The residential real estate market has come roaring out of the gates in 2020. Compared to this time last year, the number of buyers looking for a home is up 20%, and the number of home sales is up almost 10%. The increase in purchasing activity has caused home price appreciation to begin reaccelerating. Many analysts have boosted their projections for price appreciation this year.
Whenever home prices begin to increase, there’s an immediate concern about how that will impact the ability Americans have to purchase a home. That thinking is understandable. We must, however, realize that price is not the only element to the affordability equation. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, recently explained:
“When demand increases for a scarce (limited or low supply) good, prices will rise faster. The difference between houses and other goods is that we buy them with a mortgage. So, it’s not the actual price that matters, but the price relative to purchasing power.”
While home prices have risen recently, mortgage interest rates have fallen rather dramatically. At the beginning of last year, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage stood at 4.46%. Today, that number stands over a full percentage point lower.
How does a lower mortgage rate impact your monthly mortgage payment?
Michael Hyman, a research data specialist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), explained in a recent report that, even though home values have increased over the last year, the monthly cost of owning a home has decreased:
“With lower mortgage rates compared to one year ago, the payment as a percentage of income fell to 15.5%…from 17.1% a year ago.”
When purchasing a home, the price is not as important as its cost. Today, the monthly expense (cost) of purchasing the same house you could have purchased last year would be less. Or, you could purchase a more expensive home for the same monthly expense.
Fleming, looking at all aspects of the affordability equation (prices, wages, and mortgage rates), calculated the actual numbers in a recent blog post:
“Low mortgage rates and income growth triggered a 13.5% increase in house-buying power compared with a year ago.”
Since wages have increased and mortgage rates have dropped to historically low levels, this is a great time to buy your first home or move up to the home of your dreams. As Tendayi Kapfidze, Chief Economist at LendingTree, recently advised:
“If you are in a point in your life where you’re considering buying a home today, it’s a better time to buy than 10 years ago. If you can get a mortgage, you’re getting much lower interest rates, and it enables you to afford more.”
Whether you’ve considered becoming a homeowner for the first time or have decided to sell your home and buy one that better suits your current lifestyle, now is a great time to get together and discuss your options.
Rising home prices have been in the news a lot lately, and much of the focus is on whether they’re accelerating too quickly and how sustainable the growth in prices really is. One of the often-overlooked benefits of rising prices, however, is the impact they have on a homeowner’s equity position.
Home equity is defined as the difference between a home’s fair market value and the outstanding balance of all liens on the property. While homeowners pay down their mortgages, the amount of equity they have in their homes climbs each time the value increases.
Today, the number of homeowners that currently have significant equity in their homes is growing. According to the Census Bureau, 38% of all homes in the country are mortgage-free. In a home equity study, ATTOM Data Solutions revealed that of the 54.5 million homes with a mortgage, 26.7% of them have at least 50% equity. That number has been increasing over the last eight years.
CoreLogic also notes:
“…the average homeowner gained approximately $5,300 in equity during the past year.”
This may be the year to take advantage of your home equity by applying it forward, either as you downsize or as you move up to a new home.
Spring is right around the corner, so flowers are starting to bloom, and many potential homebuyers are getting ready to step into the market. If you’re thinking of buying this season, here’s how mortgage interest rates are working in your favor.
Freddie Mac explains:
“If you’re in the market to buy a home, today’s average mortgage rates are something to celebrate compared to almost any year since 1971…
Mortgage rates change frequently. Over the last 45 years, they have ranged from a high of 18.63% (1981) to a low of 3.31% (2012). While it’s not likely that the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate will return to its record low, the current average rate of 3.45% is pretty close — all to your advantage.”
To put this in perspective, the following chart from the same article shows how average mortgage rates by decade have impacted the approximate monthly payment of a $200,000 home over time:Clearly, when rates are low – like they are today – qualified buyers can benefit significantly over time.
Keep in mind, if interest rates go up, this can push many potential homebuyers out of the market. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) notes:
“Prospective home buyers are also adversely affected when interest rates rise. NAHB’s priced-out estimates show that, depending on the starting rate, a quarter-point increase in the rate of 3.75% on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage can price over 1.3 million U.S. households out of the market for the median-priced new home.”
You certainly don’t want to be priced out of the market this year, and waiting may mean a significant change in your potential mortgage payment should rates start to rise. If your financial situation allows, now may be a great time to lock in at a low mortgage rate to benefit greatly over the lifetime of your loan.
Earlier this month, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released a special study titled Single-Family Home Price Gains by Years of Tenure. The study estimates median home price appreciation over the last 30 years based on the length of homeownership.
Below are three graphs depicting the most important data revealed in the study.
How much have home prices increased?
One of the first measures of the financial benefits of homeownership is the net worth (in the form of equity) an owner can build over time. The study showed the average increase in home values based on how long homeowners stayed in a home.
What was the percentage of appreciation?
Was this appreciation consistent throughout the country?
Today, when we think of markets that have done well over the last decade, we have a tendency to think about San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, and other West Coast cities. Though it is true the West Region showed the highest price growth over the last three decades, we can see how every region of the country did quite well in ten-year increments:This data validates the claim that homeownership is great for building wealth. The importance of this information was highlighted in the study’s first sentence:
“Homeownership is an important source of wealth creation, enabling current homeowners and succeeding generations to move up the economic ladder.”
Homeownership has many financial and non-financial benefits. The accumulation of “housing wealth” through increased equity is a major one. If you’re thinking of buying a home for the first time or moving up to your dream home, the sooner you make the move, the sooner your net worth will begin to grow.
Homes priced in the top 25% of a price range for a particular area of the country are considered “premium homes.” At the start of last year, many of the more expensive homes listed for sale hadn’t seen as much interest, since much of the demand for housing over the past few years has come from first-time buyers looking for starter homes. It looks like buyer activity, however, is starting to show a shift in this segment.
According to the January Luxury Report from the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing (ILHM):
“In a snapshot of 2019, despite pessimism at the start of the year, the last quarter showcased a strengthening, with an upswing in the luxury market for sales in both the single family and condo markets.”
Momentum is growing, and those looking to enter the luxury market are poised for success in 2020 as well. With more inventory available at the upper-end, historically low interest rates, and increasing average wages, the stage is set for buyers with an interest in this tier to embrace the perfect move-up opportunity.
The report highlights the increase in buyer activity in this segment, resulting in growing sales toward the end of 2019:
“According to reports from many luxury real estate professionals, the significant increase in number of properties bought at the end of 2019 versus 2018 is reflective of an early 2019 holding pattern.
Many of early 2019’s prospective luxury buyers held off while waiting to see how prices would react to new tax regulations and other policy changes. Buyer confidence returned in late spring and compared to 2018, above average sales were reported in the final quarter of 2019.”
With evidence of strong buyer confidence, this is great news, as more homeowners are building equity and growing their net worth throughout the country:
“Many homeowners are now diversifying their wealth, owning several properties rather than a single mega mansion. In addition, there have been an increase number of home purchases taking place in smaller cities, reflecting the rising number of people relocating from major metropolises. Their property equity wealth or ability to pay high rental costs have afforded them the opportunity to purchase luxury properties in…secondary cities throughout North America.”
With a strong economy and a backdrop set for moving up this year, it’s a great time to explore the luxury market. Keep in mind, luxury can mean different things to different people, too. To one person, luxury is a secluded home with plenty of property and privacy. To another, it is a penthouse at the center of a bustling city. Knowing what characteristics mean luxury to you will help your agent understand what you’re after as you define the scope and location for the home of your dreams.
If you’re thinking about upgrading your current house to a luxury home, or adding an additional property to your portfolio, let’s get together to determine if you’re ready to make your move.