is invalid for three reasons:

1. Americans are sitting on much more home equity today.

Mortgage data giant Black Knight just issued information on the amount of tappable equity U.S. homeowners with a mortgage have. Tappable equity is the amount of equity available for homeowners to use and still have 20% equity in their home. Here’s a graph showing the findings from their report:In 2006, directly before the crash, tappable home equity in the U.S. topped out at $4.6 trillion. Today, that number is $7.3 trillion.

As Black Knight explains:

“At year’s end, some 46 million homeowners held a total $7.3 trillion in tappable equity, the largest amount ever recorded…That’s an increase of more than $1.1 trillion (+18%) since the end of 2019, the largest percentage gain since 2013 and – you guessed it – the largest dollar value gain in history, to boot. All in all, it works out to roughly $158,000 on average per homeowner with tappable equity, up nearly $19,000 from the end of 2019.”

2. Homeowners cashed-out a much smaller amount this time.

In 2006, Americans cashed-out a total of $321 billion. In 2020, that number was less than half, totaling $153 billion. The $321 billion made up 7% of the total tappable equity in the country in 2006. On the other hand, the $153 billion made up only 2% of the total tappable equity last year.

3. Fewer homeowners tapped their equity in 2020 than in 2006.

Freddie Mac reports that 89% of refinances in 2006 were cash-out refinances. Last year, that number was less than half at 33%. As a percentage of those who refinanced, many more Americans lowered their equity position fifteen years ago as compared to last year.

Bottom Line

It’s true that many Americans liquidated a portion of the equity in their homes last year for various reasons. However, less than half of them tapped their equity compared to 2006, and they cashed-out less than one-third of that available equity. Today’s cash-out refinance situation bears no resemblance to the situation that preceded the housing crash.

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What Is the Strongest Tailwind to Today’s Recovering Economy?

Last year started off with a bang. Unemployment was under 4%, forecasters were giddy with their projections for the economy, and the residential housing market had the strongest January and February activity in over a decade.

Then came the announcement on March 11, 2020, from the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic. Two days later, the White House declared it a national emergency. Businesses and schools were forced to close, shelter-in-place mandates were enacted, and the economy came to a screeching halt. As a result, unemployment in this country skyrocketed to 14.9%.

A year later, the economy is recovering, and the U.S. has regained more than half of the jobs that were originally lost. However, some businesses are still closed, and many schools are still struggling to reopen. Despite the past and current challenges, there is one industry that’s proven to be a tailwind helping to counter all of these headwinds to our economy. That industry is housing. Remarkably, the residential real estate market (including existing homes and new construction) has flourished over the last twelve months. Sales are up, prices are appreciating, and more new homes are being built. The housing market has been a pillar of strength in an otherwise slowly recovering economy.

How does the real estate market help the economy?

At the beginning of the pandemic, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released a report that explained:

“Real estate has been, and remains, the foundation of wealth building for the middle class and a critical link in the flow of goods, services, and income for millions of Americans. Accounting for nearly 18% of the GDP, real estate is clearly a major driver of the U.S. economy.”

The report calculated the total economic impact of real estate-related industries on the economy as well as the expenditures that resulted from a single home sale. At a national level, their research revealed that a single newly constructed home had an economic impact of $88,416.

What Is the Strongest Tailwind to Today’s Recovering Economy? | MyKCM
What Is the Strongest Tailwind to Today’s Recovering Economy? | MyKCM

Here’s how it breaks down:The map below shows the impact by state:The impact of an existing home sale is approximately $40,000.

Real estate has done more for our economic wellbeing than virtually any other industry over the last year. It’s been a beacon of light during a very challenging time in our nation’s history.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re buying a newly constructed home or one that already exists, you’re making a positive economic impact in your local community – and it’s a step toward your homeownership goals as well.

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Will the Housing Market Bloom This Spring?

Spring is almost here, and many are wondering what it will bring for the housing market. Even though the pandemic continues on, it’s certain to be very different from the spring we experienced at this time last year. Here’s what a few industry experts have to say about the housing market and how it will bloom this season.

Danielle Hale, Chief Economistrealtor.com:

“Despite early weakness, we expect to see new listings grow in March and April as they traditionally do heading into spring, and last year’s extraordinarily low new listings comparison point will mean year over year gains. One other potential bright spot for would-be homebuyers, new construction, which has risen at a year over year pace of 20% or more for the last few months, will provide additional for-sale inventory relief.”

Ali Wolf, Chief Economist, Zonda:

“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. This suggests more inventory will be for sale in late 2021 and into the spring selling season in 2022.”

Freddie Mac:

“Since reaching a low point in January, mortgage rates have risen by more than 30 basis points… However, the rise in mortgage rates over the next couple of months is likely to be more muted in comparison to the last few weeks, and we expect a strong spring sales season.”

Mark Fleming, Chief Economist, First American:

“As the housing market heads into the spring home buying season, the ongoing supply and demand imbalance all but assures more house price growth…Many find it hard to believe, but housing is actually undervalued in most markets and the gap between house-buying power and sale prices indicates there’s room for further house price growth in the months to come.”

Bottom Line

The experts are very optimistic about the housing market right now. If you pressed pause on your real estate plans over the winter, let’s chat to determine how you can re-engage in the homebuying process this spring.

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6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time

Last March, many involved in the residential housing industry feared the market would be crushed under the pressure of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Instead, real estate had one of its best years ever. Home sales and prices were both up substantially over the year before. 2020 was so strong that many now fear the market’s exuberance mirrors that of the last housing boom and, as a result, we’re now headed for another crash.

However, there are many reasons this real estate market is nothing like 2008. Here are six visuals to show the dramatic differences.

1. Mortgage standards are nothing like they were back then.

During the housing bubble, it was difficult not to get a mortgage. Today, it’s tough to qualify. Recently, the Urban Institute released their latest Housing Credit Availability Index (HCAI) which “measures the percentage of owner-occupied home purchase loans that are likely to default—that is, go unpaid for more than 90 days past their due date. A lower HCAI indicates that lenders are unwilling to tolerate defaults and are imposing tighter lending standards, making it harder to get a loan. A higher HCAI indicates that lenders are willing to tolerate defaults and are taking more risks, making it easier to get a loan.

The index shows that lenders were comfortable taking on high levels of risk during the housing boom of 2004-2006. It also reveals that today, the HCAI is under 5 percent, which is the lowest it’s been since the introduction of the index. The report explains:

“Significant space remains to safely expand the credit box. If the current default risk was doubled across all channels, risk would still be well within the pre-crisis standard of 12.5 percent from 2001 to 2003 for the whole mortgage market.”

6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time | MyKCM

This is nothing like the last time.

2. Prices aren’t soaring out of control.

6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time | MyKCM

Below is a graph showing annual home price appreciation over the past four years compared to the four years leading up to the height of the housing bubble. Though price appreciation was quite strong last year, it’s nowhere near the rise in prices that preceded the crash.There’s a stark difference between these two periods of time. Normal appreciation is 3.8%. So, while current appreciation is higher than the historic norm, it’s certainly not accelerating out of control as it did in the early 2000s.

This is nothing like the last time.

3. We don’t have a surplus of homes on the market. We have a shortage.

6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time | MyKCM

The months’ supply of inventory needed to sustain a normal real estate market is approximately six months. Anything more than that is an overabundance and will causes prices to depreciate. Anything less than that is a shortage and will lead to continued appreciation. As the next graph shows, there were too many homes for sale in 2007, and that caused prices to tumble. Today, there’s a shortage of inventory, which is causing an acceleration in home values.This is nothing like the last time.

4. New construction isn’t making up the difference in inventory needed.

6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time | MyKCM

Some may think new construction is filling the void. However, if we compare today to right before the housing crash, we can see that an overabundance of newly built homes was a major challenge then, but isn’t now.This is nothing like the last time.

5. Houses aren’t becoming too expensive to buy.

6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time | MyKCM

The affordability formula has three components: the price of the home, the wages earned by the purchaser, and the mortgage rate available at the time. Fifteen years ago, prices were high, wages were low, and mortgage rates were over 6%. Today, prices are still high. Wages, however, have increased, and the mortgage rate is about 3%. That means the average homeowner pays less of their monthly income toward their mortgage payment than they did back then. Here’s a chart showing that difference:As Mark Fleming, Chief Economist for First Americanexplains:

“Lower mortgage interest rates and rising incomes correspond with higher house prices as home buyers can afford to borrow and buy more. If housing is appropriately valued, house-buying power should equal or outpace the median sale price of a home. Looking back at the bubble years, house prices exceeded house-buying power in 2006, but today house-buying power is nearly twice as high as the median sale price nationally.”

This is nothing like the last time.

6. People are equity rich, not tapped out.

6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time | MyKCM

In the run-up to the housing bubble, homeowners were using their homes as personal ATM machines. Many immediately withdrew their equity once it built up, and they learned their lesson in the process. Prices have risen nicely over the last few years, leading to over 50% of homes in the country having greater than 50% equity – and owners have not been tapping into it like the last time. Here’s a table comparing the equity withdrawal over the last three years compared to 2005, 2006, and 2007. Homeowners have cashed out almost $500 billion dollars less than before:During the crash, home values began to fall, and sellers found themselves in a negative equity situation (where the amount of the mortgage they owed was greater than the value of their home). Some decided to walk away from their homes, and that led to a wave of distressed property listings (foreclosures and short sales), which sold at huge discounts, thus lowering the value of other homes in the area. With the average home equity now standing at over $190,000, this won’t happen today.

This is nothing like the last time.

Bottom Line

If you’re concerned that we’re making the same mistakes that led to the housing crash, take a look at the charts and graphs above to help alleviate your fears.

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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.