First-Time Homebuyers Get a Break With Lower Mortgage Rates
(TNS)—Economic gurus got one part of the mortgage forecast for 2019 correct. We’re certainly seeing a volatile year for rates.
What they didn’t see coming: Mortgage rates tumbled in March, the biggest one-week fall in a decade. Now—instead of seeing mortgage rates edge closer to 5.25 percent, as some had predicted we’d see in 2019—we’re looking at an average 30-year rate near 4 percent.
The rate drop comes just in time for the spring home-buying season and will make monthly payments less expensive.
“This drop in rates is going to give the housing market a boost,” says Bill Banfield, executive vice president of Capital Markets for Quicken Loans. “It could help to make people come back into the market and consider buying a home.”
Mortgage rates have fallen by a full percentage point since late 2018. Going back four months or so, most forecasts weren’t expecting mortgage rates to drop as low as 4 percent for borrowers, Banfield says.
“This is a surprise to a lot of people,” Banfield says.
The average 30-year rate was 4.1 percent as of late March, the lowest rate since Jan. 2018, according to Bankrate.com data. But rates started to rebound a bit upward in early April. The average 30-year rate went back to 4.29 percent as of April 3, according to Bankrate.com.
By contrast, the average mortgage rate was 5.1 percent as recently as mid-November, which was a seven-year high, according to Bankrate.com. The average was hovering around 4.75 percent as 2018 drew to a close.
We’re talking about some real money here for homebuyers. Take a $200,000 mortgage. The mortgage payment for principal and interest would drop by about $120 a month if your rate is 4.1 percent instead of 5.1 percent on a 30-year mortgage, according to Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com. For the mortgage alone, the payment would be about $966 month at the 4.1 percent rate. It’s sort of like getting more than one month free each year.
For a homebuyer who was priced out of the market last spring, the lower rates could help get them back in the game.
Being able to lock in a 30-year fixed rate near, or even below, 4 percent helps put some “wind in the sails of home buyers from an affordability standpoint,” McBride says.
The 30-year fixed rate mortgage remains the dominant loan for middle-class borrowers, particularly first-time home buyers.
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According to fresh findings from realtor.com®, there’s been an improvement in inventory nationwide—but what does that mean for this spring?
Compared to Feb. 2018, there were 6 percent more homes on the market this year, equaling 73,000 more listings, according to the Feb. 2019 realtor.com report. Inventory in the largest markets opened up substantially, with the biggest leaps in the West: 125 percent more in San Jose year-over-year; 85 percent more in Seattle; and 53 percent more in San Francisco.
For homes in the $750,000 or more range, inventory picked up 11 percent year-over-year. The same couldn’t be said for the $200,000 or less segment, with 7 percent fewer listings on the market.
The imbalance is an issue for millennials and others in the starter tier, who’ll have less options in their search this spring.
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Buying a home is probably the biggest investment you will make, with long-term financial ramifications. It calls for many informed decisions and for good advice from a real estate professional. Give me a call today for all of your real estate needs.
Stacy Schnell ~ Realtor Associate Direct: 856-364-0772
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Rising real estate costs, demographics shifts, and low inventory have hamstrung homebuyers for years. But according to Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com, this spring buying season may bring buyer frustration to a boil.
“I think it’s fair to say this is the most competitive housing market we’ve seen in recorded history,” says Hale. “There’s record low inventory and strong interest from buyers in getting into the housing market. There are a lot of buyers, and not a lot of sellers.”
According to Hale and other economists and real estate industry observers, many factors have created this “imperfect storm” of high demand and low supply. Underbuilding had been a key factor, due to cost, labor shortages, and zoning and regulatory barriers to new construction.
“We’ve been paying the bill for underbuilding for some time, and every year, it gets worse,” she says. “We’re not only not keeping up, we’re falling further behind.”
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The boom is continuing for home prices, with a gain in March of 6.5 percent, according to the S&P CoreLogic/Case-Shiller Indices.
The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index’s 10-City Composite, which is an average of 10 metros (Boston, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.), rose 6.5 percent year-over-year, an increase from 6.4 percent in February. The 20-City Composite—which is an average of the 10 metros in the 10-City Composite, plus Atlanta, Charlotte, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Portland, Seattle and Tampa—rose 6.8 percent year-over-year, which is comparable to February. Month-over-month, both the 10-City Composite and the 20-City composite rose, 0.9 percent and 1 percent, respectively.
“The home price increases continue, with the National Index rising at 6.5 percent per year,” says David M. Blitzer, chairman and managing director of the S&P Dow Jones Indices Index Committee.
“Looking across various national statistics on sales of new or existing homes, permits for new construction, and financing terms, two figures that stand out are rapidly rising home prices and low inventories of existing homes for sale,” Blitzer says. “Months-supply, which combines inventory levels and sales, is currently at 3.8 months, lower than the levels of the 1990s before the housing boom and bust.
“Until inventories increase faster than sales, or the economy slows significantly, home prices are likely to continue rising,” says Blitzer. “Compared to the price gains of the last boom in the early 2000s, things are calmer today.”
“The solid gain in home prices of 6.5 percent in March added roughly $150 billion to housing wealth during the month,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), in a statement. “The continuing run-up in home prices above the pace of income growth is simply not sustainable. From the cyclical low point in home prices six years ago, a typical home price has increased by 48 percent, while the average wage rate has grown by only 14 percent. Rising interest rates also do not help with affordability; therefore, more supply is needed to level out home prices. Homebuilding will be the key as to how the housing market performs in the upcoming years.”
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