WASHINGTON (AP) — Construction of new U.S. homes surged 22.6% last month as homebuilders bounced back from a lull induced by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that new homes were started an annual pace of nearly 1.5 million in July, highest since February and well above what economists were expecting. Housing starts have now risen three straight months after plunging in March and April as the virus outbreak paralyzed the American economy. Last month’s pace of construction was 23.4% above July 2019’s.
“U.S. housing starts blew the roof off of expectations in July … …. these are the kind of gains seen after storms/hurricanes,” Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, wrote in a research note. Strong demand and limited supply drove builders to break ground.
The big gains came from the construction of apartments and condominiums, which soared 56.7%. But single-family home construction ticked up, too, by 8.2%.
Construction rose all over — 35.3% in the Northeast, 33.2% in the South, 5.8% in both the Midwest and the West.
Applications for building permits, a good indication of future activity, jumped 18.8% from June to an annual rate of 1.5 million, highest since January and up 9.4% from July 2019.
The National Association of Home Builders reported Monday that builders’ confidence this month matched the record high first reached in December 1998. “Strong demand and a record level of homebuilder confidence will support housing starts in the second half of 2020,” economists Nancy Vanden Houten and Gregory Daco of Oxford Economics wrote.
But they warned that Congress’ failure to approve another rescue package could take a toll on the economy. “The still-widespread coronavirus and an economy struggling to recover without fiscal support may limit the upside” for the housing industry, they wrote.
“This year has been anything but normal and as the uncertainty lingers, mortgage rates remain near record lows,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist. “These rates continue to incentivize potential buyers and the home buying season, which shifted from spring to summer, will likely continue into the fall.”
30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.91 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending August 27, 2020, down from last week when it averaged 2.99 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.58 percent.
15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.46 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.54 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.06 percent.
The PMMS® is focused on conventional, conforming, fully-amortizing home purchase loans for borrowers who put 20 percent down and have excellent credit. Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Visit the following link for the Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.
Builder confidence in the newly built, single-family home market jumped six points to 78 in August on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index.
Anything above 50 is considered positive sentiment.
The cost of lumber is soaring not only because of increased demand but because mills shut down in April and May and did not expect to see the kind of strong demand they’re seeing now.
Potential buyers continue to flood into model homes across the nation, and that has builders feeling better about their business than they have in over 20 years. But rising lumber prices could sap the market’s momentum this fall.
Builder confidence in the newly built, single-family home market jumped six points to 78 in August on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. Anything above 50 is considered positive sentiment.
The index is now at the highest level in the 35-year history of the monthly series and matches the record set in December 1998. Builder sentiment plunged to 30 in April, when the coronavirus pandemic shut down the U.S. economy, but it recovered quickly as consumers suddenly sought more space in less urban areas.
“The demand for new single-family homes continues to be strong, as low interest rates and a focus on the importance of housing has stoked buyer traffic to all-time highs as measured on the HMI,” said NAHB Chairman Chuck Fowke. “However, the V-shaped recovery for housing has produced a staggering increase for lumber prices, which have more than doubled since mid-April. Such cost increases could dampen momentum in the housing market this fall, despite historically low interest rates.”
The cost of lumber is soaring not only because of increased demand but because mills shut down in April and May and did not expect to see the kind of strong demand they’re seeing now. There have also been issues with transportation and labor.
Of the index’s three components, current sales conditions rose six points to 84. Sales expectations in the next six months increased three points to 78, and buyer traffic jumped eight points to 65, its highest level in the history of the survey.
Builders are clearly benefiting from the severe shortage of existing homes for sale. There were too few homes to meet demand even before the pandemic struck, and now fewer homeowners are willing to list their homes for sale.
Mortgage rates dropped to a record low to start August but pushed higher last week, as Treasury yields rose and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac increased fees to lenders. Unless rates really break much higher, which is unlikely, the latest increase is unlikely to throw much cold water on the very strong demand for housing.
“Housing has clearly been a bright spot during the pandemic and the sharp rebound in builder confidence over the summer has led NAHB to upgrade its forecast for single-family starts, which are now projected to show only a slight decline for 2020,” said NAHB chief economist Robert Dietz. “Single-family construction is benefiting from low interest rates and a noticeable suburban shift in housing demand to suburbs, exurbs and rural markets as renters and buyers seek out more affordable, lower density markets.”
Regionally, on a three-month moving, builder sentiment in the Northeast jumped 20 points to 65, in the Midwest it rose 13 points to 63. In the South sentiment increased 12 points to 71 and in the West it rose 15 points to 78.
The number of apartments for rent, or listing inventory, more than doubled over last year and set a record for the 14 years since data started being collected, according to a report from Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel.
While hundreds of thousands of residents left the city in March and April in the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, brokers and landlords hoped many would start returning in July and August.
July’s weakness, and what brokers say is already a slow August, suggests that Manhattan’s real estate and economic troubles could extend well into the fall or beyond.
NYC apartment vacancies hit a new all-time high as renters leave the city amid the pandemic
The number of empty apartments for rent in Manhattan soared to their highest level in recent history, topping 13,000, as residents fled the city and landlords struggled to find new tenants.
The number of apartments for rent, or listing inventory, more than doubled over last year and set a record for the 14 years since data started being collected, according to a report from Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel. As the number of apartments listed for rent hit 13,117, the number of new leases signed fell by 23%.
July also saw the largest fall in rental rates in nearly a decade, dropping 10%. Landlords are now offering an average of 1.7 months of free rent to try to lure tenants, according to the report, which is also a recent high. The top moments in business and politics – wrapped with exclusive color and context – right in your ears
While hundreds of thousands of residents left the city in March and April in the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, brokers and landlords hoped many would start returning in July and August, as the city’s lockdown eased and brokers could start showing apartments again. July and August are usually the busiest rental months of the year, as families get ready for school. But July’s weakness, and what brokers say is already a slow August, suggests that Manhattan’s real estate and economic troubles could extend well into the fall or beyond.
“The outbound migration is higher than the inbound migration right now,” said Jonathan Miller, CEO of Miller Samuel, the appraisal and research company.
Manhattan apartment rentals are still far from cheap. The average rental price for a two-bedroom apartment is $4,620. Yet the so-called effective median rent — what people pay with concessions — fell 10% over last year, according to Miller. Aside from offering free rent, brokers are offering to pay broker fees, adding gift cards to Home Depot and other retailers, and offering initial cleaning services, brokers say.
All segments of the market, from the high end to the low end, saw declines. And all areas of Manhattan had a sharp drop in new leases. But the Upper East Side was hit hardest, with a 39% fall in new leases.
The surge in empty apartments in the nation’s largest rental market is likely to have ripple effects throughout the economy. Housing experts estimate that about half of Manhattan’s apartment rentals are owned by small business owners, rather than large publicly traded companies or the big, well-funded real estate families. As the small landlords lose income, they may be unable to pay property taxes, which is New York City’s largest source of revenue. A drop in property taxes could result in cuts to services, which could make New York less attractive to new residents.
“This could be a difficult couple of years for landlords,” Miller said.
Borrowers who rushed in droves to capitalize on low mortgage rates are in for a new surprise.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored enterprises that back millions of mortgages, are adding a new 0.5% fee on all mortgage refinance transactions starting Sept. 1. The news comes as the rate on the 30-year-fixed mortgage is just off its all-time low at 2.96%, according to Freddie Mac.
Normally a rate this low would be a boon for homeowners looking to refinance their current mortgage and lower their monthly payment, but the extra would cost the average consumer $1,400, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, and would eat away at some of the savings during a very uncertain economic time.
“It’s a money grab,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, a personal finance website. “It’s capitalizing on refinancing volume with the idea of putting more money into the coffers of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.”
17.8 million candidates are eligible for refinancing
The new fee could affect the 17.8 million homeowners who are eligible for refinancing, according to numbers provided exclusively to Yahoo Money from BlackKnight, a mortgage and analytics data consulting firm.
On average, these Americans could save $291 a month, for a total of $5.2 billion in cumulative savings. These homeowners have at least 20% equity in their homes, a credit score of 720 or higher, and who can shave off at least 0.75 percentage points off their current mortgage rate.
Lenders have the option to pay the fee themselves rather than passing it on to the borrower, but it’s unclear if banks will do this.
“You’ve got a Federal Reserve creating money that is used to buy Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage-backed securities [to] drive down mortgage rates and allow the consumer to put savings in their pockets, but then the Federal Housing Finance Authority wants to get in the pockets of these consumers and dilute a lot of the benefit of what the Federal Reserve is doing in the first place,” McBride said.
“It is really going to put a dent in the refinancing boom,” he added, “especially for borrowers who with a rate of 3.7% could refinance to 2.7%, but now will expect 3%.
Newsday RM via Getty Images Photo of home for sale in Huntington, New York on August 5, 2020. New York City suburbs are seeing a huge increase in real estate demand amid the pandemic.
New York City apartment sales plunged in July, according to a report from the real-estate firm Douglas Elliman.
But in neighboring suburbs, home sales are surging as wealthy New Yorkers seek greener pastures.
For Connecticut — which has struggled to rebound even from the last recession — the migration could be a boon for its struggling finances.
Only one Manhattan condo sold for more than $10 million in July, according to a new report, as many wealthy New Yorkers continue to flee the city for greener pastures.
Overall apartment sales fell 57% in July compared to the same month in 2019 as for-sale listing soar, real estate firm Douglas Elliman said in its monthly report, a highly-watched data source for the nation’s largest housing market.
As the US largely fails to stop the spread of the coronavirus, short-term escapes appear to be turning in to long-term moves, potentially fueling a rebirth for struggling suburbs. In Westchester County, directly north of the five boroughs, overall single-family sales were up 112% over last year, with those over $2 million more than quadrupling.
And in Connecticut, the areas closest to New York City saw a similar uptick in-step with Westchester. The state was hit hard by the housing crisis more than a decade ago, and has struggled to recover in the years since. Connecticut is one of just two states in the country where gross domestic product has yet to recover from the previous recession and its employment numbers have lagged neighboring states, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
“We are going to market ourselves more to those individuals as opposed to marketing ourselves to the company,” a state economic-development official told The Wall Street Journal, assuming that the days of commuting to an office in Manhattan’s core or corporate parks are on the skids for now. People working from home in Connecticut could be a much-needed boost to the state’s income tax base — and its lawn-laden towns and countryside feel all the more attractive in the middle of a pandemic.
But while the shift in high-end housing is shaping up to be a boon for some towns and brokers, investors are circling distressed assets at depressed prices as unemployment remains above 10% and out-of-work Americans struggle to pay rent.
“Real-estate investors — when you take the emotion out of it — many of them have been waiting for this for a decade,” David Schechtman, a broker with Meridian Capital Group, told The Wall Street Journal in April. The economy has seen little improvement in the months since.
Magnificent natural beauty and unbeatable scenery abounds in America’s legendary mountain ranges. But if you’re not into backcountry camping or roughing it, accessing this country’s towering terrain can be puzzling. Lucky for you, there are plenty of mountain towns chock-full of character and class that make visiting some of the United States’ most stunning regions a breeze.
From the obvious to the underrated, these are the best mountain towns in America.
Boasting world-class ski slopes sprawling across more than 2,000 acres, it’s no wonder Telluride and its ski resort top our list of best mountain towns in America. It was also ranked as the number one Best Small Town to Visit according to U.S. News and World Report. The town of roughly 2,500 residents is nestled in a steep valley dominated by the San Juan Mountains. Come in winter and choose from nearly 150 uncrowded ski trails. Visit in summer and the same terrain becomes an epic hiking range. History buffs will enjoy poking around this former gold mining town and visiting the Telluride Historical Museum and even non-skiers will love soaking up the atmospheric Mountain Village.
Lesser known, but no less enticing, McCall is a perfectly-situated resort town offering a host of activities in every season. Payette Lake, a glassy glacier lake framed by the snow-dusted peaks of the Payette National Forest, booms in the summertime. Brundage Mountain’s mixture of groomed trails and backcountry terrain draws skiers and snowboarders throughout the long winters. Top off a chilly day on the slope with a dip in the Gold Fork Hot Springs, just 30 miles south of town. And if you visit in winter, the renowned McCall Winter Carnival is a must.
Taos, New Mexico
It’s usually deserts, not mountains, that come to mind when you think of the American Southwest. But you can find the best of both worlds in Taos, a spirited town full of culture and tradition that also happens to be wrapped in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Taos is best known for Taos Ski Valley, a rugged and untamed resort with beginner to advanced trails. But the town also houses the only Native American community that’s designated both a UNESCO site and National Historic Landmark. Taos Pueblo showcases 1,000 years of history in its iconic mud and straw dwellings. Combine the slopes and the deep-rooted history with the town’s natural beauty and its appeal becomes undeniably clear.
Sitting on the cusp of the Blue Ridge Mountains (a segment of the Appalachians) in northeast Georgia, Helen oozes charm. With cobblestone streets, mountain cabins for purchase, and painted buildings, you’ll feel like you stepped out of Georgia and into a European alpine village. Its location makes it a desirable year-round destination. The Chattahoochee National Forest flows right into Helen’s state parks, veiling numerous waterfalls, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, multiple beaches, and countless fishing spots. Designated Georgia’s Outdoor Adventure Destination, Helen also offers tubing in the Chattahoochee River, camping, mountain biking and kayaking. In between adventures, dive into the dozens of specialty shops packed into the town’s two square miles. Helen’s got everything you might want – and more.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Located on the southern border of two heavy-hitting national parks and surrounded by the almighty Teton Mountain Range, Jackson Hole is far from an unknown mountain town. The town’s claim to fame is undoubtedly the world-renowned Jackson Hole Mountain Resort which is more like its own self-operating village. Hotels and restaurants pepper Rendezvous Mountain, but it’s the world-class ski slopes spread over 2,500 acres and the 400 inches of annual snowfall that make the resort a destination in itself. Not being a snow bunny isn’t an excuse to avoid Jackson Hole. There are still plenty of other activities to enjoy, like exploring Grand Teton National Park, catching a show at the historic Jackson Hole Playhouse and taking a dip in the exquisite Granite Hot Springs.
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville marches to the beat of its own drum (literally) and offers no apologies. Littered with breweries, hipster hang-outs, and live music venues, Asheville is a quirky mountain town with a ton of flair. Tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville sits a mere 130 miles northeast of our Helen, Georgia but embodies its own drastically-different character. Scenic drives, hiking and picnicking top our list of favorite pastimes in Asheville. When it’s time to let loose, hit up the downtown for a generous helping of live music bars, worldly cuisine, craft breweries and off-beat entertainment options – dinner and a belly dance, anyone?
Remember all the excitement when 30-year mortgage rates started dipping below 3% for the very first time a few weeks ago? Just as those low-cost loans are almost starting to become ho-hum, one of the nation’s largest home lenders is out with a shorter-term mortgage that takes rates into a whole new universe.
United Wholesale Mortgage — a company that earlier this year announced 30-year fixed mortgage rates as low as 2.5% and VA loans for veterans and service members at just 2.25% — has just introduced a 15-year loan with rates under 2%.
Rates that are way below average
Mortgage rates have been plummeting to record lows in 2020 as the coronavirus crisis has shaken up financial markets and caused the Federal Reserve to slash interest rates to the bone.
UWM’s new 15-year fixed-rate mortgages come with rates as low as 1.875%. That’s unprecedented — and way down from the national average for those loans, currently 2.54% according to mortgage company Freddie Mac.
A 15-year home mortgage “is a great vehicle for refinancing. A lot of people look at it as a way to cut years off their mortgage,” says Mat Ishbia, president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage.
A homeowner who’s had a 30-year mortgage for a number of years can refi into a 15-year loan and avoid stretching out interest costs for additional decades.
Mortgage rates with shorter terms tend to have lower rates but much stiffer monthly payments. The rate on the UWM 15-year loan is so low that some refinancers may not find a major difference in their mortgage payments when switching out from a 30-year loan.
The math on a low-cost mortgage
Here’s how that works: Let’s say you took out a 30-year, $250,000 mortgage five years ago at 5%. (Clearly you didn’t do enough comparison shopping, because rates were averaging about 4% in the summer of 2015.)
You’ve been paying $1,342 in principal and interest each month and have close to $230,000 left on your loan.
Refinancing that balance into a 15-year mortgage at 1.875% would give you a monthly payment of $1,466, just $124 more than you’re currently paying. And your interest savings would be huge.
The 15-year loan comes with lifetime interest costs of about $34,000. If you refinanced into a new $230,000, 30-year loan at, say, 3% and stayed with the mortgage through the end of its term, you’d pay total interest costs of $119,000. The difference is massive.
Are all the numbers starting to make your head spin? Think of it this way: The sharply lower interest costs make the 15-year loan a good refinance choice if you plan to stay in the house for the long haul. A 30-year refi loan, with its lower monthly payment, is better if you might be moving on in a few years.
How to get a dirt-cheap 15-year mortgage
The new low-rate 15-year mortgages are part of UWM’s Conquest program, same as the lender’s ultra-cheap 30-year conventional and VA loans.
“Over 90% of our loans are in the 1% or 2% percent range and we’ve had a massive response for both purchases and refinances since we launched the Conquest program back in May,” says Ishbia.
Like the name says, United Wholesale Mortgage is a wholesaler, so you can’t get a mortgage directly from UWM. The loans are offered only through independent mortgage brokers, to both homebuyers and refinancers.
The program has a stipulation that a borrower cannot have taken out a UWM loan within the last 18 months.
Housing will lead the economic recovery. Due to low mortgage interest rates, a renewed focus on the importance of home, and a lack of for-sale inventory, housing data has been a relative bright spot as the overall economy struggles to establish a rebound.
Due to this broader weakness (GDP declined at a -32.9% rate for the second quarter) and gains for residential-related economic activity, housing’s share of GDP reached its highest mark since the third quarter of 2007, increasing to 16.2% during the second quarter of 2020. The home building and remodeling component – residential fixed investment – held at 3.3% of GDP.
Housing-related activities contribute to GDP in two basic ways.
The first is through residential fixed investment (RFI). RFI is effectively the measure of the home building, multifamily development, and remodeling contributions to GDP. It includes construction of new single-family and multifamily structures, residential remodeling, production of manufactured homes and brokers’ fees.
For the second quarter, RFI was 3.3% of the economy, recording a $564 billion seasonally adjusted annual pace (measured in inflation adjusted 2012 dollars). This did represent a decline from the first quarter, which recorded a post-Great Recession high pace of $638 billion.
The second impact of housing on GDP is the measure of housing services, which includes gross rents (including utilities) paid by renters, and owners’ imputed rent (an estimate of how much it would cost to rent owner-occupied units) and utility payments. The inclusion of owners’ imputed rent is necessary from a national income accounting approach, because without this measure, increases in homeownership would result in declines for GDP.
For the second quarter, housing services represented 12.9% of the economy or $2.2 trillion on seasonally adjusted annual basis.
Taken together, housing’s share of GDP was 16.2% for the quarter.
Historically, RFI has averaged roughly 5% of GDP while housing services have averaged between 12% and 13%, for a combined 17% to 18% of GDP. These shares tend to vary over the business cycle. However, the housing share of GDP lagged during the post-Great Recession period due to underbuilding, particularly for the single-family sector.
Freddie Mac (OTCQB: FMCC) today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 2.88 percent, the lowest rate in the survey’s history dating back to 1971.
“The resilience of the housing market continues as mortgage rates hit another all-time low, giving potential buyers more purchasing power and strengthening demand,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist. “We expect rates to stay low and continue to propel the purchase market forward. However, the main barrier to rising demand remains the lack of inventory, especially for entry-level homes.”
30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.88 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending August 6, 2020, down from last week when it averaged 2.99 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.60 percent.
15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.44 percent with an average 0.8 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.51 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.05 percent.
Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Visit the following link for the Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.