Last week’s scheduled economic reporting included readings on home builder sentiment, housing starts and building permits issued. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and initial jobless claims were also released
NAHB: Homebuilder Confidence Crashes as Coronavirus Impacts Construction
Homebuilder sentiment concerning housing market conditions dropped significantly in April according to the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index.
April’s index reading of 30 was the largest month-to-month drop recorded since the Housing Market Index started 30 years ago. Homebuilder confidence was 42 points lower than the March reading of 72 and was the lowest reading since June 2012.
Index readings over 50 indicate that most builders are confident in current market conditions.
Sub-index readings also fell considerably in April; builder confidence in current market conditions dropped from 79 to 36. Builder confidence in housing market conditions over the next six months dipped to an index reading of 36 in April as compared to the March reading of 75.
Builder confidence in buyer traffic in new single-family housing developments dropped from an index reading of 56 in March to a reading of 13 in April; builder sentiment readings about buyer traffic don’t usually exceed an index reading of 50 but had done so in recent months. Homebuilders also said that federal assistance for builders wasn’t distributed consistently; Builders need federal financial help to maintain payrolls and other expenses.
Commerce Department readings on housing starts and building permits issued dropped in March. Housing starts progressed at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.216 million starts as compared to February’s pace of 1.564 million housing starts.
Analysts expected a March reading of 1.290 million housing starts. Building permits issued were lower at 1.353 million permits issued as compared to 1.452 million permits issued on an annual basis in February. Analysts expected a March reading of 1.250 million building permits issued.
Mortgage Rates Near All-Time Lows as Initial Jobless Claims Slow
Freddie Mac reported mixed results for mortgage rates last week; rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.31 percent and were two basis points lower. Rates for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 2.80 percent and were three basis points higher. Rates for 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgages fell by six basis points and averaged 3.34 percent. Discount points averaged 0.70 percent for fixed-rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgages.
First-time jobless claims were lower last week but remained much higher than readings reported before the COVID-19 outbreak. 5.25 million initial claims were filed, which surpassed expectations of 5 million new claims filed. 6.60 million claims were filed the prior week.
This week’s scheduled economic releases include readings on new and existing home sales, consumer sentiment and weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.
According to data compiled by Realtor.com in the fourth quarter of 2019, it is still more affordable overall to rent versus buy a home — but just barely. The median monthly mortgage payment at the end of 2019 was $1,600, while the median monthly rent payment was $1,319. This is largely due to steadily-increasing rates, rising home prices, and near-record-low mortgage rates.
The Realtor.com study looked at 593 counties across the country. As compared to the fourth quarter of 2018, the average monthly cost of renting a home increased 4%, up from $1,254, while the average monthly cost of homeownership actually declined 1%, falling from $1,658.
These numbers represent exactly 30% of a homeowner’s gross income and 25% for renters, based on median household income.
A Turning Tide
In a stunning 84% of the 593 counties that were part of the study, renting is less expensive than buying. The average home price in these areas is 260% higher than the national median, while rent prices average about 79% more than the national median.
Interestingly though, 26 of the 593 counties experienced the opposite for the first time ever: It became more affordable to purchase a home than to rent, even if only by a narrow margin.
The largest metropolitan areas in which homeownership is more economical than renting now include Bronx County, New York; the greater Cleveland area; Columbia, South Carolina, and the surrounding areas; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Camden County, New Jersey, which includes Philadelphia, as well as cities in Maryland and Delaware.
In 16% of the counties analyzed, buying a home is less expensive monthly than renting, which is up from 12% in 2018.
On the other end of the spectrum, several large counties made the switch from being more affordable to buy a home to more affordable to rent. The top five include the Wichita Falls, Texas, area; Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pennsylvania; Luzerne County, Pennsylvania; the Greensboro, North Carolina metro area; and Craven County, North Carolina.
With the costs of homeownership becoming more favorable over the past year, the gap between renting and buying a home is more narrow than it ever has been in the U.S. If you are in the market for a new home, be sure to contact your trusted real estate or mortgage professional.
There are two times when it is best to buy a home. When you have to buy one and when you can afford to buy one. In general, owning a home is better than renting one because you are building up equity for yourself, instead of throwing your money away by helping the landlord buy the property with your rent money.
Best- And Worst-Case Scenario Planning
Be prepared for owning a home, especially if this will be your first time as a homebuyer. There is a natural tendency to stretch finances to the breaking point when wanting to own a home.
Try to be patient and have a contingency plan for what would happen if you lose your job or if your significant other loses his or her job if you are buying a home with the help of another income.
A surprising piece of counter-intuitive advice is NOT to use all of your savings as a down payment, even if you have to pay more for the mortgage. Instead, hold back three to six months of mortgage payments in your savings to use in case there is an unexpected job loss or problem.
That will give you enough time to recover from a temporary problem without having to worry about having enough money to make the mortgage payments.
Keep Emotions Under Control
Try not to let your emotions override practical considerations. Most people trade-up from the first home that they buy. A house need not be “perfect”; however, you want it to be in a decent condition to avoid having large expenses right after buying it, unless you are a fixer-upper type and know what you are doing.
Seller’s Or Buyer’s Market
It is useful to know whether the area you want to buy a home is a seller’s or a buyer’s market. In a seller’s market, there may be many buyers for fewer sellers. In that case, you will need to be more competitive in your approach when buying a house.
One easy way to tell if the area is a seller’s market is to ask your REALTOR® to find out the median number of days that homes are on the market for sale and the percentage of the asking price that the average home sells for.
Don’t be surprised to learn in a seller’s market that homes stay listed only for a short time, and they sell for nearly the asking price. Having a pre-approved lending commitment before you go looking for a home in a seller’s market is one way to make your offer(s) stronger.
Take time when buying a home to do some market research first. Get your loan commitment approved, before shopping for a home. Make looking for a home to buy an adventure. Avoid stretching yourself to a financial breaking point and plan to stay in your home for a few years, at least, before you trade-up.
If you are in the market for a new home or interested in listing your current property, be sure to set an appointment with your trusted real estate professional.
There are lots of people out there who are searching for options for mortgage relief. A quick search will reveal options for programs such as FMERR and HARP; however, many of the articles regarding these programs are a bit outdated. This makes them misleading. Sometimes, people might think they can apply for these programs when, in reality, they cannot. These programs have expired. Fortunately, there is another option for HIRO.
What Is HIRO?
HIRO is the mortgage relief refinance program for 2020. Run by Fannie Mae, this program does have some similarities to its ancestors (HARP and FMERR); however, it also allows homeowners to refinance even if they don’t have any equity. Furthermore, there isn’t a maximum LTV (loan to value) ratio. The biggest difference between HIRO and prior programs is that only people who currently have mortgages through Fannie Mae are able to qualify.
Some of the other conditions of this program include:
If these conditions are met, someone might be able to find mortgage refinance relief through HIRO.
Reasons To Refinance
Of course, if someone is looking to apply for this program, there must be some tangible benefit. Some of the reasons why someone might want to refinance include a lower monthly payment, a loan with an earlier end date, or a transition from a risky adjustable-rate mortgage to a much safer fixed-rate mortgage. These are a few of the common reasons why someone might want to refinance through HIRO.
Options For Government-Backed Loans
If someone has a mortgage through a government program such as USDA, VA, or the FHA, they will need to apply for other mortgage relief programs. This means looking for streamline refinances. These are specific refinance programs that are meant for people with loans backed by the government. These programs often have less paperwork because there is no need to verify income or employment. Furthermore, there is no need to get the home appraised.
With time on our hands, many of us are busying ourselves with home improvement projects. Some simple changes can increase the attractiveness of a home and may help with a sale. If you are getting ready to sell your home or if you just want to beautify it a little, here are some low-cost tips for home improvements to consider.
Adding indoor plants is nice and improves interior air quality. If you have the room for it, consider a vertical garden. A vertical garden may use the entire ceiling-to-floor area of one wall. With the proper type of grow lights, it is possible to create the feeling of a lush tropical forest inside the home.
You can grow a herb garden in a window box, so you always have fresh herbs for cooking. Flowers, which make a lovely fragrance, are wonderful for aromatherapy to create positive feelings. Hang a sprig of fresh eucalyptus in the shower for a spa-like experience.
A water fountain or birdbath in the garden is a pleasant touch. Use a solar-powered water pump so there is no need to connect it to electricity. It will attract birds that are enjoyable to watch.
A small fountain in the home will have a soothing effect from the sound of the falling water. The Chinese art of Feng Shui recommends having some water elements in the home for a more peaceful living space. It can be something as simple as a desk or tabletop water fountain to have a nice effect.
To spice up a room and give it a fresh look, consider changing the wall decor. Give the wall a fresh coat of paint or new wallpaper and hang new things on it in an attractive way.
Colorful throw rugs are helpful to cover a worn area of old carpet. Rugs improve the look of a room without the expense of replacing the carpet. In a larger room, a throw rug may create a space for a certain use, such as a sitting or dining area.
Add Some Color to the Front Door
One quick and easy technique to give a dreary home exterior a bit of curb appeal is to power wash the siding on the front and then paint the front door a dramatic contrasting color. A superbly-colorful front door is very attractive and welcoming.
With a little imagination and a modest budget, it is possible to make attractive home improvements that have appeal. Just try some of our suggestions and make improvements that you enjoy.
Last week’s economic reports were limited due to closures connected with coronavirus regulations. The Federal Reserve did not issue minutes for the most recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting as the meeting was canceled.
Inflation readings were released; weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were released along with the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index.
Consumer Price Index Falls In March
The Consumer Price Index dropped by -0.40 percent in March; this was its biggest decline in five years. Lower inflation was largely due to falling fuel prices.
The Core Consumer Price Index, which excludes volatile food and energy sectors, fell by -0.10 percent in March as compared to 0.10 percent growth in February.
The year-over-year inflation rate fell to 1.50 percent growth as compared to February’s year-over-year inflation rate of 2.30 percent.
Products including toilet tissue and disinfectant supplies have disappeared from many store shelves; analysts said that manufacturers of household staples use a steady approach to production and were not prepared or able to meet skyrocketing demand caused by COVID-19.
Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Little Changed
Freddie Mac reported no change in 30-year fixed mortgage rates that averaged 3.33 percent; the average rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages was five basis points lower at 2.77 percent. Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages were unchanged at 3.40 percent.
Discount points averaged 0.70 percent for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages and 0.60 percent for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages. Discount points averaged 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgages.
Initial jobless claims grew by 6.60 million claims last week; this was just shy of the previous week’s reading of 6.90 million claims filed. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, new jobless claims were typically reported in the mid-200,000 range.
The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index reflected consumer concerns about the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. April’s index reading was 71.0 as compared to the March reading of 89.1.
This week’s scheduled economic reports include the NAHB Housing Market Index, Commerce Department readings on housing starts and building permits issued. Retail sales data will be released along with weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.
It can be a tremendous challenge to suddenly be stuck at home during the COVID-19 crisis. For those who are in an area of the country where there is a “shelter in place” order, this can feel very much like house arrest. If there are children stuck at home as well, this could be enough to make the entire family go stir crazy.
It can be hard to come up with ways to have fun when there is a lot of fear and anxiety in the air; however, here are a few great ways that families can have fun, grow closer, and bond during a challenging time.
Take A Virtual Tour Of A Museum
There are a handful of museums and aquariums around the country that are offering people the opportunity to take a virtual tour of their exhibits. These museums and aquariums are feeling the sting of the pandemic as well. They have gone out of their way to allow people to take a look at the numerous educational exhibits they have to offer over the internet. This can be a great way for a family to take a trip to somewhere exciting, take a look at some awesome exhibits, and learn about something new.
Make Videos Together
One of the most popular apps today is called TikTok. This is a social media platform where people make creative, funny videos, edit them, and share them with their followers all in one place! These videos are usually only a few seconds long and are layered with music. Think about funny poses, creative dance routines, and more!
Build A Puzzle Together
Sometimes, the greatest joys are in the simplest pleasures. There are countless puzzles out there and many of them have thousands of pieces. They will keep the entire family busy for days to come. Then, once the puzzle is done, it can be glued together and framed. This can serve as a tribute to the time when the family had to band together during a difficult time.
These are a few creative ideas that families can put to use during the pandemic. They will bring the family together through bonding experiences that will last forever.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever for everyone to make sure they act in the best interests of their local communities and the world as a whole. This means that everyone should follow the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), practice social distancing measures, and obey all orders to shelter in place. When families are stuck at home, it is important to ensure the house is sanitized. This will prevent the spread of this dangerous virus. There are a few measures that everyone should take to make sure their home is as clean as possible.
Clean High-Touch Surfaces Frequently
Any surfaces that multiple people are going to touch on a regular basis need to be cleaned every day. Some of the most common surfaces people need to clean daily include counters, doorknobs, bathroom appliances, faucets, toilets, phones, tablets, end tables, tabletops, and keyboards. Try to use a household spray followed by a wipe.
Read the labels of these cleaning items to make sure they are being used properly. During the cleaning process, try to wear gloves and make sure to dispose of them after they are used. Finally, if there are any surfaces that have bodily fluids on them, including blood, these need to be cleaned thoroughly as well.
Step Up Laundry Practices
All laundry needs to be cleaned as thoroughly as possible. If there are any clothes that have bodily fluids on them, including sweat after working out, these need to be laundered immediately. While handling laundry, try to wear disposable gloves. Try to keep these items as far away from the body as possible. Make sure to closely follow any and all directions on laundry detergent. Try to wash clothing at the warmest temperatures allowed on the clothing labels to ensure any pathogens are killed. Finally, wash hands with soap and water after handling any laundry.
Finally, anyone who has questions about how to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic needs to rely on resources from credible sources such as the CDC and WHO. Furthermore, don’t hesitate to call a local doctor and ask questions. It is important for everyone to watch out for one another during this trying time.
Federal housing agencies and government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are responding to the COVID-19 outbreak with multiple relief programs for homeowners experiencing hardship due to illness and job loss.
60-Days Forbearance on Home Mortgages Owned or Backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac
Many U.S. home loans are owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Homeowners can determine if your loan is connected with Fannie Mae here.here. Please check here to check if your mortgage is affiliated with Freddie Mac.
CARES Act Provide Relief for Eligible Homeowners
The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act provides two protections for homeowners:
Forbearance may require a lump sum payment of deferred payments after the forbearance period or deferred payments may be added to the back of a mortgage, but fees may not be added to the loan balance.
Mortgage servicers may provide modification of loan terms to assist homeowners impacted by COVID-19. Modification terms can include:
Contact your mortgage servicing company as soon as you know you will miss a mortgage payment or payments Relief programs usually require documentation verifying financial hardship. Mortgage servicers are experiencing high volumes of calls; you may need to call multiple times for assistance.
Mortgage Assistance for Non-Government Owned Loans
If you have a conventional mortgage that is not owned or backed by a government agency, please call your loan servicing company and ask about mortgage relief provisions. If your loan is covered by private mortgage insurance (PMI), ask your loan servicer if that company can help with relief options.
State and local agencies may offer housing relief options to homeowners and renters. Certified credit counseling agencies can also help with determining budgeting needs and local resources in addition to working with unsecured creditors toward reducing payments on credit card debt and personal loans.
Last week’s economic reporting included readings on pending home sales, Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, and Bureau of Labor Statistics reports on national unemployment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims were also released.
Pending Home Sales Slow in February Before Coronavirus Took Hold
The National Association of Realtors® reported fewer pending home sales in February as the coronavirus gained traction. Pending sales rose by 2.40 percent in February as compared to January’s growth rate of 5.30 percent. Before the outbreak, pending home sales gained momentum in all U.S. regions.
Pending home sales are sales for which signed purchase contracts were signed, but sales were not completed. Nationally, year-over-year pending sales in February were 9.40 percent higher than in 2019. Regional pending home sales all posted higher growth; The West reported 4.60 percent growth in February.
Pending home sales rose 4.50 percent in the Midwest and 2.80 percent in the Northeast. The South posted 0.10 percent growth in pending home sales.
Pending home sales typically indicate future completed sales, but the coronavirus pandemic was expected to suppress home sales as state and local authorities implemented “shelter in place” rules and all but essential business operations shut down.
Mortgage Rates Mixed as New Jobless Claims Skyrocket
Freddie Mac reported lower fixed mortgage rates last week. Rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.33 percent and were 17 basis points lower. Mortgage rates for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 2.82 percent and were 10 basis points higher. Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 3.40 percent and were six basis points higher.
New jobless claims were unprecedented at 6.60 million first-time claims filed. Analysts expected 4 million new claims as compared to the prior week’s reading of 3.30 million initial jobless claims. The coronavirus pandemic negatively impacted job growth with the government’s Non-Farm Payrolls reporting 701,000 fewer public and private-sector jobs in March as compared to 214,000 jobs added in February.
ADP reported 27,000 fewer private-sector jobs in March as compared to 179,000 private-sector jobs added in February. The national unemployment rate rose from 3.50 percent in February to 4.40 percent in March. Analysts expect new jobless claims to rise in months ahead as the coronavirus spreads and more employers close their doors.
This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings on job openings, inflation, and consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released. Please note that reporting may not appear as scheduled due to work stoppages caused by the pandemic.