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The urgency for buyers cannot be stressed enough; real estate prices are not projected to decline in the Greater Phoenix area in 2020. There is not one measure from any angle that supports that theory. Not only will they not decline, they will not stop rising this year at the current levels of supply and demand.
On January 9th, active supply was counted at just over 12,000 listings for all of Greater Phoenix. This is down 32% from this time last year and excruciatingly low. To put it in perspective, a “normal” level of inventory should be at least 28,000 - 30,000 active listings in the MLS for a metropolis the size of Maricopa and Pinal County. The last time inventory was recorded this low was in 2005 at 9,000 listings with a population of 3.8M. Now Greater Phoenix has 4.8M people with less than 1% of existing housing available for sale. With monthly sales up 17% over last year, fueled by population growth, job growth, income growth and low interest rates in the area, sellers have few reasons to sell below market value. It’s not logical to expect prices to soften in this environment.
Buyers who have been waiting for sales prices to decline before they purchase have nearly missed the boat. This is because while they were watching prices rise, the payments for those same homes declined for a year with declining mortgage rates. However, when mortgage rates stabilized 6 months ago, hovering around an average of 3.75%, payments started to creep up again.
In short, if someone wants to purchase a home and they have the means, then they should lock into one. They should expect competing offers, expect to lose some opportunities, and expect to do some upgrades. They should also expect to live in their new home for at least 5 years to build up enough equity to mitigate the risk of ups and downs in the future.
This is an exciting time for those who need to sell. Anyone who owns property has probably been contacted multiple times by multiple means throughout the year by people wanting to buy their home. While sellers are under much less pressure to perform repairs and upgrades in order to sell their home, it doesn’t mean that they will sell it as quickly or for as much as those that are move-in ready. But, it will sell in this market. Those who are considering selling to an internet investor buyer (aka iBuyers who offer some up-front certainty and convenience in the selling process), should know that they still have negotiating power in the transaction and have the option to be represented by a Realtor if they choose.
Commentary written by Tina Tamboer, Senior Housing Analyst with The Cromford Report
©2020 Cromford Associates LLC and Tamboer Consulting LLC
In follow up to the article I wrote last month regarding the initial steps to purchasing a home, I thought I would write one about if you’re thinking about selling your home. This won’t be the actual process of selling, but a discussion of the thought process and steps you can take in advance of actually putting your home on the market.
First, start by working backwards. This includes 2 things, where you going to live next, and when do you want to move into your new home. This is important, because it will provide less chance of having to scramble to find a home should your current home sell very quickly.
If you’re not considering to purchase a home after moving from your current home, this will make it much easier on the timeframe, depending on what you’ll be exactly looking to move into. However, if you are considering purchasing a new home once your current home sells, then you’ll most likely be looking at a “contingency purchase”. You can see my blog for a good article in how this process works. Generally speaking in the early process, you’ll just want to know approximately where you want to move, your rough budget and available inventory with those parameters to see if homes you might like are most likely to be on the market when its time for you to start shopping.
If you are planning to purchase a home after selling your current home, you should check into financing, if needed as soon as possible. It's important to know that you won’t have any problems with obtaining a mortgage on the future purchase, since you might not be able to stop the sell of your current home without breaching the contract with your buyer. Even if you aren’t going to be purchasing for 6-9 months away, contact the lender to see what you can do to either improve your credit score, establish a down payment goal etc..
As far as timeframe is concerned, a fairly good rule of thumb to follow is:
1-2 weeks to prepare to go on market
60 days on market before accepting a contract (this number can widely vary depending on market for your home - this is the current Maricopa County average)
30-40 days to close the transaction after offer acceptance
Based on the above timeframe, it takes about 3-5 months from start to finish once you start the selling process. Keep in mind, timeframes could vary depending on market style for your home, if the buyer is paying cash or financing, and how inventory compares to demand.
While considering all the above, you’ll want to also be considering what Realtor you will use to help with the process - obviously I hope that its me! Items to consider would be work experience, location in which they are familiar selling, what resources they’ll use to market the property in addition to their opinion of value and marketing timeframe.
Strong reads on the economy have researchers at mortgage giant Fannie Mae revising their 2020 housing forecast much higher.
Fannie Mae’s Economic and Strategic Research Group predicts builders will expand production more than previously expected, due to a strong labor market and robust consumer spending. Low mortgage rates will also help.
After increasing just over 1% annually this year, growth in single-family housing starts will accelerate to 10% during 2020 and top 1 million new homes in 2021, the group predicts. That would mark a post-recession high but is still far below the annual peak of about 1.7 million single-family starts in 2005 and the 1.2 million annual pace experienced in the late ’90s.
Single-family housing starts have been improving steadily since May, and building permits, an indicator of future construction, are also trending higher.
“It will likely take several years, even at a more robust pace, for new construction to address the existing pent-up demand for additional housing, as suggested by a still-increasing share of 25- to 34 year-olds living at home with their parents,” according to the report.
The shortage of existing homes for sale has pushed more potential buyers to the new-build market. Mortgage applications to purchase a newly built home were up 27% annually in November, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Homebuilder sentiment jumped to the highest level in 20 years in December, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
“We now expect single-family housing starts and sales of new homes to increase substantially, aided by a large uptick in new construction as builders work to replenish inventories drawn down by the recent surge in new home sales activity,” said Fannie Mae chief economist Doug Duncan.
The increase in construction, however, is unlikely to ease the overall housing shortage. Researchers at Fannie Mae are predicting a modest decline in existing home sales through the third quarter of 2020, due to the shortage of listings.
Overall housing demand is incredibly high, especially at the lower end of the market, where builders are least active. Prices are rising fastest on the low end, sidelining some first-time buyers.
“This stronger price appreciation is also having the unfortunate effect of partially offsetting savings to potential homebuyers from lower mortgage rates,” Duncan said.
The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage is hovering just below 4%, a full percentage point lower than where it was a year ago. Low rates are boosting already strong demographic demand drivers in the market. Millennials, who delayed buying homes because of the recession, are now flooding into new and existing homes.
“Housing appears poised to take a leading role in real GDP growth over the forecast horizon for the first time in years, further bolstering our modest-but-solid growth forecasts through 2021,” said Duncan.
19% of Homes Sold Over Asking Price
24% of Sellers Agreed to Closing Cost Assistance
Supply shortages created an environment of multiple offers and listings sold over asking price last month. This is especially evident among listings between $125K-$250K where 26% sold over asking price in November compared to the overall percentage of 19% in Greater Phoenix. In a normal market, we would expect 10-15% of listings to be sold over asking price.
That statistic may sound hopeless to a buyer who may not have the means or stomach to pay over asking price. However, 24% of sellers agreed to pay some form of closing cost assistance to buyers in November as well. This measure increases to 32.5% on sales between $125K-$250K, the primary price point for first-time home buyers.
The West Valley has the largest share of homes listed between $125K-$250K at 46%. Pinal County has 31%, the Northeast Valley has 12% and the Southeast Valley has just 10%. Given this information, it’s not surprising that the West Valley has both a large share of transactions involving seller-paid closing costs combined with a higher-than-average percentage of homes sold over asking price. Pinal County, on the other hand, has a large percentage of seller-paid closing costs, but a lower-than-average percentage of homes sold over list price.
More expensive areas with average sale prices over $500K have significantly fewer sales involving seller-paid closing costs (as would be expected) and a much lower-than-average percentage of homes sold over asking price, but things have been exciting for this market so far this year. Sales over $500K are up over 16.5% year-to-date over last year, but most impressive is the 21% increase in sales over $2M! Typically the second half of the year is flat for luxury sales in this range, but this year contracts in escrow have soared 42% over 2018’s level in the last 3 months.
Also impressive is a 24% gain in sales between $500K-$600K, which was helped by an increase in the FHFA loan limit to $484,350 last year. In 2020, that limit is set to rise again to $510,400. This means it may get a little easier for buyers to qualify for more expensive homes and that’s good news for sellers.
Sellers in the mid $300K price range are getting a boost too. FHA is raising their loan limit in 2020 from $314,827 to $331,760. FHA financing is an option for buyers who may have less-than-favorable credit and lower down payments. This is good news for both buyers who can’t move up in price due to the existing limit and sellers who are just out of reach for these buyers.
Commentary written by Tina Tamboer, Senior Housing Analyst with The Cromford Report
©2019 Cromford Associates LLC and Tamboer Consulting LLC
The transition from renter to homebuyer is a big one.
Owning your own home gives you assurance that your monthly housing costs will never go up, (assuming you get a fixed-rate mortgage). Landlords can jack up your rent when you are least expecting it.
But home ownership also comes with added responsibility. When something breaks in your rental unit, it's a quick call to the landlord to get it fixed. Homeowners are on the hook for both making and financing any repairs.
It's a big financial leap to becoming a homeowner. Experts recommend asking yourself these questions before you start out house hunt:
Take the time to calculate how much home you can afford to buy.
This isn't the time to ballpark numbers. Overcommitting to a mortgage payment can leave you house poor, meaning there's very little money left over at the end of the month for other things.
Add up all your spending, including current rent, food, transportation and discretionary expenses like travel, eating out and entertainment Don't forget to include debts like student loans and car payments.
Once you know how much you have coming in and going out each month, determine a number you can afford to spend on housing.
Generally, personal finance experts recommend aiming to spend around 28% of your monthly income on housing.
Getting pre-approved for a loan will also help give you a sense of your housing budget. But note that just because a bank agreed to give you a loan, doesn't mean you have to spend that much.
"In my experience, [lenders] are always trying to get [buyers] to buy a home for more than they can afford or are comfortable with," said Francine Duke, a certified financial planner in the Chicago area and former mortgage underwriter.
You don't need a 20% down payment to get a loan. But putting more down can work in your favor. It can help you get better lending rates, beat out the competition in hot housing markets and will lower the amount of interest you pay over the life of a loan.
You can get a mortgage with as little as a 3.5% down, but anything less than 20% means paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), which will increase your monthly payment.
Working to save for a large down payment shows financial responsibility and gets you used to living on a strict budget.
"When you really work to save enough to get 15%-20%, it shows you have a meaningful commitment," said Bill Van Sant, certified financial planner and senior vice president at Univest Wealth Management.
Your bank account shouldn't be zero after closing.
You should still have an emergency savings fund that will cover around three to six months of living expenses on hand.
In addition to the emergency fund, Van Sant recommends having six to nine months of mortgage expenses available.
"First-time homebuyers are typically looking at older homes because of their lower price point, and they require more work. You need that 'hanging around' money, in case the A/C or heater goes."
You want to get your credit score as high as possible when shopping for a mortgage. The higher the score, the better the lending terms and rates.
A credit score of 750 and up is generally considered excellent and will make you the most attractive borrower.
Your debt-to-income ratio plays a major role in the health of your finances.
You can calculate your debt-to-income ratio by adding up all your monthly debt payments and dividing it by your gross monthly income.
The general rule of thumb is your debt should not exceed 43% of your available credit to take out a mortgage.
If you don't plan on staying in an area for more than a couple of years, buying a house might not make financial sense.
The huge upfront investment including the price of the home, plus the added costs like taxes, closing costs and escrow fees, might take a while to pay off.
"Make sure you have roots there and will be staying," said Van Sant. "Some Millennials have no problem not being tied down to an area and jump around the country ... buying might not be the best bet if you don't plan on sticking around."
Home sales will drop, the housing shortage could become the worst in U.S. history, and home values will shrink in some cities. That’s the 2020 forecast from realtor.com, which holds one of the largest databases of housing statistics available.
Sales of existing homes will fall 1.8% from 2019, according to the forecast. Home prices will flatten nationally, increasing just 0.8% annually, but prices will fall in a quarter of the 100 largest metropolitan markets, including Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, Miami, St. Louis, Detroit and San Francisco.
It is a seemingly contrary assessment, given the current strength of the economy and of homebuyer demand, but the dynamics of this housing market are unlike any other — the result of a housing crash unlike any other.
“Real estate fundamentals remain entangled in a lattice of continuing demand, tight supply and disciplined financial underwriting,” said George Ratiu, senior economist at realtor.com. “Accordingly, 2020 will prove to be the most challenging year for buyers, not because of what they can afford but rather what they can’t find.”
It’s all about supply. The inventory of homes for sale has been falling steadily for several years and is at its lowest on the lowest end of the market. That caused prices to overheat, weakening affordability. The 2020 forecast offers no relief, in fact just the opposite. As demand heats up in the spring, driven by the growing number of millennials entering the market, the supply of homes for sale could hit its lowest in history. The situation will only be exacerbated by the baby boom generation, which, according to the forecast, will have little incentive to sell, given weaker home prices.
“While millennials share many similar traits with prior generations, they have been marked by a delay in major life milestones, including starting a family and purchasing a home,” said Ratiu. “Millennials not only purchased a higher-priced first home but faced with growing families, many of them skipped the traditional starter home and moved straight to a mid-priced, trade-up home.”
That dynamic will continue in 2020 and added pressure on the middle range of the market. Millennials will dominate the housing market, accounting for 50% of all mortgages by spring, according to the forecast. Just short of 5 million millennials will turn 30, which is when many people buy their first home, and the oldest will turn 39, generally when family dynamics kick in and people move to larger homes in the suburbs.
Single-family construction will increase in 2020, up 6% annually, according to the forecast, but that will not alleviate the supply crunch. Part of that is due to the very slow recovery of the nation’s homebuilders, who began rebuilding their businesses after the historic housing crash mostly in the move-up and luxury markets.
On the bright side, builders are well-positioned to increase profits thanks to the shortage of existing homes for sale.
“We believe homebuilders are poised to enter 2020 with some of the strongest supply/demand fundamentals we’ve seen in the 10-year housing recovery to date,” Raymond James housing analyst Buck Horne wrote in an October note to investors. “Homebuyers responded convincingly to lower mortgage rates this summer, leading to a re-acceleration of home price appreciation across most markets.”
Sellers, however, have yet to meet the incremental demand with additional new supply in most markets, Horne noted.
More homeowners are staying longer, according to real estate brokerage Redfin, which analyzed Census data. The typical American homeowner has spent 13 years in their home, up from eight years in 2010, as more households are choosing to age in place.
The supply of entry-level homes is also well below historical levels because during the foreclosure crisis, investors bought millions of distressed properties and turned them into rentals. The bulk of these properties were on the lower end of the price spectrum. The expectation was that as home prices recovered, investors would sell the homes, pocket the profits and return the housing supply to its previous level. That did not happen. The single-family rental market was so strong that investors held the homes, built large-scale, multicity service and maintenance platforms and created a new asset class for even bigger investors to fuel.
“The supply of rental properties has risen in tandem with demand, while new residential construction has lagged, placing the rental market in a good position to offer alternatives for buyers priced out of their markets,” said Ratiu. “However, the affordability challenge will continue to cast a shadow over housing in 2020, as both home prices and rents remain elevated.”
Contracts In Escrow Up 19% Over Last Year
Despite Rising Prices, Affordability is Good
Buyers waiting for prices to come down have been sorely disappointed so far in 2019. The average sale price per square foot is up 6.7% since last November and the median sales price is now $283,000, up $21,000 from last November’s measure of $262,000.
Despite rising prices, affordability has remained normal throughout the year. One relevant factor is Private Sector Earnings in Greater Phoenix has risen 4.5% annually as interest rates have continually declined. The median family income was measured at $72,900 last quarter and families making that income could afford 68% of what sold last quarter (according to the HOI index published by the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo). The historical norm for our market is 60-75%.
Clearly not all buyers have parked on the fence, demand has been hovering 6-7% above normal for our area for about 4 months while supply is 44% below normal. The only measurable relief for buyers is last month’s supply level was 47% below normal, so it’s 3% less hard to find something suitable.
The number of listings under contract may have declined 26% from its May seasonal peak, but it’s nearly 19% higher than it was this time last year. This, combined with monthly sales up nearly 15% over last year, is a solid indicator that year-end closings will outperform last year despite a shaky start.
Single Family permits (future supply) are up 4.6% year-to-date and multi-family permits are up 6.4%, reaching a level not seen since 2007. Single family home sales are up 5.7%, but new town home and condo sales are down a whopping 30%, which is surprising. Resale condos and townhomes have increased in sales volume this year, so the drop in sales for new construction despite an increase in permits indicates that much of the multi-family units constructed are not for individual sale but are for rent.
This is good news if you’re planning to sell your condo because the majority of developments are not competing for buyers. This is not good news if you’re renting your condo nearby because that’s an increase in competing units for renters. “Apartment style” private condo rental rates per square foot have grown less than 1% over the course of 3.5 years according to the Arizona Regional MLS records.
Commentary written by Tina Tamboer, Senior Housing Analyst with The Cromford Report
©2019 Cromford Associates LLC and Tamboer Consulting LLC
Anyone out hunting for an affordable home today knows that the pickings are slim – and they are about to get slimmer.
Housing inventory hit a record low about two years ago, but a lull in home sales over the past year helped build back much-needed supply, especially in the mid-priced range. Then a sharp drop in rates this summer brought demand back and depleted that supply dramatically.
National housing inventory fell 2.5% annually in September, a sharper decline than August’s 1.8% decrease, according to realtor.com
Supply has always been leanest on the low end, as investors have been very active in that price range since the foreclosure crisis.
Roughly 5 million mostly entry-level homes have been turned into single-family rentals, and strong demand for those rentals means investors are unlikely to put the homes up for sale anytime soon.
In addition, an unseasonably strong surge in demand at the end of summer and into this fall now has the supply of homes priced below $200,000 down 10% compared with a year ago.
The demand is being fueled by lower mortgage rates. The average rate on the 30-year fixed surged over 5% last November and stayed above 4.5% through March, according to Mortgage News Daily. That made for a lackluster spring housing market, traditionally the busiest time for buying.
Rates then began falling in May and particularly sharply in July and August. By the start of September the average rate was around 3.5%, and sales of both new and existing homes were surging back. Clearly there was substantial pent-up demand from the spring.
Demand also surged in the move-up market, causing supplies there to fall as well. The supply of homes priced between $200,000 and $750,000, which make up 60% of the market, flatlined in September, after 18 months of strong inventory growth. Supply is now expected to decline in the months ahead.
“If, or better yet, when inventory in this segment begins to take a downturn, the vast majority of homebuyers are going to feel its effects as their options rapidly dwindle,” said George Ratiu, senior economist at realtor.com. “September inventory trends, especially in the mid-market, may be the canary in the coal mine that we could be headed for even lower levels of inventory in early 2020.”
The nation’s homebuilders are not helping the situation much either. Single-family housing starts have been rising very slowly, but mostly in the move-up and luxury segments of the market.
“It’s not just the overall supply of new construction that’s gone down, but the supply of starter homes, so it’s the affordability challenge at the entry level that’s been a particular challenge,” said Robert Dietz, chief economist of the National Association of Home Builders. “Right now only about 10% of newly-built home sales are priced under $200,000. Five years ago that share was 1 in 5, and 10 years ago it was 40% of new home sales were priced under $200,000.”
Builders are unlikely to catch up with demand, according to Dietz, who said the market is now undersupplied by about 1 million housing units. Builders may want to build more at the entry level, but they are not able to given the current costs.
“We’ve faced what has been called a perfect storm of supply side challenges,” noted Dietz. “There has been an ongoing labor shortage, we lack the necessary land and lots to build homes, we’ve had building material cost concerns, and then probably the most important factor has been higher regulatory costs since the great recession.”
Builders are therefore putting up pricier homes, but that’s the category with the most supply. In fact, the supply of homes price above $750,000 was 4.7% higher in September compared with September 2018.
Higher demand for homes and lower supply will likely reignite the gains in home prices. Price gains had been shrinking throughout much of this year, but they have now stabilized, and in some markets the increases are widening again.
If mortgage rates should turn higher, then demand could fall back and price gains ease, but if they stay in the current low range, it is very likely that the housing shortage will only get worse, setting the nation up for an incredibly competitive and expensive spring 2020 market.