Demand for Vacation Homes Is Still Strong

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The pandemic created a tremendous interest in vacation homes across the country. Throughout the last year, many people purchased second homes as a safe getaway from the challenges of the health crisis. With many professionals working from home and many students taking classes remotely, it made sense to see a migration away from cities and into counties with more vacation destinations.

The 2021 Vacation Home Counties Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that this increase in vacation home sales continues in 2021. The report examines sales in counties where “vacant seasonal, occasional, or recreational use housing account for at least 20% of the housing stock” and compares that data to the overall residential market.

Their findings show:

  • Vacation home sales rose by 16.4% to 310,600 in 2020, outpacing the 5.6% growth in total existing-home sales.
  • Vacation home sales are up 57.2% year-over-year during January-April 2021 compared to the 20% year-over-year change in total existing-home sales.
  • Home prices rose more in vacation home counties – the median existing price rose by 14.2% in vacation home counties, compared to 10.1% in non-vacation home counties.

This coincides with data released by Zelman & Associates on the increase in sales of second homes throughout the country last year.

As the data above shows, there is still high demand for second getaway homes in 2021 even as the pandemic winds down. While we may see a rise in second-home sellers as life returns to normal, ongoing low supply and high demand will continue to provide those sellers with a good return on their investment.

Bottom Line

If you’re one of the many people who purchased a vacation home during the pandemic, you’re likely wondering what this means for you.  There are still plenty of buyers in the market.

Homeowner Wealth Increases Through Growing Equity This Year

 

 

 

 

 

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Building financial wealth and stability remains one of the top reasons Americans choose to own a home, and as a homeowner, your wealth often grows without you even realizing it. In a recent paper published by the Urban Institute, Home Ownership is Affordable Housing, author Mike Loftin illustrates how homeowners increase their equity and their wealth simply by making monthly mortgage payments:

“The principal portion that reduces the loan balance builds the homeowner’s equity. In doing so, the principal payments behave like an automatic savings account. The principal payment is not money going out; it is money staying in.”

But home equity – the difference between the value of your home and what you currently owe – isn’t just built through your monthly principal payments. Home price appreciation plays a vital role in growing your equity and, ultimately, your wealth.

As Freddie Mac explains:

“Homeownership has cemented its role as part of the American Dream, providing families with a place that is their own and an avenue for building wealth over time. This ‘wealth’ is built, in large part, through the creation of equity…Building equity through your monthly principal payments and appreciation is a critical part of homeownership that can help you create financial stability.”

Homeowners Continue To See Equity Increase

CoreLogic recently published their latest Homeowner Equity Insights Report, and it shows continued growth in equity amidst record home price appreciation. The report provides several key takeaways, all of which point to rising wealth for homeowners:

  1. The average equity gain of mortgaged homes during the past year was $33,400
  2. The current average equity of mortgaged homes is greater than $216,000
  3. There was a 6% increase in total homeowner equity over the past year
  4. Total U.S. homeowner equity has reached nearly $1.9 trillion

Here, you can see the equity gains by state:

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Equity Provides Homeowners with Flexibility

In addition to being a critical tool in building wealth, a homeowner’s equity also provides significant flexibility. When you sell your house, the accumulated equity comes back to you in the sale. Recent increases in home equity coupled with record-low mortgage rates mean it could be the perfect time for homeowners looking to make a move.

Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, notes:

“Existing homeowners today are sitting on record amounts of equity. As homeowners gain equity in their homes, the temptation grows to list their current home for sale and use the equity to purchase a larger or more attractive home.”

Increasing equity also helps families facing challenges brought on by the pandemic. Frank Martell, President and CEO of CoreLogic, explains in the recent Homeowner Equity Insights Report:

“Homeowner equity has more than doubled over the past decade and become a crucial buffer for many weathering the challenges of the pandemic. These gains have become an important financial tool and boosted consumer confidence in the U.S. housing market, especially for older homeowners and baby boomers who’ve experienced years of price appreciation.”

Bottom Line

Home equity has always been a powerful wealth-building tool, and homeowners continue to see their financial stability increase. Contact a local real estate professional today to better understand how much equity you have in your current home or if you’re ready to take the next step in building your savings as a homeowner.

Pre-Approval Makes All the Difference When Buying a Home

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You may have been told that it’s important to get pre-approved at the beginning of the homebuyingprocess, but what does that really mean, and why is it so important? Especially in today’s market, with rising home prices and high buyer competition, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of your budget so you stand out to sellers as a serious homebuyer.

Being intentional and competitive are musts when buying a home right now. Pre-approval from a lender is the only way to know your true price range and how much money you can borrow for your loan. Just as important, being able to present a pre-approval letter shows sellers you’re a qualified buyer, something that can really help you land your dream home in an ultra-competitive market.

With limited housing inventory, there are many more buyers active in the market than there are sellers, and that’s creating some serious competition. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), homes are receiving an average of 5.1 offers for sellers to consider. As a result, bidding wars are more and more common. Pre-approval gives you an advantage if you get into a multiple-offer scenario, and these days, it’s likely you will. When a seller knows you’re qualified to buy the home, you’re in a better position to potentially win the bidding war.

Freddie Mac explains:

“By having a pre-approval letter from your lender, you’re telling the seller that you’re a serious buyer, and you’ve been pre-approved for a mortgage by your lender for a specific dollar amount. In a true bidding war, your offer will likely get dropped if you don’t already have one.”

Every step you can take to gain an advantage as a buyer is crucial when today’s market is constantly changing. Interest rates are low, prices are going up, and lending institutions are regularly updating their standards. You’re going to need guidance to navigate these waters, so it’s important to have a team of professionals such as a loan officer and a trusted real estate agent making sure you take the right steps and can show your qualifications as a buyer when you find a home to purchase.

Bottom Line

In a competitive market with low inventory, a pre-approval letter is a game-changing piece of the homebuying process. Not only does being pre-approved bring clarity to your homebuying budget, but it shows sellers how serious you are about purchasing a home.

5 Things Homebuyers Need To Know When Making an Offer

 

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When it comes to buying a house, you’re looking for the perfect place to call home. The problem is, in today’s market there just aren’t that many homes available to purchase. With inventory hovering near record lows and sky-high buyer demand, a multi-offer scenario is the new normal. Here are five things to keep in mind when you’re ready to make an offer.

1. Know Your Numbers

Having a complete understanding of your budget and how much house you can afford is essential. That’s why you should connect with a lender to get pre-approved for a loan early in the homebuying process. Taking this step shows sellers you’re a serious, qualified buyer and can give you a competitive edge in a bidding war.

2. Brace for a Fast Pace

Today’s market is dynamic and fast-paced. According to the Realtors Confidence Index from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average home is on the market for just 17 days – that means from start to finish, a house for sale in today’s climate is active for roughly 2.5 weeks. A skilled agent will do everything they can to help you stay on top of every possible opportunity. And, as soon as you find the right home for your needs, that agent will help you draft and submit your best offer as quickly as possible.

3. Lean on a Real Estate Professional

While homebuying may seem like a whirlwind process to you, local real estate agents do this every day, and we know what works. That expertise can be used to give you a significant leg up on your competition. An agent can help you consider what levers you can pull that might be enticing to a seller, like:

  • Offering flexible rent-back options to give the seller more time to move out
  • Your ability to do a quick close or make an offer that’s not contingent on the sale of your current home

It may seem simple, but catering to what a seller may need can help your offer stand out.

4. Make a Strong, but Fair Offer

Let’s face it – we all love a good deal. In the past, offering at or near the asking price was enough to make your offer appealing to sellers. In today’s market, that’s often not the case. According to Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR:

“For every listing there are 5.1 offers. Half of the homes are being sold above list price.”

In such a competitive market, emotions and prices can run high. Use an agent as your trusted advisor to make a strong, but fair offer based on market value, recent sales, and demand.

5. Be a Flexible Negotiator

If you followed tip #3, you drafted the offer with the seller’s needs in mind. That said, the seller may still counter with their own changes. Be prepared to amend your offer to include flexible move-in dates, a higher price, or minimal contingencies (conditions you set that the seller must meet for the purchase to be finalized). Just remember, there are certain contingencies you don’t want to forego. Freddie Mac explains:

Resist the temptation to waive the inspection contingency, especially in a hot market or if the home is being sold ‘as-is’, which means the seller won’t pay for repairs. Without an inspection contingency, you could be stuck with a contract on a house you can’t afford to fix.”

Bottom Line

Contact a local real estate professional for expert advice on this step in the homebuying process. Relying on an agent’s knowledge and guidance can help you put your best offer on the table.

The Right Expert Will Guide You Through This Unprecedented Market

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In a normal market, it’s good to have an experienced guide coaching you through the process of buying or selling a home. That person can advise you on important things like pricing your home correctly or the first steps to take when you’re ready to buy. However, the market we’re in today is far from normal. As a result, an expert isn’t just good to have by your side – an expert is essential.

Today’s housing market is full of extremes. Mortgage rates hovering near record-lows are driving high buyer demand. On the other hand, an absence of sellers is creating record-low housing inventory. This imbalance in supply and demand is leading to a skyrocketing rate of bidding wars and more houses selling over their asking price. This is driving home price appreciation and gains in home equity. These market conditions aren’t just extreme – they can be overwhelming. Having a trusted expert to coach you through the process of buying and selling a home gives you clarity, confidence, and success through each step.

Here are just a few of the ways a real estate expert is invaluable:

  • Contracts – We help with the disclosures and contracts necessary in today’s heavily regulated environment.
  • Experience – We’re well-versed in real estate and experienced with the entire sales process, including how it’s changed over the past year.
  • Negotiations – We act as a buffer in negotiations with all parties throughout the entire transaction while advocating for your best interests.
  • Education – We simply and effectively explain today’s market conditions and decipher what they mean for your individual goals.
  • Pricing – We help you understand today’s real estate values when setting the price of your home or making an offer to purchase one.

A real estate agent can be your essential guide through this unprecedented market, but truth be told, not all agents are created equal. A true expert can carefully walk you through the whole real estate process, look out for your unique needs, and advise you on the best ways to achieve success. Finding the right agent should be your top priority when you’re ready to buy or sell a home.

So, how do you choose the right expert?

It starts with trust. You’ll have to be able to trust the advice your agent is going to give you, so make sure you’re connected to a true professional. An agent can’t give you perfect advice because it’s impossible to know exactly what’s going to happen at every turn – especially in this unique market. A true professional expert can, however, give you the best possible advice based on the information and situation at hand, helping you make the necessary adjustments and best decisions along the way. The right agent – the professional – will help you plan the steps to take for success, advocate for you throughout the process, and coach you on the essential knowledge you need to make confident decisions toward your goals. That’s exactly what you want and deserve.

Bottom Line

If you’re planning to make a move this year, contact a local real estate professional who can answer your questions, give you the best advice, and guide you along the way.

 

Hope Is on the Horizon for Today’s Housing Shortage

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The major challenge in today’s housing market is that there are more buyers looking to purchase than there are homes available to buy. Simply put, supply can’t keep up with demand. A normal market has a 6-month supply of homes for sale. Anything over that indicates it’s a buyers’ market, but an inventory level below that threshold means we’re in a sellers’ market. Today’s inventory level sits far below the norm.

According to the Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR):

“Total housing inventory at the end of April amounted to 1.16 million units, up 10.5% from March’s inventory and down 20.5% from one year ago (1.46 million). Unsold inventory sits at a 2.4-month supply at the current sales pace, slightly up from March’s 2.1-month supply and down from the 4.0-month supply recorded in April 2020. These numbers continue to represent near-record lows.”

Basically, while we are seeing some improvement, we’re still at near-record lows for housing inventory (as shown in the graph below). Here’s why. Since the pandemic began, sellers have been cautious when it comes to putting their homes on the market. At the same time that fewer people are listing their homes, more and more people are trying to buy them thanks to today’s low mortgage rates. The influx of buyers aiming to capitalize on those rates are purchasing this limited supply of homes as quickly as they’re coming to market.

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This inventory shortage doesn’t just apply to existing homes that are already built. When it comes to new construction, builders are trying to do their part to bring more newly built homes into the market. However, due to challenges with things like lumber supply, they’re also not able to keep up with demand. In their Monthly New Residential Sales report, the United States Census Bureau states:

“The seasonally‐adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of April was 316,000. This represents a supply of 4.4 months at the current sales rate.”

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Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac, elaborates:

In the span of five decades, entry level construction fell from 418,000 units per year in the late 1970s to 65,000 in 2020.

While in 2020 only 65,000 entry-level homes were completed, there were 2.38 million first-time homebuyers that purchased homes. Not all renters looking to purchase their first home were in the market for entry-level homes, however, the large disparity illustrates the significant and rapidly widening gap between entry-level supply and demand.”

Despite today’s low inventory, there is hope on the horizon.

Regarding existing home sales, Sabrina Speianu, Senior Economic Research Analyst at realtor.com,explains:

“In May, newly listed homes grew by 5.4% on a year-over-year basis compared to the earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic last year

In May, the share of newly listed homes compared to active daily inventory hit a historical high of 44.4%, 17.3 percentage points higher than last year and 15.1 percentage points above typical levels seen in 2017 to 2019. This is a reflection of quickly selling homes and, for buyers, it means that while they can expect fresh new listings every week, they will have to be prepared to move quickly on desirable homes.”

As for newly built homes, builders are also confident about what’s ahead for housing inventory. Robert Dietz, Chief Economist at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), shares:

Builder confidence in the market remains strong due to a lack of resale inventory, low mortgage interest rates, and a growing demographic of prospective home buyers.”

Things are starting to look up for residential real estate inventory. As the country continues to reopen, more houses are likely to be listed for sale. However, as long as buyer demand remains high, it will take time for the balance between supply and demand to truly neutralize.

Bottom Line

Although it may be challenging to find a house to buy in today’s market, there is hope on the horizon. Be sure to work with a trusted real estate professional to find your dream home this summer.

 

Why This Is Not Like 2008 Again

 

 

 

 

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During the Great Recession, just over a decade ago, the financial systems the world depended on started to collapse. It created a panic that drove some large companies out of business (ex. Lehman Brothers) and many more into bankruptcy.

The financial crisis that accompanied the current pandemic caused hardship to certain industries and hurt many small businesses. However, it hasn’t rattled the world economy. It seems that a year later, things are slowly getting back to normal for many companies.

Why is there a drastic difference between 2008 and now?

In a post from RealtyTrac, they explain:

“We changed the rules. We told banks they needed more reserves and that they could no longer underwrite toxic mortgages. It turns out that regulation — properly done — can help us navigate financial minefields.”

Here are the results of that regulation, captured in a graph depicting the number of failed banks since 2007.

 

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What was different this time?

The post mentioned above explains:

“In 2008 the government saw the foreclosure meltdown as a top-down problem and set aside $700 billion for banks under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Not all of the $700 billion was used, but the important point is that the government did not act with equal fervor to help flailing homeowners, millions of whom lost their homes to foreclosures and short sales.

This time around the government forcefully moved to help ordinary citizens. Working from the bottom-up, an estimated $5.3 trillion went to the public in 2020 through such mechanisms as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), expanded unemployment benefits, tax incentives, and help for local governments. So far this year we have the $1.9 billion American Rescue Plan with millions of $1,400 checks as well as proposals to spend trillions more on infrastructure…Bank deposits increased by nearly $2 trillion during the past year and credit card debt fell.”

Bottom Line

Many have suffered over the past year. However, the economic toll of the current recession was nowhere near the scope of the Great Recession, and it won’t result in a housing crisis.

Home Price Appreciation Is as Simple as Supply and Demand

 

 

 

 

 

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Home price appreciation continues to accelerate. Today, prices are driven by the simple concept of supply and demand. Pricing of any item is determined by how many items are available compared to how many people want to buy that item. As a result, the strong year-over-year home price appreciation is simple to explain. The demand for housing is up while the supply of homes for sale hovers at historic lows.

Let’s use three maps to show how this theory continues to affect the residential real estate market.

Map #1 – State-by-state price appreciation reported by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) for the first quarter of 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2020:

 

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As the map shows, certain states (colored in red) have appreciated well above the national average of 12.6%.

Map #2 – The change in state-by-state inventory levels year-over-year reported by realtor.com:

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Comparing the two maps shows a correlation between change in listing inventory and price appreciation in many states. The best examples are Idaho, Utah, and Arizona. Though the correlation is not as easy to see in every state, the overall picture is one of causation.

The reason prices continue to accelerate is that housing inventory is still at all-time lows while demand remains high. However, this may be changing.

Is there relief around the corner?

The report by realtor.com also shows the monthly change in inventory for each state.

Map #3 – State-by-state changes in inventory levels month-over-month reported by realtor.com:

 

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As the map indicates, 39 of the 50 states (plus the District of Columbia) saw increases in inventory over the last month. This may be evidence that homeowners who have been afraid to let buyers in their homes during the pandemic are now putting their houses on the market.

We’ll know for certain as we move through the rest of the year.

Bottom Line

Some are concerned by the rapid price appreciation we’ve experienced over the last year. The maps above show that the increases were warranted based on great demand and limited supply.