New Index Reveals Impact of COVID-19 on Real Estate

Earlier this month, realtor.com announced the release of their initial Housing Recovery Index, a weekly guide showing how the pandemic has impacted the residential real estate market. The index leverages a weighted average of four key components of the housing industry, tracking each of the following:
1. Housing Demand – Growth in online search activity
2. Home Price – Growth in asking prices
3. Housing Supply – Growth of new listings
4. Pace of Sales – Difference in time-on-market
The index then compares the current status “to the last week of January 2020 market trend, as a baseline for pre-COVID market growth. The overall index is set to 100 in this baseline period. The higher a market’s index value, the higher its recovery and vice versa.”
The graph below charts the index by showing how the real estate market started out strong in early 2020, and then dropped dramatically at the beginning of March when the pandemic paused the economy. It also shows the strength of the recovery since the beginning of May.

It’s clear to see that the housing market is showing promising signs of recovery from the deep economic cuts we experienced earlier this spring. As noted by Dean Mon, Chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB):
“As the nation reopens, housing is well-positioned to lead the economy forward.”
The data today indicates the housing market is already on the way up.
Bottom Line
Staying connected to the housing market’s performance over the coming months will be essential, as we continue to evaluate exactly how the housing market is doing in this uncharted time ahead.


Posted on June 25, 2020 at 5:48 pm
Sunita Merchia | Posted in Real Estate Blog |

Should We Be Looking at Unemployment Numbers Differently?

 

The New York Times recently ran an article regarding unemployment titled: Don’t Cheer Too Soon. Keep an Eye on the Core Jobless Rate. The piece suggests we should look at unemployment numbers somewhat differently. The author of the article, Jed Kolko, is a well-respected economist who is currently the Chief Economist at Indeed, the world’s largest online jobs site. Previously, he was Chief Economist and VP of Analytics at Trulia, the online real estate site.
Kolko suggests “the corona virus pandemic has broken most economic charts and models, and all the numbers we regularly watch need a closer look.” He goes on to explain that the decline in the unemployment number reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) earlier this month was driven by a drop in temporary layoffs. If we strip those out, we’re left with what Kolko calls the core unemployment rate. Many economists have struggled with how to deal with the vast number of temporary layoffs, as a complete shutdown of the economy has never happened before. As the article states, in the last unemployment report:
“73 percent of all unemployed people said they were temporarily unemployed, which means they had a return-to-work date or they expected to return to work in six months. Before the pandemic, temporary unemployment was never more than one-quarter of total unemployment.”
The core unemployment rate handles this issue and also deals with another concern economists have discussed for years: the exclusion of the marginally attached. These are people who are available and want to work, but count as out of the labor force rather than unemployed because they haven’t searched for work in the past four weeks.
Kolko’s core rate does three things:
1. Takes out temporary unemployment
2. Retains the rest of the standard unemployment definition: permanent job losers, job leavers, and people returning to or entering the labor force
3. Adds in the marginally attached
Removing the temporarily unemployed makes sense according to the article:
“Initial pandemic relief efforts focused on money for people to manage a temporary loss of income and funds to keep businesses afloat until they could bring their workers back. The hope and the goal is for the temporarily unemployed to return to their old jobs, rather than have them lose their jobs and have to search for new ones when jobs have become scarcer.”
The Bad News and the Good News
Clearly, the adjustments Kolko makes dramatically impact the way we look at unemployment. The bad news is, using his core rate, there was an increase in unemployment from April to May. The conventional rate reported by the BLS showed a decrease in unemployment.
The good news is that the core rate compares more favorably to the last recession in 2008. Here’s the breakdown:


Bottom Line
The unemployment rate is a key indicator of how the economy is doing. Heading into a highly contested election this November, the BLS report releasing next week will be scrutinized like no other by members on both sides of the aisle. Mr. Kolko’s take is just one additional way to evaluate how unemployment is impacting American families.


Posted on June 24, 2020 at 4:47 pm
Sunita Merchia | Posted in Real Estate Blog |

What Are the Experts Saying About Future Home Prices?

 

A worldwide pandemic and an economic recession have had a tremendous effect on the nation. The uncertainty brought about by both has made predicting consumer behavior nearly impossible. For that reason, forecasting home prices has become extremely difficult.
Normally, there’s a simple formula to determine the future price of any item: calculate the supply of that item in ratio to the demand for that item. In housing right now, demand far exceeds supply. Mortgage applications to buy a home just rose to the highest level in 11 years while inventory of homes for sale is at (or near) an all-time low. That would usually indicate strong appreciation for home values as we move throughout the year.
Some experts, however, are not convinced the current rush of purchasers is sustainable. Ralph McLaughlin, Chief Economist at Haus, explained in their June 2020 Housing Market Forecast why there is concern:
“The upswing that we’ll see this summer is a result of pent-up demand from home buyers and supply-in-progress from home builders that has simply been pushed off a few months. However, after this pent-up demand goes away, the true economic scarring due to the pandemic will begin to affect the housing market as the tide of pent-up demand goes out.”
The virus and other challenges currently impacting the industry have created a wide range of thoughts regarding the future of home prices. Here’s a list of analysts and their projections, from the lowest depreciation to the highest appreciation:
• CoreLogic: Year-Over-Year decline of -1.5%
• Haus: Year-Over-Year decline of -1%
• Zillow: Year-Over-Year change is forecast ed to bottom out at -0.7%.
• Home Price Expectation Survey: Decline of -0.3% in 2020
• Fannie Mae: Increase of 0.4% in 2020
• Freddie Mac: Increase of 2.3% in 2020
• Zelman & Associates: Increase of 3.0% in 2020
• National Association of Realtors: Increase of 3.8% in 2020
• Mortgage Bankers Association: Increase of 4.0% in 2020
We can garner two important points from this list:
1. There is no real consensus among the experts.
2. No one projects prices to crash like they did in 2008.
Bottom Line
Whether you’re thinking of buying a home or selling your house, know that home prices will not change dramatically this year, even with all of the uncertainty we’ve faced in 2020 and Bay area is always an exception.


Posted on June 23, 2020 at 4:56 pm
Sunita Merchia | Posted in Real Estate Blog |

Homebuyers Are in the Mood to Buy Today.

 

According to the latest FreddieMac Quarterly Forecast, mortgage interest rates have fallen to historically low levels this spring and they’re projected to remain low. This means there’s a huge incentive for buyers who are ready to purchase. And homeowners looking for eager buyers can take advantage of this opportune time to sell as well.

There’s a very positive outlook on interest rates going forward, as the projections from the FreddieMac report indicate continued lows into 2021:

“Going forward, we forecast the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage to remain low, falling to a yearly average of 3.4% in 2020 and 3.2% in 2021.”

With mortgage rates hovering at such compelling places, ongoing buyer interest is bound to keep driving the housing market forward. Rates also reached another record low last week, so homebuyers are in what FreddieMac is identifying as the buying mood:

“While the rebound in the economy is uneven, one segment that is exhibiting strength is the housing market. Purchase demand activity is up over twenty percent from a year ago, the highest since January 2009. Mortgage rates have hit another record low due to declining inflationary pressures, putting many homebuyers in the buying mood. However, it will be difficult to sustain the momentum in demand as unsold inventory was at near record lows coming into the pandemic and it has only dropped since then.”

There’s no doubt that even though buyers are ready to purchase, it’s hard for many of them to find a home to buy today. Mortgage rates aren’t the only thing hovering near all-time lows; homes available for sale are too. With housing inventory as scarce as it is today – a nearly 20% year-over-year decline in available homes to purchase – keeping buyers in the purchasing mood may be tough if they can’t find a home to buy (See graph below):
Homebuyers Are in the Mood to Buy Today | MyKCM

What does this mean for buyers?

Competition is hot with so few homes available for purchase and low mortgage rates are helping to drive affordability as well. Getting pre-approved now will help you gain a competitive advantage and accelerate the homebuying process, so you’re ready to go when you find that perfect home you’d like to buy. Working quickly and efficiently with a trusted real estate professional will help put you in a position to act fast when you’re ready to make your move.

What does this mean for sellers?

If you’re thinking of selling your house, know that the motivation for buyers to purchase right now is as high as ever with rates where they are today. Selling now before other sellers come to market in your neighborhood this summer might put your house high on the list for many buyers. Homebuyers are clearly in the mood to buy, and with today’s safety guidelines and precautions in place to show your house, confidence is also on your side.

Bottom Line
Whether you’re looking to buy or sell, there’s great motivation to be in the housing market, especially with mortgage rates hovering at this historic all-time low. Let’s connect today to make sure you’re ready to make your move.


Posted on June 22, 2020 at 3:41 pm
Sunita Merchia | Posted in Real Estate Blog |

Happy Fathers Day

“A father doesn’t tell you that he loves you. He shows you.”

 


Posted on June 21, 2020 at 8:53 am
Sunita Merchia | Posted in Real Estate Blog |

7 Strategies for a 2020 Open House.

Some Highlights

  • Buyer interest is high right now, so this summer is a great time to sell your house.
  • Here are 7 strategiesto help make your house showing a safe and effective one.
  • Let’s connect today to get your house on the market while buying is hot.

 


Posted on June 19, 2020 at 4:15 pm
Sunita Merchia | Posted in Real Estate Blog |

Want to Make a Move? Homeowner Equity is Growing Year-Over-Year

One of the bright spots of the 2020 real estate market is the growth in equity homeowners are experiencing across the country. According to the recently released Homeowner Equity Insights Report from CoreLogic, in nearly every state there was a year-over-year first-quarter equity increase, averaging out to a 6.5% overall gain.

The report notes:

“CoreLogic analysis shows U.S. homeowners with mortgages (roughly 63% of all properties) have seen their equity increase by a total of nearly $590 billion since the first quarter of 2019, an increase of 6.5%, year over year.” (See map below):

This means that In the first quarter of 2020, the average homeowner gained approximately $9,600 in equity during the past year.”

That’s a huge win for homeowners, especially for those looking to sell their houses and make a move this summer. Having equity to re-invest in your next home is a major force that can make moving a reality, especially while buyers are expressing such a high demand for homes to purchase.

Frank Martell, President and CEO of CoreLogic addresses the potential long-term outlook and how homeowners will likely fare much more positively through the current recession than many did during the last one:

“Many homeowners will experience a recession during their lifetime, and it is reasonable to compare the current recession to those in the past. But the comparison is not apples to apples — every recession is different. Primary drivers of the Great Recession were an overbuilt housing stock, risky mortgages and the collapse of home prices, creating a massive increase in negative equity that proved difficult to recover from. Today’s housing environment has low vacancy and delinquency rates and a large home equity cushion.”

Bottom Line

Now is a great time to consider leveraging your equity and making a move, especially while buyer interest is high. Let’s connect to explore your equity position and make your next move a reality.


Posted on June 18, 2020 at 4:25 pm
Sunita Merchia | Posted in Real Estate Blog |

Interest Rates Hover Near Historic All-Time Lows

 

Some Highlights

  • Mortgage interest rates have dropped considerably this spring and are hovering at a historically low level.
  • Locking in at a low rate today could save you thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your home loan.
  • Let’s connect to determine the best way to position yourself for a move in today’s market.

Posted on June 17, 2020 at 5:42 am
Sunita Merchia | Posted in Real Estate Blog |

Buying or Selling a Home? You Need an Expert Kind of Guide

In a normal housing market, whether you’re buying or selling a home, you need an experienced guide to help you navigate through the process. You need someone you can turn to who will tell you how to price your home correctly right from the start. You need someone who can help you determine what to offer on your dream home without paying too much or offending the seller with a low-ball offer.

We are, however, in anything but a normal market right now. We are amid one of the greatest health crises our nation has ever seen. The pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the journey consumers take to purchase or sell a home. To successfully navigate the landscape today, you need more than an experienced guide. You need a ‘Real Estate Sherpa.’

According to Lexico, a Sherpa is a “member of a Himalayan people living on the borders of Nepal and Tibet, renowned for their skill in mountaineering.” Sherpas are skilled in leading their parties through the extreme altitudes of the peaks and passes in the region – some of the most treacherous trails in the world. They take pride in their hardiness, expertise, and experience at very high altitudes.

They are much more than just guides.

This is much more than a normal real estate market.

Today, the average guide just won’t do. You need a Sherpa. You need an expert who understands how COVID-19 is impacting the thoughts and actions of the consumer (ex: virtual showings, proper safety protocols, e-signing documents). You need someone who can simply and effectively explain the changes in today’s process to you and your family. You need an expert who will guarantee you make the right decision, especially in these challenging times.

Bottom Line

Hiring an agent who understands how the pandemic is reshaping the real estate processes is crucial right now. Let’s connect today to guarantee your journey is a safe and successful one.

 


Posted on June 16, 2020 at 5:41 am
Sunita Merchia | Posted in Real Estate Blog |

Why This Summer Is the 2020 Real Estate Season

With stay-at-home orders starting to gradually lift throughout parts of the country, data indicates homebuyers are jumping back into the market. After many families put their plans on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, what we once called the busy spring real estate season is shifting into the summer. In 2020, summer is the new spring for real estate.

Joel KanEconomist at The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) notes:

“Applications for home purchases continue to recover from April’s sizable drop and have now increased for five consecutive weeks…Government purchase applications, which include FHA, VA, and USDA loans, are now 5 percent higher than a year ago, which is an encouraging turnaround after the weakness seen over the past two months.”

Additionally, according to Google Trends, which scores search terms online, searches for real estate increased from 68 points the week of March 15th to 92 points last week. As we can see, more potential homebuyers are looking for homes virtually.

What’s the Opportunity for Buyers?

Another reason buyers are coming back to the market, even with forced unemployment and stay-at-home orders, is historically low mortgage rates. Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac indicates:

“For the fourth consecutive week, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has been below 3.30 percent, giving potential buyers a good reason to continue shopping even amid the pandemic…As states reopen, we’re seeing purchase demand improve remarkably fast, now essentially flat relative to a year ago.”

With mortgage rates at such low levels and states gradually beginning to reopen, there’s more incentive than ever to buy a home this summer.

What’s the Opportunity for Sellers?

Finding a home to buy, however, is still a challenge, as this spring sellers removed many listings from the market. Though more people are now putting their houses up for sale this month as compared to last month, current inventory is still well below last year’s level.

According to last week’s Weekly Economic and Housing Market Update from realtor.com:

“Weekly Housing Inventory showed continued tightening. New Listings declined 28% compared with a year ago, as sellers grappled with uncertainty and hesitated bringing homes to market. Total Listings dropped 20% YoY, a faster rate than in prior weeks, leaving very few homes available for sale. As Time on Market was 15 days slower YoY, asking prices moved up 1.5% YoY.”

If you’re thinking of selling your house this summer, now may be your best opportunity. With so few homes on the market for buyers to purchase, this season may be the time for your house to stand out from the crowd. Trusted real estate professionals can help you list safely and effectively, keeping your family’s needs top of mind. Buyers are looking, and your house may be at the top of their list.

 

Bottom Line

If you’re thinking of selling, many buyers may be eager to find a home just like yours. Let’s connect today to make sure you can get your house in on the action this summer.

 


Posted on June 16, 2020 at 5:39 am
Sunita Merchia | Posted in Real Estate Blog |

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