No Comments

Garrett Trainor: Full Time San Diego Realtor FIRST LINE REALTY

Garrett Trainor has made the calculated leap of faith and is pouring all of his energy, time, and commitment into First Line Realty. Previously, he worked as a full time police officer while also trying to grow his real estate business and charity. However, he can’t in good conscious give half effort into something, and thus he has stepped away from the police department.

If you are not aware, Garrett donates a portion of all commissions into One Line Foundation. One Line Foundation operates exclusively for charitable and educational purposes in accordance with Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. In particular, One Line Foundation is dedicated to providing financial aid to families of first responders working in San Diego County through educational scholarships, mental and physical health assistance, and memorial funds.

Garrett’s goal is to promote “Property with a Purpose” by satisfying his clients’ real estate needs while simultaneously working to build a stronger community. He will work diligently with you by providing extraordinary client services with integrity and professionalism.

Get in touch with Garrett for any real estate needs with no obligation!

No Comments

First Line Realty Provides Insight on Housing Market in California

Signs of economic optimism continued to persist last week, particularly with respect to the housing market. Many realtors are feeling more optimistic, buyers still want to buy, and rates remain very favorable. However, the recovery is running into headwinds that have increased uncertainty about the future with key, fundamental indicators like jobless claims and consumer confidence both moving in the wrong direction. We continue to remain optimistic about the recovery, but have grown more cautious in recent weeks.

Buyer demand remains robust: Although the economy has suffered a few setbacks in recent weeks, demand for housing remains strong as mortgage applications for new purchases increased by more than 20% on a year to year basis last week. This was a slight decline from the previous week as the homebuying season begins to fade towards the end of July, but it was an acceleration compared to the same point in 2019. Record-low interest rates are likely compounding the urgency for buyers that has already been created by interest in housing that better meets their needs in a lockdown environment.

Sellers more positive in weekly survey: Sellers took a big step back during the onset of the crisis, with the percentage of consumers who respond to the monthly Housing Sentiment Index say that it was a good time to sell falling by more than half in March and April. However, those numbers have rebounded for 3 consecutive months. In addition, just 16% of Realtors surveyed over the weekend reported that they had a seller remove their home from the MLS last week—the lowest reading since we began asking the question in late-May.

Realtors are feeling more optimistic about future: Not only were fewer sellers getting cold feet, but California Realtors were feeling more optimistic about their prospects moving forward. Recently-added questions about members’ outlook show an uptick last week. The percentage of Realtors who thought listings would increase this week improved to 28% of respondents over the weekend, from 26% the week before. Similarly, 37% of members thought sales and prices would increase this week—up from 35% and 31%, respectively, the previous week.

Record-low rates significantly boost affordability in California: Despite the fact that California set a new all-time high for the median price of an existing single-family home last month, record low rates mean that the monthly principal and interest payment on that home has come down significantly from just a few years ago. In 2018, when interest rates averaged 4.7%, the median priced home costs roughly $2,460 per month. Today, the payment on the (more expensive) median priced home is just $2,160. That represents more than $100,000 in saved interest payments over the life of the loan.

Labor markets deteriorate after consistent improvements: Nationally, jobless claims increased for the first time in 15 weeks as more states clamp down on businesses to combat rising coronavirus cases. Here in California, jobless claims have been on the leading edge of this national trend rising in 6 out of the last 10 weeks. We are still well below the levels of almost 1.1 million in late March, but nearly 300,000 per week have begun to lose their jobs again in the state with likely consequences for housing demand—particularly on the rental side of the market.

Closed sales begin to decline last week: After weeks of slower growth in closed transactions, the number of homes sold per day declined (-6.3%) last week for the first time in 11 weeks. Part of this is due to slower growth as the homebuying season ramps back down towards the fall. However, this is also the result of a lack of inventory which has been stifling the uptick in pending sales since June. Indeed, prices continue to rise, which further implicates a lack of supply as this price pressure is a prime symptom of a market with excess demand.

Pending sales resume downtrend: Pending sales themselves resumed their downward trend last week—declining -3.2%—after a brief increase the previous week. We know from statistics on mortgage applications and requests for private showings that buyer demand remains robust. This means that it is the lack of new listings coming onto the market, which have not risen since early May, that continues to prevent many buyers from taking advantage of record low rates. 

Less business activity being reported by Realtors last week: Realtors were more optimistic about the future over the weekend, but they also reported less progress in their own business last week as well. 32% had a listing appointment last week, down from 33% the week before. 24% listed a property last week, which was up slightly from 23% the week before, but is down from nearly 30% back in June. 28% entered escrow on a transaction last week, which was also up from the week before (26%) but down from June. The percentage with a transaction that fell out of escrow increased from 6% of members to 7%, and only 21% had a transaction close last week—the lowest reading in over a month.

This week, there was a balance of both encouraging news and new obstacles for the recovery to surmount. California Realtors are generally feeling more optimistic, even if they did not report an actual uptick in their business last week. Due to the nature of the job losses, buyer demand is expected to remain strong in California—especially with near record low interest rates. However, ripple effects associated with more job losses and declining consumer confidence will eventually reach the purchase market if they persist so we will continue to monitor the market and the broader economy closely in coming weeks.


No Comments

Are You Ready To Buy in San Diego?

As with any major purchase, it pays to be informed prior to making any decisions. As experienced buyers already know, buying a home is a complicated process, so it’s important to start at the beginning and thoroughly understand each step. Whether you’re buying your first home or your third, make sure you have the necessary financial resources and have explored all your options before you purchase a new home.

If you’re a first-time buyer, you should weigh the pros and cons of homeownership versus renting. There are many advantages and disadvantages to consider. For example, renters have the freedom of mobility if they choose to move, but their monthly rent checks do not establish long-term equity or produce any other benefits. And while homeowners’ mortgage payments accumulate equity, these payments are generally higher than rent payments and come with the responsibility to manage the care and upkeep of the property.

Both new and experienced buyers have their own sets of financial considerations when it comes to buying a home. Move-up buyers should evaluate their financial situation to ensure they’re prepared to meet the higher mortgage payments involved with relocating. Likewise, first-time buyers should determine if monthly mortgage payments fit in their budgets. In addition, you’ll need to be prepared to cover the downpayment and closing costs. And, you should consider whether you meet the basic criteria to qualify for a mortgage; lenders prefer that applicants offer a stable job history and a good credit record.


No Comments

Record-Low Mortgage Rates. How to Take Advantage of Refinance Market in San Diego

Low mortgage rates sparked a refinance frenzy at the beginning of 2020, overburdening many lenders who simply couldn’t meet the demand. Now, a new report released Monday by data analytics company Black Knight shows just how much demand there was: More than 1.3 million homeowners refinanced during the first three months of 2020, hitting a seven-year high. 

Homeowners enjoyed record levels of home equity while facing economic uncertainty as the pandemic began rattling the country earlier this year, prompting folks to line up for lower rates. This trend has persisted into July as current refinance activity is 74% higher than this time last year, according to the latest Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey.

Rates on the 30-year fixed mortgage have steadily dropped from 3.5% in late March to 3.07% last week, Freddie Mac’s lowest recorded level, while the 15-year fixed-rate slid to 2.56%, the lowest in seven years. A recent Fannie Mae forecast pegs rates at 3% during the last three months of the year and 2.9% by early 2021. 

“The spread between the 10-year Treasury and mortgage rates is still wide, so there’s room for mortgage rates to fall. We could see rates drop to 2.7, 2.8, 2.9%,” says Ralph B. McLaughlin, chief economist and senior vice president of analytics at Haus, a co-investment platform for home ownership. “If we get a vaccine for the virus or the effects are lessened and people pull their money out of bonds, we’ll see increased yields which will drive up rates.”

Although today’s ultra-low rates give borrowers a chance to save money on a mortgage refinance, lenders have made it more difficult to qualify. We’ll tell you how to improve your chances of getting a low rate. 

Homeowners Have More Equity, but They’re Not Using it

Borrowers’ appetites for saving money via refinancing is strong, but they are not as interested in withdrawing cash from their homes, confounding some experts. 

“We are not seeing an increase in cash-out refinances, which surprised us. With the COVID impact, we thought there would be more interest in home improvement and upgrades, but that’s not the case,” says Glenn Brunker, mortgage executive at Ally Home.

In the first quarter of 2020, homeowners received an 8% boost in home equity, according to Black Knight. Propelled by an 11% hike in home values during the same quarter, the total amount of home equity in the U.S. hit a new high of $6.5 trillion.

However, homeowners were not tapping it, despite the surge in refinancing. The number of cash-out refinances decreased, bringing the cash-out refi share of total refinancing to 42% in Q1. This is the lowest volume since the beginning of 2016. 

“The decline seen in Q1 cash-out refinance lending is likely the result of a combination of factors. Credit tightening, more acutely seen among cash-out refinances, is certainly one such factor,” says Andy Walden, economist and director of market research at Black Knight. “There’s also the unfortunate reality that the homeowners most in need of tapping their equity—due to loss of income or unemployment—may now also be the least likely to qualify for the same reasons.”

It’s Tougher to Qualify for a Mortgage Refinance

Many lenders have tightened borrower requirements, trimming things like the required loan-to-value (LTV) ratio from 80% to 70% in cash-out refis and boosting FICO score minimums on all refinanced mortgages, Walden says. Black Knight reported a dramatic rise in credit scores among cash-out refinance rate locks, zooming 24 points—from 720 to 744— from January through June.

Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two biggest buyers of mortgages on the secondary market, have stiffened requirements for self-employed borrowers, as well. They now require a current audited profit-and-loss statement, showing revenue, expenses and net income as well as the last two business depository statements.

The credit crunch is a direct result of a still murky economic outlook. The Department of Labor reported there were 1.4 million unemployment claims during the last week of June, as the unemployment rate took a surprising 2.2 percentage point dip to 11.1%. Lenders likely will keep credit tight as they try to mitigate risk until the economy is on solid ground.

How To Get the Lowest Mortgage Rate

The most powerful tool borrowers have in snagging a low mortgage rate is their FICO score. This is good news, as controlling your credit score is easier than doing things like improving your disposable income by jumping income brackets. Since rates are expected to stay low, you’ll likely have time to punch up your score.

FICO scores are made up of five credit factors, and they are not weighted evenly: 

  • Payment history (35%)
  • Amounts owed (30%)
  • Length of credit history (15%)
  • Type of credit (10%)
  • New credit lines (10%)

You can improve in some of these areas more quickly than others. Here’s what to do:

Straighten your payment history over time. If you sometimes or usually pay your credit card, mortgage, auto loan bills late, this will have a negative impact on your score. The moment you begin making on-time payments, however, you’ll be on your way to a better score—it just won’t happen right away. 

Pay down debt. You can impact the amount you owe more quickly than you can improve your payment history, provided you have cash on hand. Keep in mind, FICO treats debt types differently. For example, installment loans (such as car loans) don’t have the same negative impact as high credit utilization on credit cards. You should keep your credit card balances below 30%. Maxing out your credit, even if you make on-time payments, can hurt your score.

Don’t close your credit accounts. This applies to accounts you don’t use, too, unless there’s an annual fee and you’re not reaping any benefits. Keeping accounts open will help you build a credit history, which is 15% of your FICO score. 

Shop around. Make sure you compare quotes from multiple lenders. Be sure to look at the APR, not just the interest rate. The APR is the all-in cost of borrowing, which includes lender fees as well as the rate. Lender fees vary, so comparison shopping can definitely save you money.


No Comments

San Diego Home Prices Keep Increasing – Despite COVID-19

The Case Shiller Indices show home prices keep going up, despite COVID-19.

San Diego home prices continued to increase into COVID-19’s second month and grew at a quicker pace than other California cities. 

Home prices in the San Diego metropolitan area had risen 5.8 percent in a year, the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices reported Tuesday. It was the highest annual increase since July 2018. 

Across the United States, home prices in April were up an average of 4.7 percent with experts attributing the rise to a shortage of homes for sale, low mortgage interest rates and high demand from before the crisis continuing. 

“The price trend that was in place pre-pandemic seems so far to be undisturbed, at least at the national level,” said Craig Lazzara, managing director and global head of index investment strategy at S&P Dow Jones Indices.ADVERTISING

Phoenix had the biggest annual increase of the 19 cities covered by the index at 8.8 percent. It was followed by Seattle at 7.3 percent and Minneapolis at 6.4 percent. One city normally on the index, Detroit, was left off because its recording office was closed as a result of the pandemic. Chicago had the smallest gains at 1.4 percent. 

Other California cities were behind San Diego’s nearly 6 percent gain, with Los Angeles at 4.1 percent and San Francisco at 2.8 percent. 

Selma Hepp, deputy chief economist for CoreLogic, said a lot of factors that pushed up demand in the months before COVID-19 have continued, and may even have accelerated. 

“Supply headwinds, such as declining for-sale inventories, will continue to keep a lid on the number of transactions but also push up home price growth,” she wrote. 

National homebuilding slowed considerably during the Great Recession, as the population continued to grow, which many analysts say created a lack of homes for sale. More recently, a drastic increase in sellers pulling homes off the market to wait for the virus to go away have been attributed to price wars for a limited number of properties. 

In San Diego County last year, the smallest number of housing units (apartments, single-family homes and condos) were built since 2014. The 8,053 homes constructed represented a 16 percent drop in construction, said the Real Estate Research Council of Southern California, and was the biggest homebuilding drop in Southern California. In April, the same time as the Case Shiller report, there were about 5,160 homes listed for sale, said the Redfin Data Center, a drop of 27 percent from the same time last year.

Zillow economist Matthew Speakman wrote that the April index illustrates how low mortgage interest rates fueled demand even as there were fewer homes to choose from and drove up prices. 

The mortgage rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate loan was 3.31 percent in April, according to Freddie Mac, down from 4.47 percent at the same time last year.

“Substantial risks remain and the longer-term outlook for home prices is still very much unclear, but at least for now,” Speakman wrote, “the housing market continues to cruise through this historic downturn more or less unscathed and prices seem poised to continue their ascent for the coming months.”

The Case-Shiller indices take into consideration repeat sales of identical single-family houses as they turn over through the years. Prices are adjusted for seasonal swings. The San Diego County median home price for a resale single-family home in April was $650,250, according to CoreLogic data provided by DQNews.

S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices: Yearly increase by metropolitan area:

  • Phoenix: 8.8 percent
  • Seattle: 7.3 percent
  • Minneapolis: 6.4 percent
  • Cleveland: 6 percent
  • San Diego: 5.8 percent
  • Tampa: 5.8 percent
  • Charlotte: 5.6 percent
  • Las Vegas: 4.7 percent
  • Atlanta: 4.5 percent
  • Boston: 4.3 percent
  • Portland: 4.3 percent
  • Los Angeles: 4.1 percent
  • Denver: 4 percent
  • Miami: 3.9 percent
  • Washington, D.C.: 3.8 percent
  • Dallas: 2.8 percent
  • San Francisco: 2.8 percent
  • New York: 2.5 percent
  • Chicago: 1.4 percent
  • Detroit: N/A
  • NATIONAL: 4.7 percent


No Comments

Why Aren’t More Houses for Sale in San Diego?

The top real estate story in many parts of the country is the unexpectedly low number of houses that are for sale right now. When COVID-19 hit, the number of houses being put up of sale tanked but so did the number of houses sold. Since then, in some metros, the number of houses being sold has rebounded to near normal levels but the number of houses for sale remains very low. 

Because of that low supply of houses for sale, house prices are unexpectedly strong despite the incredibly steep increase in unemployment. Are mortgage forbearance programs a factor in this low supply? Could we see a rush for the exits and a lot more houses hitting the market when the mortgage forbearance programs eventually end?

Last week Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pushed the end of their mortgage forbearance programs from July 30 to “at least” August 31. Nationally, about 9% of all mortgages are in forbearance. Of those in forbearance, about 75% are Fannie, Freddie, FHA or VA mortgages.

I’m certainly not an expert on politics but I can’t see how the government ends these mortgage forbearance programs before the November election. After that we’re in December and remember how the media blasted December foreclosures during The Great Real Estate Bubble? It became common for banks to stop all foreclosures and evictions during December.

I think it’s likely we’re looking at January before we start to see the end of mortgage forbearance programs at Fannie, Freddie, FHA and VA.

Oh yeah, after they eventually end their mortgage forbearance – the way it stands now, anyway – mortgage owners may qualify for another 180 days of forbearance.

No Hurry to Sell

As long as you’re in forbearance, you’re in no hurry to sell your house because you don’t have to make your mortgage payments anyway. If you sold your house before forbearance ended, you’d have to rent a place and actually pay rent.

A bigger reason for the low number of houses hitting the market is, of course, the recession. People sell their homes when they take new jobs and move to new cities. There’s a lot less of that going on now.

But the low supply of houses going up for sale may partly be an unintended consequence of mortgage forbearance programs. We’ve never had such programs before and don’t know what their secondary impacts might be.

A Wave of Supply Coming?

Let’s assume that having millions of mortgages in forbearance tends to lower the number of houses being put up for sale and that in turn tends to put upward pressure on house prices.

In this scenario, the upward pressure would continue until the forbearance programs ended. After that — when these homeowners have to start paying their mortgages again — the number of houses going up for sale would be above normal and that in turn would tend to put downward pressure on house prices, or at least remove some of the upward pressure.

Other Explanations?

When I first saw this problem of low supply, I assumed it was caused by home sellers being worried about COVID-19 and not wanting strangers in their homes. But if that was the case, I think we would have seen some rebound by now in the number of houses hitting the market. In Phoenix anyway, we haven’t seen more houses hitting the market. The number of houses under contract to buyers has completely rebounded and is above the level for this time last year. The number of houses being put up for sale, however, is still running at April pandemic levels.

Natural Experiment

If we start to see more and more houses being put up for sale before the forbearance programs end, that would suggest that today’s low supply of houses for sale was indeed caused by seller fears of COVID-19 and having strangers in their homes.

If, however, we don’t see that but we do see a jump in supply soon after mortgage forbearance programs end, that would suggest that the forbearance programs themselves were a significant cause of the low supply we’re seeing now.

In fact, if we do NOT see the supply of houses for sale rebound soon, that would suggest that we will see a significant increase in supply when homeowners in forbearance have to start paying their mortgages again.

Keep these scenarios in mind if you’re planning to sell your house within the next year. The real estate market dynamics might change when the mortgage forbearance programs end. It’s hard to imagine the real estate market being any better for single-family home sellers in a recession than it is right now.

Finally, maybe the low supply is being caused by something else entirely. Even before COVID-19, the number of houses hitting the market in January and February was unusually low. Whatever was driving the low supply back then may have been accentuated somehow by COVID-19 and it’s driving the even lower supply today.


No Comments

San Diego County Sees Homebuilding Increase to Start the Year

The first quarter of the year saw San Diego residential building bounce back after a slow 2019.

Homebuilding in San Diego County nearly doubled from last year in the first quarter of 2020 despite COVID-19 closures. 

While a welcome sign for housing advocates it comes with two caveats: San Diego County had the biggest drop in residential construction in Southern California last year so any uptick would look impressive. Also, much of the building in the first quarter was before the virus shut down many businesses.

The county constructed 2,313 homes — including single-family houses, condos and townhouses — in the first three months of the year, said the Real Estate Research Council of Southern California. 

That was a 96 percent increase from the same time last year, and up 48 percent from the last quarter of 2019. 

Murtaza Baxamusa, director of planning and development for the San Diego Building Trades Council, said large residential projects take years to come to fruition and it’s not always possible to pump the brakes — even during a global pandemic. 

“Once you start pouring concrete, your concrete pouring is not stopping,” he said. 

Baxamusa said job and income losses will likely slow the industry but it is too early to speculate how much. He said the first type of building to decrease will be in wooden stick frame construction, mainly for townhouses and single-family homes, but will take longer to filter out to apartment buildings.

He said stick frame operations can quickly slow down, or speed up, depending on demand. Large apartment towers, like the ones going up downtown at the moment, are much more difficult to stop once construction has started. 

Since 2015, San Diego County has typically built 9,500 to nearly 10,000 homes a year. But last year, the county was below that with 8,053 homes constructed. Industry experts cited a variety of issues for the slowdown but it was mainly attributed to a drop in apartment construction after years of intense building and declining rent gains. 

In the first quarter, single-family homes had an increase of 85 percent from last year, with 1,154 homes constructed. Multifamily construction was up 108 percent with 1,159 permits pulled. At this rate, both categories are on track to exceed or meet average building totals for the last few years. However, two statewide forecasts predict a slowdown in building. 

The California Association of Realtors predicts 84,320 homes will be built this year, down 24 percent, and the state Department of Finance predicts 89,315 homes to be constructed, down 19.5 percent. The Realtor organization’s analysts predict a slow economic recovery from the massive job losses of the last few months.

Construction was declared an essential service from the beginning of the quarantine on March 19, allowing it to be one of the industries less impacted by the shutdown. San Diego County unemployment numbers from mid-April show 4,500 construction jobs were lost from March to April, a small fraction of the total 195,000 jobs.

Alan Nevin, industry expert at Xpera Group, wrote in a recent analysis that construction still falls into a “little hurt” category for job losses, unlike “big hurt” categories of restaurants, bars, hospitality, retail and arts, entertainment and recreation. 

In his analysis for the Greater San Diego Association of Realtors, Nevin was optimistic about the home market being strong after companies start reopening. Perhaps encouraging more homebuilding, the median home price in San Diego County in April, $594,500, was up 4.3 percent in a year. 

Building permits for the first quarter included increases in retail construction, but was down for office buildings, hotels and industrial buildings. 

Residential building was up 13 percent for all of Southern California in the first quarter. San Diego County had the biggest annual increase, but was followed by Los Angeles County (up 19 percent), Riverside County (up 16 percent), and San Bernardino County (up 2 percent).

Some areas saw a drop in construction, with the most being Ventura County, down down 42 percent. It was followed by Santa Barbara County (down 40 percent) and Orange County (down 24 percent). 

Data for building permits in the research council’s report is provided by the Construction Industry Research Board, which contacts all 58 counties and 538 cities in California for permit data. It sometimes is different from the widely used Census data that provides estimates and has been criticized for a wide margin of error.


No Comments

California Real Estate Housing Update During Covid-19

Light At The End of the Tunnel, but Recovery Will Take Time

The California housing market is showing signs of recovery in recent weeks. Home sales are expected to fall further in June, after declining with the fastest pace since December 2007 in April. However, consistent improvement in housing demand in the past few weeks suggests a solid bounce back in upcoming months. In fact, since bottoming out in early April, pending sales have improved by more than 100%.

Other indicators suggest a stronger performance for housing in the months ahead as well. After declining by nearly 75% from where we started the year, the number of showings booked through increased to just 0.3% below the same point last year. That puts the number of showings up by more than 50% on a weekly basis from where we started 2020 and 13.2% higher than the pre-crisis levels of late February. In addition, new purchase mortgage applications in California finally exceeded 2019 levels for the first time last week, after weeks of decline since the pandemic lock-down. Both represent strong, and consistent, signs that buyer demand is returning.

Tight housing supply could remain an issue though. One reason closed sales may see a slow upward trajectory is that new supply is not rebounding as quickly as buyer demand in California. Pending sales were only down slightly at the end of May, but the pace of new listings coming onto the market has been flat or down for the past five weeks. Thus, even as the economy starts to open and buyer demand starts to return, new supply is desperately needed in order to maintain an uptrend in pending sales so that closed transactions can actually rise.

Home prices have remained fairly stable up to this point, but more discounting recently implies softening prices in the future. The percentage of active listings and closed sales that have been reduced from their original listing price gone up in the last few weeks. However, the magnitude of the discounts has been shrinking and was between a median of 3.5% and 4% over the past two weeks compared with 4% to 4.5% back in early May.

The economic and market data shifted toward a less pessimistic tone at the end of May with many critical indicators showing signs of life. However, real estate remains poised for ongoing challenges over the next few months as the ripple effects of over 40 million job losses continue to play out. We are seeing that light shining at the end of the tunnel, but it is likely still several months out before we truly emerge from the darkness.


No Comments

Rising Home Sales Show Americans Are Looking Past the Coronavirus

Americans are behaving very differently than they have in previous recessions — convinced that the coronavirus pandemic will soon pass, many continue to spend money as if nothing has changed.

Driving the news: The latest example of this trend is the Commerce Department’s new home sales report, which showed home sales increased in April despite nationwide lockdowns that banned real estate agents in some states from even showing listed houses.

Sales of newly built homes rose by 1% in April compared with March, dramatically outpacing economists’ expectations for a 22% decline.

What we’re hearing: “I am quite surprised about the resiliency of the housing market,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, tells Axios.

“My reading is that both buyers and sellers believe there will be no price reductions,” he adds. “Sellers are listing their homes as if there is no pandemic.”

What’s happening: Yun says there are four main factors driving the market’s strength.

Dwindling supply as a result of fewer homes being built in recent years and older people not moving.

Historically low mortgage rates.

The CARES Act moratorium on residential foreclosures for borrowers with federally backed mortgage loans.

Consumers who were locked out of the market in 2019 and are confident prices will continue to rise even in the face of the recession.

The intrigue: Much of the purchasing over the last few months has been done by home buyers rather than investors, NAR’s data shows, and the most sought-after properties are lower- and mid-priced houses. Higher-priced properties are seeing limited demand and a glut of supply.

Between the lines: While the prices of new homes declined slightly in April, those for existing homes rose to the highest level on record and Yun expects to see them increase by 5% by the end of the year, touching new record highs.

Yes, but: The pandemic looks to be accelerating an “unhealthy development” in the U.S. housing market — the lack of affordable housing for young adults and middle-class Americans.

“Prices have risen consistently above people’s income growth,” Yun says. “It has been happening for six or seven straight years.”

Watch this space: The bullish sentiment may not last forever, Yun warns, but he sees no signs that it will fade any time soon.

“There are unknowns out there, but so far the housing market is surprising on the upside in terms of buyers chasing few supplies and bidding up the price.”

Confidence in the housing market also is evident in expectations about the future held by consumers.

While the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index has fallen by 30 points from its March level, expectations about the next six months in the May survey were 10 points higher than in March.

In fact, the expectations index rose to its highest level since September.

Why it matters: Consumer confidence is likely helping drive asset prices higher, including the stock market, as hopes are rising for a quick economic rebound despite warnings from economists of long-lasting damage.

What happened: The Dow jumped 530 points to close at 24,995 while the broader S&P 500 rose 1.2% on Tuesday, led by airline stocks, which made up one-third of the 15 biggest gainers on the S&P.

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise each rose 15% and Carnival jumped 13%.


No Comments

The Economy is Tanking. So Why Aren’t Home Prices Dropping?

COVID-19 has caused volatility in seemingly everything but housing

More than 38 million Americans have lost their jobs since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay-at-home orders have ground much of the economy to a halt, prompting trillions in stimulus spending by the federal government in hopes of keeping industries afloat.

But anyone hoping a silver lining to the economic chaos would be deals in the housing market have thus far been disappointed; for the week ending May 9, the median listing price in the United States was up 1.4 percent year-over-year, according to Existing home sales in April fell by almost 18 percent, but prices rose 7.4 percent compared to a year ago.

Why isn’t the tanking economy bringing home prices down with it? It’s a reasonable question given that so much of the economy moves in lockstep, and the last economic crisis in 2008 sent the housing market into free fall.

So what’s different this time around? Let’s break it down. The price of anything is a function of the relationship between supply and demand. Generally, home prices have been pushed up over the last 5 years by high demand created by a then-booming economy and a low supply of housing for sale, due in part to relatively low levels of housing construction and available land on which to build.

After the outbreak of the pandemic, housing demand fell as buyers lost their jobs, part of their income, or simply didn’t want to be shopping for a house in the middle of a viral outbreak and what figures to be a period of great economic uncertainty.

Demand dropping was evident in a number of metrics. Although a weak indicator of buyer demand, traffic to real estate portals like Zillow and Redfin dropped significant in the beginning of the outbreak, as did more reliable indicators like pending home sales and weekly mortgage applications.

Usually, a huge drop in demand would put downward pressure on prices; home sellers would be competing with each other to attract a limited number of buyers by dropping their asking price. But while housing demand has dropped substantially, housing supply also dropped in lockstep as potential home sellers pulled out of the market for many of the same reasons buyers are.

New home listings is a good indicator of housing supply, and after stay-at-home orders were enacted, new home listings cratered by as much as 80 percent year-over-year. Redfin reported that 41 percent of offers were subject to a bidding war over the last month, suggesting demand is outpacing supply—just as it was before the pandemic.

While both supply and demand have dropped, the relationship between the two went largely unchanged, meaning the drops in supply and demand were generally proportional to each other. Furthermore, home sales also dropped after the pandemic hit, and it’s hard for prices to move when there aren’t as many housing transactions to make prices move in aggregate. Together, this leaves prices much where they were before the pandemic.

This is consistent with how housing markets have fared in previous pandemics. A Zillow study looked at housing markets in cities hit by previous pandemics in Asia and found that whole activity dropped, home prices didn’t move much. A good way to think about the housing market at this moment is that it’s on pause—buyers and sellers have left the market, transactions have dropped in response, and prices aren’t moving.

For a comparison point, the relationship between supply and demand was very different before and during the 2008 financial crisis. Prior to the collapse, shady lending practices created excess demand for housing by bringing unqualified buyers to the market. Home builders responded by increasing construction to meet this demand.

When the financial system locked up, it brought the excess housing demand to a halt because banks weren’t able to lend in the same volume—not to mention the recession the collapse induced, which caused unemployment to rise and buyers to drop out of the market.

At the same time, banks foreclosed on houses in the millions. Given housing supply was already high from home builders constructing in excess, this sudden pile up of foreclosed houses created a nightmare scenario for the market—low demand and very high supply. Home prices plummeted.

This scenario is highly unlikely to play out again for two reasons. First, there was already a housing supply shortage prior to the pandemic, so any addition to the housing supply wouldn’t be exacerbating an existing over-supply problem, like in 2008.

Second, a foreclosure crisis on the scale of 2008 is unlikely, at least in the near-term, because the federal government has placed a moratorium on foreclosures on federally backed mortgages and directed the mortgage industry to offer mortgage forbearance for up to a year to homeowners who have been impacted financially by the pandemic.

Assuming this stays in place, a wave of foreclosures won’t lead to a supply spike that puts downward pressure on home prices, but given the situation is fluid, it can’t be ruled out that the federal moratorium is lifted.

And historically, the financial crisis was an aberration with regard to how recessions typically impact housing markets. While 2008 obviously destroyed the housing market, previous recessions have barely moved at all. If anything, prices went up.

While the current conditions haven’t led to a short-term price drop, the long-term economic trends induced will likely effect prices in the future. Zillow economist Skylar Olsen says Zillow is forecasting a price drop of 2 to 3 percent through the end of 2020, depending on the city, compared to where prices were in February.

“We don’t expect prices to fall by too much, at least nothing like the last crisis because housing in general is much more resilient than it was last time,” she says. “We didn’t have excess building driven by excess credit that drove excess homeowners. We don’t have excess in housing.”

There are faint signals that housing markets are slowly building back up. Demand metrics like mortgage applications are up, and pending home sales have returned close to their normal in cities less impacted by the pandemic.

However, pending home sales in cities hit hardest on the coasts remain down significantly year-over-year. And markets across the country remain supply constrained, as new home listings remain down year-over-year even in cities that haven’t been hit has hard by the pandemic.