In today’s housing market, it seems harder than ever to find a home to buy. Before the health crisis hit us a year ago, there was already a shortage of homes for sale. When many homeowners delayed their plans to sell at the same time that more buyers aimed to take advantage of record-low mortgage rates and purchase a home, housing inventory dropped even further. Experts consider this to be the biggest challenge facing an otherwise hot market while buyers continue to compete for homes. As Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com, explains:
“With buyers active in the market and seller participation lagging, homes are selling quickly and the total number available for sale at any point in time continues to drop lower. In Januaryas a whole, the number of for sale homes dropped below 600,000.”
Every month, realtor.com releases new data showing the year-over-year change in inventory of existing homes for sale. As you can see in the map below, nationwide, inventory is 42.6% lower than it was at this time last year:
Does this mean houses aren’t being put on the market for sale?
Not exactly. While there are fewer existing homes being listed right now, many homes are simply selling faster than they’re being counted as current inventory. The market is that competitive! It’s like when everyone was trying to find toilet paper to buy last spring and it was flying off the shelves faster than it could be stocked in the stores. That’s what’s happening in the housing market: homes are being listed for sale, but not at a rate that can keep up with heavy demand from competitive buyers.
In the same realtor.com report, Hale explains:
“Time on the market was 10 days faster than last yearmeaning that buyers still have to make decisions quickly in order to be successful. Today’s buyers have many tools to help them do that, including the ability to be notified as soon as homes meeting their search criteria hit the market. By tailoring search and notifications to the homes that are a solid match, buyers can act quickly and compete successfully in this faster-paced housing market.”
The Good News for Homeowners
The health crisis has been a major reason why potential sellers have held off this long, but as vaccines become more widely available, homeowners will start making their moves. Ali Wolf, Chief Economist at Zonda, confirms:
“Some people will feel comfortable listing their home during the first half of 2021. Others will want to wait until the vaccines are widely distributed.”
With more homeowners getting ready to sell later this year, putting your house on the market sooner rather than later is the best way to make sure your listing shines brighter than the rest.
When you’re ready to sell your house, you’ll likely want it to sell as quickly as possible, for the best price, and with little to no hassle. If you’re looking for these selling conditions, you’ll find them in today’s market. When demand is high and inventory is low, sellers have the ability to create optimal terms and timelines for the sale, making now an exceptional time to move.
Today’s housing market is a big win for sellers, but these conditions won’t last forever. If you’re in a position to sell your house now, you may not want to wait for your neighbors to do the same. Let’s connect to discuss how to sell your house safely so you’re able to benefit from today’s high demand and low inventory.
There have been a lot of headlines reporting on how homeowner equity (the difference between the current market value of your home and the amount you owe on your mortgage) has dramatically increased over the past few years. CoreLogic indicated that equity increased for the average homeowner by $17,000 in the last year alone. ATTOM Data Solutions, in their latest U.S. Home Equity Report, revealed that 30.2% of the 59 million mortgaged homes in the United States have at least 50% equity. That doesn’t even include the 38% of homes that are owned free and clear, meaning they don’t have a mortgage at all.
How can equity help a household?
Having equity in your home can dramatically impact your life. Equity is like a savings account you can tap into when you need cash. Like any other savings, you should be sensible in how you use it, though. Here are three good reasons to consider using your equity.
1. You’re experiencing financial hardship (job loss, medical expenses, etc.)
Equity gives you options during difficult financial times. With equity, you could refinance your house to get cash which may ease the burden. It also puts you in a better position to talk to the bank about restructuring your home loan until you can get back on your feet.
Today, there are 2.7 million Americans who are currently in a forbearance program because of the pandemic. Ninety percent of those in the program have at least 10% equity. That puts them in a better position to get a loan modification instead of facing foreclosure because many banks will see the equity as a form of collateral in a new deal. If you’re in this position, even if you can’t get a modification, the equity allows you the option to sell your house and walk away with your equity instead of losing the house and your investment in it.
2. You need money to start a new business
We’ve all heard the stories about how many great American companies started in the founder’s garage (i.e., Disney, Hewlett Packard, Apple, Yankee Candle, Keeping Current Matters). What we might not realize, however, is the garage (along with the rest of the home) supplied the start-up money for many of these companies in the form of a refinance.
If you’re passionate about an idea you have for a new product or service, the equity in your home may enable you to make that dream a reality.
3. You want to invest in a loved one’s future
It’s been a long-standing tradition in this country for many households to help pay college expenses for their children. Some have tapped into the equity in their homes to do that.
Additionally, George Ratiu, Senior Economist for realtor.com, notes:
“52% of Americans who bought their first home in 2020 said they got help with their down payment from friends or family. The number one lender? Their parents.”
It’s safe to assume a percentage of that down payment money likely came from home equity.
Savings in any form is a good thing. The forced savings you can earn from making a mortgage payment enables you to build wealth through home equity. That equity can come in handy in both good and more challenging times.
Home values appreciated by about ten percent in 2020, and they’re forecast to appreciate by about five percent this year. This has some voicing concern that we may be in another housing bubble like the one we experienced a little over a decade ago. Here are three reasons why this market is totally different.
1. This time, housing supply is extremely limited
The price of any market item is determined by supply and demand. If supply is high and demand is low, prices normally decrease. If supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally increase.
In real estate, supply and demand are measured in “months’ supply of inventory,” which is based on the number of current homes for sale compared to the number of buyers in the market. The normal months’ supply of inventory for the market is about 6 months. Anything above that defines a buyers’ market, indicating prices will soften. Anything below that defines a sellers’ market in which prices normally appreciate.
Between 2006 and 2008, the months’ supply of inventory increased from just over 5 months to 11 months. The months’ supply was over 7 months in twenty-seven of those thirty-six months, yet home values continued to rise.
Months’ inventory has been under 5 months for the last 3 years, under 4 for thirteen of the last fourteen months, under 3 for the last six months, and currently stands at 1.9 months – a historic low.
Remember, if supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally increase.
2. This time, housing demand is real
During the housing boom in the mid-2000s, there was what Robert Schiller, a fellow at the Yale School of Management’s International Center for Finance, called “irrational exuberance.” The definition of the term is, “unfounded market optimism that lacks a real foundation of fundamental valuation, but instead rests on psychological factors.” Without considering historic market trends, people got caught up in the frenzy and bought houses based on an unrealistic belief that housing values would continue to escalate.
The mortgage industry fed into this craziness by making mortgage money available to just about anyone, as shown in the Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI) published by the Mortgage Bankers Association. The higher the index, the easier it is to get a mortgage; the lower the index, the more difficult it is to obtain one. Prior to the housing boom, the index stood just below 400. In 2006, the index hit an all-time high of over 868. Again, just about anyone could get a mortgage. Today, the index stands at 122.5, which is well below even the pre-boom level.
In the current real estate market, demand is real, not fabricated. Millennials, the largest generation in the country, have come of age to marry and have children, which are two major drivers for homeownership. The health crisis is also challenging every household to redefine the meaning of “home” and to re-evaluate whether their current home meets that new definition. This desire to own, coupled with historically low mortgage rates, makes purchasing a home today a strong, sound financial decision. Therefore, today’s demand is very real.
Remember, if supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally increase.
3. This time, households have plenty of equity
Again, during the housing boom, it wasn’t just purchasers who got caught up in the frenzy. Existing homeowners started using their homes like ATM machines. There was a wave of cash-out refinances, which enabled homeowners to leverage the equity in their homes. From 2005 through 2007, Americans pulled out $824 billion dollars in equity. That left many homeowners with little or no equity in their homes at a critical time. As prices began to drop, some homeowners found themselves in a negative equity situation where the mortgage was higher than the value of their home. Many defaulted on their payments, which led to an avalanche of foreclosures.
Today, the banks and the American people have shown they learned a valuable lesson from the housing crisis a little over a decade ago. Cash-out refinance volume over the last three years was less than a third of what it was compared to the 3 years leading up to the crash.
This conservative approach has created levels of equity never seen before. According to Census Bureau data, over 38% of owner-occupied housing units are owned ‘free and clear’ (without any mortgage). Also, ATTOM Data Solutions just released their fourth quarter 2020 U.S. Home Equity Report, which revealed:
“17.8 million residential properties in the United States were considered equity-rich, meaning that the combined estimated amount of loans secured by those properties was 50 percent or less of their estimated market value…The count of equity-rich properties in the fourth quarter of 2020 represented 30.2 percent, or about one in three, of the 59 million mortgaged homes in the United States.”
If we combine the 38% of homes that are owned free and clear with the 18.7% of all homes that have at least 50% equity (30.2% of the remaining 62% with a mortgage), we realize that 56.7% of all homes in this country have a minimum of 50% equity. That’s significantly better than the equity situation in 2008.
This time, housing supply is at a historic low. Demand is real and rightly motivated. Even if there were to be a drop in prices, homeowners have enough equity to be able to weather a dip in home values. This is nothing like 2008. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.
If you’re planning to buy a home, an appraisal is an important step in the process. It’s a professional evaluation of the market value of the home you’d like to buy. In most cases, an appraisal is ordered by the lender to confirm or verify the value of the home prior to lending a buyer money for the purchase. It’s also a different step in the process from a home inspection, which assesses the condition of the home before you finalize the transaction. Here’s the breakdown of each one and why they’re both important when buying a home.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) explains:
“A home purchase is typically the largest investment someone will make. Protect yourself by getting your investment appraised! An appraiser will observe the property, analyze the data, and report their findings to their client. For the typical home purchase transaction, the lender usually orders the appraisal to assist in the lender’s decision to provide funds for a mortgage.”
When you apply for a mortgage, an unbiased appraisal (which is required by the lender) is the best way to confirm the value of the home based on the sale price. Regardless of what you’re willing to pay for a house, if you’ll be using a mortgage to fund your purchase, the appraisal will help make sure the bank doesn’t loan you more than what the home is worth.
This is especially critical in today’s sellers’ market where low inventory is driving an increase in bidding wars, which can push home prices upward. When sellers are in a strong position like this, they tend to believe they can set whatever price they want for their house under the assumption that competing buyers will be willing to pay more.
However, the lender will only allow the buyer to borrow based on the value of the home. This is what helps keep home prices in check. If there’s ever any confusion or discrepancy between the appraisal and the sale price, your trusted real estate professional will help you navigate any additional negotiations in the buying process.
Here’s the key difference between an appraisal and an inspection. MSN explains:
“In simplest terms, a home appraisal determines the value of a home, while a home inspection determines the condition of a home.”
The home inspection is a way to determine the current state, safety, and condition of the home before you finalize the sale. If anything is questionable in the inspection process – like the age of the roof, the state of the HVAC system, or just about anything else – you as a buyer have the option to discuss and negotiate any potential issues or repairs with the seller before the transaction is final. Your real estate agent is a key expert to help you through this part of the process.
The appraisal and the inspection are critical steps when buying a home, and you don’t need to manage them by yourself. Let’s connect today so you have the expert guidance you need to navigate through the entire homebuying process.
The real estate market is expected to do very well in 2021, with mortgage rates that are hovering at historic lows and forecasted by experts to remain favorable throughout the year. One challenge to the housing industry, however, is the lack of homes available for sale today. Last week, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released their Existing Home Sales Report, which shows that the inventory of homes for sale is currently at an all-time low. The report explains:
“Total housing inventory at the end of December totaled 1.07 million units, down 16.4% from November and down 23% from one year ago (1.39 million). Unsold inventory sits at an all-time low 1.9-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 2.3 months in November and down from the 3.0-month figure recorded in December 2019. NAR first began tracking the single-family home supply in 1982.”
(See graph below):
What Does This Mean for You?
If You’re a Buyer:
Be patient during your home search. It may take time to find a home you love. Once you do, however, be ready to move forward quickly. Get pre-approved for a mortgage, be prepared to make a competitive offer from the start, and know that a shortage in inventory could mean you’ll enter a bidding war. Calculate just how far you’re willing to go to secure a home and lean on your real estate professional as an expert guide along the way. The good news is, more inventory is likely headed to the market soon, Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR, notes:
“To their credit, homebuilders and construction companies have increased efforts to build, with housing starts hitting an annual rate of near 1.7 million in December, with more focus on single-family homes…However, it will take vigorous new home construction in 2021 and in 2022 to adequately furnish the market to properly meet the demand.”
If You’re a Seller:
Realize that, in some ways, you’re in the driver’s seat. When there’s a shortage of an item at the same time there’s a strong demand for it, the seller is in a good position to negotiate the best possible terms. Whether it’s the price, moving date, possible repairs, or anything else, you’ll be able to request more from a potential purchaser at a time like this – especially if you have multiple interested buyers. Don’t be unreasonable, but understand you probably have the upper hand.
The housing market will remain strong throughout 2021. Know what that means for you, whether you’re buying, selling, or doing both.