Week's Housing News Included a Tuesday Surprise
With Felton's housing news behaving pretty much in line with the rest of the nation’s—that is, exactly as expected for a brisk spring selling season—you don’t usually expect to see much eye-catching housing news in the national press. That’s why last week’s USA Today Money section’s front page story was interesting. Inside, there was more, too. Tucked inside the same section was “THE WEEK AHEAD” which provided a day-by-day schedule about imminent housing news releases—a welcome heads-up for any devoted local housing news observer. I’ll get back to how that wound up working out later...
The lead housing news item, headlined “AS RENT GOES UP, SO MAY HOUSING MARKET,” centered on the sort of shift that can wind up being indicative of something: for the first time in at least five years, they found “a milestone that should spur the sluggish home-buying market.”
That milestone was a rise in U.S. median rent prices, which climbed 4% from a year earlier—the most robust increase since March 2013. A little less firm was what the ‘something’ that this indicated, but the balance of opinion seems to be that the climbing rent number will prod more renters into buying a place of their own. This seems a reasonable enough takeaway, and it’s one that is supported by history. Underlying that conclusion is another contributing factor: “multifamily construction fell off a cliff after the…financial crisis in the late 2000s…”, so the tightening availability of rentals also factors in.
The item ends with a slightly contrary (and logical) point: rising rents means it will be tougher for tenants to save up for down payments, all the more because rents are now rising faster than wages.
That earlier-mentioned “THE WEEK AHEAD” article on the second page had a list of real estate news reports that were scheduled to be released last week. It was headlined, “Data may point to warmth,” and was indeed more real estate news (rather than a weather update). But the optimism about warm spring weather possibly pointing to a rise in home builder sentiment was slightly chilled when the actual report came out: sentiment dropped two points in May.
Housing starts data were scheduled to be released on Tuesday—and this one turned out to be GREAT! The Census Bureau “surprised the market” with the strongest monthly report for starts and permits in 7 ½ years—soaring 20+% in April (with single family housing up 16% from March). So, one has to wonder: if home builders are less optimistic than predicted, why are they breaking out the hammers and saws so energetically? The housingwire.com website thought it represented a rebound from “weather-depressed” previous numbers…so maybe the “Data may point to warmth” headline had been right, after all.
The rest of the real estate news releases for the week were less interesting because they centered on reaction to the Federal Reserve’s release of the minutes of their meeting, which (let’s face it) are traditionally confusingly vague. But the week was slated to end with Friday’s Labor Department release of consumer prices, as indeed it did: price rises slowed to 0.1% from the 0.2% in March. Good news, also. All in all, Felton readers had to come away from the spate of housing news with a considerably warmer feeling than they’d had for much of the winter.
- Written by Russell Stucki
First-Timers Needn't Shy Away from Their First Home Purchase
They really ought to teach this stuff in school: real-life, day-to-day economics. Felton youngsters out on their own for the first time are usually left to trial and error when it comes to mastering things like how to lay out a personal budget or use credit advantageously. Or even how to go about selecting a bank, or opening a checking account…
So when it comes to buying their first Felton home, it’s very common for newcomers to put off confronting the whole daunting issue. When you’re still new to your career, tackling a purchase involving years’ worth of income channeled through a maze of unfamiliar procedures is easy to put off. But when the delay stretches well past the point in their financial lives when it would be clearly advantageous to own rather than to continue renting, it’s the same thing as throwing hard-earned cash overboard.
They really ought to teach this stuff in school! That having been said, here is a broad-brush, very basic rundown of the lay of the land aimed at first time Felton home buyers:
Since the asking price for even the most modest Felton home is a number with multiple zeros on the end, you might assume that common sense indicates it’s out of reach. All the more so if early mistakes handling credit cards or student loan troubles have damaged your credit score. The good news is that potential home buyers with less than outstanding credit can still buy that first home—given some careful financial planning and research on your part.
· The most important factor banks use to determine your mortgage eligibility is your FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) credit score. The numbers range from 300 to 850, are based on a number of factors including how much debt you have and your payment history. In general, borrowers will need a credit score of at least 650 to qualify for a conventional home mortgage loan.
· BUT, it’s not the only factor. Although your credit score tops the list of elements that determine your eligibility for a mortgage, banks will also consider the amount of money you can commit to a down payment. Saving up may delay your first home purchase, and definitely takes discipline…but today, the amount you need is changing. Different lending institutions have different rules for determining eligibility, and some offer-
· Non-conventional loans. Today, first-time home buyers with relatively low credit scores can often secure such loans. You should research Felton banks to find those currently offering non-conventional loans to borrowers with qualifying credit histories. You should also consider a Federal Housing Authority (FHA) loan, which eases credit requirements. For example, you might qualify for an FHA loan with a credit score as low as 580 with a down payment of just 3.5%!
· You can also use money from an IRA for your down payment. In other circumstances, withdrawing money from your IRA before age 59 ½ means paying a 10% penalty, but that rule doesn’t apply when you use your IRA to purchase a first home!
- Written by Russell Stucki
Felton Mortgage Credit Easing Expectations Follow U.S. Thaw
How easy or hard it is for Felton home buyers to secure a mortgage with attractive terms is a key element in the local real estate picture. Felton mortgage credit provides the oil that that keeps residential home sales moving smoothly; that, or it becomes a damper (or even something close to an emergency brake!).
The Felton mortgage credit situation is largely a reflection of what’s going on in the greater financial world, where the corporate banking interests, world economic conditions, and political realities converge. It is in that greater arena where the counterproductive effects of tightening mortgage credit availability have been acknowledged for some time. At first, it seemed to be little more than talk, but recently, changes have been stirring. The resulting tinkering seems to be taking effect.
“U.S. consumers are finding it easier to get a mortgage,” was last Thursday’s finding by CNBC in their Reality Check. The commentary was headlined “A CREDIT THAW IS OFFERING MORE MORTGAGE OPTIONS.” In fact, it fairly bristled with refrigeration metaphors. Following “years of near frozen credit following the financial crisis” there was now “heat behind the credit thaw.” If you expected that the source of the heat was the springtime improvement in Felton's weather, you were mistaken. It was “simple clarification.”
The simple clarification lies in a chain of repercussions that requires some clarification of their own. It has to do with the usual suspects: Fannie and Freddie. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the guarantors behind the majority of mortgage credit in Felton and throughout the country) had sued lenders left and right following the subprime mortgage market mess. It cost the banks and mortgage companies billions through lawsuits and loan buybacks. Lenders, who like many of us don’t like to lose billions, became understandably gun-shy. They demanded near-pristine credit from borrowers, because they didn’t want Fannie and Freddie (and sometimes their Uncle, Sam) to come after them again.
Rates may have been terrific, but for way too many Felton would-be borrowers, those rates were attached to loans that weren’t being offered. It wasn’t exactly Bait-and-Switch; more like Bait-and-Goodbye. But new rules that clarify which loans are considered safe by the semi-governmental concerns have done away with a considerable degree of lender concern. Added to the nationwide increase in activity (the Mortgage Bankers Association registered a single month increase of 17% in new home applications in March), it seems likely that the defrosting described by CNBC should continue well past cherry blossom time.
- Written by Russell Stucki
Felton Empty-Nesters - Sizeable Group of Prospective Buyers
One strategy for selling your Felton home is to recognize the segment of the general public most likely to appreciate its inherent features, then be sure your sales approach will appeal to them. That doesn’t mean you will turn your back on all the other groups of buyers, of course—but it does mean you will make a deliberate effort to be especially sensitive to that group’s preferences, and highlight the features that are most likely to top their wish lists.
When the Target Audience is Empty-Nesters…
The majority of current Felton empty-nesters belong to the baby boomer generation. They are somewhere between 50 and 68 years of age, and there are about 75 million of them in the U.S.—nearly a quarter of the population. Empty-nesters are parents who currently don’t have any of their kids living with at home. Most empty-nest buyers are looking for a permanent address to settle down in as they hit their later years. The question is, what features make a home most desirable to empty nesters?
What can be slightly tricky about general rules for selling a home to this population is that although most are set on downsizing, they don’t want to feel shoehorned into their space, either. Empty-nesters are often moving out of a home that has become demonstrably too large after the kids moved out. But that can also mean that they are used to a lot of space—probably don’t want to be crammed into a tiny house that can’t accommodate children and grandchildren when they do come to visit.
It’s going to be a compromise. “Moderate space” would most likely be no more than 3 bedrooms and no fewer than 2—with two bathrooms the norm. This description offers nesters the possibility of catering to hobbies on a day-to-day basis, while still allowing some accommodations for guests. More significant properties—those with 4 or more bedrooms— are more likely to find success by marketing messaging that points toward growing families.
Easy to Maintain
As always, it’s a selling ‘must’ to ensure that your Felton home is shipshape! When prospects are able to see how much care you’ve put into your property, they are that much easier to interest than when it’s clear they will be required to come up with their own extra sweat and budget dollars. When you know that part of your preparation will include replacements, it’s a good idea to emphasize ease of maintenance in your choices. Examples are gutters that are shielded, windows that tilt up for easy cleaning inside and out, etc.
- Written by Russell Stucki