5 Reasons Rising Interest Rates Won’t Wreck the Housing Market

by Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate 

Interest rates have been trending higher since the fall of 2017, and I fully expect they will continue in that direction – albeit relatively slowly – as we move through the balance of the year and into 2019. So what does this mean for the US housing market?

It might come as a surprise to learn that I really don’t think rising interest rates will have a major impact on the housing market. Here is my reasoning: 

1. First Time Home Buyers 

As interest rates rise, I expect more buyers to get off the fence and into the market; specifically, first time buyers who, according to Freddie Mac, made up nearly half of new mortgages in the first quarter of this year. First-time buyers are critical to the overall health of the housing market because of the subsequent chain reaction of sales that result so this is actually a positive outcome of rising rates.

2. Easing Credit Standards

Rising interest rates may actually push some lenders to modestly ease credit standards. I know this statement will cause some people to think that easing credit will immediately send us back to the days of sub-prime lending and housing bubbles, but I don’t see this happening. Even a very modest easing of credit will allow for more than one million new home buyers to qualify for a mortgage.

3. Low Unemployment 

We stand today in a country with very low unemployment (currently 4.0% and likely to get close to 3.5% by year’s end). Low unemployment rates encourage employers to raise wages to keep existing talent, as well as to recruit new talent. Wage growth can, to a degree, offset increasing interest rates because, as wages rise, buyers can afford higher mortgage payments.

4. Supply

There is a clear relationship between housing supply, home prices, and interest rates. We’re already seeing a shift in inventory levels with more homes coming on the market, and I fully expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future. This increase in supply is, in part, a result of homeowners looking to cash in on their home’s appreciation before interest rates rise too far. This, on its own, will help ease the growth of home prices and offset rising interest rates. Furthermore, if we start to see more new construction activity at the lower end of the market, this too will help.   

5. National versus Local

Up until this point, I’ve looked at how rising interest rates might impact the housing market on a national level, but as we all know, real estate is local, and different markets react to shifts in different ways. For example, rising interest rates will be felt more in expensive housing markets, such as San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Orange County, but I expect to see less impact in areas like Cleveland, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, and Detroit, where buyers spend a lower percentage of their incomes on housing. The exception to this would be if interest rates continue to rise for a prolonged period; in that case, we might see demand start to taper off, especially in the less expensive housing markets where buyers are more price sensitive. 

For more than seven years, home buyers and real estate professionals alike have grown very accustomed to historically low interest rates. We always knew the time would come when they would begin to rise again, but that doesn’t mean the outlook for housing is doom and gloom. On the contrary, I believe rising interest rates will help bring us closer to a more balanced real estate market, something that is sorely needed in many markets across the country. 


Posted on November 11, 2018 at 8:38 pm
Tania Harmon | Posted in Buying, Interest Rates, Selling Your Home |

5 Dangers of Overpricing a Home

by a Windermere Guest Author

It is still a great time to be a seller, but in much of the Western U.S., the local real estate market has begun to soften. With significant increases in inventory, buyers now have more choices and less sense of urgency. If you are thinking about selling your home, pricing it correctly the first time is critical. Here’s why:

 

If you overprice your home, it won’t show up in some search results.

Buyers search for homes using the parameters they desire. Price range is one of the most critical. If you set an unrealistic price of $850,000 for your home, all the buyers searching for homes up to $825,000 will fail to see your property in their search results.

An overpriced home attracts the wrong buyer.

An overpriced home will not compare favorably with the realistically-valued homes in a buyer’s price bracket. If your home is missing the amenities, square footage or other features of homes within the price range you’ve placed it in it won’t sell.

 

Overpriced homes linger on the market and risk becoming “stale”.

The interest in a home is always highest when the listing first hits the market. When an overpriced home goes unsold for a long period of time buyers often wonder what is wrong with the property. When a buyer moves on from a listing they rarely come back, even if you drop the price.

 

You run the risk of getting less for your home than if you priced it correctly the first time.

A Zillow study showed that homes that linger on the market tend to sell for significantly less than their listing price. When a home sits on the market for an extended period of time, buyers feel they have lots of room to negotiate.

 

The longer your home remains on the market, the more expenses you incur.

Every month your home goes unsold you put out money for mortgage payments, utilities and other home expenses that you will never recover.

 

Setting a realistic price for your home from the start is critical. If you’re thinking of selling, our highly trained experts at Windermere Real Estate can provide you with a comprehensive pricing analysis based on current market conditions.


Posted on November 11, 2018 at 8:29 pm
Tania Harmon | Posted in Selling Your Home |

Home Valuation Tools – How Reliable Are They?

by Tania Harmon

What’s my home worth?

A quick Google search of that questions will get you dozens of sites offering a home valuation tool that makes valuing your home, well, easy as pie. Online tools like these have become most sellers (and buyers) first step in the selling (and buying) process. But how accurate are they?

By nature, these valuation tools have their limitations. Each market has unique characteristics that influence home values. Maui is no exception. Each online valuation tool relies on different sources for their information. One of the most popular, Zillow, does not have access to the Maui MLS and therefore relies on user reporting for sold data. Other sites rely on limited shared data and public records, but this can also lead to gaps. If you spend just a little time on the site you may find discrepancies in key data points, such as bathroom count and square footage, which can greatly skew values. And they will acknowledge these limitations – you just have to dig a little.

Scroll to the bottom of the website page and click on one of the ‘fine print’ options – the site disclosure and Q&A sections – and you’ll discover quickly the acknowledged error rate alone should cause you to take pause. Zillow discloses it’s “Zestimate” offers a National median error rate of 4.3%. That may not sound like much, but in Maui County, where the median single family home price is currently $700,000, that equals a difference of more than $30,000. Dig even deeper and you’ll discover that for Maui County the “Zestimate” is within 20% of the actual sales price less than 95% of the time and within 5% of the actual sales price less than 67% of the time.

While automated home valuation tools can be useful as a starting point to your home buying or selling process, nothing compares to the knowledge and expertise offered by a licensed Realtor. An automated tool can’t possibly provide you with the expertise that comes from a real estate professional’s knowledge of the neighborhood, a home’s unique characteristics and local market buying trends. Kihei alone has 15 subdivisions and 84 condo developments. Each one has unique characteristics and market trends that effect each properties value.

If you’re interested in finding out what your home might be worth, give us a call. We are happy to come meet with you and offer a free Comparative Market Analysis to give you a more accurate idea of your home’s value in today’s market.


Posted on October 11, 2018 at 2:38 pm
Tania Harmon | Posted in Buying, Selling Your Home |

A Beginner’s Guide to Securing a Mortgage Loan

by John Trupin

Entering into debt is a concept I grew up diametrically opposed to. I was raised, like many with frugal family members, to understand that anything you couldn’t pay for on the spot was something you couldn’t afford. But as we age we learn the pathway to financial growth requires a commitment beyond what many of us can deliver up front. Building and stabilizing wealth is, for many families, tied to home ownership. To reach that initial threshold, most aspiring homeowners will need to apply for a mortgage loan. That process can be daunting, but the long-term rewards of securing your home are worth it.

Step One – Break down your budget

A major financial decision like this can’t be made lightly. Many experts recommend a 50-20-30 style plan for finances, particularly for first-time homeowners. That means 50% of your budget is committed to core, unavoidable, monthly expenses like rent, groceries, loan payments, utilities, insurance, etc. The 20% segment is savings, placed in reserve towards a general or specific future financial goal. The final 30% (at maximum) is left as a remainder for personal spending, however, is most desired. Once this is set, you’re ready to evaluate the rate at which you can repay your loan and adjust accordingly.

Step Two – Take the time to get it right

It’s exciting to be in a position to purchase your first home, but if you find the right spot and realize the funds aren’t there yet it can be a huge disappointment. That’s what makes seeking pre-approval for a loan a must – particularly if it’s your first time. Having your credit in order, along with all key financial documentation (bank statements, tax returns, debt copies, prior records of significant ownership). If your credit isn’t in a great place, it’s likely worth taking the time to amend it before applying for your mortgage loan. When you earn lower interest rates and more manageable monthly payments you’ll be thankful for your prudence.

Step Three – The bigger the down payment the better

It’s rare that first-time homebuyers have significant cash on hand, but whatever you can muster makes a difference. Typically, the greater a down payment you can muster, the lower your subsequent interest rates will be. For many, there’s only so much that’s tenable as a bulk sum up front, of course. If that fits your situation, seeking a loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) can earn you a healthy loan for a down payment of just 3.5% of your home’s total value. To calculate the limitations of your target home’s loan options, you can input your information on the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website here.

Step Four – Stick to the plan!

After all the effort you’ll go through to secure a mortgage loan, you’ve earned the home it’s helped you purchase. That loan, like any loan, is contingent on your continued monthly payments. It can feel daunting and dispiriting after a time to continually be paying for a home you’re already living in, but maintaining your financial balance is vital. You’ll never be able to predict every expense that comes up but maintaining your budget towards paying off your mortgage loans will set you up to be more financially flexible in the future. Should you ever hope to purchase a second home or other major investments requiring of loans, having a record of consistent mortgage loan payment can help you secure far more favorable interest rates in the future.

A mortgage loan, like any loan, is a major commitment, but entering into homeownership is a massive step towards financial stability and future life-planning. With proper patience and focus, you can get the loan you need at the rate you can afford.


Posted on July 21, 2018 at 9:57 am
Tania Harmon | Posted in Buying |

A Day of Service

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Tania Harmon

 

Last Friday, Top Maui Homes along with 30 of our colleagues took the morning off to do something vitally important. What could be so important that an entire Real Estate Brokerage would take a full day out of the market? To give back to our community.

 

Every year Windermere Real Estate offices across Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, California, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona,  and Hawaii take a day off from selling homes to help make a difference in their local communities. Since 1984, Windermere associates have dedicated a day of work to complete neighborhood improvement projects. You’ll find Windermere Realtors doing a variety of projects, such as cleaning, landscaping, and painting at local senior citizens centers, facilities for homeless children and adults, public parks and schools, low-income housing, and emergency shelters, and volunteering at food banks, to name just a few.

 

This year Wailea Realty chose a service that is near and dear to our hearts and vital to our local community and economy. Wailea Realty partnered with Pacific Whale Foundation to clean up one stretch of our island’s shoreline. It was only later we realized that our Windermere Community Service Day just so happened to fall on World Oceans Day – how apropros!  In a few short hours we collected all of this!

 

Although we did find quite a few large pieces, a good portion of what we collected were cigarettes, bottle caps, and micro-plastic. As clean as our beaches are there is always work to be done. Every piece counts. You too can make a difference. Every time you step onto the beach, commit to pick up 3 – just 3 pieces of trash or plastic. Imagine the impact we could have if we all just picked up 3!


Posted on June 14, 2018 at 8:04 pm
Tania Harmon | Posted in Community, Nature |

A Home Addition: What to Consider Before Starting to Build

by Kenady Swan 

 

 

Adding on to your current home may be your best bet if you’re short on space, but you don’t want to move or can’t find another house in the area with all the qualities you’re seeking. It’s also an attractive option if the house you have is lacking just one significant element (a family room, another bedroom, a larger kitchen, a separate apartment, etc.).

On the other hand, even a modest addition can turn into a major construction project, with architects and contractors to manage, construction workers traipsing through your home, hammers pounding, and sawdust everywhere. And although new additions can be a very good investment, the cost per-square-foot is typically more than building a new home, and much more than buying a larger existing home.

 

Define your needs

To determine if an addition makes sense for your particular situation, start by defining exactly what it is you want and need. By focusing on core needs, you won’t get carried away with a wish list that can push the project out of reach financially.

If it’s a matter of needing more space, be specific. For example, instead of just jotting down “more kitchen space,” figure out just how much more space is going to make the difference, e.g., “150 square feet of floor space and six additional feet of counter space.”

If the addition will be for aging parents, consult with their doctors or an age-in-place expert to define exactly what they’ll require for living conditions, both now and over the next five to ten years.

 

Types of additions

Bump-out addition—“Bumping out” one of more walls to make a first floor room slightly larger is something most homeowners think about at one time or another. However, when you consider the work required, and the limited amount of space created, it often figures to be one of your most expensive approaches.

First floor addition—Adding a whole new room (or rooms) to the first floor of your home is one of the most common ways to add a family room, apartment or sunroom. But this approach can also take away yard space.

Dormer addition—For homes with steep rooflines, adding an upper floor dormer may be all that’s needed to transform an awkward space with limited headroom. The cost is affordable and, when done well, a dormer can also improve the curb-appeal of your house.

Second-story addition—For homes without an upper floor, adding a second story can double the size of the house without reducing surrounding yard space.

Garage addition—Building above the garage is ideal for a space that requires more privacy, such as a rentable apartment, a teen’s bedroom, guest bedroom, guest quarters, or a family bonus room.

 

Permits required

You’ll need a building permit to construct an addition—which will require professional blueprints. Your local building department will not only want to make sure that the addition adheres to the latest building codes, but also ensure it isn’t too tall for the neighborhood or positioned too close to the property line. Some building departments will also want to ask your neighbors for their input before giving you the go-ahead.

 

Requirements for a legal apartment

While the idea of having a renter that provides an additional stream of revenue may be enticing, the realities of building and renting a legal add-on apartment can be sobering. Among the things you’ll need to consider:

  • Special permitting—Some communities don’t like the idea of “mother-in-law” units and therefore have regulations against it, or zone-approval requirements.
  • Separate utilities—In many cities, you can’t charge a tenant for heat, electricity, and water unless utilities are separated from the rest of the house (and separately controlled by the tenant).
  • ADU Requirements—When building an “accessory dwelling unit” (the formal name for a second dwelling located on a property where a primary residence already exists), building codes often contain special requirements regarding emergency exists, windows, ceiling height, off-street parking spaces, the location of main entrances, the number of bedrooms, and more.

In addition, renters have special rights while landlords have added responsibilities. You’ll need to learn those rights and responsibilities and be prepared to adhere to them.

 

Average costs

The cost to construct an addition depends on a wide variety of factors, such as the quality of materials used, the laborers doing the work, the type of addition and its size, the age of your house and its current condition. For ballpark purposes, however, you can figure on spending about $200 per square food if your home is located in a more expensive real estate area, or about $100 per food in a lower-priced market.

You might be wondering how much of that money might the project return if you were to sell the home a couple years later? The answer to that question depends on the aforementioned details; but the average “recoup” rate for a family-room addition is typically more than 80 percent.

 

The bottom line

While you should certainly research the existing-home marketplace before hiring an architect to map out the plans, building an addition onto your current home can be a great way to expand your living quarters, customize your home, and remain in the same neighborhood.


Posted on May 24, 2018 at 4:44 pm
Tania Harmon | Posted in Architecture, Home Improvement, Selling Your Home |

Three Deck Design Ideas to Get Your Yard Ready for Summer

by John Trupin 

A delightfully warm spring in many parts of the Western U.S. has many folks brushing off their summer clothing early. While this is exciting for all who love the outdoors, public spaces like parks and beaches may be overcrowded. What better time, then, to focus on ways to maximize the space you have in your own home. There’s no one ideal way to design or set up your deck, but we’ve put together a few of our favorite ideas to help inspire your next redesign.

Multi-level Decks

Credit: H. Camille Smith / HGTV

Credit: H. Camille Smith / HGTV

  • Especially if your square footage is limited, tiering your deck into multiple levels is a great way to incorporate extra outdoor space into your home.
  • By separating your deck into multiple levels, even slightly, you can create a cozy sense of separation between spaces.
  • Give yourself options for privacy. Depending on your property, the base level of your deck may be below your fence-line. If you have a view you’d like to enjoy with your barbecue, consider a second tier.

Built-in Seating

Credit: lizmarieblog.com

  • A simple way to save space and hassle is to build in your seating spaces during your deck’s construction. 
  • It’s important to consider what you will predominantly be doing on your deck. Lounging while reading? A corner bench is a great fit and can be outfitted comfortably. Potlucks and cookouts? Consider higher benches or fences with wide tops for easy plate placement.
  • Consider your environment. If your deck will weather rain, sand, or wind consistently, don’t write off surfaces like brick and concrete, which can be framed as appealingly as wood or other stone.

Custom Lighting

Credit: istikharawazifa.com

  • As the sun fades, your deck’s utility can shine or fade with it. Including discreet lighting within the construction of your deck is a small step that can pay huge dividends.
  • Increasingly popular low-voltage systems have made a well-lit backyard and deck drastically more affordable.
  • Depending on your location, solar powered lighting is a worthwhile investment that can help accentuate your stairs, fences, and other outdoor decorations.

Posted on May 24, 2018 at 4:36 pm
Tania Harmon | Posted in Home Improvement, Outdoor Living, Selling Your Home |

Selling Your Home: A Step-By-Step Approach

by Kenady Swan

 

Whether you’re starting a family, moving for your job, getting ready to retire or embarking on a new chapter in your life, when your home no longer suits your current situation, it’s time to think about selling it. Although this can be a bit complicated, with the help of your agent, you can minimize the hassles, get the best possible price, and shorten the distance between “For Sale” and “Sold”.

 

Price it right

If you want to get the best possible price for your home and minimize the time it stays on market, you need to price it correctly from the beginning. Your agent can give you a clear picture of your particular market and can provide you with a comparative market analysis (CMA). A CMA contains detailed information on comparable homes in your area, including square footage, date built, number of bedrooms, lot size and more. It lists pending sales and houses sold in your area in the past six months, along with their actual sale prices.

By comparing your home to similar homes in your neighborhood and reviewing their list prices and actual selling prices, your agent can help you arrive at a fact-based assessment of your home’s market price.

 

Prepping your house for sale

You want to make a positive first impression when you list your home for sale. Here are some tips on how to enhance your home’s best features:

Work on your curb appeal

Get rid of moss on your roof. Power wash your front walk, porch, deck and patio. Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, weed the flowerbeds and add spots of color with container plants. Clean all the windows inside and out and repair them if they don’t open and close easily.

Refresh, repair and repaint

This goes for interiors and exteriors. If you see peeling paint, add a fresh coat. If your living room is bright lime green, consider painting it a more neutral shade. Make necessary repairs. You don’t want to turn off a buyer with a dripping faucet, a broken doorbell, a clogged downspout or a cracked windowpane.

Deep-clean, from floor to ceiling

Clean rugs, drapes and blinds and steam-clean carpeting. Get rid of any stains or odors. Make sure kitchen appliances, cupboards and counters are spotless and that bathrooms shine.

Declutter and depersonalize

Clean, light-filled, expansive rooms sell houses. So be sure to downsize clutter everywhere in your home, including cupboards, closets and counters. You might also consider storing some furniture or personal items to make rooms look more spacious. Take advantage of views and natural light by keeping drapes and blinds open.

 

Make an impact on the market

If you want to sell your home, you need to go where the buyers are, and today they’re on the Internet. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, in 2012 90 percent of homebuyers used the Internet as an information source, and for 41 percent of homebuyers it was the first step in the home-buying process.

By working with your agent, you can list your home on Windermere.com and other relevant websites. He or she will put together a listing with attractive photos, an appealing description and all the information a potential buyer needs. Your agent will also market your house, which may include advertising, direct mail and open houses.

 

Show your house

After you’ve taken care of all the repairs and cleaning tasks outlined above, your home is ready for its close-up: an open house. It’s actually best for you and your family to leave when potential buyers are present so they can ask your agent questions. But before you go, you might want to:

·         Take your pets with you

·         Open the shades and turn on the lights

·         Light a fire in the gas fireplace

·         Bake cookies

·         Keep money, valuables and prescription drugs out of sight

 

Be flexible in negotiating

If you get offers below your asking price, there are a number of strategies you can try in your counteroffer. You could ask for full price and throw in major appliances that were not originally included in the asking price, offer to pay some of the buyer’s fees, or pay for the inspection. You could also counter with a lower price and not include the appliances. If you receive multiple offers, you can simply make a full-price counter.

Your agent can suggest other strategies as well and help you negotiate the final price.

If your house doesn’t sell or you’ve received only lowball offers, ask your agent to find out what these prospective buyers are saying about your house. It might reveal something you can consider changing to make your house more appealing in the future.

 

Breeze through your inspection

When a buyer makes an offer on your home, it’s usually contingent on a professional inspection. A standard inspection includes heating and cooling, interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; and the foundation, basement and visible structure. The inspector will be looking for cracks in cement walls, water stains and wood rot.

You can always opt for having an inspection done prior to putting your house on the market, so you can address any potential problems in advance. Your agent can give you several recommendations for qualified inspectors in your area.

 

Close with confidence

Whether this is your first time or your tenth, your agent can help guide you though the complex process of selling a home. Moreover, he or she can answer any questions you may have about legal documents, settlement costs and the status of your sale.

Your agent’s expertise, resources and extensive network also work for you when you’re buying your next house. Even if you’re moving out of the area, your agent can refer you to a professional agent in your new community.


Posted on March 1, 2018 at 12:46 am
Tania Harmon | Posted in Selling Your Home, Staging |

Affordable Tips To Up Your Home’s Curb Appeal

by Kenady Swan

You’ll never have a second chance at a first impression, so let’s make it count! When it comes to upping your home’s curb appeal, there are plenty of small changes you can make that have a big impact. And best of all, you don’t need to call in the pros or spend a fortune to get beautiful results. Below are some helpful and affordable tips.

A Well-Maintained Yard

Mowing: The first step to a well-manicured lawn is to mow it regularly. The experts recommending mowing high because mowing it too short can damage the grass and allow weeds to set root.

Weeds: To prevent weeds like crabgrass use a pre-emergent herbicide in early spring. These herbicides manage the weeds by stopping the seeds from sprouting in your lawn. Broadleaf weeds like dandelions can be stopped by applying granular weed control products.

Feeding: Lawns consume mostly nitrogen, so look for mixes of fast and slow release fertilizers; they will feed your lawn over time while keeping it lush and green.

Watering: Nighttime watering can result in long spans of moisture on the blades, potentially exposing your grass to disease. Consider watering your lawn in the morning – the sun helps dry out the blades throughout the day.

Flowers: You can quickly and affordably dress up your yard with colorful pre-made flower pots and containers. When placing your flower pots and containers remember that asymmetrical arrangements and staggering plants will provided the liveliest setting.

Dress up the Front Door and Porch

Paint: A fresh coat of paint in a pop color can give your home a well-deserved facelift. If you are hesitant to add a bright color to your front door, check out our article Energize Your Home This Winter With Bright Hues.

Replace Old Hardware: Clean off any dirty spots around the door knob, and use a metal polish on the fixtures. Change out house numbers for an updated feel, put up a wall-mounted mailbox, or add an overhead light fixture. Keep in mind that well thought through elements, instead of mix-and-match pieces, will add the most curb appeal.

Create Perfect Symmetry: Symmetry is one of the simplest design techniques to master and is the most pleasing to the eye. Maintain symmetry by flanking your front door with two sidelights (just make sure that your hardware matches); find two urn planters or a unique visual detail to put on either side of your door.


Posted on February 2, 2018 at 9:40 am
Tania Harmon | Posted in Selling Your Home, Staging |

What Can We Expect From The 2018 Housing Market?

by Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate

 

It’s the time of the year when I look deep into my crystal ball to see what’s on the horizon for the upcoming year. As we are all aware, 2017 has been a stellar year for housing across the country, but can we expect that to continue in 2018?

Here are my thoughts:

 

Millennial Home Buyers

Last year, I predicted that the big story for 2017 would be millennial home buyers and it appears I was a little too bullish. To date, first-time buyers have made up 34% of all home purchases this year – still below the 40% that is expected in a normalized market.  Although they are buying, it is not across all regions of the country, but rather in less expensive markets such as North Dakota, Ohio, and Maryland.

For the coming year, I believe the number of millennial buyers will expand further and be one of the biggest influencers in the U.S. housing market. I also believe that they will begin buying in more expensive markets. That’s because millennials are getting older and further into their careers, enabling them to save more money and raise their credit profiles.

 

Existing Home Sales

As far as existing home sales are concerned, in 2018 we should expect a reasonable increase of 3.7% – or 5.62 million housing units. In many areas, demand will continue to exceed supply, but a slight increase in inventory will help take some heat off the market. Because of this, home prices are likely to rise but by a more modest 4.4%.

 

New Home Sales

New home sales in 2018 should rise by around 8% to 655,000 units, with prices increasing by 4.1%. While housing starts – and therefore sales – will rise next year, they will still remain well below the long-term average due to escalating land, labor, materials, and regulatory costs. I do hold out hope that home builders will be able to help meet the high demand we’re expecting from first-time buyers, but in many markets it’s very difficult for them to do so due to rising construction costs.

 

Interest Rates

Interest rates continue to baffle forecasters. The anticipated rise that many of us have been predicting for several years has yet to materialize. As it stands right now, my forecast for 2018 is for interest rates to rise modestly to an average of 4.4% for a conventional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage – still remarkably low when compared to historic averages.

 

Tax Reform

Something that has the potential to have a major impact on housing are the current proposals relative to tax reform. As I write this, we know that both the House and Senate propose doubling the standard deduction, and the House plans to lower the mortgage interest deduction from $1,000,000 to $500,000. If passed, the mortgage deduction would no longer have value for home owners who would likely opt to take the standard deduction.

If either of the current proposals is adopted into law, the potential reduction in mortgage-related tax savings means the after-tax cost of home ownership will increase for most home owners. Additionally, both the House and Senate bills also end tax benefits for interest on second homes, and this could have a devastating effect in areas with higher concentrations of second homes.

The capping of the deduction for state and local property taxes (SALT) at $10,000 will also negatively impact states with high property taxes, such as California, Connecticut, and New York. Furthermore, proposed changes to the capital gains exemption on profits from the sale of a home (requiring five years of continuous residence as compared to the current two) could impact approximately 750,000 home sellers a year and slow the growth of home ownership.

Something else to consider is that all of the aforementioned changes will only affect new home purchases, which I fear might become a deterrent for current home owners to sell. Given the severe shortage of homes for sale in a number of markets across the country, this could serve to exacerbate an already-persistent problem.

 

Housing Bubble

I continue to be concerned about housing affordability. Home prices have been rising across much of the country at unsustainable rates, and although I still contend that we are not in “bubble” territory, it does represent a substantial impediment to the long-term health of the housing market. But if home price growth begins to taper, as I predict it will in 2018, that should provide some relief in many markets where there are concerns about a housing bubble.

In summary, along with slowing home price growth, there should be a modest improvement in the number of homes for sale in 2018, and the total home sales will be higher than 2017. First-time buyers will continue to play a substantial role in the nation’s housing market, but their influence may be limited depending on where the government lands on tax reform.


Posted on December 19, 2017 at 8:06 pm
Tania Harmon | Posted in Buying, Real Estate Trends, Selling Your Home | Tagged , ,