Last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a very encouraging jobs report. The economy gained 916,000 jobs in March – well above expert projections of 650,000 to 675,000. The unemployment rate fell again and is now at 6%.
What does this mean for you?
Our lives are deeply impacted by our nation’s economy. The better the economy is doing overall, the better most individuals in the country will do as well. Here’s a look at what four experts told the Wall Street Journal after reviewing last week’s report.
Michael Feroli, JPMorgan Chase:
“The powerful tailwind of the reopening of economic activity appears to be gathering force; while the level of employment last month was still 8.4 million positions below that which prevailed before the pandemic, it is reasonable to expect that a majority of those lost jobs will be recouped in coming months.”
Mike Fratantoni, Mortgage Bankers Association:
“We fully expect that this pace of job gains will continue for months, and anticipate that the unemployment rate, now at 6%, will be well below 5% by the end of the year.”
Paul Ashworth, Capital Economics:
“With the vaccination program likely to reach critical mass within the next couple of months and the next round of fiscal stimulus providing a big boost, there is finally real light at the end of the tunnel.”
Jason Schenker, Prestige Economics:
“People are getting back to work and the vaccine isn’t just inoculating the population, it’s clearly inoculating the economy.”
What does this mean for residential real estate?
Today, the biggest challenge for homebuyers is the lack of homes currently for sale. With listing inventory down 52% from a year ago, bidding wars are skyrocketing. As a result, home prices are climbing.
One answer to this challenge is to build more homes to satisfy the demand. The latest jobs report gives hope for new housing construction, and therefore brings hope to buyers as well. Here’s what three industry economists said about the increase in construction jobs revealed in the report:
Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist, National Association of Realtors:
“Construction jobs boomed in March, one f the largest monthly gains ever. This raises the prospect for more home building and more inventory reaching the market in the upcoming months. The housing market has been hot with fast rising home prices but has been constrained by a lack of supply. By hiring more workers and building more homes, home prices will move to a manageable level to give more Americans a shot at ownership.”
“Great jobs report for a housing market in an inventory crisis. Residential construction building jobs increased 3.9% from pre-2020 recession peak in Feb. 2020. The construction industry remains a labor-intensive industry. We need more hammers at work to build more homes.”
“Good job numbers in March for residential construction. 37,000 gain from Feb to March. 3.03 million total employment for home builders and remodelers, and up 49,100 from Jan 2020.”
An improving economy with a falling unemployment rate will benefit households across the country, as well as the overall housing market.
When thinking about selling, homeowners often feel they need to get their house ready with some remodeling to make it more appealing to buyers. However, with so many buyers competing for available homes right now, renovations may not be as vital as they would be in a more normal market. Here are two things to keep in mind if you’re thinking of selling this season.
1. There aren’t enough homes for sale right now.
A normal market has a 6-month supply of houses for sale, but today’s housing inventory sits far below that benchmark. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), there’s only a 1.9-month supply of homes available today and locally we're at 2 weeks. As a result, buyer competition is high and homes are only on the market for about 21 days nationally, and less than a week in our area during which time many receive multiple offers from hopeful buyers.
In a competitive market that’s moving so quickly, it makes sense to sell your house when buyers are scooping homes up as fast as they’re being listed. Spending costly time and money on renovations before you sell might just mean you’ll miss your key window of opportunity. While certain repairs on your house may be important, your best move right now is to work with a real estate advisor to determine which improvements are truly necessary, and which ones are not likely to be deal-breakers for buyers.
Today, many buyers are more willing to take on home improvement projects themselves in order to get the home they’re after, even if it means putting in a little extra work. Home Advisor explains:
“When it comes to the number of home improvement projects completed, Gen Z homeowners are leading the pack, completing an average of 3.5 projects. Millennials closely follow Gen Z, taking on an average of 3.3 projects, followed by Gen X at 2.8 projects. Boomers completed an average of 2 projects, and the Silent Generation completed the fewest projects, on average, at 1.8 per household. Compared to 2019, millennials are spending 60% more on home improvement and doing on average 30% more projects.”
In this market, it may be wise to let future homeowners remodel the bathroom or the kitchen to make design decisions that are best for their specific taste and lifestyle. As a seller, your dollars and time might be better spent working on small cosmetic updates, like refreshing some paint and power washing the exterior. Instead of over-investing in your home with upgrades that the buyers may change anyway, work with a real estate professional to determine the key projects that will maximize your listing, without overdoing it.
2. Focus on getting a good return on your investment.
When planning any bigger projects to tackle, you and your real estate agent will want to discuss the potential return on your investment and if those projects are worth the cost. Some homes do need a kitchen or bathroom renovation, roof repairs, or other major work, but definitely not all of them. You might be surprised by how well your house could fair in today’s sellers’ market. Hanley Wood states:
“The 2020 Cost vs. Value report shows a predictable increase in costs for all 22 remodeling projects but a consistent dip in the perceived value of those projects at the time of home sale, as estimated by real-estate professionals in more than 100 metro areas across the U.S. This results in a slight downturn on the return on investment for nearly all projects relative to the trends we saw in last year’s report.”
Ideally, homeowners getting ready to move should try to avoid over-investing in big renovations if they won’t make that money back when they sell their house. According to the 2020 State of Home Spending report from Home Advisor:
“The average household spending on home services rose to $13,138, an increase over last year’s survey results, where homeowners who did projects spent $9,081 on average in 2019.”
Before you renovate, let's get together to discuss what the best course of action would be your home and the current market. You may find out that putting your house on the market as-is will help you sell quickly, and it may result in the best return on your investment. Every home is different, but a conversation with a professional real estate agent is mission-critical to make sure you make the right moves when selling this season.
We’re in a strong sellers’ market, and that means you have the leverage to sell your house on your terms. Let’s connect today to determine if renovating is really the best way to spend your time and money before you sell.
With mortgage interest rates hitting record lows so many times recently, some are wondering if we’ll see low rates continue throughout 2021, or if they’ll start to rise. Recently, Freddie Mac released their quarterly forecast, noting:
“The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage hit a record low over a dozen times in 2020 and the low interest rate environment is projected to continue through this year. We expect interest rates to average below 3% through the end of 2021. While this is a modest rise from 2020 averages, the recent vote by the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates anchored near zero should keep rates low.”
As shown in the graph below, Freddie Mac is projecting low rates going forward with a modest rise that’s expected to continue through 2022.
Freddie Mac isn’t the only authority forecasting low rates with a slight rise. Fannie Mae, The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) also anticipate low rates with a small increase as 2021 continues on. Here’s the quarterly breakdown of their projections and how they’re expected to play out over the next year:
It’s important to note that, while a small change in interest rates can have a substantial impact on monthly mortgage payments, these rates are still incredibly low compared to where they were just a couple of years ago.
What does this mean for buyers?
Low mortgage rates are creating an outstanding opportunity for current homebuyers to get more for their money while staying within their budget. As the economy gets stronger and we recover from the challenges of 2020, it’s natural for rates to potentially rise in response to a healthier economy. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, reminds us:
“Rising interest rates reduce house-buying power and affordability, but are often a sign of a strong economy, which increases home buyer demand. By any historic standard, today’s mortgage rates remain historically low and will continue to boost house-buying power and keep purchase demand robust.”
With low rates fueling activity among hopeful buyers, there are a lot of people who are highly motivated and looking for homes to purchase right now. In this environment, it can be challenging to find a home to buy, so a local real estate agent will be key to your success if you’re thinking of buying too. Working with a trusted real estate professional to navigate the process while rates are in your favor might be the best move you can make.
Bottom LineIf you’re ready to buy a home, it may be wise to make your move before mortgage rates begin to rise. Let’s connect to discuss how today’s low rates can create more opportunities for you this year.
Over the past year, mortgage rates have fallen more than a full percentage point, hitting a new historic low 15 times. This is a great driver for homeownership, as today’s low rates provide consumers with some significant benefits. Here’s a look at three of them.
1. Move-up or Downsize: One option is to consider moving into a new home, putting the equity you’ve likely gained in your current house toward a down payment on a new one that better meets your needs – something that’s truly a perfect fit, especially if your lifestyle has changed this year.
2. Become a First-Time Homebuyer: There are many financial and non-financial benefits to owning a home, and the most important thing is to first decide when the time is right for you. You have to determine that on your own, but know that now is a great time to buy if you’re considering it. Just take a look at the cost of renting vs. buying.
3. Refinance: If you already own a home, you may decide you’re going to refinance. It’s one way to lock in a lower monthly payment and save more over time. However, it also means paying upfront closing costs, too. If you want to take this route, you have to answer the question: Should I refinance my home?
Why 2020 Was a Great Year for Homeownership
Last year, the average mortgage rate was 3.93% (substantially higher than it is today). If you waited for a better time to make a move, market conditions have improved significantly. Today’s low mortgage rates are a huge perk for buyers, so it’s a great time to get more for your money and consider a new home.
The chart below shows how much you would save per month based on today’s rates compared to what you would have paid if you purchased a home exactly one year ago, depending on how much you finance:
If you’ve been waiting since last year to make your move into homeownership or to find a house that better meets your needs, today’s low mortgage rates may be just what you need to get the process going. Let’s connect today to discuss how you may benefit from the current rates.
Homeownership is one of the best ways to invest in your financial future, especially as your home equity grows. Home equity is a form of forced savings that can work to your advantage as the value of your home appreciates. Across the country, home equity was increasing before the health crisis swept our nation, and it continues to grow throughout the year, giving sellers powerful options in this market.
According to the just-released Q2 Homeowner Equity Insights Report by CoreLogic:
“U.S. homeowners with mortgages (roughly 63% of all properties) have seen their equity increase by a total of nearly $620 billion since the second quarter of 2019, an increase of 6.6%, year over year.”
Dr. Frank Nothaft, Chief Economist for CoreLogic, attributes much of the equity growth to rising home prices:
“The CoreLogic Home Price Index registered a 4.3% annual rise in prices through June, which supported an increase in home equity.”
As the map below shows, CoreLogic also indicates that home equity is increasing in every state:
“In the second quarter of 2020, the average homeowner gained approximately $9,800 in equity during the past year.”
What Does This Mean for Sellers?
When equity is rising, as it is today, you may have more invested in your home than you realize. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, notes:
“As homeowners gain equity in their homes, they are more likely to consider using that equity to purchase a larger or more attractive home – the wealth effect of rising equity. In today’s housing market, fast rising demand against the limited supply of homes for sale has resulted in continued house price appreciation.”
If you’ve been considering making a move – whether that’s to get into a bigger home or to downsize to a smaller one – it’s a great time to reach out to a real estate professional to learn how to put your equity to work for you. You may be in a position to pay that equity forward toward your next home purchase and afford it sooner rather than later.
If you’re thinking of selling, let’s connect so you can take advantage of what the current market has to offer today.
Today, Americans are moving for a variety of different reasons. The current health crisis has truly re-shaped our lifestyles and our needs. Spending extra time where we currently live is enabling many families to re-evaluate what homeownership means and what they find most important in a home.
According to Zillow:
“In 2020, homes went from the place people returned to after work, school, hitting the gym or vacationing, to the place where families do all of the above. For those who now spend the majority of their hours at home, there’s a growing wish list of what they’d change about their homes, if possible.”
With a new perspective on homeownership, here are some of the top reasons people are reconsidering where they live and making moves this year.
1. Working from Home
Remote work is becoming the new norm in 2020, and it’s continuing on longer than most initially expected. Many in the workforce today are discovering they don’t need to live close to the office anymore, and they can get more for their money if they move a little further outside the city limits. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR) notes:
“With the sizable shift in remote work, current homeowners are looking for larger homes and this will lead to a secondary level of demand even into 2021.”
If you’ve tried to convert your guest room or your dining room into a home office with minimal success, it may be time to find a larger home. The reality is, your current house may not be optimally designed for this kind of space, making remote work and continued productivity very challenging.
2. Virtual Schooling
With school about to restart this fall, many districts are beginning the new academic year online. Education Week is tracking the reopening plans of schools across the country, and as of August 21, 21 of the 25 largest school districts are choosing remote learning as their back-to-school instructional model, affecting over 4.5 million students.
With a need for a dedicated learning space, it may be time to find a larger home to provide your children with the same kind of quiet room to focus on their schoolwork, just like you likely need for your office work.
3. A Home Gym
Staying healthy and active is a top priority for many Americans. With various levels of concern around the safety of returning to health clubs across the country, dreams of space for a home gym are growing stronger. The Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans explains:
“For many in quarantine, a significant decrease in activity is more than a vanity issue – it’s a mental health issue.”
Having room to maintain a healthy lifestyle at home – mentally and physically – may prompt you to consider a new place to live that includes space for at-home workouts.
4. Outdoor Space
Especially for those living in an apartment or a small townhouse, this is a new priority for many as well. Zillow also notes the benefits of being able to use yard space throughout the year:
“People want more space in their next home, and one way to get it is by turning part of the backyard into a functional room, ‘an outdoor space for play as well as entertaining or cooking.’
You may, however, not have the extra square footage today to have these designated areas – indoor or out.
Moving May Be Your Best Option
If you’re clamoring for extra space to accommodate your family’s changing needs, making a move may be your best bet, especially while you can take advantage of today’s low mortgage rates. Low rates are making homes more affordable than they have been in years. According to Black Knight:
“Buying power for those shopping for a home is up 10% year over year, with home buyers able to afford nearly $32,000 more home than they could have 1 year ago while keeping their monthly payment the same.”
It’s a great time to get more home for your money, just when you need the extra space.
People are moving for a variety of different reasons today, and many families’ needs have changed throughout the year. If you’ve been trying to decide if now is the time to buy a new home, let’s connect to discuss your needs.
In 2018, the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) and the National Association of REALTORS (REALTORS) issued the Remodeling Impact Report: Outdoor Features. NALP reported the typical cost of 13 outdoor projects and REALTORS ranked each project by its appeal to buyers and estimate how much homeowners can recover the cost of the project if they choose to sell their home. I’ll share the top five projects as they are ranked according to the most likely to add value to resale.
1. Landscape Maintenance Services.
Annual mulch application, mowing of 2,835 square feet of lawn, pruning of shrubs, and planting of approximately 60 perennials or annuals.
NALP cost estimate $3,000
REALTORS cost recovery estimate $3,000
2. Overall Landscape Upgrade.
An overall upgrade includes the installation of a front walkway of natural flagstone 3 feet wide and 30 feet long. Add two stone planters six feet long and two feet wide. Install five flowering shrubs and one deciduous 15 foot tall tree. Mulch with landscaping bark.
NALP cost estimate $6,000
REALTORS cost recovery estimate $5,000
3. Standard Lawn Care.
Standard lawn care service includes six applications of fertilizer and weed control on 2,835 square feet of lawn.
NALP cost estimate: $375
REALTORS cost recovery estimate: $1,000
4. New Patio.
Install a backyard 18 foot by 16 foot concrete paver patio, dry set over compacted grave, and sand base.
NALP cost estimate: $7,200
REALTORS cost recovery estimate $5,000
5. New Wood Deck.
Build a 14 foot deep by 18 foot wide wood deck attached to the house with a ledger. Decking, railing, and stair treads constructed with cedar lumber. All cedar is finished with a clear deck sealer.
NALP cost estimate: $10,000
REALTORS cost recovery estimate $8,000
The majority of homeowners surveyed after completing these projects have a greater desire to be home, have an increased sense of enjoyment when they are at home, and feel a major sense of accomplishment when they think of the projects. So not only are you adding value to your home, you’re also increasing your own personal enjoyment of your home, even if you aren’t quite ready to sell.
Below are the other 7 outdoor projects in the report.
6. Tree Care. Three applications of tree fertilizer, regular spraying, trimming and pruning, and the removal of one 30 foot tall tree by professional.
7. Landscape Lighting. Installation of a standard 600w transformer and 20 LED lights.
8. Statement Landscape. Unique features such as serenity gardens, created spaces for hobbies like yoga, and activity areas for croquet or bocce ball. This feature has 0% ROI.
9. Irrigation System. Installation and management of irrigation system for a lawn that is 2,835 square feet. No boring required. ROI 86%.
10. Outdoor Kitchen. Install one inset grill, stainless steel drawers, ice chest, sink, 60 square feet of concrete counter top, made from veneered masonry stone.
11. Fire Feature. Install dry stacked natural stone kits, gas burner with 10 foot diameter flagstone patio. ROI 67%.
12. Water Feature.
13. New Pool. Install an 18 foot by 36 foot in-ground pool with gunite walls, 3 foot to 7 foot depth, standard filtration system. Include 3 foot by 4 inch thick concrete perimeter surround. Nationally this project has a 43% ROI, however it is much lower for us here in the Northeast.
Copyright ©2018 “2018 Remodeling Impact: Outdoor Features” NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. July 15, 2020, https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2018-05-remodeling-impact-outdoor-features-05-23-2018.pdf.
While the nation quarantines from the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic, many buyers are worried about shopping for homes right now. However, these are things home buyers can do while quarantining so that you are fully prepared to make an offer once we come out of quarantine.