Housing Outlook 2018: 6 Predictions From The Experts

| Greg Wang

In 2017 Americans learned to expect the unexpected, whether it be politics, weather or housing. Driven by record low inventory, little about the housing market went as forecast last year. “We thought there would be some things to take the pressure off,” reflects Skylar Olsen, senior economist at home search site Zillow. Interest rates would […]

1

In 2017 Americans learned to expect the unexpected, whether it be politics, weather or housing. Driven by record low inventory, little about the housing market went as forecast last year. “We thought there would be some things to take the pressure off,” reflects Skylar Olsen, senior economist at home search site Zillow. Interest rates would rise. Construction would pick up. Price growth would moderate. “That did not happen at any impactful level.”

Instead the market got hotter: inventory tightened, prices rose, mortgage rates barely budged and, though new home construction picked up at the end of the year, it was not at the starter price points where new inventory is needed most. Like the soaring stock market, the housing market often seemed disconnected from the tumult in Washington and natural disasters elsewhere. Observes Javier Vivas, director of economic research for Realtor.com: “We saw the economic growth and the economic momentum function as an override for a lot of external forces.”

With few clear signs of supply relief and the impact of the new tax law still being digested, reading the housing tea leaves is particularly challenging this year, but here are six things experts expect to happen:

1. The pace of sales will slow early in the year—but not for long.

Several provisions in the tax bill signed into law by President Trump last month will directly impact housing. These include changes to the mortgage interest deduction and to property tax deductions. Other changes will impact how much money people have, requiring decisions on how to spend it. Experts anticipate households will take some time to do the math on how the tax plan impacts them and the value of their home before making any big moves. Nevertheless underlying demand should remain strong after the best year for wage growth since the recession. Pent up demand from renters who have been unable to find suitable homes to buy also means the lid won’t stay on for long.

Read more on how the new tax law could impact housing here.

2. Inventory will continue to be a drag.

A crippling lack of inventory remained the defining trait of the housing market in 2017. At the start experts believed the crunch that characterized 2016 would bottom out; instead it grew worse. According to Zillow, housing inventory declined 10.5% in the 12 months ending in November. Data from brokerage Redfin shows that in November 2017 there were 653,347 homes for sale across the country. In November 2010 there were 967,604. Low inventory, says Olsen, “drove all the dynamics that we saw, from bidding war in the hottest U.S. housing markets, to the incredibly fast home value appreciation” across the country.

Looking to 2018, the general consensus is that inventory will pick up slightly. The biggest reason for this modest optimism is that the current situation is unsustainable. Prices cannot rise faster than wages forever. Plus, life events will eventually force reluctant sellers off the sidelines. Home search site Trulia found that 31% of Americans believe 2018 will be a better year then 2017 to sell a home, far more than the 14% who this it will be worse. (Though only 6% of homeowners say they plan to sell.) Another positive signal? New construction has started to swing away from apartments, typically built to rent, to single-family homes, which are built to own.

However, it has become clear that the typical assumption that demand and strong prices will entice construction are not holding true this cycle. There are structural reasons builders aren’t building: the high cost of land, skilled labor and building material, lack of buildable space and local regulations against density. Recently, however, builder sentiment has been brighter than consumer sentiment.

For a sign of how bad things have gotten, Nela Richardson, chief economist at Redfin, points to the aftermath of hurricanes and wildfires that wreaked havoc last year. Following those tragedies construction resources went to the places where it was needed most. This was necessary, but it “flat lined growth” elsewhere, says Richardson. Meanwhile, in the debate about the tax plan lawmakers indicated inventory woes are not top of mind, suggesting no policy relief on the horizon.

3. Price growth will slow—but not stop.

National home prices have climbed for 23 consecutive months. From January through October 2017 the Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index increased 5.92%, on track for the biggest gains since 2013 when the market was finally recovering from the bust. The hottest markets last year were western cities like Seattle and Las Vegas where closing prices rose 12.7% and 10.2% respectively. Experts say prices will continue their march higher in 2018, but the rate of increases will slow. “Underlying the rising prices for both new and existing homes are low interest rates, low unemployment and continuing economic growth. Some of these favorable factors may shift in 2018,” noted David Blitzer, head of the Index Committee at S&P in the most recent release of the monthly reading.

4. The rent versus buy equation could tilt toward renting in costly markets.

Thanks to the new tax law, it just got more expensive to own a home in high tax and high price places. For some people the changes, combined with rising prices, may mean renting makes more financial sense than buying. “Since home prices are rising faster than wages, salaries, and inflation, some areas could see potential home buyers compelled to look at renting” particularly in expensive West Coast cities, noted Blitzer.

“We begin 2018 with a frigid cloud of uncertainty surrounding the impact of the new tax bill that restricts State and Local tax deductions, both very high in states such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California and Illinois,” noted Leonard Steinberg, president of brokerage Compass, in an e-mail with his quarterly report on the New York’s luxury market. “Will uncertainty lead the consumer to become a society of renters with diminished incentives to buy?” He thinks not.

Nevertheless, high rents and student debt loads have also made it difficult for young households to save up a down payment even if they can afford the monthly mortgage. Moreover, with prices rising so fast even a small increase in mortgage rates can put people over the edge on affordability. (Also read: Millennials Get A New Way To Clear The Down Payment Hurdle To Homeownership)

5. Mortgage rates will hover around 4%.

In December the Federal Reserve bumped short term interest rates 25 basis points to between 1.25% and 1.50%. Historically, movement from the Fed has had a corresponding effect on mortgage rates, but three hikes in 2017 and two in 2016 only moved the cost of a home loan slightly higher, casting doubt on just how much of a difference the three hikes Fed policy makers have projected for 2018 will have on housing.

Experts tend to agree mortgage rates will finish the year between 4% and 4.5%. That’s a touch higher than the rates for most of 2017 but still historically low. What they disagree on is how we’ll get there. Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at Trulia, for example, expects a slow and steady rise. Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, anticipates volatility with rates “dipping below 4% at least once, spiking above 4.5% and closing the year around 4.5%.”

6. Millennial demand for housing will keep climbing.

After a decade of decline the homeownership rate finally ticked up in 2017. By the third quarter, 63.9% of households were occupied by owners–up from a low of 62.9% in the second quarter of 2016. McLaughlin says 2017 will be remembered as “the year the bleeding stopped and the healing started.” As Millennials age this trend is expected to continue. The generation of adults born after 1980 were slow to enter the housing market, but as a growing share of them get married and have kids they are buying homes at rates equal to their parents. In fact, single millennials are more likely to own a home than prior generations of singles.

Source: Samantha Sharf, Forbes Staff

How Supply & Demand Impacts The Real Estate Market

| Greg Wang

Good Visual For Blog

Real Estate Market Snapshot

| Greg Wang

The San Francisco metro area has once again put up the largest annual home price gain in the U.S., according to the most recent numbers from a prominent real estate index. The latest S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, which run two months behind, say that single-family home prices in the San Francisco area increased by 9.3 […]

1

The San Francisco metro area has once again put up the largest annual home price gain in the U.S., according to the most recent numbers from a prominent real estate index.

Gold coins

The latest S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, which run two months behind, say that single-family home prices in the San Francisco area increased by 9.3 percent in December, the most of any of the 20 major U.S. metro areas included in the report. San Francisco returned to the top of the Case-Shiller index for the first time in 18 months in November, when prices rose by 8.9 percent year over year.

As was the case in the two preceding months, home prices in San Francisco grew at about double the national rate in December. Case-Shiller’s numbers put the U.S. annual rate of home price appreciation at 4.6 percent in the final month of 2014.

Although existing home price growth and sales across the country are at their normal levels, David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said that he believes the housing recovery is “faltering,” a by-product of sluggish construction and new-home-sales activity.

“Before the current business cycle, any time housing starts were at their current level of about one million at annual rates, the economy was in a recession,” Blitzer said. “The softness in housing is despite favorable conditions elsewhere in the economy: strong job growth, a declining unemployment rate, continued low interest rates, and positive consumer confidence.”

According to MLS data, the median single-family home price increased year over year in every one of Pacific Union’s Bay Area regions except the Mid-Peninsula subregion, which saw a slight decline. Home prices topped the $1 million mark in our Contra Costa County, Marin County, Mid-Peninsula, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley regions as 2014 came to a close.

The chart below provides more information on annual Bay Area home price changes. Also, be sure to check out Pacific Union’s fourth-quarter 2014 real estate report for more in-depth sales data and information on how we define our regions.

1

(Image: Flickr/Bhautikjoshi)

Source: Pacific Union

What, You’re Missing Documents? Then No Short Sale For You!

| Greg Wang

REQUIRED READING: The short sale is undoubtedly preferable to a foreclosure, and properly executing one can be tricky. But a large number of short sales fail, by some estimates up to 60%, and those failed short sales ultimately end up in foreclosure. There are a variety of reasons why short sales don’t go through, but the existence of a junior […]

REQUIRED READINGThe short sale is undoubtedly preferable to a foreclosure, and properly executing one can be tricky. But a large number of short sales fail, by some estimates up to 60%, and those failed short sales ultimately end up in foreclosure.

There are a variety of reasons why short sales don’t go through, but the existence of a junior lien is often a stumbling block. RealtyTrac reported in July 2012 that nearly 40% of loans entering foreclosure have at least one junior lien attached. The existence of junior liens on these loans certainly does not preclude a short sale, but it does make the transaction more complicated. For starters, the holders of liens, such as second mortgages or home equity lines of credit, need to approve a short sale for the transaction to go through – and that can be a challenge.

Junior lien holders are generally the ones absorbing the loss in a short sale because they recover whatever money remains after all the associated costs are paid. All too frequently, the amount remaining isn’t satisfactory to the junior lien holder. And sometimes, there’s nothing left for junior lien holders at all, so it’s easy to see why they might be reluctant to agree to a short sale.

Even the Federal Housing Finance Agency sees second liens as a stumbling block to short sales. In late August, the regulator announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are issuing new guidelines to mortgage servicers that will align and consolidate existing short sales programs into one standard short sale program. The guidelines, which went into effect Nov. 1, 2012, stipulate that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will offer up to $6,000 to second lien holders to expedite a short sale.

Factor in the more complicated documentation process when there’s more than one lender, and it becomes clear that these transactions – and ensuring that all of the necessary documentation is in place – can become very difficult.

Improper or missing documentation can stall a short sale substantially, particularly when there is more than one lien holder. Whether a lender chooses to perform the function in-house or to outsource it, assembling all the necessary documents and providing for timely and properly conducted lien releases are critical to the success of short sales. Unfortunately, there are a number of ways that improper or missing documents, as well as poorly executed lien releases, can stop a short sale in its tracks.

At the beginning of the process, the seller’s mortgage lender needs to thoroughly review a seller’s short sale request. Collecting and assembling the required documentation can be a time-consuming and frustrating process. It may be difficult to obtain the required paperwork from the seller, who could be uncooperative or otherwise delay submitting the required documents.

Preparing the paperwork and getting the deal accepted by the mortgage lender can also be a lengthy and difficult undertaking. The challenge becomes even greater if there’s more than one lender involved.

A clear title is needed: verification is required that the mortgage is properly recorded with the first lienholder, and that the title policy is accurate. In cases where there are one or more additional lien holders, clearing the property title requires more time and effort.

If the loan was sold to an investor, the investor will have to approve the short sale, and investors have their own set of requirements before they’ll grant approval. When there are mistakes or missing documents, the loan file needs to be returned to the lender, and the process takes place again.

A current owner search needs to be performed to show how any and all liens are recorded to confirm all current lien holders are of record. There are times when an assignment may be missing. When a loan has been sold several times, there is a good probability that at least one of the lien holders isn’t properly recorded. In those cases, an interim assignment or assignments of records is necessary.

Avoiding litigation 

When a short sale is completed, a lien release needs to be performed promptly in order to avoid future problems, including the potential for litigation. Each state has a different timeline for how quickly lien releases need to take place, ranging from 30 to 90 days. Delaying or not properly performing and documenting a lien release will leave the lien holders vulnerable to being sued for an open balance. The potential for this sort of litigation is considerably higher in the case of short sales with subordinate liens.

The proper paperwork needs to be returned to the borrower, depending on whether or not the lender is seeking a deficiency balance. A lender or servicer can either accept the amount recovered in a short sale, or go after the borrower for a deficiency balance.

When a servicer opts to seek a deficiency balance, the note is not returned to the borrower. If the short sale is accepted as paid in full, then the mortgage note and recorded release are sent to the borrower.

With delinquency rates at high levels, there are more chances for mistakes to happen in documentation. Improper documents need to be repaired, and missing documents need to be located. In addition to cost and time, servicers also need to keep in mind that new mandates by regulators, investors and the secondary market agencies are continually changing, particularly for loans that are in a pre-foreclosure status.

When it comes to documentation, tracking of ownership, and lien releases, getting it right the first time will clearly save servicers time, money and headaches. Determining whether those services should be performed in-house or outsourced to a document services vendor will depend on the size and the resources of the servicer.

Ownership tracking, recording of assignments and lien releases are a complicated business, made even more so by the continually changing guidelines. Even one misstep can jeopardize ownership security and ultimately halt a short sale or foreclosure.

A successful short sale is good news for all involved, but missing or improper documents can stall the short sale process or, in some cases, halt it altogether. The bottom line message is clear: Make sure that you have all of your docs in a row!

Source: Mike Wileman,  President and CEO of Orion Financial Group.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Rising home prices lift 1.3 million borrowers above water!

| Greg Wang

Rising home prices lifted more than 1.3 million underwater homeowners above water this year, the Obama Administration’s said in its October Housing Scorecard report. The latest report shows more signs of a strengthening housing market, but the Treasury is still careful to say the recovery overall remains fragile. The government’s Home Affordable Modification Program, which […]

Rising home prices lifted more than 1.3 million underwater homeowners above water this year, the Obama Administration’s said in its October Housing Scorecard report.

The latest report shows more signs of a strengthening housing market, but the Treasury is still careful to say the recovery overall remains fragile.

The government’s Home Affordable Modification Program, which launched in 2009, has been the catalyst for close to 1.3 million homeowner-relief actions in the past three years, the Obama administration said.

With so many families in the Northeast now struggling with damaged and inhabitable properties, the Treasury announced that servicers partaking in the Making Home Affordable Programs should review existing guidelines for providing Hurricane Sandy victims with additional housing-related relief.

The program guidelines allow servicers to offer qualified, distressed storm victims tied to Home Affordable initiatives with a minimum of 3-months forbearance. The borrower’s property has to be in a region designated as a disaster zone to qualify for aid. The New York metro area currently has about 60,000 homeowners partaking in HAMP.

“As the October housing scorecard indicates, our housing market is continuing to show important signs of recovery – with the FHFA housing price index posting its largest annual gain in five years and new home sales at its fastest pace since April 2010,” said HUD acting assistant secretary for policy development and research Erika Poethig. “But with so many households still struggling to make ends meet, we have important work ahead. That is why we are asking the Congress to approve the president’s refinancing proposal so that more homeowners can receive assistance.”

Homeowners who benefited from the government’s Making Home Affordable programs over the past three years saved roughly $541 on their monthly mortgage payments, the scorecard said.

HAMP also appears to be successful in preventing re-defaults, with 86% of homeowners still performing well two years after receiving a HAMP loan modification, the Housing Scorecard said.

To date, the HAMP program has launched 1.1 million modifications. Close to 14,000 new modifications were launched in the in-between period from the last report to Friday’s survey.

As for what is causing a tepid housing recovery, the Scorecard shows home prices and home sales on the rise, which is buoying the recovery somewhat. The latest Case-Shiller report has the average home price hovering around $145,900, up from $143,000 a year earlier. That figure, to date, is still lower than the $150,500 mark recorded at the beginning of the housing crisis four years ago.

New and existing home sales in the most recent period hit 32,400 and 395,800 units, respectively. That is up from 25,500 units and 356,700 units, respectively a year earlier, according to data from the government, the National Association of Realtors and CoreLogic.

The supply of houses in the U.S. also fell from 2.4 million a year earlier to 2.320 million in the latest survey period, according to NAR and government data.

The housing recovery also is benefiting from record low interest rates, with the average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage hitting 3.39% in the most recent report, down from 3.41% in the September report and a drop from 4% last year.

Source: Kerri Ann Panchuk of Housingwire.com

Enhanced by Zemanta