Amid growing concerns about housing affordability, the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) weekly mortgage applications survey show a surge in home refinancing, a week-to-week increase of 39% on a seasonally adjusted basis. The increase is contemporaneous with the fourth consecutive week of mortgage rates’ declining. Despite the widespread decrease in mortgage rates, changes in purchasing activity (i.e., purchases on new or existing homes) were not as sensitive to the drop as were applications to refinance.
The last 20 years’ data of the MBA’s Purchasing and Refinancing Indexes show that refinancing activity of homes is often volatile. In early 2000, refi and purchase applications were almost the same but, the refinancing index climbed to multiples of the purchasing index over the next few years. The current period shows this divergence, as higher levels than the current level of refinancing had not been seen since late 2016.
The data also show that purchase applications are almost 10% higher than they were a year ago, that refinance applications are 58% higher on a year-over-year basis, and that, combined, both purchase and refi applications are almost 30% higher than they were a year ago. Despite the tight lending environment of 2019, as anticipated by banks’ senior loan officers in the Federal Reserve’s Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey, the data show a rise in applications on a year-to-date and year-over-year basis, which may partially offset tighter lending standards. The mortgage applications for purchase index is usually a leading indicator for forthcoming home sales, but the latter may be conflated by other factors, such as all-cash sales. The prior few months’ data lean less to such a conclusion, as the upward trend of the purchase index in January 2019 was subsequently followed up by increases in new and existing home sales in February.
Freddie Mac (OTCQB: FMCC) today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing that mortgage rates held steady after seeing major drops last week. Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, says, “Purchase mortgage application demand saw the second highest weekly increase over the last year and thanks to a spike in refinancing activity, overall mortgage demand rose to the highest level since the fall of 2016.”Khater continued, “While the housing market has faced many head winds the last few months, it sailed through the turbulence to calmer seas with demand buttressed by a strong labor market and low mortgage rates. The benefits of the decline in mortgage rates that we’ve seen this year will continue to unfold over the next few months due to the lag from changes in mortgage rates to market sentiment and ultimately home sales.”
News Facts30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.08 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending April 4, 2019, up from last week when it averaged 4.06 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.40 percent. 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.56 percent with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.57 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.87 percent. 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.66 percent with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.75 percent. A year ago at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.62 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.Freddie Mac makes home possible for millions of families and individuals by providing mortgage capital to lenders. Since our creation by Congress in 1970, we’ve made housing more accessible and affordable for homebuyers and renters in communities nationwide. We are building a better housing finance system for homebuyers, renters, lenders, investors and taxpayers.
In an era of partisan strife, Americans of all political parties overwhelmingly agree on one issue: we need better infrastructure. Crumbling bridges, unsafe water, and communities without broadband threaten our nation’s health, safety, and economic future. Yet the federal government’s role has remained largely unchanged for generations. Why is it so hard to find consensus on such an obvious problem?D
In my three decades of work with the federal government, including my time in the White House, I kept running into the same three challenges. Our path to a new federal infrastructure policy is blocked by irrational expectations around limited funding, a failure to appreciate the diversity of needs, and misaligned incentives.
Our path to a new federal infrastructure policy is blocked by irrational expectations around limited funding, a failure to appreciate the diversity of needs, and misaligned incentives.
Let’s start with expectations.
Regretfully, federal funding is a zero-sum exercise. Federal funds for infrastructure come from individuals and companies in communities. If one community receives excess federal funding, then other communities are receiving less. Notwithstanding strong desires to the contrary, the same taxpayers contributing federal dollars are also those paying into state and local coffers. Infrastructure commentators frequently note that state and local governments cannot afford to pay for all of their infrastructure needs, so the federal government should help. Sure, the federal government can take revenues from another location or borrow against the future, but the net effect is either zero today or long-run borrowing costs.
Irrational expectations make it difficult to have reasoned policy conversations. My son used to tutor math, and one of his more creative students tried to dismiss poor test performance by declaring, “math lies.” Similarly, many shaping infrastructure policy are trying to utilize aspirational infrastructure investment math by pursuing a fantasy that federal funds can be spent on infrastructure without imposing a burden on state and local taxpayers. The inaccurate perception of the possibility of “free” federal investment leads to unattainable expectations.
While policymakers are struggling with infrastructure math, they are also facing a marvelously diverse set of infrastructure needs. When the federal government first seriously jumped into infrastructure investment, our needs as a nation were more clearly defined. For example, we needed a network of highways to connect the continent. The 1956 Highway Act addressed that need by imposing a national tax and providing a national benefit.
Fast forward six decades and our nation’s needs are vastly more diverse. In the 1950s and 1960s, the challenges were connectivity; today, it is safety, congestion, older pipes, functional bandwidth, and environmental impact. The locus of the need has also changed. The infrastructure needs of the last century were largely national in nature; today our needs are mostly local. While the federal government excelled in delivering the Interstate System, it is not well positioned to help with the broad diversity of infrastructure issues vexing our communities in the 21st century.
While the federal government excelled in delivering the Interstate System, it is not well positioned to help with the broad diversity of infrastructure issues vexing our communities in the 21st century.
Our country’s diversity of needs is amplified by diversity of ownership. Unlike many countries, most infrastructure in the U.S. is owned at the state and local level. Given the nomenclature, many Americans think the federal government owns the Interstates and the rest of the Federal Highway System, but those highways are all owned by state and local governments. Water systems are almost all locally-owned, resulting in Americans receiving water from over 51,000 community water systems. As we move further into the 21st century, our infrastructure needs will be increasingly defined by our 89,004 local governments, not by one federal government.
The third and final challenge to improving the federal role in our nation’s infrastructure is the most daunting. Federal involvement in funding state- and locally-owned infrastructure suppresses investment and encourages delay.
Three-quarters of infrastructure investment is made at the state and local level, yet the remote possibility of federal funding encourages governors, mayors, and county executives to postpone increasing infrastructure investment in the hope their projects will receive federal funds. This dynamic is akin to telling shoppers there is a small likelihood they will receive a coupon for 80 percent off their next suit purchase. Consumers will rationally engage in what economists call strategic delay and postpone their purchase in the hope of receiving a coupon. Many will continue to delay until their suit (our infrastructure) becomes unacceptably shoddy and worn. A few brave state and local leaders have ignored this disincentive to invest by boosting revenue, but they have done so at the peril of a future political opponent criticizing them for not working harder to get federal funding.
The federal government should reverse this coupon effect and build on the success of past incentive programs such as tax credits for renewable energy and the Smart Cities Challenge program. In all these cases, the federal government provided incentives to encourage investment, and the incentives resulted in a dramatic increase in available resources. Without this realignment, the coupon effect will encourage project proponents to ignore local resources and instead take lobbying trips to Washington, D.C.
This dynamic was displayed during a breakfast I hosted in the White House with a delegation seeking federal funding for a port project. Their best selling point was a study demonstrating the seven dollars in economic benefits that would be generated for every dollar invested in the port. I thanked them and pointed out they were in the wrong city. They should be in New York, not Washington, as there is virtually no limit to the number of investors interested in a return of such magnitude.
Updating our nation’s infrastructure policy will be challenging, but it is critical. Infrastructure is the only policy area affecting services utilized by every American, every day. Improving our nation’s infrastructure not only helps spur economic growth, but also dramatically improves our quality of life. Repeated public opinion surveys have shown that the vast majority of Americans want better infrastructure. People are tired of wasting time in traffic, worrying about water quality, or living without broadband.
Improving our nation’s infrastructure not only helps spur economic growth, but also dramatically improves our quality of life.
Overcoming the problems of expectations, diversity of need, and misaligned incentives requires us to work with the real owners of infrastructure assets: governors, mayors and county executives. They are best positioned to develop a post-Interstate, 21st century infrastructure policy framework that provides a more efficient way to build and maintain the world’s best infrastructure.
National foreclosure rates continued their recovery in 2018 from their peak during the Great Recession.
Foreclosure filings were reported on one out of every 215 homes last year. That’s down markedly compared with the filings on roughly one in 47 homes in 2010. Last year’s rate is the lowest since at least 2005.
However, the foreclosure picture can look different at the state level.
Almost a third of states saw the number of foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — against homes climb last year, according to the report from ATTOM Data Solutions.
“Plummeting foreclosure completions combined with consistently falling foreclosure timelines in 2018 provide evidence that most of the distress from the last housing crisis has now been cleaned up,” says Todd Teta, chief product officer for ATTOM.
But some evidence of distress was gradually returning to the housing market in 2018, Teta says.
States with the highest foreclosure rates
The states with the highest foreclosure rates were clustered in mostly in the Northeast.
New Jersey has had the highest rate since 2015 and had 1.33 percent of housing units with foreclosure filings last year. Delaware had 0.96 percent; Maryland 0.86 percent; Illinois 0.74 percent and Connecticut 0.72 percent.
States with the lowest foreclosure rates
North Dakota was among the places where foreclosure rates increased from 2017 to 2018. But the Roughrider State’s real estate economy remains strong comparatively.
North Dakota had the lowest rate of housing units with foreclosure filings last year (0.06 percent). South Dakota had 0.07 percent; Montana 0.11 percent and West Virginia 0.12.
Alaska has the fastest-rising foreclosure rate
Alaska’s economy has been struggling in recent years after oil prices dipped in 2014, but the state’s real estate market has proved fairly resilient, according to Terry Fields, assistant professor at the College of Business and Public Policy within the University of Alaska Anchorage.
The data from ATTOM shows homeowners in The Last Frontier may be starting to feel the pressure. A total of 1,145 properties were in the process of foreclosure in 2018 — up from 614 in 2017.
The foreclosure rate in Alaska grew the fastest of all 50 states, rising from 0.20 percent in 2017 to 0.37 percent last year, according to ATTOM.
While local economists are keeping an eye on Alaska’s real estate market, foreclosures are still significantly below the levels they were during the Great Recession and previous bust periods in Alaska, Fields says.
Putnam, Bronx and Sullivan counties, which are also served by the Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service, were the exceptions experiencing increases in residential sales of 4.7% in Sullivan, 1.9% in Putnam and 1% in Bronx County in 2018.
The lower Hudson Valley experienced historically low inventories of single-family homes at the beginning of the year, which may have contributed to an initial decline of sales. Rockland County, which experienced an 11.5% drop in sales of single-family homes, also saw an increase of 11.4% in sales of 2-4 family homes and an increase of 2.5% in condo sales. Days on market, the number of days from the time a home is listed for sale to the time of a fully executed contract of sale, was significantly lower in all counties.
Another indication of healthy demand in the housing market was the increase in sales price in all counties. Westchester County, which had the highest number of single-family home sales at 5,876 units, experienced a rise of 1.2% in median price to $650,000, up from $642,000 a year earlier. Orange County, with 3,827 units sold, saw an increase of 6.4% in its median to $258,600 from $243,000 a year earlier. Despite the diminution of units sold in Rockland County, the median sales price rose 4.5% to $460,000 from $440,000 a year earlier. Putnam County, which had a 2.2% increase in unit sales, also had a 3.7% increase in median price rising to $350,000 from $337,500 a year earlier.
Overall, in 2018, 21,338 residential units were sold in the areas covered by Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service. This was a drop of 2.6% from the prior year. Possible headwinds for the housing market for 2019 continue to be the unknown effect of the tax reform law of 2018, which limits the deductibility state and local taxes, and a volatile stock market. However, given the improving inventory numbers, continuing attractive mortgage interest rates, high employment in the region, and a healthy economy it is anticipated that the market will remain vibrant in 2019.
The Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service, Inc. (HGMLS) is a subsidiary of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, Inc. (HGAR). HGMLS’s principal service area consists of Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Orange and Sullivan counties. It also provides services to Realtors in Bronx, Dutchess and Ulster counties.
The reported transactions do not include all real estate sales in the area or all sales assisted by the participating offices, but they are fairly reflective of general market activity. HGMLS does not provide data on sub-county areas, but persons desiring such data are invited to contact Realtor offices in the desired areas. Prior reports back to 1981 as well as current market information and a directory of Realtor members are available on the Association’s website at www.hgar.com.
Note: The median sale price is the mid-point of all reported sales, i.e., half of the properties sold for more than the median price and half for less. The median is relatively unaffected by unusually high or low sales prices. The mean sale price is the arithmetic average, i.e., the sum of all sales prices divided by the number of sales. The mean does reflect the influence of sales at unusually low or high prices.
There’s no shortage of doom and gloom talk about a US housing crash that would take NYC down with it. In fact the recent reports of high foreclosure rates in Queens, Bronx and Staten Island are a little alarming. They’re not quite as negative though as those in other cities.
The 3rd quarter market performance was less than stellar, the worst in many years.
Yet the Trump tax bill may just rectify the foreclosure carnage even as it slowed sales and lowered property prices as investors and buyers waited it out. The wait might be over now.
Overall home prices rose above $1,000,000 and condo prices fell 11% to an average of $2,689,147. It’s the high end properties that got hit hardest. At the lower end, NYC has a full blown housing shortage.
With income averaging about $60,000 per year in New York City, it’s difficult for many to buy homes averaging $680,000. It’s estimated that to buy a home in NYC, you need an income of $100,000. New York State’s economy was a sluggish under performer in 2016, however in the last 12 months NYC has gained 68,000 jobs. In November alone, NY State grew 26,000 new jobs.
The US economy persistently grows and improves despite the terrible debt and trade deficits left by the Obama administration. The Trump Administration new Tax bill are being viewed as positive and have quietened talks of housing market and stock market crashes.
Bar any issues with trade relations, and President Trump’s recent visit to China is a good start, all should go nicely with the US housing scene and help New York recover further. It could be said that NY’s inability to create new housing has made it too expensive to live their. That scares away business and makes buyers suspicious of a NY housing crash.
This chart below from the Case Shiller Home price index shows NYC’s real estate is stable and optimistic.
NYSAR New York Real Estate Update December
Here’s the latest New York housing stats published by NYSAR, shows the typical US housing data, that supply of affordable homes has dropped 1%, sales are down 2.5%, and average prices are up 7% from last year.
You could say that just like the San Francisco market and Los Angeles market, and all major city markets across North America, the New York housing market is under pressure. The NYC forecast is for more of the same, but at least, the market here isn’t like it is in Seattle, the Bay Area, or Los Angeles county.
It’s pretty far fetched that New York’s real estate performance could deviate too much from the US national forecast. A crash isn’t favored by the stats.
Is 2018 the right year to invest in rental income property? Contrast the stock market to investing in real estate.
Some Experts are Talkin’ Crash while Others Aren’t
There are enough media and realty pundits talking about a real estate market crash in New York soon. CNBC called from one back in the spring, but it’s not happening. Prices in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, have kept rising slowly.
A Tale of Two Markets?
It’s softening in the high end luxury sector where DOM is lengthening and prices have dropped almost 1% during 2016 according to one report. But demand at the lower end has stayed strong.
New York State Realtor Association is Optimistic
NYSAR reiterated NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun’s keynote speech at the 2016 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Orlando, Florida. Yun explained that younger buyers are likely to drive growth in residential markets in the years ahead as the economy stays on a positive track and interest rates stay relatively low.
Here’s the 3rd quarter market report from NYSAR. New listings are down from the previous quarter, avg/med prices are up and number of months supply has dropped 29%.
Here’s an exerpt from NYSAR’s latest new report:
“Looking ahead, the modest closed sales increases in September and the third quarter may signal that the continued decline in available homes is starting to impede closed sales growth,” MacKenzie said, noting the 20.7 % decline in homes on the market at the end of the third quarter compared to the same period in 2015. “Buyers, who are trying to take advantage of otherwise favorable market conditions, are finding fewer choices available to them causing them to delay the purchase of their next home.”
The year-to-date (Jan. 1 – Sept. 30) sales total of 95,453 was 11% above the same period last year. There were 38,629 closed sales in the 2016 third quarter, up 2.8% from the 2016 third quarter total of 37,575. September 2016 closed sales increased 2.1%compared to a year ago to reach 11,780.
The New York Building Congress Forecast 2017 to 2018
Calls for $127.5 Billion in Total Spending Through 2018. 2016 was a record year for housing sales and jumped past the $40 billion mark for the first time. NYBC also forecasts a total of 147,100 jobs in NY’s 5 boroughs in 2016, an increase of 8,900 jobs from 2015 but will fall a few percent to 142,600 jobs in 2017 and 138,100 in 2018.
These screen caps are from HUD’s Comprehensive Housing Market Analysis of New York City, NY. New York’s economy was rolling along nicely.
Is that forecasted softening in employment enough to cause a crash?
The Building Congress’s outlook for new home construction is 27,000 new units and $13.1 billion of residential spending in 2017, and 25,000 units and $12.7 billion in spending in 2018. That’s down significantly from the 36,000 units built in 2015. With nowhere to live we can expect residents new and old to bid on resale stock and that should keep home prices level.
Donald Trump did make an election promise to cut government spending and tax the wealthy and that could make an impact, yet it appears private demand is what is driving the economy right now.
Removal of the Dodd Frank noose and easing of mortgage lending should create more demand for homes in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, Houston, SF Bay Area, Miami, and well, every US city. If land development regulations are eased, it will allow for more home construction and help to ease the auctions atmosphere that has rocketed them upward.
It’s a health forecast with strong demand, stable mortgage rates, looser rules on financing, and a government bent on creating jobs in 2018 to 2020. Full speed ahead.
Detroit, Michigan Several employers in Detroit, Michigan, including Blue Cross Blue Shield and Quicken Loans, will pay their employees to live downtown, close to where they work. New renters can receive $3,500 over two years toward the cost of their apartment, and those who renew leases can receive $1,000. And if you buy a new home in an eligible neighborhood, you could be looking at $20,000 in forgivable loans toward the purchase of a primary residence.
Baltimore, Maryland It pays to buy a home in Baltimore—literally! Qualifying buyers can receive $5,000 toward the purchase of a primary residence through the Buying Into Baltimore or City Living Starts Here programs. Those willing to buy a home that has been vacant can apply to the Vacants to Value Booster Program, which awards $10,000 to eligible home buyers to put toward closing costs.
Niagara Falls, New York Niagara Falls wants to attract more than just tourists—and they’re looking for young people, in particular. In an effort to combat its population decline and recruit new residents, the city of Niagara Falls promises to pay off up to $7,000 in student loan debt over two years for any recent graduates who live near Main Street.
New Haven, Connecticut New Haven, Connecticut, is really rolling out the red carpet for new residents. First-time home buyers can receive up to $10,000 in forgivable loans to put toward down payments and closing costs. And for anyone buying a historic (and out-of-date) home, New Haven may provide up to $30,000 in forgivable loans to perform energy-saving upgrades. Plus, parents of school-age kids may not have to sock away money for college, thanks to the city’s commitment to provide free in-state college tuition to any child who graduates from New Haven public schools.
Anywhere, Alaska Do you dream of living in Alaska? If you do, you could earn $1,000 a year just for living there. The state of Alaska maintains a Permanent Reserve Fund that pays dividends to residents who have lived in the state for at least one calendar year and plan to remain there indefinitely. So, pack your thermals and head out for a new life of adventure.
Harmony, Minnesota With a population that hovers around 1,000, Harmony, Minnesota, wants to grow. If you build a brand-new home there, the Harmony Economic Development Authority will give you up to $12,000 in the form of a cash rebate. Nestled in the midst of some of the Midwest’s biggest farms, “The Biggest Little Town in Southern Minnesota” may be the perfect destination for anyone who loves country life but still wants modern amenities like shops, restaurants, and quality schools.
Marquette, Kansas Marquette, Kansas, will give you land to build a home—for free. This small town in the heart of America wants to attract new families to the Westridge area, where residents can enjoy spectacular views of the sunset and rolling hills, typical of the big-sky prairie. With only 650 residents, it’s a place where neighbors know each other and parents feel comfortable letting their kids play outside and walk to school.
Lincoln, Kansas Lincoln, Kansas, has built a completely new subdivision filled with zero-dollar lots for eligible newcomers to build a home. The small-town neighborhood boasts proximity to the city park, baseball field, and the junior-senior high school as well as the Lincoln Carnegie library, the golf course, and the rolling hills overlooking the Saline River.
Curtis, Nebraska Free home sites are available to build new homes in the Roll’n Hills subdivision of Curtis, Nebraska. Described as Nebraska’s Easter City—a nod to their annual Palm Sunday pageant—Curtis has a 9-hole golf course and is home to the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture.
From the New York site:Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen lives a pretty fabulous life. With an estimated net worth of $18 billion, he’s the 26th wealthiest man in the world, and he has the fancy yachts, planes, and lifestyle to prove it. Allen also collects a ridiculous amount of properties across the globe.
From a hilltop mansion on the French Riviera to an entire island off the coast of Washington, Allen has made his fair share of blockbuster purchases over the years.
Allen’s primary residence is a 10,000-square-foot waterfront home on Mercer Island, a ritzy enclave of Seattle. He owns a total of 11 mansions on the island, including one that’s just for his mother and another that houses a full-size basketball court, swimming pool, and fitness center.
Allen’s most recent purchase on Mercer Island was a 3,000-square-foot bungalow that he reportedly paid $5.4 million for.
He bought Allan Island, off the coast of Washington, in 1992. Though he initially had plans to build a dream home on the island, its secluded nature and lack of electricity made construction difficult. He sold the island in 2013 for a discounted $8 million.
In 1993, Allen purchased a former sheep ranch in Tetonia, Idaho. For years, the property operated as the Teton Ridge Ranch, a five-suite luxury mountain lodge. It closed for business in 2009.
In 1997, Allen bought a 12,952-square-foot Mediterranean-style home in Beverly Hills. Among its ridiculous amenities is a funicular that shuttles guests from the pool deck to a tennis court located on a lower part of the property.
Also in 1997, he paid $20 million for “The Enchanted Hill,” a Beverly Hills estate that previously belonged to Hollywood legends Frances Marion and Fred Thomson. Allen angered many in the community when he demolished the historic property in 2000. He hasn’t built anything on the land since then, though he did terrace the hillside.
Allen bought this glassy contemporary home in Malibu’s Carbon Beach for $25 million in 2010. In 2014, he sold it to CBS President Les Moonves for $28 million, reportedly because he “hated the sound of the ocean.”
Allen owns properties in Northern California as well. In November 2013, he paid $27 million for this 22,000-square-foot home in Atherton, one of Silicon Valley’s wealthiest neighborhoods and the most expensive zip code in the US.
He dropped a reported $7.5 million for the historic 10-acre property known as the “Thurston Estate” in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. In addition to a 12,000-square-foot main house, there’s an employee residence, beach house, boat shed, and a private harbor.
In 2011, Allen paid $25 million for the penthouse in an apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. He had purchased an apartment on the 11th floor of the same building in 1996, at a reported price of $13.5 million.
His international real-estate holdings include the Villa Maryland, a hilltop mansion in the Côte d’Azur town of St. Jean Cap-Ferrat. He employs a staff of 12 and counts Bono and Andrew Lloyd Webber among his neighbors.
He also has a house in London’s Holland Park neighborhood, on the same cobblestone street where Richard Branson owns a home.
When he heard his favorite Seattle movie theater was going to be demolished, he decided to buy it. His development company, Vulcan, refurbished the Cinerama with state-of-the-art Dolby sound and projection systems, including the world’s first Christie 6P laser projector. It reopened in the fall of 2014.
But no discussion of Paul Allen is complete without mention of his yachts. There’s the 303-foot Tatoosh, which has a cinema, swimming pool, and accommodations for 20 guests.
And the 414-foot Octopus, where Allen hosts his famous celebrity-packed parties during the Cannes Film Festival.
Bad credit? No credit? No problem—or so, many of those all-too-catchy loan ads promise.
But while you might be able to finance a used car with less-than-stellar credit, getting approved for a home mortgage when you have FICO scores dwelling deep in the cellar can seem like an infinitely steeper climb. An Everest-level climb, in fact.
But here’s the shocker: It can be done, particularly if buyers know where to score a mortgage. That’s where realtor.com®’s penny-wise (but never pound-foolish) data team comes in. As it turns out, there are plenty of cities where a not-great credit score—say, well under 650—won’t stand between buyers and their dream home. And yet, in other parts of the country, buyers are delusional if they think they’re getting a mortgage without a nearly perfect score—and boatloads of cash for a down payment. We located the top metros for both.
So how do you snag a home mortgage without an excellent credit rating? It’s largely a matter of what government loan programs are available in a specific area—and those vary substantially. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, for example, sometimes offers no-money-down loans to borrowers whose scores are below 640—but only for homes in a rural ZIP code.
Federal Housing Administration loans, among the most popular government-backed mortgages, allow borrowers with credit scores as low as 500 to qualify with a 10% down payment. (They must have scores of 580 to snag loans that require only 3.5% down payments.) But plenty of sellers choose not to accept them if they have other offers.
On the exclusionary side of the equation, home prices and market hotness play leading roles in keeping credit rating requirements high. Maybe toohigh if you haven’t been tending to your credit like a weed-free garden.
“When you’ve got 25 offers on a house and you’re the seller, you’re more likely to take a cash buyer or a conventional loan with 20% down,” says Courtney James, owner of Urban Durham Realty in Durham, NC. (Conventional loans, not backed by a federal agency, generally require a credit score of at least 620; anything lower than 650 is considered “OK,” “poor,” or “bad” by rating agencies.)
To find out where credit-challenged buyers live out the American ideal of homeownership, we calculated the share of mortgages in the largest 200 metros* obtained with a 649 FICO score or lower. The share of mortgages was calculated over a 12-month period from July 2017 through June 2018. We limited rankings to one metro per state.
So let’s start with the feel-good news: places where would-be home buyers with poor or downright crummy credit scores can still dare to dream!
Median home list price: $147,300 Share of borrowers with a 649 FICO score or lower: 39.1%
Although the state capital of West Virginia is a college town, the city’s overall population is aging. There’s been a big decline in chemical industry or coal jobs. That’s caused many folks to put their homes on their market.
This has opened the door for first-time buyers seeking move-in ready, three-bedroom homes near downtown, says local real estate agent Margo Teeter of Old Colony Realtors. These single-family homes start around $130,000, but can be found for less.
“We’ve got a buyer’s market,” says Teeter. Due to the relative abundance of homes on the market, she says, “our area has more motivated sellers.”
The affordable prices have led to an increase in young buyers, ranging in age from 22 to 35, who take advantage of the lower credit scores required for USDA and FHA loan programs. Most just don’t have the credit history or scores to get into other kinds of more traditional loans, says mortgage banker Joey Starcher of Victorian Finance.
Median home list price: $209,950 Share of borrowers with a 649 FICO score or lower: 35%
This quiet, family-friendly town along the Kentucky border is best known as the home to the U.S. Army base Fort Campbell. (It’s also just 45 minutes away from Nashville.) So it makes sense that many folks are becoming homeowners with the help of Veterans Affairs loans, which require a minimum credit score of just 620.
Most of local real estate agent LauraStasko‘s clients are scoring entry-level, three-bedroom, vinyl-sided ranch homes in suburban areas near the base. These run from about $100,000 to $130,000—a fraction of the national median home price, just below $300,000.
But buyers on a budget in Clarksville, with its quaint downtown filled with older, brick buildings, stately Victorian houses, and parks, had better act fast.
“Anything under $140,000 or $150,000 has been flying off the market,” says Stasko.
Median home list price: $239,750 Share of borrowers with a 649 FICO score or lower: 35%
Corpus Christi has plenty of attractions for buyers: It sits on a large, shallow bay that attracts a diverse flock of water birds, songbirds, and raptors. This helped it earn the title of—you guessed it—“America’s birdiest place,” according to the San Diego Audubon Society. There are plenty of jobs in the medical, oil refinery, construction, and, with nearby tourist destinations like Mustang Island, hospitality industries.
Yet the city has the fifth-lowest credit scores in the United States, with an average of 638, according to a report by Experian.
That hasn’t stopped people from buying houses. Buyers can still find 1,200-square-foot starter homes for under $160,000 in desirable areas within Corpus Christi like Del Mar and Lindale, says local agent Monika Caldwell of Hunsaker & Associates.
In addition to FHA loans, the city promotes multiple locally and federally funded home buyer assistance grants that help out buyers with down payments of up to $10,000. Not bad!
Median home list price: $229,500 Share of borrowers with a 649 FICO score or lower: 30.4%
The citrus groves and cattle ranches that used to occupy much of the land around Lakeland has been gradually overtaken by 55-plus communities and housing developments for young families. That’s because housing prices have been soaring in nearby cities such as Tampa, where they’re a median $266,250, and Orlando, where they’re $260,000, according to realtor.com data.
“Someone with poor credit … has to go where the [home] prices are lower, ” says Monique Youngblood, mortgage broker with US Mortgage Lenders. “Florida is getting really expensive, and prices in Lakeland are still pretty decent.”
Buyers can find new homes in South Lakeland for around $180,000, says local Realtor® John Martinez of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate. Older properties from the 1970s start around $140,000. To afford them, most of Martinez’s clients are using FHA loans that require only about 4% or so down of the purchase price.
Median home list price: $218,000 Share of borrowers with a 649 FICO score or lower: 26.5%
It’s easier to become a homeowner in Augusta, on the banks of the Savannah River, because home prices are just so much cheaper here than in much of the rest of the country.
Three-bedroom, two-bathroom homes in the millennial-friendly neighborhood of National Hills, right near the prestigious Augusta National Golf Club, can be picked up for $100,000 to $150,000. That’s good news for young buyers, many of whom haven’t had the time to build a strong credit history.
Local lenders offer competitive loan programs encouraged by the Community Reinvestment Act, designed to help buyers in low- to moderate-income Census tracts. Those programs require a minimum credit score of 620 and can include 100% financing for those who qualify.
“I do as many of those as I can,” says Brandon Mears, mortgage loan officer with South State Bank. “It’s a really great program for kids just coming out of college.”
Median home list price: $936,050 Share of borrowers with a 649 FICO score or lower: 4.3%
The market in Santa Cruz may not be quite as crazy as it is just over the hill in San Jose (where homes are a median list price of $998,000). But this Ferris wheel–graced beach town is still prohibitively expensive for many buyers, especially those with low credit. Those seeking mortgages are likely to need a jumbo loan—and thus a higher credit score and down payment.
“You might be able to find a small two-bedroom, one-bath house here in the low $800,000s,” says real estate agent Bri Chmel of Live Love Santa Cruz. That’s if you’re very, very lucky.
So buyers in this market, one of the sunniest spots along California’s northern coast, had better be ready to compete with all-cash offers from ultrawealthy, Silicon Valley techies. Best of luck with that.
Median home list price: $257,050 Share of borrowers with a 649 FICO score or lower: 5.4%
Wait, what? How did Fargo make it to this side of the list? It’s all about growth. Set on the Great Plains on the western edge of the Red River, Fargo has a bustling job market that’s led to an influx of new residents in recent years. The population jumped 15.9% from 2010 to 2017, according to the U.S. Census. That’s led to a lot of folks competing for a limited number of abodes.
Buyers are snapping up entry-level homes under $200,000 like seagulls stealing Cheez-Its on the beach. Because the market is so hot, sellers are passing over buyers who have a harder time getting a loan. Larger down payments and conventional loans (requiring a minimum 620 credit score) are usually needed to be considered for a contract.
Seller’s agents are seeking pre-qualification letters that prove that buyers have already gone through all the steps to get approved by the bank. And when it comes to older homes, many sellers prefer to avoid FHA loans altogether to avoid the more stringent loan appraisal process.
“Sellers here can be pickier about how they want their home financed,” says John Colvin, broker-owner of Century 21 FM Realty.
Median home list price: $350,000 Share of borrowers with a 649 FICO score or lower: 6%
Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan, is the quintessential college town, dotted with circa 1900 brick and wood-frame homes. In fact, it’s the most educated city in the United States, according to an analysis by WalletHub. That level of education correlates to above-average home prices, with $250,000 to $450,000 as the entry-level range.
That high starting point and lack of inventory make it hard for buyers to get in unless they have the income and credit to qualify for a conventional loan.
“It’s hard to get a home in Ann Arbor without very good credit,” says brokerMarge Everhart of the Marge Everhart Co. “I haven’t seen an FHA mortgage in years. Poor people are getting pushed out.”
Median home list price: $356,300 Share of borrowers with a 649 FICO score or lower: 7.2%
Every Tuesday, when James, the Urban Durham Realty owner, asks her 25 agents to raise a hand if they’ve put in or received offers on homes for their clients in the past week, almost all hands are in the air. When she asks those agents if they were involved in a multiple-offer situation, most hands remain raised.
“This is unprecedented,” says James. “Anything under $350,000 gets a lot of offers.”
The university town, one point of North Carolina’s Research Triangle, is a hub for the biotech industry and boasts a thriving startup culture while remaining relatively affordable. Just 10 minutes away from downtown in Southwest Durham, buyers have been trying to outbid one another on classic midcentury, brick, ranch-style homes in the midrange market of $350,000 to $400,000.
A bit farther out in more affordable North Durham, 10-year-old homes are going for about $250,000—if you can get an offer accepted.
“There are not a lot of FHA loan deals,” says James.
Median home list price: $612,550 Share of borrowers with a 649 FICO score or lower: 7.3%
On the edge of the Flatiron Mountains, Boulder boasts beautiful panoramas befitting a Coors ad. It regularly pops up on lists of the best places to live for its high quality of life, and plentiful gigs. These things just keep driving up the cost of real estate.
Most buyers need to be able to meet the strict requirements and high credit scores for a jumbo loan. With a jumbo loan limit of $587,000, buyers need to have a hefty downpayment, too.
Boulder is “surrounded by open space, but home prices have gone through the roof,” says Kelly Moye, broker with Re/Max Alliance and spokesperson for the Colorado Association of Realtors. They’ve risen 25% in just three years, from August 2015 to August 2018. “It’s unaffordable: People who need to get jumbo loans have to have exemplary credit.”