Having a car isn’t really a choice for a lot of Americans – and even some of us that are lucky enough to choose whether or not to have a car decide to have one. Put simply, cars are a fact of life for most us. So it comes as no surprise that an analysis of Census Bureau construction data done by the National Association of Home Builders found that an increasing number of new homes have garages and the size of those garages is also on the rise. For example, the share of homes with a three or more car garage jumped from 11 percent in 1992 to 20 percent in 2005. And, in the past decade, new homes built without a garage have become almost non-existent. Robert Dietz, NAHB’s chief economist and senior vice president for economics and housing policy, breaks down the numbers in a recent article. “For new single-family completions in 2015, 61 percent of homes offered a two-car garage,” Dietz writes. “Another 24 percent of homes possessed a garage large enough to hold three or more cars. Just 6 percent of newly-built homes had a one-car garage, and only 1 percent possessed a carport. Another 9 percent of new homes had no garage or carport.” Additionally, of the 9 percent of homes without a garage, 23 percent were townhomes. More here.
The housing market has been sort of a mixed bag this year. While home sales are expected to exceed last year’s levels and mortgage rates are still hovering near record lows, fewer houses for sale have presented potential home buyers in many markets with increased competition and higher prices. In short, you could look at the numbers and come to a couple of different conclusions. As an example, two recently released forecasts have differing views on what lies ahead for the residential real estate market. Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research Group’s October 2016 Economic and Housing Outlook sees housing momentum beginning to slow. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist, says recent declines in sales, construction, and mortgage applications may mean continued weakness in the near term. However, Duncan also acknowledges the fact that improved demand from first-time home buyers is an encouraging sign. On the other side of the fence, Freddie Mac’s most recent forecast calls for continued gains and calls the housing market an economic bright spot. “As the economy sputters along a little bit faster than stall speed, the U.S. housing market continues to be a bright spot, though there’s less room to run than in the prior few years,” Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, says. “We see new home sales improving some next year driven by increases in single-family housing construction which will push total home sales slightly higher.” More here.
Buying a house is a big deal. Not only is it a major financial transaction, it also represents a tremendous responsibility. Because of this, there aren’t too many people that enter the housing market without giving some thought to whether or not it’s the right time for them to buy. So what are some of the top reasons potential buyers give when asked why they might delay their purchase? A recent survey from NeighborWorks America asked and found, for a growing number of buyers, it’s student loan debt. In fact, 30 percent of respondents said they knew someone whose student loans caused them to put off buying a house. That’s a 6 percent increase from two years ago. The survey also found, among people who said they had student loans to pay off, 53 percent said it was an obstacle. Student loan debt is a growing problem for potential buyers and one that may be holding back young adults who may otherwise be active in the market. Rent is another. For many aspiring homeowners, their current rent is too high to put away any meaningful savings toward a down payment. Still, nearly 60 percent of current renters said they hope to one day buy a home. More here.
September sales of previously owned homes rose 3.2 percent from the month before, according to new numbers released by the National Association of Realtors. The gains were a welcome change after a two-month slide. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said the improvement was due to a boost in the number of first-time home buyers active near the end of summer. “The home search over the past several months for a lot of prospective buyers, and especially for first-time buyers, took longer than usual because of competition for the minimal amount of homes for sale,” Yun said. “Most families and move-up buyers look to close before the new school year starts. Their diminishing presence from the market towards the end of summer created more opportunities for aspiring first-time homeowners to buy last month.” In fact, the share of first-time buyers rose to 34 percent in September. That’s the highest it’s been since July 2012. Historically, new home buyers represent closer to 40 percent of all home sales. Because there have been fewer first timers active in the market recently, an increasing number is seen as good news and vital to housing’s health. Also encouraging, the number of homes available for sale rose in September. At the end of the month, inventory was 1.5 percent higher than the month before. More here.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, demand for loans to buy homes rose 3 percent last week despite a bump in mortgage rates. Average rates rose for 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances, as well as 15-year fixed-rate loans. Rates for loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration were unchanged from one week earlier. Higher rates didn’t stop buyers, however. In fact, the MBA’s purchase index is now 13 percent above where it was last year at this time. That’s due, in part, to the fact that rates – though at their highest level since June – are still low by historical standards. Refinance activity, on the other hand, is more sensitive to rate increases and saw a 1 percent decrease last week. Michael Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist, says average mortgage rates are as high now as they were the week of the Brexit vote in June. “Refinance applications dropped to the lowest level since the week of the Brexit vote, as mortgage rates reached their highest level since then,” Fratantoni said. The MBA’s weekly applications survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.
If you want to know what’s happening with home prices, it’s really just a matter of supply and demand. When there are a lot of houses available for sale and not many buyers, prices fall. When there are a lot of buyers but not a lot of homes to buy, home prices rise. That’s been the case lately. The number of homes for sale has been low for a while now and, since buyer demand is high, prices and competition have been increasing steadily in a lot of markets. With fewer opportunities for buyers and prices rising, there’s been a lot of attention focused on builders. But why? Well it’s because, as builders build new homes and put them up for sale, home prices moderate and affordability conditions improve, helping to balance the market. So naturally, the hope is that new home construction picks up. One measure of how the new home market is doing is the National Association of Home Builders’ Housing Market Index. The index scores builders’ confidence in the new home market on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders view conditions as good than poor. In October, the index fell to 63, but remains at its second highest level this year. Ed Brady, NAHB’s chairman, says the results indicate new home construction should continue to make gains. “Even with this month’s drop, builder confidence stands at its second-highest level in 2016, a sign that the housing recovery continues to make solid progress,” Brady said. More here.
Selling anything requires a good first impression. And most impressions are made on a sensory level. A familiar scent or some soothing music can set a mood and alter perceptions. That’s why home sellers should pay extra attention to the details when trying to appeal to potential buyers. But what are some of the things homeowners can do to make their home stand out? Well, a recent survey conducted by Trulia asked real estate agents for some tips. The number one thing, according to nearly 75 percent of respondents, was cleanliness. A messy house makes it hard for buyers to see beyond the clutter and visualize living there. Keeping your home neat and tidy is a fairly obvious way to put your best foot forward, though. Some of the other, less evident, examples include using scents to make your house more inviting. The fresher smelling the better. Vanilla, for example, is a scent known to help lower stress and boost nostalgia. You might also pay attention to the color of your walls. Repainting is a pretty easy fix and buyers tend to have an easier time imagining their things in a space that seems clean and easily adaptable. For that reason, agents recommend repainting any bold color choices in an ivory or eggshell to help attract potential buyers. More here.