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Confidence in housing is at a new record, with the Fannie Mae Home Purchase Sentiment Index® (HPSI) outdoing its past peak. The boost was ignited by optimism from sellers, who are benefitting from increasing prices. At 92.3, the Index rose 0.6 percentage points month-over-month and 6.1 points year-over-year. 

"The HPSI edged up to another survey high in May, bolstered in part by a fresh record high in the net share of consumers who say it's a good time to sell a home," says Doug Duncan, chief economist and senior vice president at Fannie Mae. "However, the perception of high home prices that underlies this optimism cuts both ways, boosting not only the good-time-to-sell sentiment but also the view that it's a bad time to buy, and presenting a potential dilemma for repeat buyers."

Three years after it was announced to the industry, Upstream has launched, first as a direct input in the Regional Multiple Listing Service (RMLS) in Portland, Ore., and as a broker direct feed for the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service (ARMLS) in Phoenix, and Dallas' North Texas Real Estate Information Systems (NTREIS). The Ann Arbor Area Board of REALTORS® in Michigan, the Austin Board of REALTORS® (ABOR) in Texas, the California Regional Multiple Listing Service (CRMLS), NorthstarMLS in Minnesota, Realcomp in Michigan, and West Penn Multi-List in Pennsylvania are all expected to follow.

With the ball now rolling, Upstream anticipates it will add to five to six markets per month—prioritized by broker/MLS participation and market size—and reach 250,000 agents by the end of 2018.

In high-end luxury markets like New York City and Los Angeles, turns out less is often more. Instead of maximizing luxe features like state-of-the-art kitchens and top-dollar fixtures and moldings, sellers are stripping their pads down to bare bones and commanding a higher sales price in the process.

According to a recent article on CNBC.com, the trend is called "white boxing," and it's all the rage among the ultra-affluent who often buy a luxury property only to gut it and redo it in the style that suits their unique design taste and lifestyle. For luxury buyers — who place high value on personalizing a home and making it their own — it's much more appealing to buy a space that's already stripped, as it saves them the time and expense of doing so on their own.

Email is an essential part of conducting business, and especially within the real estate community. From communications with clients to conversations with vendors, email is the fastest way to share information — but it is not always as secure as it should be.

Google is tackling this vulnerability with a web redesign, which looks to solve other workflow challenges, as well. The redesign was rolled out to the first batch of Gmail users on April 26 — they can choose to opt in or out of the new interface for the time being. Google plans to eventually release the new version to all 1.4 billion users.

So, what do these changes mean for the industry?

The latest Urban Land Institute (ULI) Real Estate Economic Forecast predicts modest fluctuations across the board for 27 economic/real estate indicators. The three-year forecast is completed semi-annually, surveying over 48 economists and analysts at 36 real estate organizations. 

A leading concern? Rising interest rates. ULI forecasts interest rates to be 0.4 percent higher in 2018 and 2019 than previously estimated. The 10-year U.S. Treasury rate is also expected to rise, to 3.1 percent in 2018 and 3.4 percent in 2019, and then stay flat in 2020.

However, according to a recent ULI webinar—featuring Mark Wilsmann, managing director and head of Equity Investments at MetLife Real Estate; Martin Stern, senior managing director at CBRE; Richard Barkham, global chief economist at CBRE; Diana Reid, executive VP at PNC Financial Services; and Stuart Hoffman, senior economic advisor at PNC Financial Services—economists are not as optimistic for the long term.

The New Jersey Senate passed bill S1893 on February 26, 2018 by a 28-9 margin. The bill would authorize any municipality, county or school district to establish charitable funds for specific purposes and permitting property tax credits for certain "donations." Residents would then take a charity write-off for property taxes on their federal income taxes. The bill must be approved by the full Assembly and Governor Phil Murphy has said he supports the measure.

Nonetheless, even if fully passed, the proposal faces an uphill battle as the IRS does not appear willing to recognize tax payments as "donations" and United States Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has called the plan "ridiculous."

S&P Dow Jones Indices today released the latest results for the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices. Data released today for December 2017 shows that home prices continued their rise across the country over the last 12 months. More than 27 years of history for these data series is available, and can be accessed in full by going to http://www.homeprice.spdji.com.  Additional content on the housing market can also be found on S&P Dow Jones Indices’ housing blog: http://www.housingviews.com.

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index, covering all nine U.S. census divisions, reported a 6.3% annual gain in December, up from 6.1% in the previous month. The 10-City Composite annual increase came in at 6.0%, no change from the previous month. The 20-City Composite posted a 6.3% year-over-year gain, down from 6.4% in the previous month.

“The rise in home prices should be causing the same nervous wonder aimed at the stock market after its recent bout of volatility,” says David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Across the 20 cities covered by S&P Corelogic Case Shiller Home Price Indices, the average increase from the financial crisis low is 62%; over the same period, inflation was 12.4%. None of the cities covered in this release saw real, inflation-adjusted prices fall in 2017. The National Index, which reached its low point in 2012, is up 38% in six years after adjusting for inflation, a real annual gain of 5.3%. The National Index’s average annual real gain from 1976 to 2017 was 1.3%. Even considering the recovery from the financial crisis, we are experiencing a boom in home prices.

“Within the last few months, there are beginning to be some signs that gains in housing may be leveling off. Sales of existing homes fell in December and January after seasonal adjustment and are now as low as any month in 2017. Pending sales of existing homes are roughly flat over the last several months. New home sales appear to be following the same trend as existing home sales. While the price increases do not suggest any weakening of demand, mortgage rates rose from 4% to 4.4% since the start of the year. It is too early to tell if the housing recovery is slowing. If it is, some moderation in price gains could be seen later this year.”

To read the full report, click here.

Home equity levels have been steadily returning since the recession years, however, the latest findings from ATTOM Data Solutions show that while equity is still on the positive side, the most recent gains are not quite as strong.

The latest stats show 9.3 percent of all U.S. properties with a mortgage were seriously underwater at the end of 2017, down from 9.6 percent a year ago. However, this was the smallest year-over-year decrease in share of seriously underwater properties since ATTOM began tracking this data at the beginning of 2012.

Across the U.S. 25.4 percent of all properties with a mortgage were equity rich at the end of 2017, up from 24.6 percent a year ago. This was the smallest year-over-year increase in share of equity rich properties since the third quarter of 2015.

Is the stock market crashing? The short answer: no—the Dow is just a little bumpy right now. The recent Wall Street frenzy had people from all over the world fearing that a U.S. real estate bubble might be the culprit after the stock market suddenly took a nearly 1,600-point (4.6 percent) plunge. According to CNN Money, it was the biggest point decline in history during a trading day.

However, experts say there's no reason to worry. While homeownership rates and home prices are currently at an all-time high, they are not to blame for the market's volatility.

"The types of corrections we are seeing this week in the U.S. stock markets are not expected to negatively impact the housing market unless the current volatility causes the market to significantly fall below normal levels," says Joseph Kirchner, senior economist for realtor.com®. "Despite [the] correction, the market is still 15 percent above a year ago and economic fundamentals remain strong."

A recently released report outlines several key priorities to improve New Jersey's housing sector and the worst-in-the-nation foreclosure problem. The fifteen page report proposes, among other things, reinstating the Senior Deputy Commissioner of Housing and Statewide Commission, expanding Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credits, reducing barriers to creating housing, legal assistance for individuals facing eviction or foreclosure and utilizing foreclosed homes for affordable rental and home ownership.

A full copy of the housing report recommendations can be found here.

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