Owning a Home Is Still More Affordable Than Renting One

Owning a Home Is Still More Affordable Than Renting One | Simplifying The Market

If spending more time at home over the past year is making you really think hard about buying a home instead of renting one, you’re not alone. You may be wondering, however, if the dollars and cents add up in your favor as home prices continue to rise. According to the experts, in many cases, it’s still more affordable to buy a home than rent one. Here’s why.

ATTOM Data Solutions recently released the 2021 Rental Affordability Report, which states:

Owning a median-priced three-bedroom home is more affordable than renting a three-bedroom property in 572, or 63 percent of the 915 U.S. counties analyzed for the report.

That has happened even though median home prices have increased more than average rents over the past year in 83 percent of those counties and have risen more than wages in almost two-thirds of the nation.”

How is this possible?

The answer: historically low mortgage interest rates. Todd Teta, Chief Product Officer with ATTOM Data Solutions, explains:

“Home-prices are rising faster than rents and wages in a majority of the country. Yet, home ownership is still more affordable, as amazingly low mortgage rates that dropped below 3 percent are helping to keep the cost of rising home prices in check.

In 2020, mortgage rates reached all-time lows 16 times, and so far, they’re continuing to hover in low territory this year. These low rates are a big factor in driving affordability. Teta also notes:

“It’s startling to see that kind of trend. But it shows how both the cost of renting has been relatively high compared to the cost of ownership and how declining interest rates are having a notable impact on the housing market and home ownership. The coming year is totally uncertain, amid so many questions connected to the Coronavirus pandemic and the broader economy. But right now, owning a home still appears to be a financially-sound choice for those who can afford it.”

Bottom Line

If you’re considering buying a home this year, let’s connect today to discuss the options that match your budget while affordability is in your favor.

Should I Wait for Lower Mortgage Interest Rates?

Should I Wait for Lower Mortgage Interest Rates? | Simplifying The Market

Historically low mortgage rates are a big motivator for homebuyers right now. In 2020 alone, rates hit new record-lows 16 times, and the trend continued into the early part of this year. Many hopeful homebuyers are now wondering if they should put their plans on hold and wait for the lowest rates imaginable. However, the reality is, acting sooner rather than later may be the actual win if you’re ready to buy a home.

According to Greg McBride, Chief Financial Analyst for Bankrate:

“As vaccines become more widely available and a return to normal starts to come into view, we’ll see mortgage rates bounce off the record lows.”

While only a slight increase in mortgage rates is projected for 2021, some experts believe they will start to rise. Over the past week, for example, the average mortgage rate ticked up slightly, reaching 2.79%. This is still incredibly low compared to the trends we’ve seen over time. According to Freddie Mac:

“Borrowers are smart to take advantage of these low rates now and will certainly benefit as a result.”

Here’s why.

As mortgage rates rise, the increase impacts the overall cost of purchasing a home. The higher the rate, the higher your monthly mortgage payment, especially as home prices rise too. Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac, says:

“The forces behind the drop in rates have been shifting over the last few months and rates are poised to rise modestly this year. The combination of rising mortgage rates and increasing home prices will accelerate the decline in affordability and further squeeze potential homebuyers during the spring home sales season.”

What does this mean for buyers?

Right now, the inventory of houses for sale is also at a historic low, making it more challenging than normal to find a home to buy in many areas. As more buyers hit the market in the typically busy spring buying season, it may become even harder to find a home in the coming months. With this in mind, Len Keifer, Deputy Chief Economist for Freddie Mac, recommends taking advantage of both low mortgage rates and the opportunity to buy:

“If you’ve found a home that fits your needs at a price you can afford, it might be better to act now rather than wait for future rate declines that may never come and a future that likely holds very tight inventory.”

Bottom Line

While today’s low mortgage rates provide great opportunities for homebuyers, we may not see them stick around forever. If you’re ready to buy a home, let’s connect so you can take advantage of what today’s market has to offer.

Will Forbearance Plans Lead to a Tsunami of Foreclosures?

Will Forbearance Plans Lead to a Tsunami of Foreclosures? | Simplifying The Market

At the onset of the economic disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic, the government quickly put into place forbearance plans to allow homeowners to remain in their homes without making their monthly mortgage payments. Today, almost three million households are actively in a forbearance plan. Though 29.4% of those in forbearance have continued to stay current on their payments, many have not.

Yanling Mayer, Principal Economist at CoreLogic, recently revealed:

“A distributional analysis of forborne loans’ payment status reveals that more than one third (39.1%) of all forborne loans are now 150+ days behind payment, while as many as 1-in-4 (25.5%) are 180+ days past due.”

These homeowners have been given permission to not make their payments, but the question now is: how many of them will be able to catch up after their forbearance program ends? There’s speculation that a forthcoming wave of foreclosures could be the result, and that could lead to another crash in home values like we saw a decade ago.

However, today’s situation is different than the 2006-2008 housing crisis as many homeowners have tremendous amounts of equity in their homes.

What are the experts saying?

Over the last 30 days, several industry experts have weighed in on this subject.

Michael Sklarz, President at Collateral Analytics:

“We may very well see a meaningful increase in the number of homes listed for sale as these borrowers choose to sell at what is arguably an intermediate top in the market and downsize to more affordable homes rather than face foreclosure.”

Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American:

“The foreclosure process is based on two steps. First, the homeowner suffers an adverse economic shock…leading to the homeowner becoming delinquent on their mortgage. However, delinquency by itself is not enough to send a mortgage into foreclosure. With enough equity, a homeowner has the option of selling their home, or tapping into their equity through a refinance, to help weather the economic shock. It is a lack of sufficient equity, the second component of the dual trigger, that causes a serious delinquency to become a foreclosure.”

Don Layton, Senior Industry Fellow at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University:

“With a greater cushion of equity, troubled homeowners have dramatically improved options: a greater ability to access funding (e.g. home equity lines) to keep paying monthly expenses until family finances might recover, improved ability to qualify for and support a loan modification, and, if push comes to shove, the ability to sell the home and monetize their increased net worth while reducing monthly payment obligations. So, what should lenders and servicers expect: a large number of foreclosures or only a modest increase? I believe the latter.”

With today’s positive equity situation, many homeowners will be able to use a loan modification or refinance to stay in their homes. If not, some will go to foreclosure, but most will be able to sell and walk away with their equity.

Won’t the additional homes on the market impact prices?

Distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) sell at a significant discount. If homeowners sell instead of going into foreclosure, the impact on the housing market will be much less severe.

We must also realize there is currently an unprecedented lack of inventory on the market. Just last week, realtor.com explained:

“Nationally, the number of homes for sale was down 39.6%, amounting to 449,000 fewer homes for sale than last December.”

It’s important to remember that there weren’t enough homes for sale even then, and inventory has only continued to decline.

The market has the potential to absorb half a million homes this year without it causing home values to depreciate.

Bottom Line

The pandemic has led to both personal and economic hardships for many American households. The overall residential real estate market, however, has weathered the storm and will continue to do so in 2021.

What Does 2021 Have in Store for Home Values?

What Does 2021 Have in Store for Home Values? | Simplifying The Market

According to the latest CoreLogic Home Price Insights Report, nationwide home values increased by 8.2% over the last twelve months. The dramatic rise was brought about as the inventory of homes for sale reached historic lows at the same time buyer demand was buoyed by record-low mortgage rates. As CoreLogic explained:

“Home price growth remained consistently elevated throughout 2020. Home sales for the year are expected to register above 2019 levels. Meanwhile, the availability of for-sale homes has dwindled as demand increased and coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreaks continued across the country, which delayed some sellers from putting their homes on the market.

While the pandemic left many in positions of financial insecurity, those who maintained employment and income stability are also incentivized to buy given the record-low mortgage rates available; this is increasing buyer demand while for-sale inventory is in short supply.”

Where will home values go in 2021?

Home price appreciation in 2021 will continue to be determined by this imbalance of supply and demand. If supply remains low and demand is high, prices will continue to increase.

Housing Supply

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the current number of single-family homes for sale is 1,080,000. At the same time last year, that number stood at 1,450,000. We are entering 2021 with approximately 270,000 fewer homes for sale than there were one year ago.

However, there is some speculation that the inventory crush will ease somewhat as we move through the new year for two reasons:

1. As the health crisis eases, more homeowners will be comfortable putting their houses on the market.

2. Some households impacted financially by the pandemic will be forced to sell.

Housing Demand

Low mortgage rates have driven buyer demand over the last twelve months. According to Freddie Mac, rates stood at 3.72% at the beginning of 2020. Today, we’re starting 2021 with rates one full percentage point lower than that. Low rates create a great opportunity for homebuyers, which is one reason why demand is expected to remain high throughout the new year.

Taking into consideration these projections on housing supply and demand, real estate analysts forecast homes will continue to appreciate in 2021, but that appreciation may be at a steadier pace than last year. Here are their forecasts:What Does 2021 Have in Store for Home Values? | Simplifying The Market

Bottom Line

There’s still a very limited number of homes for sale for the great number of purchasers looking to buy them. As a result, the concept of “supply and demand” mandates that home values in the country will continue to appreciate.

The Importance of Home Equity in Building Wealth

The Importance of Home Equity in Building Family Wealth | Simplifying The Market

Homeownership has always been the first rung on the ladder leading to household wealth. As Freddie Mac recently posted:

“Homeownership has cemented its role as part of the American Dream, providing families with a place that is their own and an avenue for building wealth over time. This ‘wealth’ is built, in large part, through the creation of equity…Building equity through your monthly principal payments and appreciation is a critical part of homeownership that can help you create financial stability.”

Home equity is the difference between the current market value of your house and the amount you currently owe on your mortgage. To estimate your equity, subtract your mortgage balance from the market value of your home.

You can find what you owe on your mortgage by looking at your last monthly statement or by contacting your lender. If you need help determining the current market value of your home, contact a local real estate professional.

Is homeownership truly a better path to wealth than renting?

Some argue that renting eliminates the cost of property taxes and home repairs. Every potential renter must realize that all the expenses the landlord incurs (property taxes, repairs, insurance, etc.) are already baked into the rent payment – along with a profit margin. You don’t save money by renting.

As proof of this, First American broke down the net worth of homeowners and renters by income categories. Here are their findings:The Importance of Home Equity in Building Wealth | Simplifying The MarketOnly one income category ($127-192K) has a higher net worth for renters over homeowners. Every other category shows that being a homeowner leads to greater accumulated wealth.

According to the latest Homeowner Equity Insights Report from CoreLogic, the average homeowner gained $17,000 in equity in just the last year. Here’s a breakdown of the year-over-year equity gain by state:The Importance of Home Equity in Building Wealth | Simplifying The Market

When can you cash in on your housing wealth?

Your home equity is part of your total wealth as a homeowner. The two most common ways homeowners can leverage their wealth are:

  • Selling
  • Refinancing

Selling: When you decide to sell your home, the equity you’ve built over time will come back to you in the sale. For example, if you paid off your $200,000 mortgage and sold your home for $350,000, you would receive $150,000 after closing.

Refinancing: You can refinance your current mortgage and take out some of the equity you have accumulated. With today’s historically low mortgage rates, you may be able to take out substantial cash and keep your monthly payment the same. Thankfully, homeowners today are doing this responsibly and not repeating the same mistakes made in 2006-2008 when some cashed out their entire equity to purchase luxury items like new cars, lavish vacations, etc.

How can these options help homeowners?

During these difficult times, many households are struggling with their housing expenses. Homeowners, because of their equity, have better alternatives. Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American, recently explained that homeowners financially impacted by the pandemic will not necessarily be faced with foreclosure:

“The foreclosure process is based on two steps. First, the homeowner suffers an adverse economic shock…leading to the homeowner becoming delinquent on their mortgage. However, delinquency by itself is not enough to send a mortgage into foreclosure. With enough equity, a homeowner has the option of selling their home, or tapping into their equity through a refinance, to help weather the economic shock.”

What might the future bring?

Most experts are calling for home prices to continue appreciating going forward. The Home Price Expectation Survey, a survey of a national panel of over one hundred economists, real estate experts, and investment & market strategists, indicates appreciation will continue for at least the next five years. Using their annual projections, the graph below shows the equity build-up a purchaser would potentially earn by buying a $300,000 home this January:The Importance of Home Equity in Building Wealth | Simplifying The Market

Bottom Line

Home equity, for most Americans, is the quickest way to build household wealth. That wealth gives homeowners more options during good times and in difficult situations.