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Mortgage Underwriting is Loosening

We know that the ultra-low mortgage rates and tight inventory have been driving the market wild.

But here’s an extra boost – the strict mortgage underwriting that began in April is being relaxed:

Credit Loosening: According to the NFCI credit index, a composite measure of credit conditions, credit tightened dramatically in mid-April to its most conservative level since 2009 due to the increased economic uncertainty driven by impacts from the pandemic. Since then, credit availability has loosened, even reaching pre-pandemic levels in August. This credit composite takes into consideration many different credit indicators, giving a comprehensive picture of credit conditions in the U.S. When lending standards are tight, fewer people can qualify for a mortgage to buy a home. Likewise, when standards are loose, more people can qualify for a mortgage and buy a home. Credit loosening in August compared with last month increased housing market potential by 266,640 potential home sales.

https://blog.firstam.com/economics/housing-market-potential-reaches-highest-level-since-2007

The graph above is somewhat misleading because they are only reflecting the month-over-month differences.  The improvement of ‘house-buying power’ due to low rates has already been in place for months now, so the increase from July isn’t that dramatic.

I’ve heard that the qualify-using-bank-statements mortgage is back, so that will add a few self-employed buyers who can’t qualify using their tax returns. More competition!

Doom?

After another weekend of multiple-offer situations where the listing agents made no attempt whatsoever to create a bidding war, and instead just shut down the showings, it’s hard to believe there is any downturn coming our way. When you can get a mortgage rate in the twos, the demand is unyielding.

But some authors still want you to believe that doom is around the corner – they should talk to realtors on the street!  An excerpt:

The price of low-tier housing in San Diego County skyrocketed after the latter half of 2012. 2015 experienced another price increase, due to the boost given by decreased mortgage rates throughout 2015 and 2016. Lower mortgage rates free up more of a buyer’s monthly mortgage payment to put towards a bigger principal. Thus, San Diego’s high home prices continued to find fuel from increased buyer purchasing power.

But in 2018, home price increases sharply declined in reaction to slowing sales and rising interest rates, which began in late-2017. Home prices have since turned back up, but today lack the fundamental support of home sales volume to continue.  The annual pace of increase is now just 5%, lower than in recent years when the annual rise averaged around 10%.

Accurate home price reports run about two months behind current events. Even when caught up, sticky prices tend to persist several months beyond the moment when home sales volume begins to slow. Starting in March 2020, economic volatility and shelter-in-place orders caused home sales volume to decline dramatically. However, historically low interest rates have provided a boost for buyer purchasing power, which has propped up home prices thus far.

Later in 2020, the impact of record job losses will see downward pressure on home prices. The overall home price trend for the next couple of years will be down, the result of job losses and plummeting sales volume. As during the 2008 recession, the drop in sales volume and prices will first be most volatile on the coast, before rippling outward to inland areas.

Link to Article

Sales and pricing should be directly connected to inventory.

When there is hardly anything to buy, sales may decline, but pricing would stay the same or go higher because only the quality homes would be selling.  A surge of homes-for-sale in 2021 would fuel the demand and energize the marketplace…..to a point.

There will be a fine line between frenzy and glut!

Get Good Help!

The Selling Season, 2020

It was on April 15th that I drew up the calendar above, and then I added the additional red box around June when it was becoming obvious by the end of May that the market was taking off.

June, July, and August were all dead-red-full-tilt-boogie, then we had a blip around Labor Day/heat stroke/schooling, and we’re back to a healthy-hot market. The green = good description (at the top of chart) is about right – but it could be red hot if we just had more inventory.

While we’re due for a cooling off, but the October market could be better than expected if sellers get the memo that there are buyers starved for quality homes to purchase.  I’m sticking with the November flurry right after election day too, figuring that realtors will want to get in one more sale before Christmas.

Max Appreciation

We are hitting peak performance when the median sales price is going up around 2% per month.  With the wicked combination of low inventory and rates, it could continue – and after a year we could be up +24%!

It reminds me of my first blog post from 2005, which was the last time these types of conditions were in play.  Our 15th anniversary is next week!  Hat tip Susie!

20-25% appreciation per year – how can that happen?

Boise Report

Are you thinking of a move out of California?

Cashing in your home-equity lottery ticket and escape the tract homes of SoCal?  Move to a quieter, more laid-back area and get yourself a smaller yet comfortable home with an ADU on some land, all for $300,000 to $400,000 and bank the rest to live on?

You may want to get going.

Long-time reader Susie is a former Californian who has lived in Boise, Idaho for 10+ years and has watched it grow tremendously. She sent in this latest listing as an example of what people can expect:

I called this one earlier today! Saw it as brand-new listing 4 hours ago. Never heard of $487/sf for the upscale North End but here’s a cute remodel. Now more will follow! Notice small sq. footage and tiny lot. So many folks want to live near Hyde Park (restaurants) and the park. See agent remarks. Yep, signed $800/mo lease in back for ADU.

TEN HOURS and it goes pending!

Take a look at the ADU thing in the backyard too:

Link to listing with photos

Susie – how is the anti-Californian sentiment?

A guy who just moved to Oregon from here grew a full beard to help with the assimilation.

Who’s Fleeing?

The pandemic is being blamed for people leaving town.

I think it’s more that Covid-19 is the last straw that is causing people to take the action they would have taken at some point anyway.  The ‘rona will be gone in 1-18 months – moving is a major life-changing event.

But these two conflicting articles probably demonstrate who is being impacted.

On one hand, we have people – probably those who want/need to be economical – who are moving themselves and are being ripped off by the rental-truck agencies (hat tip SM):

https://jalopnik.com/moving-truck-prices-in-la-and-san-francisco-are-skyrock-1845068350

But a survey of full-service moving companies describe a different scenario:

Are people in the U.S. migrating during the coronavirus crisis in different ways than pre-pandemic? Are they leaving cities? Moving to the suburbs? These are popular questions without definitive answers — yet. But there is some data emerging that can paint a better picture of Americans’ geographic response to the pandemic.

One thing’s for certain: So far, there is little support for the dramatic claims that people are fleeing cities writ large. In fact, available data indicates that overall, fewer people moved at all since the beginning of stay-at-home orders and through June — even with interest in moving on the rise again.

Among those who have moved, it’s unclear how many of those moves will be only temporary. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting migration takeaways worth following. A select few cities including New York City and San Francisco do seem to be seeing more out-migration than most. But guess where many of those people are going? Other very large metropolitan areas, like Seattle and Los Angeles.

If there is a perception that the pandemic has ushered in a mass migration, it is not supported by the data. According to figures from two national moving companies, Americans moved less during the pandemic than they normally would have, not more. 

Several surveys have found that the great majority of people who did move during the first months of the pandemic did so for reasons unrelated to the coronavirus. In one such survey of 1,300 individuals conducted by Hire A Helper, just 15% said they had relocated because of Covid-19. Out of these pandemic-induced migrations, 37% of respondents said they moved because they could not afford current housing due to a Covid-related income loss. Thirty-three percent of the respondents said that they moved to shelter in place with friends or family, and 24% that they didn’t feel safe where they were.

Pew Research Center survey in June looked more closely at Americans who said they did make pandemic-induced moves. It found that overall, young people between the ages of 18 and 29 were moving because of Covid-19 in higher numbers, whether permanently or temporarily (college closing for in-person education might be to blame, at least partially.) Only 3% of the respondents said they had moved because of Covid-19, and 6% said someone else had moved in with them because of it.

Link to Article

What the pandemic is exposing is the gap between the haves and have-nots.

Those who are moving are seeking financial relief – either homeowners cashing in their home-equity lottery ticket and moving down, or those who flee so they can afford to start their American dream in a cheaper area.

The affluent don’t have to worry about that stuff. But they’ll move closer to the grandkids!

NSDCC September Preview

The impending ‘upgrade’ of the MLS starts today at noon, and last until Monday. It will screw up my stats for usual Inventory Watch on Monday morning, so here’s a mid-week preview.

Today there are 491 NSDCC detached-homes in escrow, which the highest number I’ve seen.  The huge number of pendings isn’t due to escrows not closing either:

NSDCC Detached-Home Sales, September 1-15

2012: 127

2013: 114

2014: 112

2015: 117

2016: 130

2017: 139

2018: 107

2019: 102

2020: 149

We still have late-reporters too, so this year’s count should get up close to 160!

But you can feel the slowdown coming, and I think it’s purely because there aren’t more houses coming onto the market.  We already had the lowest number of August listings in recent history, and the rest of 2020 probably won’t get any better:

Are sellers waiting for the 2021 selling season? Probably! Buyers will be waiting!

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