As the U.S. economy rapidly improves, all eyes are on the Federal Reserve
Last Updated: April 29, 2021 at 11:10 a.m. ETFirst Published: April 29, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. ET By Jacob Passy
Mortgage rates remain under 3% — but could become more volatile in the months to come – MarketWatch
Americans still have a chance to lock in ultra-low interest rates on their mortgages. How long that opportunity will last could depend on the action the Federal Reserve takes to address potential inflation in the coming months.
The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.98% for the week ending April 29, up one basis point from the previous week, Freddie Mac FMCC, -0.00%, reported Thursday. The rate on the 30-year loan is down roughly 20 basis points since reaching the highest level since June of last year at the end of March.
The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, meanwhile, increased two basis points to an average of 2.31%. The 5-year Treasury-indexed adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 2.64%, down 19 basis points from the previous week.
Mortgage rates have fallen in response to the movement on long-term bond yields, including the 10-year Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y, 1.606%, which they roughly track.
“In light of the rising COVID caseloads globally, U.S. Treasury yields stopped moving up a month ago and have remained within a narrow range as the market digests incoming economic data,” Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, said in the weekly report.
The statements made by the Federal Reserve this week regarding its interest rate policy also had an effect, exerting “more downward pressure on bond yields,” said Zillow ZG, -3.31% Z, -4.37% economist Matthew Speakman.
The Fed is poised to keep rates low for the foreseeable future. Also relevant to mortgage rates: The central bank plans to maintain its pace of asset purchases, which include mortgage-backed securities. By buying those securities, the Fed pumps liquidity into the mortgage market that allows lenders to dole out more loans with lower interest rates.
However, should expectations of the economy change, the Federal Reserve could alter its policy. “It is likely that mortgage rates are going to be more volatile over this time period until the uncertainty around the Fed’s next moves are resolved,” said Mike Fratantoni, senior vice president and chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association, following the Fed’s announcement Wednesday.
Of course, the low rates are welcome to home buyers and existing owners alike. Lower rates ease the affordability constraints for buyers, which is especially important in a competitive spring housing market where prices are rising rapidly. And for homeowners, the extended period with sub-3% rates gives them yet another opportunity to refinance their home loan if they have not already.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, soaring lumber prices that have tripled over the past 12 months have caused the price of an average new single-family home to increase by $35,872.
This lumber price hike has also added nearly $13,000 to the market value of an average new multifamily home, which translates into households paying $119 a month more to rent a new apartment. Further adding to housing affordability woes, other building material prices have been steadily rising since 2020 and, like lumber, are in short supply as well.
“This unprecedented price surge is hurting American home buyers and home builders and impeding housing and economic growth,” said NAHB Chairman Chuck Fowke.
The latest Random Lengths prices as of the week ending on April 23 show the price of framing lumber near $1,200 per thousand board feet-up nearly 250 percent since last April when the price was roughly $350 per thousand board feet.
During this remarkable runup, NAHB has been monitoring lumber prices and their effect on the housing market. In February 2021, NAHB reported that rising prices had added $24,000 to the price of a new home. Last August, rising prices resulted in the average price of new single-family homes to increase by $16,000.
“These lumber price hikes are clearly unsustainable,” said Fowke. “Policymakers need to examine the lumber supply chain, identify the causes for high prices and supply constraints and seek immediate remedies that will increase production.”
NAHB calculated these average home price increases based on the softwood lumber that goes into the average new home, as captured in the Builder Practices Survey conducted by Home Innovation Research Labs. Included is any softwood used in structural framing (including beams, joists, headers, rafters and trusses), sheathing, flooring and underlayment, interior wall and ceiling finishing, cabinets, doors, windows, roofing, siding, soffit and fascia, and exterior features such as garages, porches, decks, railing, fences and landscape walls.
The softwood products considered include lumber of various dimensions (including any that may be appearance grade or pressure treated for outdoor use), plywood, OSB, particleboard, fiberboard, shakes and shingles-in short, any of the products sold by U.S. sawmills and tracked on a weekly basis by Random Lengths.
- If you’re thinking that waiting a year or two to purchase a home might mean you’ll save some money, think again.
- Mortgage interest rates are currently very low, but experts across the board are forecasting increases in both home prices and interest rates.
- Buying a home now means you’ll spend less in the long run. Let’s connect to put your homebuying plans in motion before home prices and mortgage rates climb even higher.
At the beginning of the year, industry forecasts called for home price appreciation to slow to about half of the double-digit increase we saw last year. The thinking was that inventory would increase from record-low levels and put an end to the bidding wars that have driven home prices up over the past twelve months. However, that increase in inventory has yet to materialize. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that there are currently 410,000 fewer single-family homes available for sale than there were at this time last year.
This has forced those who made appreciation forecasts this past January to amend those projections. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the National Association of Realtors, and Zelman & Associates have all adjusted their numbers upward after reviewing first quarter housing data. Here are their original forecasts and their newly updated projections:Even with the increases, the updated projections still don’t reach the above 10% appreciation levels of 2020. However, a jump in the average projection from 5.3% to 7.7% after just one quarter is substantial. Demand will remain strong, so future appreciation will be determined by how quickly listing inventory makes its way to the market.
Entering 2021, there was some speculation that we might see price appreciation slow dramatically this year. Today, experts believe that won’t be the case. Home values will remain strong throughout the year.
The question many homebuyers are facing this year is, “Why is it so hard to find a house?” We’re in the ultimate sellers’ market, which means real estate is ultra-competitive for buyers right now. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) notes homes are getting an average of 4.8 offers per sale, and that number keeps rising. Why? It’s because there are so few houses for sale.
Low inventory in the housing market isn’t new, but it’s becoming more challenging to navigate. Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com, explains:
“The housing market is still relatively under supplied, and buyers can’t buy what’s not for sale. Relative to what we saw in 2017 to 2019, March 2021 was still roughly 117,000 new listings lower, adding to the pre-existing early-year gap of more than 200,000 fresh listings that would typically have come to market in January or February. Despite this week’s gain from a year ago, we’re 19 percent below the new seller activity that we saw in the same week in 2019.”
While many homeowners paused their plans to sell during the height of the pandemic, this isn’t the main cause of today’s huge gap between supply and demand. Sam Khater, Vice President and Chief Economist at Freddie Mac, Economic Housing and Research Division, shares:
“The main driver of the housing shortfall has been the long-term decline in the construction of single-family homes . . . That decline has resulted in the decrease in supply of entry-level single-family homes or, ’starter homes.’”
When you consider the number of homes built in the U.S. by decade, the serious lack of new construction is clear (See graph below):The number of newly built homes is disproportionately lower than the rate of household formation, which, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, has continued to increase. Khater also explains:
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic and current recession, the housing market was facing a substantial supply shortage and that deficit has grown. In 2018, we estimated that there was a housing supply shortage of approximately 2.5 million units, meaning that the U.S. economy was about 2.5 million units below what was needed to match long-term demand. Using the same methodology, we estimate that the housing shortage increased to 3.8 million units by the end of 2020. A continued increase in a housing shortage is extremely unusual; typically in a recession, housing demand declines and supply rises, causing inventory to rise above the long-term trend.”
“Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,766,000. This is 2.7 percent (±1.7 percent) above the revised February rate of 1,720,000 . . . Privately-owned housing starts in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,739,000. This is 19.4 percent (±13.7 percent) above the revised February estimate of 1,457,000. . . .”
What does this mean? Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR, clarifies:
“The March figure of 1.74 million housing starts is the highest in 14 years. Both single-family units and multifamily units ramped up. After 13 straight years of underproduction – the chief cause for today’s inventory shortage – this construction boom needs to last for at least three years to make up for the part shortfall. As trade-up buyers purchase newly constructed homes, their prior homes will show up in MLSs, and hence, more choices for consumers. Housing starts to housing completion could be 4 to 8 months, so be patient with the improvement to inventory. In the meantime, construction workers deserve cheers.”
If you’re planning to buy this year, the key to success will be patience, given today’s low inventory environment. Let’s connect today to talk more about what’s happening in our area.
NOTE: THE ORIGINAL VERSION OF THIS BLOG INCLUDED A GRAPH SHOWING TOTAL NUMBER OF HOUSING UNITS BUILT, WHICH INCLUDED HOUSES AND APARTMENT UNITS. THE REVISED GRAPH, SHOWN HERE, INCLUDES ONLY SINGLE-FAMILY HOMES, WHICH MORE ACCURATELY EXPLAINS THE CURRENT SITUATION.
Last week’s Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows sales have dropped by 3.7% compared to the month before. This is the second consecutive month that sales have slumped. Some see this as evidence that the red-hot real estate market may be cooling. However, there could also be a simple explanation as to why existing home sales have slowed – there aren’t enough homes to buy. There are currently 410,000 fewer single-family homes available for sale than there were at this time last year.
Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR, explains in the report:
“The sales for March would have been measurably higher, had there been more inventory. Days-on-market are swift, multiple offers are prevalent, and buyer confidence is rising.”
Yun’s insight was supported the next day when the Census Bureau released its Monthly New Residential Sales Report. It shows that newly constructed home sales are up 20.7% over the previous month.
Buyer demand remains strong. With more of the adult population becoming vaccinated and job creation data showing encouraging signs, existing-home inventory is expected to grow in the coming months.
What will this mean for home sales going forward?
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) have all forecasted that total home sales (existing homes and new construction) will continue their momentum both this year and next. Here’s a graph showing those projections:
Living through a pandemic has caused many to re-evaluate the importance of a home and the value of homeownership. The residential real estate market will benefit from both as we move forward.
Homeowners ready to make a move are definitely in a great position to sell today. Housing inventory is incredibly low, driving up buyer competition. This gives homeowners leverage to sell for the best possible terms, and it’s fueling a steady rise in home prices.
In such a hot market, houses are selling quickly. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), homes are typically on the market for just 18 short days. Despite the speed and opportunity for sellers, there are still steps you can take to prep your house to shine so you get the greatest possible return.
1. Make Buyers Feel at Home
One of the ways to make this happen is to take time to declutter. Pack away any personal items like pictures, awards, and sentimental belongings. The more neutral and tidy the space, the easier it is for a buyer to picture themselves living there. According to the 2021 Profile of Home Staging by NAR:
“82% of buyers’ agents said staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home.”
Not only will your house potentially attract the attention of more buyers and likely sell quickly, but the same report also notes:
“Eighteen percent of sellers’ agents said home staging increased the dollar value of a residence between 6% and 10%.”
As Jessica Lautz, Vice President of Demographics and Behavior Insights for NAR, says:
“Staging a home helps consumers see the full potential of a given space or property…It features the home in its best light and helps would-be buyers envision its various possibilities.”
2. Keep It Clean
On top of making an effort to declutter, it’s important to keep your house neat and clean. Before a buyer stops by, be sure to pick up toys, make the beds, and wash the dishes. This is one more way to reduce the number of things that can distract a buyer from the appeal of the home.
Ensure your home smells fresh and clean as well. Buyers will remember the smell of your house, and according to the same report from NAR, the kitchen is one of the most important rooms of the house to focus on if you want to attract more buyers.
3. Give Buyers Access
Buyers are less likely to make an offer on your house if they aren’t able to easily schedule a time to check it out. If your home is available anytime, that opens up more opportunities for multiple buyers to go from curious to eager. It also allows buyers on tight schedules to still get in to see your house.
While health continues to be a great concern throughout the country, it’s important to work with your agent to find the best safety measures and digital practices for your listing. This will drive visibility and create access options that also keep everyone in the process safe.
4. Price It Right
Even in a sellers’ market, it’s crucial to set your house at the right price to maximize selling potential. Pricing your house too high is actually a detriment to the sale. The goal is to drive high attention from competing buyers and let bidding wars push the final sales price up.
Work with your trusted real estate professional to determine the best list price for your house. Having an expert on your side in this process is truly essential.
If you want to sell on your terms, in the least amount of time, and for the best price, today’s market sets the stage to make that happen. Let’s connect today to determine the best ways to maximize the sale of your house this year.
- In a recent article, Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), discussed the state of today’s housing market.
- When addressing whether or not today’s high buyer competition and rising home prices are evidence of a housing bubble, Yun said that this “is not a bubble. It is simply lack of supply.”
- Today’s housing market is healthy, and rising prices are driven by real buyer demand. Let’s connect to talk about the best ways to navigate such an energetic market.
Don’t be impressed by the headlines reporting year-over-year housing numbers for the next several months (data covering March, April, May, and June). The data will most likely show eye-popping one-year increases.
While the year-over-year jumps will certainly be striking, consumers should take these numbers with a grain of salt, as the situation highlights a short-term quirk in the reporting of this data. Essentially, the increases will reflect a combination of two things: sharply lower housing numbers during last year’s virus-related market collapse and the subsequent strong rebound. This will result in what will appear to be unbelievable growth.
Let’s use single-family home sales as an example:As the graph reveals, last spring’s buying market was anything but typical. Instead of sales increasing, they fell sharply as a result of stay-at-home orders that virtually shut the real estate industry down.
This spring’s real estate market will bounce back with more normal seasonal sales increases. The percentage increase in sales will be astronomical – not because sales have skyrocketed, but instead because they will be compared to last year’s low numbers.
There are likely to be some sensational headlines about real estate over the coming months. However, don’t be fooled. The actual story is that the real estate market is finally back to normal.