The National Association of REALTORS® surveyed their members for their Confidence Index
The REALTORS® Confidence Index is a key indicator of housing market strength based on a monthly survey sent to over 50,000 real estate practitioners. Practitioners are asked about their expectations for home sales, prices and market conditions.
Homes sold in less than 60 days in 38 out of 50 states and Washington D.C.
Owning a home has great financial benefits. Because of this, more and more experts are growing concerned about the ramifications of a falling homeownership rate. Today, let’s look at the financial reasons why owning a home of your own has been a part of the American Dream for as long as America has existed.
The outcomes of a falling homeownership rate can be devastating. As explained by ApartmentList.com:
“Our research indicates that not owning a home has a sizable financial cost, as renters miss out on low mortgage rates and are hit by higher rents.
This phenomenon may exacerbate inequality in our society, as those wealthy enough to invest in real estate benefit from lower interest rates, whereas minorities and younger Americans, hit by rising rents and student debt, risk being locked out of homeownership.”
What proof exists that owning is financially better than renting?
1. A study published by the Joint Center of Housing Studies at Harvard University shows the financial benefits of homeownership. The study mentions five major financial benefits:
Housing is typically the one leveraged investment available
You’re paying for housing whether you own or rent
Owning is usually a form of “forced savings”
There are substantial tax benefits to owning
Owning is a hedge against inflation
2. Studies have shown that homeowners have a net worth that is 45X greater than that of a renter.
3. Just last month, we explained that a family buying an average priced home this past January could build more than $46,000 in family wealth over the next five years.
4. Some argue that renting eliminates the cost of taxes and home repairs. Every potential renter must realize that all the expenses the landlord incurs are baked into the rent payment already – along with a profit margin!!
Owning a home has always been, and will always be better from a financial standpoint than renting.
There is no doubt that getting a mortgage is easier today than it was right after the housing crash a decade ago. However, the easing of credit availability has led to some questioning of whether or not we are headed for another housing crisis.
Let’s put everything into the proper perspective.
Mortgage Credit Availability Over the Last Three Years
Getting a home mortgage has definitely gotten easier over the last three years as evidenced by the Mortgage Credit Availability Index, issued by the Mortgage Bankers Association, in the following graph (the higher the index, the easier it is to get a mortgage):
However, if we look further back at the index we see quite a different story.
Mortgage Credit Availability Today Compared to 2006
The graph below shows the index going back to 2004, and the first graph we showed you above is represented by the small, orange, triangular section all the way in the lower-right corner.
As this visual easily illustrates, today’s index is nowhere near the levels it shot up to in 2006.
Mortgage credit is definitely easing. However, we are not coming close to the lax standards that caused the housing crisis of last decade.
In many markets across the country, the amount of buyers searching for their dream homes greatly outnumbers the amount of homes for sale. This has led to a competitive marketplace where buyers often need to stand out. One way to show you are serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search.
Even if you are in a market that is not as competitive, knowing your budget will give you the confidence of knowing if your dream home is within your reach.
Freddie Mac lays out the advantages of pre-approval in the My Home section of their website:
“It’s highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.”
One of the many advantages of working with a local real estate professional is that many have relationships with lenders who will be able to help you with this process. Once you have selected a lender, you will need to fill out their loan application and provide them with important information regarding “your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history.”
Freddie Mac describes the 4 Cs that help determine the amount you will be qualified to borrow:
Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time
Getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying, and it often helps speed up the process once your offer has been accepted.
Many potential home buyers overestimate the down payment and credit scores needed to qualify for a mortgage today. If you are ready and willing to buy, you may be pleasantly surprised at your ability to do so as well.
The interest rate you pay on your home mortgage has a direct impact on your monthly payment; The higher the rate, the greater your payment will be. That is why it is important to look at where the experts believe rates are headed when deciding to buy now or wait until next year.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate has fallen half a percentage point since the beginning of the year and has remained at or below 3.5% for the last 11 weeks according to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey.
There is some thinking that the pace of the housing recovery is unsustainable and that we may be heading for another housing bubble. However, Jonathan Smoke, the Chief Economist of realtor.com explains the basic difference between 2005 and today:
“The havoc during the last cycle was the result of building too many homes and of speculation fueled by loose credit. That’s the exact opposite of what we have today.”
If we look at the number of new single family housing starts over the last 30 years, we can see that the numbers of housing starts during the current recovery (2012-Today) are still way below historic averages, and are far less than the numbers built during the run-up to the housing bubble (2002-2006).
A single family housing start is defined as “the number of permits issued for construction of new single family housing units. Housing starts are an important economic indicator due to its extensive spill over benefits for the other sectors of the economy (retail, manufacturing, utilities).”
Current demand for housing actually calls for more new construction to be built – not less. We should at least return to historically normal levels.
There are some experts questioning whether the current pace of residential home sales is sustainable. Are too many people buying homes like in 2004-2006? Are we headed for another housing crisis? Actually, if we look closely at the numbers, we can see that we are looking at a very healthy real estate market.
Why the concern?
Some are looking at the last three years of home sales and comparing them to the three years just prior to the housing bubble. Looking at the graph below, we can understand that thinking.
However, if we go further back in history, we can see the real picture. After taking out the “boom & bust” years, the pace of sales is growing at a quite natural pace.
And new home sales are way below historic numbers. Trulia’s Chief Economist Ralph McLaughlin explains:
“Adjusted for population, [new home sales] are at about 63% of their fifty-year average level—way better than 2011, but nowhere near heated.”
The current pace of residential home sales definitely seems sustainable.
There are some that think that housing affordability is a challenge. Historically, that’s not true. Others think that home prices are approaching bubble values. If we look back over the last sixteen years, that is also not the case. As a matter of fact, the numbers show that the U.S. residential real estate market is doing just fine.
Here are two articles and excerpts that make this point:
“It has been an excruciatingly long time coming, but the housing sector in the United States is finally getting healthy. Thank millennials and thank homebuilders who are starting to produce more of the starter houses young people demand.”
“Interest rates are so low now that a family can buy the median-priced U.S. home on income of less than $45,000 a year — about $11,000 less than the median household income. And half of America’s houses are cheaper than that.”
There are those worried that all this positive talk resembles what was being said in 2004 and 2005. Jonathan Smoke, Chief Economist at realtor.com, explains the difference very simply but effectively:
“The havoc during the last cycle was the result of building too many homes and of speculation fueled by loose credit. That’s the exact opposite of what we have today.” (emphasis added)