Last week’s economic reports included readings from Case-Shiller on home prices along with data on new and pending home sales. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and initial jobless claims were also released.
Case-Shiller: Home Price Gains Slow to Lowest Pace in 7 Years
Case-Shiller Home Price Indices reported slower home price growth in July with 3.20 percent growth year-over-year. There was no change in July’s reading for the 20-City Home Price Index as compared to June after seasonal adjustments.
The top-three cities in Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index were Phoenix, Arizona with 5.80 percent home price growth year-over-year. Las Vegas, Nevada reported 4.70 percent growth and Charlotte, North Carolina home prices rose by 4.60 percent.
West coast cities that dominated home price growth in recent years have given way to more affordable markets. Seattle, Washington reported a negative reading of -0.60 percent year-over-year. Low mortgage rates have compelled buyers to enter the market; this could drive up demand again and boost home prices at a higher pace than they are rising now.
New and Pending Home Sales Increase in August
New home sales rose to 713,000 year-over-year in August as compared to July’s reading of 686.000 sales and expectations of 660,000 new homes sold in August. Pending sales rose 1.60 percent in August after posting a negative reading of -2.50 percent in July.
Pending sales are transactions with signed purchase contracts, but that have not closed. Home sales typically taper off in fall after the peak selling season in spring and summer; rising sales during fall suggest stronger housing markets.
Mortgage Rates Fall, New Jobless Claims Rise
Freddie Mac reported lower mortgage rates last week; rates for 30-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 3.64 percent and were nine basis points lower than in the prior week. The average rate for 15-year fixed rate mortgages was five basis points lower at 3.16 percent and rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages fell 11 basis points to an average of 3.38 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
First-time jobless claims rose to 213,000 claims filed from 210,000 new claims filed the prior week. Analysts said the GM auto worker strike caused the increase in new claims.
This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings on construction spending and labor sector reports on public and private sector jobs and the national unemployment rate. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.
The recent total devastation of the Bahamas by hurricane Dorian reinforced the need for hurricane-proof homes in areas that are subject to this risk. Building codes have not kept up with the increasing severity of the weather.
As an example, Florida communities, such as the Miami-Dade County area, have building codes that are designated by risk zones.
The risk zones in Miami-Dade County are:
These building codes were last updated in 2010. Broward County in Florida has these same risk categories; however, the wind speeds are 10 mph lower for each category. Other parts of Florida have building codes that are even lower than these standards. Dorian reached a 183 mph wind speed. It stayed over the Bahamas for over fifty hours with these winds.
Water damage from hurricanes is more severe than wind damage. The storm surge for Dorian reached over 23-feet high in some places.
To withstand hurricane-force winds, the structure must be able to handle 180+ mph winds over an extended period. Damage done by the wind includes all the projectiles and debris being blown about. Some homes in the Bahamas had vehicles blown through walls.
The main consideration for wind damage is to use wind-resistant, shatter-proof glass for windows that are also protected by steel shutters, which can be closed when a hurricane is coming. These shutters close to protect other openings such as doors as well. Walls should be thick, reinforced concrete, especially the lower floors that need to resist both the wind and the water.
Water is going to come into the lower two floors of a home on the beach, so beach homes need to be at least three stories high. This may be challenging in some areas because of the building-height restrictions that are in place to prevent blocking other neighbors’ views of the ocean.
The idea is to make to bottom floors able to withstand water entering the home as if it is a swimming pool. When a hurricane is coming, you can move all the items from the lower floors to the upper floor.
In Holland, where many of the coastal cities are at sea level, their solution is to have homes that float. These homes near Amsterdam are like houseboats that are moored down very strongly so that they can rise with the storm surge but not float away.
There is not a 100% certain way to make a home completely hurricane-proof; however, there are examples of well-built homes that are the only ones left standing when the entire neighborhood is devastated by a hurricane.
When considering a home on the coast, it is better to build a new home to very high standards regardless of the building codes. In all coastal areas, building codes need to be updated to make the hurricane standards more robust because hurricanes are becoming stronger and more frequent.
If you are interested in buying a new home or refinancing your current property, be sure to consult with your trusted home mortgage professional.
Case-Shiller’s National Home Price Index reported U.S. home prices grew by 3.20 percent year-over-year in July; as compared to year-over-year home price growth 0f 3.00 percent posted in June. Cities with the highest rates of year-over-year home price growth were Phoenix, Arizona with 5.80 percent year-over-year home price growth. Las Vegas, Nevada had 4.70 percent year-over-year home price appreciation and Charlotte, North Caroline bumped Tampa, Florida from the top three cities with home price appreciation of 4.60 percent. Tampa, Florida posted 4.50 percent year-over-year home price growth in July.
Home Price Growth Stalls In West
14 cities had higher home price gains than in June and Seattle, Washington was the only city in the 20-City Index to post lower home prices. Analysts said that after years of rapid and unsustainable growth in home prices on the West Coast coupled with economic expansion and job growth in areas with lower home prices. July readings for home-price growth in western cities that posted double-digit price growth percentages in recent years were far lower. Home prices in Portland, Oregon rose 2.50 percent year-over-year; Los Angeles, California home prices rose 1.10 percent and San Francisco, California posted year-over-year home price growth of 0.20 percent.
High Home Prices Ease Demand Caused By Low Supply Of Homes For Sale
As home prices in many markets skyrocketed, would-be buyers were sidelined by affordability cash buyers and strict mortgage loan requirements. With home prices stabilizing and mortgage rates at near-record lows, more buyers will likely enter the market. This would increase demand on already slim supplies of homes for sale and cause home prices to rise at a faster pace than they have in 2019. Current rates of home price growth remain higher than current inflation and wage growth, but are low enough to encourage home buyers who were previously unable to keep up with rapidly rising home prices.
Seven cities posted higher rates of home price growth year-over-year in July as compared to readings for year-over-year home price growth from June 2018 to June 2019. The National Association of Realtors® said that sales of pre-owned homes were higher in July for the first time in months. The supply of available homes tightened in June; this trend is expected to boost home prices as demand for homes increases.
When you’re in the market for a new home to buy, your real estate agent will likely invite you to ride along with them to view homes. This is a convenient courtesy, but you may want to reconsider. Your other option is to follow the real estate agent in your own car instead.
Here are some reasons to take your own car when viewing homes:
1. It Gives You Time To Confer With Your Partner
After you’ve looked at one house, getting back into your private vehicle with your partner allows some time to openly talk about the house you just saw without worrying about how it may influence others.
2. It Lets You Drive Slower
Real estate agents do quite a bit of behind-the-scenes preparation when showing homes. They may have driven to a property several times before they bring you to see it. As such, they may drive with the intent of “getting there,” while you may might like to drive slower so you can see more of the area.
When you follow behind in your own car, you can take your time or even slow down more if you see something of interest, like a park or an interesting coffee shop.
3. It Lets You Contemplate Specific Features
When you get back into your own car after viewing a house, you and your partner can sit in comfortable silence if you wish to think about certain features you really liked. This is also an opportune time to make mental notes of features you’d be interested in seeing in future houses. Once you get your list together you can talk about it later with your real estate agent.
4. It’s More Convenient If You Decide To Make An Offer
Let’s say you’ve just seen the house that you are positive you want to buy. You ask your agent to make a formal offer. Now the agent has to head back to the office to submit the offer.
If you’ve driven your own car, you can simply part ways and you go back to work or home and await the results. Otherwise, there’s a delay on the submission while the agent drops you at your house first.
The next time you spend an afternoon looking at houses with your agent, consider taking your own car. As you can see, it’s the smart option.
Partnering with a trusted home mortgage ptofessional is another important part of your home buying experience. Be sure to make contact to discuss current financing options and to get your pre-approval before you start house-hunting.
Opportunity Zones were created by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to encourage investors with capital gains on other investments to invest that money in low-income and undercapitalized communities. They get a reward of deferring capital gains tax. They avoid a portion of it altogether if they keep the investment for five years or longer.
What started with a trickle of a few Opportunity Zones scattered around the country is now a deluge with over 3,000 approved Opportunity Zones approved in just about every part of America. 4,700 more areas may also qualify.
Opportunity Zones Expanded Dramatically
The very generous definition of Opportunity Zones not only includes poorer areas but it also includes wealthy areas within larger poor areas. Some are wealthier areas adjacent to poor areas. For example, there are Opportunity Zones in Manhattan, which is an area not typically thought of as low-income or undercapitalized.
Opportunities In Opportunity Zones
The tax incentives along with the current easy financing from real estate lenders are stimulating development projects in Opportunity Zones. Investors may increase returns on real-estate investments by up to 50% for projects in these areas.
The highest returns, based on the tax savings, are for those that invest before the end of 2019 and hold the investment for seven years until 2026. They get a capital gains step-up of 15%. After that, the tax benefits go down to a capital gains step-up of 10%.
Homes In Opportunity Zones
Another attractive characteristic is that the price of single-family homes in many Opportunity Zones is a bargain. The median price of homes in almost half of the Opportunity Zones is less than $150,000. This compares favorably to the national median home price of $266,000.
Moreover, homes in many Opportunity Zones are less than half the price of an adjacent area. The median rents in the Opportunity Zones are not as depressed as the home prices.
For real estate investors looking for cash-flow positive rental properties to acquire for a portfolio, these homes may rent for enough to pay the carrying costs.
For home buyers, these bargain prices may mean it pays to buy a home on the edge of an Opportunity Zone. If the home is adjacent to a nicer neighborhood, the upside potential for appreciation in home value may be enhanced.
Opportunities for low-cost homes exist in the Midwest, which has 73% of its Opportunity Zones with homes that cost below $150,000. The portion in the South is 57% and in the North East, it is 53%. Florida has over 300 Opportunity Zones. Pennsylvania has over 150. Tennessee has about 140. Those are states worth considering.
Looking for home-buying opportunities in newly-designated Opportunity Zones is attractive for real estate investors building up a portfolio of rental properties and for homebuyers who are looking for a bargained-price home.
If you are in the market for a new home or investment opportunity, be sure to contact your trusted mortgage professional to discuss current financing options.
Last week’s economic reports included readings from the National Association of Home Builders on housing market conditions, Commerce Department reports on Housing starts and building permits issued and the National Association of Realtors® report on sales of previously owned homes.
The Fed reduced its key interest rate and weekly reports on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims were also released.
Builder Confidence in Housing Market Improves, Sales of Pre-Owned Homes Rise
The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index rose one point to an index reading of 68 in September. August’s reading was adjusted to 67 from an initial reading of 66. September’s reading matched the highest reading posted year-over-year.
Readings over 50 indicate that most builders are confident about housing markets. Analysts noted that builder confidence rose despite ongoing concerns about higher materials costs caused by trade wars and tariffs.
According to the Commerce Department, housing starts rose in August with 1.364 million starts on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. Analysts expected 1.300 million starts and 1.215 million starts were posted for July. More housing starts are good news for housing markets stifled by short supplies of available homes and high demand for homes.
Building permits issued in August also rose from July’s reading. 1.419 million permits were issued as compared to July’s reading of 1.217 million permits issued on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis.
August sales of previously-owned homes rose to 5.49 million sales as compared to July’s annual sales pace of 5.42 million sales. Analysts predicted August sales of pre-owned homes to decrease to 5.39 million sales.
Mortgage Rates, Weekly Jobless Claims Rise
Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week with rates for 30-year fixed rate mortgages 17 basis points higher at an average of 3.73 percent. Rates averaged 3.21 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and were 12 basis points higher.
The average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages was 13 basis points higher at 3.49 percent. First-time jobless claims rose last week to 208,000 claims. Analysts expected 215,000 new claims based on the prior week’s reading of 206,000 new jobless claims filed.
The Fed cut its benchmark short-term interest rate by one-quarter point to 1.75 to 2.00 percent, but there was some dissent among policymakers. Seven members of the Federal Open Market Committee voted for the rate decrease; two members voted against the rate cut and one member thought that rates should be cut 0.50 percent.
This week’s scheduled economic reports include readings on Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, inflation, pending home sales and consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims will also be released.
Crowdfunding came into prominence with the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act that President Obama signed into law during 2012 and subsequent enhancements. The JOBS Act made it easier for startups to raise money and for the first time allowed the legal ability to advertise the investments and accept small investors.
Innovate And Renovate
Crowdfunding is useful for many projects. The method raises money to create new products, make documentary films, and for many kinds of fashion items. Crowdfunding successfully raises money for real estate transactions.
Smaller investors participate in real estate projects that they would otherwise not have enough investment money to create on their own. They may invest a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. When their smaller investment money combines with all the others, the project raises enough money.
One thing that makes crowdfunding projects work is their popularity. Affinity groups who have a special interest in certain things invest money in projects related to something that they like.
One application of this motivational factor is to raise money using crowdfunding to renovate buildings with a historical value or that otherwise attract the interest of the public. The process does not have to start with money. It can start with crowd sourcing ideas.
The CLUE® Mansion
A fun example is the Hasbro Company teamed up with Houzz to get innovative ideas from interior designers about how to renovate the CLUE® Mansion. The mansion is a backdrop for the popular board game.
This promotion celebrates the game’s 70th anniversary. The mansion’s style in the game stayed the same since the game debuted in 1949. The winning room designs, selected by fans, will be part of a new version of the game.
There is no reason to stop there. A real mansion can be renovated to match the game. This could be a CLUE® museum and could offer escape rooms as a money-making enterprise. This is just an idea at this moment. Perhaps, someone will take this up and run with it.
The point is, historic buildings that are of interest may need renovation funds that can be raised using crowdfunding. Those who have an interest in the building from the local community and elsewhere can support the project by investing in the renovation with a small comfortable amount.
Renovation projects are not easy to finance using traditional lenders. However, if a thousand people invest $100 each that is $100,000 for a renovation project in your community. Paying back the loan can come from a portion of the entrance fees.
Hopefully, this will spark continued interest in preserving and restoring historic homes, which are a terrific part of the American heritage.
If you are interested in learning more about current financing options, be sure to consult with your trusted home mortgage professional.
The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee reduced its key short-term interest rate range one-quarter percent to 1.75 to 2.00 percent during it’s September meeting. While FOMC members had mixed opinions on reducing the benchmark rate range for short term loans, the post-meeting statement suggested that reducing the federal funds rate was a hedge against inflation. The federal funds rate impacts short-term consumer loan rates for autos and adjustable rate mortgages, but does not impact fixed mortgage rates. FOMC monetary policy decisions are governed by the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate of maintaining price stability and an inflation rate of 2.00 percent.
FOMC Members Facing Conflicted Opinions On Rate Cuts
Policymakers consider a variety of influences and news when cutting or raising the federal funds rate range. In addition to its dual mandate, FOMC members consider domestic and global impacts on the economy. Uncertainty over effects of international trade disputes and Great Britain’s looming exit from the European Union balanced strengths in the U.S. economy.
According to the post-meeting statement, seven FOMC members voted in favor of the rate cut to 1.75 to 2.00 percent; one member voted for a rate cut to 1.50 to 1.75 percent and two members voted against changing the target federal funds rate range.
Fed Chair: U.S. Economy Expected To Stay Strong
Fed Chair Jerome Powell said in a post-meeting press conference that while U.S. economy expanded for its 11th consecutive year, global economic outlook was less certain particularly in Europe and China. The U.S. economy expanded 2.50 percent in the first half of 2019; factors driving growth included rising consumer confidence, wages and strong job markets. Business investment and exports were lower due to uncertainties over trade. Job growth slowed, but this was expected based on 2018’s fast pace of job growth. Work force participation grew; the Fed expects the national unemployment rate to remain below four percent for the next few years.
Chair Powell said that maintaining strong economic conditions was particularly important for low to middle income consumers left behind during the Great Recession. While current inflation stands at 1.40 percent, the Fed projects that it will grow to 1.90 percent in 2020 and achieve the target goal of 2.00 percent in 2021. Chair Powell said that inflation pressures are muted and at the lower end of historical ranges.
Chair Powell echoed the FOMC statement in saying that the Fed would continue to monitor economic developments abroad and would adjust monetary policy according to economic developments prompted by trade disputes and emerging economic developments.
The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index shows steady builder confidence in housing market conditions. September’s index reading of 68 was one point higher than August’s reading. Any reading over 50 indicates that most home builders surveyed view housing market conditions as favorable. August’s original index reading was adjusted upward by one point.
Component readings for the Housing Market Index were mixed. Builder confidence in current market conditions rose two points to index reading of 75; this was the highest reading year-over-year. Builder confidence in home sales over the next six months fell by one point to 70. The gauge of buyer traffic in single-family housing developments held steady at 50. Readings for buyer traffic seldom exceed 50; September’s reading suggested higher builder confidence than the numerical reading suggested.
Average New Home Size Decreases, Builders Confident In Housing Markets
In recent months, builders have focused on producing larger homes, which has limited the number of affordable homes available to middle-income and first-time home buyers. High demand for homes caused by slim inventories of homes for sale and factors including competition with cash buyers sidelined would-be buyers. Home builders scaled down the size of new homes by 4.30 percent during the second quarter of 2019. This trend is expected to encourage potential home buyers into the market as lower home prices and mortgage rates combine to encourage more buyers into the housing market.
Lower Home Prices And Mortgage Rates Increase Affordability
Analysts and real estate pros have long said that the only way to ease demand for homes is by building more homes within all price ranges. Builders did not immediately respond to calls for more homes, but if current builder confidence and a new focus on building affordable homes continues, high demand for homes and short supplies of available homes may ease toward evenly balanced market conditions, but the unknown factor is mortgage rates. If they rise, affordability will be challenged and buyer interest in new homes could slow.
New home prices typically fall as peak buying season ends. Current trends toward building smaller homes, low mortgage rates and lower home prices combined to provide more choices and affordable options for home buyers. If general economic conditions remain strong, more home shoppers could become homeowners.
Residential real estate developers in America are responding to a national slowdown in new home construction by building smaller homes that are more modestly priced. The demand for smaller, less expensive homes is growing, while the overall demand for new custom homes is declining. Prices decreased slightly, by about one-half percent, from the price levels in 2018 for newly-constructed homes.
Lower Profits For Builders
The median price for a newly-constructed home in America is $372,900. The median sales price of an existing home is $309,700.
American construction companies are feeling the pressure to build lower-priced homes along with the increased costs for imported building materials due to the tariffs and a labor shortage. This is lowering profits for the construction companies, yet creates a buying opportunity for those looking for a new home.
Lower New Home Inventory Levels
These pressures caused new home inventory to decrease by 1% from the 2018 levels. To put this in perspective, the inventory of new homes only decreased this much in 2013. Even though mortgage loans are easier to come by than a number of years ago, there is not the same demand as before for new homes. Perhaps, this is an advance indicator of an upcoming slowdown.
The U.S. Census reports that the average size of a new home went from 1,660 square feet in the 1970s to 2,687 square feet in 2105. In 2018, the average size of a new home was only 2,386 square feet.
During 2018, there were around 119,000 contractor-built single-family new homes that started construction and over 840,000 that were completed.
Other interesting trends reported by the Census about the 840,000 new single-family homes that finished construction in 2018 include:
Builders who offer smaller, lower-priced homes are still experiencing strong demand. In fact, the demand for these modest homes is growing. This trend is likely to continue for the time being.
If you are in the market for a new home or interested in refinancing your current property, be sure to contact your trusted home mortgage professional.