Ending a string of three successive months of record highs, builder confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes fell four points to 86 in December, according to the latest NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). Despite the decline, December is still the second-highest reading in the history of the series after last month’s 90.
Housing demand is strong entering 2021, however the coming year will see housing affordability challenges as inventory remains low and construction costs are rising.
The issues that have limited housing supply in recent years, including land and material availability and a persistent skilled labor shortage, will continue to place upward pressure on construction costs. As the economy improves with the deployment of a COVID-19 vaccine, interest rates will increase in 2021, further challenging housing affordability in the face of strong demand for single-family homes.
Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 35 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair” or “poor.” The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “high to very high,” “average” or “low to very low.” Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.
The HMI index gauging current sales conditions dropped four points to 92, the component measuring sales expectations in the next six months fell four points to 85 and the gauge charting traffic of prospective buyers also decreased four points to 73.
Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the Northeast fell one point to 82, the Midwest was up one point to 81, the South rose one point to 87 and the West increased two points to 96.
Homeowners looking to add a deck, renovate their kitchen or build a new home likely noticed how expensive the price of building is. The reason: In late summer, lumber prices were the highest they have ever been. And even though those prices have started to fall, it’s unclear when construction costs will follow suit.
In September, the price of lumber reached a record of almost $1,000 per thousand board feet, a quantity equivalent to about 190 eight-foot two-by-fours, according to Random Lengths, a trade publication for the wood products industry. That was nearly triple the price from last year, when the same amount of wood sold for about $360. Lumber was selling at around $550 per thousand board feet as of Nov. 10, according to Business Insider data. Those fluctuations have left lumber yards and homebuilders navigating whether to increase prices or absorb losses. Meanwhile, many new construction home buyers are still paying elevated costs.
Boone County Lumber in Columbia, which sells materials primarily to home builders and commercial contractors, has paid more for wood and had to increase its prices in response. Lumber for a job the yard provided materials for in September cost $18,000 more than the products would have for the same job in March, according to owner Brad Eiffert.
Eiffert said he typically sees lumber prices move by $5 or $10 per thousand board feet over one week. Over the summer, weekly prices jumped by $70 to $100 per thousand board feet. They then dropped back down by the same amount in October.
“No one, living or dead, has seen what happened,” said Eiffert, whose father owned his lumber yard before him.
Costs for lumber yards have begun to fall as mills catch up to the demand. Seasonality has also affected demand some, as colder weather deters the number of projects contractors can handle and typically causes yards to lower their inventories, Eiffert said. However, several Missouri home builders say they have had to raise their prices as recently as October in reaction to skyrocketing lumber costs.
A ‘decade-long train wreck’
What caused the surge of lumber prices during the spring and summer? Many factors over the years are to blame.
“This is a decade-long train wreck that came to meet us in the summer of 2020,” Eiffert said.
First, years of pine beetle destruction of forests caused many lumber producers to quickly cut down and sell a large supply of trees in order to salvage as much product as possible. By June 2019, this supply of trees was already dwindling, according to a Random Lengths report from that month.
This lowered the amount of trees needing to be processed, which caused several mills to close last year as demand waned. Log prices rose.
Additionally, in 2017, the Trump administration imposed tariffs of about 20% on lumber shipments from Canada, a major source of the wood used to build American homes.
Now, COVID-19 has caused even more mills to close, especially at the beginning of the pandemic when buyers’ demand slowed as they assessed how to proceed in a virus-struck world, according to a Random Lengths report. The last thing on mills operators’ minds was production, Eiffert said, because they doubted people would want to build when they were worried about a pandemic.
Additional hits to the timber industry include Hurricane Laura, which caused damage and power outages in mills in the South when it hit at the end of August and the raging wildfires in the West that have devastated many forests, according to an Aug. 28 Random Lengths report. The fires especially have caused mill shutdowns.
All of these elements have created a small supply of lumber that can hardly keep up with customers’ demand, which grew through the spring and summer. The result was lumber prices reaching record highs.
As it turns out, a pandemic is the perfect time to build. There has been a large demand for home construction and improvements both in Missouri and nationwide since people have spent more time at home.
“Instead of vacation, (people) built decks or they resided their homes,” Eiffert said.
Columbia-based New Beginnings Construction, which remodels and builds homes, has been booked with jobs, especially decks, kitchens and bathrooms, owner Nathan Goen said.
“The demand for work in Columbia is so great that every single construction company I know is booked out months in advance,” he said.
In fact, New Beginnings has been looking to hire more carpenters to keep up with all the work. Goen has had trouble finding people interested in the role, but he said he would hire if he found qualified candidates.
With all of the demand, the existing lumber supply hasn’t been able to keep up, Eiffert said. He has had new customers come to his yard because bigger retailers were out of what they were looking for.
“For the first time that I can remember, there were just actual shortages of product,” Eiffert said. “They just weren’t there to satisfy customer needs.”
Eiffert said the current demand for housing isn’t that high relative to the longer-term trend. It’s the abnormally low activity from the last few years that “makes it feel so strange,” he said.
Homes have been under-built for years, according to an August report by First Trust Advisors. Builders have started about 1 million units per year in the U.S. since 2010, but 1.5 million starts per year would be more on target for U.S. market needs.
“Home builders still need to make up for lost time, until the long-term average is closer to 1.5 million per year, which could mean reaching, and then averaging, a pace of something like 1.8 million starts for the next several years,” according to the First Trust report.
U.S. housing starts approached that pace of 1.5 million in September, reaching an annualized rate of 1.42 million, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The rate is not above historical averages but, rather, approaches levels seen before the 2008 financial crisis, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
The interest for building new homes now is due, in part, to the increased price of real estate, said Brian Toohey, chief executive officer of the Columbia Board of REALTORS. The inventory of homes available is lower than usual — in September, it was down 50% from last year — causing the price of an existing home to be comparable to that of a new build.
Navigating price changes
Goen has had to raise New Beginnings’ construction prices to account for the increased lumber costs. Despite those costs, he tries to keep prices low to remain competitive.
“We could have made a little bit more money, so we’ve lost a little in that respect,” Goen said.
But there comes a point when absorbing higher costs begins to hurt the home building business. Consort Homes in St. Louis has had to raise its construction prices incrementally over the last few months in order to remain profitable, said Bill Wannstedt, the builder’s vice president and division manager. Each month, the company has raised prices by 1% to 1.5%, he said.
Consort didn’t initially raise prices because it wasn’t sure how long lumber price increases were going to last. Like many other builders, Consort keeps prices the same for 90 days, so it will not increase prices again the rest of the year. This helps keep consistency with projects.
Higher prices have affected homeowners with smaller budgets more, Wannstedt said. This has caused the number of people who walk into Consort Homes to fall drastically. Wannstedt said he saw his customers per week fall to eight from 27 in September after the company raised prices recently.
The next few months
Goen has encountered customers who want to wait until January to start additions in hopes prices will come down. However, it’s unclear whether they will. Wannstedt said that while lumber prices may fall, prices of materials such as appliances and cabinets, as well as the cost of carpenter compensation, could increase at the start of the new year. So it’s possible construction prices could hold steady.
Dean Klempke, a real estate agent at Iron Gate Real Estate in Columbia, recommends that people interested in buying new construction homes should do so now because prices may rise another $5,000 to $10,000 next year.
Buyers may also pay lower prices by purchasing inventory homes, Wannstedt said. These are houses that started earlier this summer and are sold now reflecting the prices builders paid for lumber and other materials then. Buyers of those homes may have to sacrifice choosing amenities such as countertop material or flooring, but they also can save a few thousand dollars.
Eiffert expects prices of lumber to continue to fall and stay at moderate levels for the rest of the year. Although prices have been falling at historic rates after hitting record highs, he doubts they will reach record lows.
“If things get fairly inexpensive after what we’ve lived through this summer, I think people are going to be willing to step in fairly aggressively and have more inventory on the shelf just as a protective measure,” Eiffert said.
Many renters are struggling financially due to the coronavirus pandemic. And though a new eviction moratorium prevents you from being removed from your home, it doesn’t cover rent payments or help lighten the load financially.
If you’re having a hard time paying your rent during the COVID-19 pandemic, here’s what you need to know.
Know Your Rights as a Renter
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a federal eviction moratorium in early September 2020. Under the new rule, qualified renters can’t be evicted through Dec. 31, 2020.
To be eligible, you have to self-certify—under penalty of perjury—that you:
Are unable to pay rent due to substantial income loss, loss of hours, a layoff, or high medical bills
Have made all efforts to obtain government rent assistance
Expect to earn $99,000 or less for the year ($198,000 is you file your tax returns jointly), were not required to report any income in 2019 to the IRS, or received a stimulus check per the CARES Act
Are attempting to make at least partial payments on your rent when possible
Would likely become homeless if evicted or would need to live in very close quarters with someone
This all must be certified on the official declaration form from the CDC. You must then submit it to your landlord in order to qualify.1
Unlike the moratorium enacted by the CARES Act earlier this year, this one extends to all renters—not just those on federally financed or subsidized properties.
Understand Your Local Rights, Too
Many states and municipalities have also put their own eviction moratoriums in place. In some areas, these moratoriums have already expired, and evictions have resumed for non-paying renters.https://da3ebb9f344d2a4fa693b236fea189a0.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
You should also work to understand your rights as a tenant and read your lease thoroughly. Note any grace periods you may be due and what your landlord’s options for recourse are. Your city should also have tenant protections in place, so study up on renter’s rights in your area. Your local housing agency is a good place to start.
Talk to Your Landlord
In order to qualify for the eviction moratorium, you must certify that you’re making your best efforts to pay rent and meet the obligations of your lease agreement. If you’re currently unable to pay your rent, your first step is to talk to your landlord. They might be willing to work with you on payment options.
“Contact your landlord and discuss a deferred payment plan,” Howard Dvorkin, a certified public accountant (CPA) and chairman of Debt.com, told The Balance via email. “This is definitely worth a shot, as most landlords do not want to pay the fee to file a lawsuit, go to court, and find a new tenant.”
Consider talking to your landlord about these other options:
Deferred payments: You pay your overdue rent by a later, agreed-upon date.
Partial or flexible payments:You are permitted to make smaller, incremental payments across the month.
Security deposit payments:Your landlord uses your security deposit toward the overdue rent.
Depending on where you live, you may also be able to pay your rent by credit card. Though this can ensure you’re not delinquent on your rent, it also results in additional credit card debt and potentially more interest paid over time. Make sure you’re prepared to pay off your credit card as soon as possible to avoid further financial distress.
Find Local Assistance
If working directly with your landlord is unsuccessful, you can look to federal, state, and local resources to help cover your rent. Again, this is a recourse you must explore before qualifying for the September 2020 eviction moratorium.1
If your financial hardship is due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are some resources you can tap for help. First, there are several HUD Rental Assistance programs, which received several billion dollars as part of the CARES Act.2
There’s also Fannie Mae’s Disaster Recovery program, which offers housing counseling and can connect you with additional federal and state resources that can help. Fannie Mae’s recovery experts can also help you better communicate with your landlord.
If your landlord does move to evict you, Dvorkin suggested seeking legal counsel immediately.
“You don’t have to have a lawyer in court for an eviction,” he said. “But many cities offer free legal counsel and other landlord and tenant resources to help you understand rights and how to proceed.”
If you’re struggling to pay your rent due to the coronavirus pandemic or any financial hardship, it does not necessarily mean you’ll be evicted. Talk to your landlord, identify any local resources or assistance programs you may be eligible for, and fill out the CDC’s declaration form to ensure you’re not evicted. There are many options to help you keep your home and avoid further distress.ARTICLE TABLE OF CONTENTSSkip to section
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.
If you were in St. Louis and wanted — hypothetically — to eat the rich, 1 Portland Place would be a good place to start.
The limestone-and-marble palazzo found at that address looms high above the hedge-fringed retaining walls lining Kingshighway, a major north-south thoroughfare where cars stream by at all hours of the day. But between the busy road and this street punctuated with opulent homes is an imposing stone entranceway with wrought-iron gates — one of many such structures St. Louis has built throughout its history to divide its communities.
Designed in 1909, the 18,000-square-foot mansion was a wedding present for Anna Busch, the daughter of beer magnate Adolphus Busch, whose name adorns the city’s ballpark. The mansion was purchased in 1988 by its current residents, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, personal-injury attorneys whose office is located in another mansion they own a 15-minute walk away. In a splashy St. Louis Magazine feature, the McCloskeys detail their “difficult” two-decade journey to restore 1 Portland Place’s marble staircases and damask silk walls — some of which required traveling to Italy to see the original Renaissance-era palaces that the home was modeled after.
The surrounding Central West End neighborhood is known for its lavish houses, well-groomed residents, and manicured landscaping. But on Sunday evening, the occupants of 1 Portland Place were pacing their front lawn in bare feet and mustard-stained shirts, brandishing firearms which they pointed at hundreds of Black Lives Matter protesters streaming down the sidewalk.
The protesters weren’t there to see the McCloskeys, they were just cutting through Portland Place on the way to the home of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson who, on Friday, publicly read a list of names and addresses of constituents wanting to defund the police department. (Krewson owns a Central West End brownstone just a few blocks away.) But taking this street became a symbolic moment in itself as the protesters toppled the century-old roadblocks intended to keep St. Louis’ white ruling class separated from the rest of the city.
Although videos show protesters walking through an open gate which appears undamaged, Mark McCloskey told KMOV that protesters “smashed through the historic wrought iron gates of Portland Place, destroying them, rushed toward my home where my family was having dinner outside and put us in fear of our lives.”
“Private property, get out!” Mark McCloskey yelled at the protesters in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch video, emerging from between two-story white pillars and cradling an AR-15 assault rifle, as the crowd began a call-and-response: “Whose streets? Our streets!”
“It’s a public street, asshole.”
“We’re on the sidewalk!”
“This is all private property,” said Mark McCloskey to KMOV. “There are no public sidewalks or public streets. We were told that we would be killed, our home burned and our dog killed. We were all alone facing an angry mob.”
A revitalized movement to limit access to St. Louis streets emerged during the 1970s and 1980s, when the population of the city dwindled to half of what it had been in 1950, largely because white families moved to the surrounding suburbs. By the time Mayor Vincent Schoemehl left office in the mid-1980s, 285 streets had been blocked or diverted, most by decidedly less ornamental concrete bollards known as “Schoemehl pots.” One program, entitled “Operation Safestreet,” was praised at the time for lowering crime rates, though the long-term benefits have been less clear. In recent years, advocates have been trying to undo the closures in an attempt to knit the city back together, but some residents want to keep their cul-de-sac streets, especially the ones concentrated in high-wealth, predominately white areas like the Central West End.
There’s yet another another street-level delineation that keeps the Central West End exclusive: Delmar Boulevard, the east-west artery just a few blocks to the north, creates a barrier known as the Delmar Divide that slices through the city. Historically, neighborhoods north of Delmar were redlined because they were home to predominantly Black communities, while white families to the south received federal loans to buy or improve properties — funneling government capital directly to the renovation of those mansions.
Over the first four months of 2020 – and at the onset of the impact of the coronavirus, total single-family permits issued year-to-date (YTD) nationwide reached 283,344. On a year-over-year (YoY) basis, this is an 8.5% increase over the April 2019 level of 261,119.
Year-to-date ending in April, single-family permits across the four regions ranging from an increase of 11.5% in the South to a decline of 0.6% in the Northeast. In multifamily permits, except for the West (+2.1%), all other regions reported declines – Northeast (-13.4%), Midwest (-13.4%) and the South (-2.8).
Between April 2019 YTD and April 2020 YTD, 35 states saw growth in single-family permits issued while 15 states and the District of Columbia registered a decline. South Dakota recorded the highest growth rate during this time at 35.9% from 588 to 799, while single-family permits in the District of Columbia declined by 70.5%, from 95 in 2019 to 28 in 2020. The 10 states issuing the highest number of single-family permits combined accounted for 63.5% of the total single-family permits issued. Consider hiring a company like montrealmovers.com to help you though this stressful process.
Year-to-date, ending in April 2020, the total number of multifamily permits issued nationwide reached 143,194. This is 4.5% decline over the April 2019 level of 149,921.
Between April 2019 YTD and April 2020 YTD, 23 states recorded growth while 27 states and the District of Columbia recorded a decline in multifamily permits. North Dakota led the way with a sharp rise (837.1%) in multifamily permits from 35 to 328, while Michigan had the largest decline of 60.5% from 2,346 to 927. The 10 states issuing the highest number of multifamily permits combined accounted for 65.0% of the multifamily permits issued.
There were a total of 160 contracts signed in May for Manhattan apartments, compared with 992 in May of 2019, according to UrbdanDigs.
The number of new listings has also plummeted, down 71% to 574, as sellers decide to keep their properties off the market until the city starts to reopen.
The pain in Manhattan real estate will be felt most at the top — where an oversupply of pricey new condo towers and penthouses were already weighing on prices.
A view of 432 Park Avenue October 15, 2104 the day after it earned the distinction of being the country’s tallest residential skyscraper.Timothy A. Clary | AFP | Getty Images
The number of real estate contracts signed for Manhattan apartments plunged 84% in May compared with last year, as shutdowns to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and protests following the death of George Floyd, effectively paralyzed the market.
There were a total of 160 contracts signed in May, compared with 992 in May of 2019, according to UrbdanDigs. The number of new listings has also plummeted, down 71% to 574, as sellers decide to keep their properties off the market until the city starts to reopen.
The pain in Manhattan real estate will be felt most at the top — where an oversupply of pricey new condo towers and penthouses were already weighing on prices. For apartments priced over $4 million, there were only 16 contracts signed in May for a total of $100 million — a nearly 90% decline from last May when 111 contracts were signed totaling $1.1 billion, according to the Olshan Report.
While data on New York City residents moving to the suburbs is still largely anecdotal, there are some early signs of urban flight to surrounding suburbs. UrbanDigs did an analysis looking at “relative demand,” which it defines as new sales contracts divided by new listings.
The analysis found that while demand was down sharply in Manhattan, demand increased in Westchester County in New York, Greenwich, Connecticut, and in Bergen and Monmouth counties in New Jersey.
“In the near term, continued slack demand for Manhattan could create an oversupply situation, implying lower prices ahead, and increased suburban demand could create a supply crunch, pushing up prices,” according to the UrbanDigs report. “In the meantime, it remains to be seen if the easing of stay-at-home restrictions in Manhattan will unlock pent-up demand, but with the move to the suburbs already in place and further entrenched by the COVID-19 pandemic, any pickup in Manhattan demand seems unlikely to reverse the trend.”
Manhattan real estate brokers say they remain optimistic about deals once the city reopens and unleashes pent-up demand among sellers and deal-hungry buyers. Brokers have been unable to show apartments or hold open houses for buyers since March. While no date has been set for real estate to reopen as part of New York’s Phase 2, they are expecting a reopening around June 22.
Until there are more deals, brokers say they won’t know where prices in Manhattan will land or how much they will fall over time.
“I have a lot of people waiting to sell and a lot of people waiting to buy,” said Lauren Muss, a broker with Douglas Elliman. “It’s a question of when we can do business again.”
REGIONAL NEWS COVID Crisis Accelerates Realtors’ Use of Tech in Mid-HudsonWith the real estate transaction process still done for the most part on a virtual basis, sales volume has slowed but has not stopped entirely. Realtors are using technology tools such as Zoom, FaceTime, Skype and DocuSign, to get a deal to closing. Once the Mid-Hudson enters phase two of the reopening, many of the elements of a transaction can be done on a face-to-face basis with mandated safe practices. However, the tech tools now being employed may become common practice to many Realtors. “The COVID-19 situation has accelerated the use of technologies and practices that the (real estate) industry hadn’t fully embraced,” said Katheryn DeClerck, an associate broker with Better Homes and Gardens/Rand Realty’s Goshen office. “People, who would’ve been out of the housing market in March and April, are going to hit it as soon as they can. They’re already out willing to see properties virtually.” See full Middletown Times-Herald Record story.
Business Council Task Force Issues Strategies, Recommendations to Assist in Westchester’s Economic Recovery from PandemicThe Business Council of Westchester issued an extensive list of strategies and recommendations to assist the state and county in their reemergence from the pandemic. The report offers recommendations from the 46 members of the BCW Westchester Economic Recovery Task Force who represent a wide range of industry sectors in the county including: Arts, Biotech, Energy/Environment; Entertainment, Hospitality, Transportation, Finance, Healthcare, Higher Education, Municipalities, Not-for-Profits, Professional Services, Real Estate Brokerage and Construction, Retail and Small Business. In the report, among its recommendations concerning the real estate brokerage industry, the task force recommends extending tax credits to developers/owners who make capital expenditures for new construction and to owners/ leaseholders of older properties that install modern HVAC in their buildings with improved air circulation in tenant spaces and other common areas in multi‐tenanted buildings. The task force also stated that it is “Vital for real estate agents to be allowed to practice in person services with appropriate health and safety protocols and social distancing to minimize contact.” The full report, which is the first of several to be prepared by the task force, is available online at thebcw.org NEW YORK STATE NEWS Western NY Expected to Enter Phase 2 Tomorrow; Capital District on Track for Phase 2 on WednesdayGov. Andrew Cuomo in his daily COVID-19 Update briefing today said that the Western New York region is expected to begin phase two of the reopening process tomorrow. He added that the Capital District is on track to enter phase two of the reopening on Wednesday. In addition, New York City is eligible to enter phase one of the reopening on Monday, June 8, while the Mid-Hudson is eligible to enter phase two on Tuesday, June 9. Referencing the protests over the death of George Floyd, the governor expressed concern that the mass gatherings throughout the state may exacerbate the spread of COVID-19 and possibly set back the state’s efforts to restart its economy. See story CBSNews.com. Assembly Speaker Says Not So Fast to Major Budget CutsNew York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) says Assembly members are prepared to return to Albany in the coming weeks to block potential major cuts to education, local governments, and hospitals that might be proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in response to the lack of assistance from the federal government. The governor has been warning that without proper funding from the federal government, he may be forced to cut spending in those areas by 20%. “I think these cuts are unacceptable, and I think you would see the Legislature look to respond,” Heastie said. “None of us can fathom 20% cuts to education. Those are cuts that I don’t think we’ve ever imagined, we’ve ever seen, in recent times. We cannot tolerate those types of cuts,” Click to see Albany Democrat & Chronicle story.
NATIONAL NEWS Will Civil Rights Protests Spark a Second Wave of COVID-19?Mass protests over police brutality and the recent death of George Floyd are worrying some public health officials that coronavirus cases could rise due to the mass gatherings. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned that the protests could become “super-spreader events,” while Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland expressed concern that his state would see a spike in cases in about two weeks. Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms advised people who were out protesting “to go get a COVID test this week.” “The outdoor air dilutes the virus and reduces the infectious dose that might be out there, and if there are breezes blowing, that further dilutes the virus in the air,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University. “There was literally a lot of running around, which means they’re exhaling more profoundly, but also passing each other very quickly.” See full New York Times story.
The devastating economic impact of the coronavirus in the Hudson Valley is reflected in new unemployment data released by the New York State Department of Labor Wednesday. While all 15 metro areas in New York lost private sector jobs since April 2019, the worst hit in the state was Orange-Rockland-Westchester, which lost 24.6 percent of its private sector jobs.
In comparison, private sector jobs in New York fell by 22.1 percent and in the nation by 14.5 percent.
The unemployment rate compared to a year ago spiked in all three metro regions of the lower and mid-Hudson Valley.
Unemployment rate April 2020
Unemployment rate April 2019
In comparison, in April 2020, New York State’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased from 4.1 percent to 14.5 percent. This change (+10.4 percentage points) was the state’s largest recorded monthly increase since current record keeping began in 1976. In addition, the number of unemployed New York State residents increased by 931,600, while the labor force dropped by 307,600 – both monthly records.
The number of unemployed New Yorkers increased by 931,600 over the month, from 388,700 in March to 1,320,300 in April 2020, representing the largest monthly uptick on record.
The April month-over-month decline in private sector payroll employment is the largest in the history of the current series (which goes back to 1990) and brought employment to its lowest level since February 1994.
Rates are calculated using methods prescribed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state’s area unemployment rates rely in part on the results of the Current Population Survey, which contacts approximately 3,100 households in New York State each month.
Those collecting unemployment are also receiving a $600 supplemental weekly benefit through the end of July. Democrats in Congress are pushing to have that benefit extended through January 2021, but Senate Republicans are cool to the idea, arguing that the increase in unemployment benefits is creating a disincentive for people to go back to work.
Mortgage rates are at record lows, but borrowers hoping to take advantage are running into the toughest loan-approval standards in years.
Over the past month, lenders have put in place higher credit-score and down payment requirements, and in some cases stopped issuing certain types of home loans altogether, in effect shutting down a large swath of the mortgage market. If you’re trying to find an area mortgage lender, we are the corporate to show to. we’ve been serving Kansas City since 1996 with honesty, integrity, and expertise. Making us one among the simplest companies to settle on from. We are locally owned and operated and offer rock bottom rate. Through our unique home equity credit programs, we offer a stress-free home buying experience. We are committed to creating the method simple and enjoyable. We’ve streamlined the closing process to make sure a smooth and stress-free process. As an experienced lender, we’ll guide you to the simplest land loans; Conventional Loans (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), FHA (Federal Housing Administration), VA Loans, USDA, HELOC or Jumbo) and therefore the best lending program to fit your needs. With numerous financial products, we are certain that we’ll have the right product with the simplest rate of interest for you. Click here to read more about mortgage loans.
You’ve made the decision that you need some extra assistance in meeting your monthly financial obligations. One of the best options for those over sixty-two years of age who own their own home is a reverse mortgage. Instead of you paying the bank each month, the bank will actually pay you. The loan can be taken out as a lump sum, a fixed monthly payment or as a line of credit. You do not have to pay back the loan until you sell your home or move out permanently. There are many reverse mortgage lenders such as banks and credit unions that you can contact to obtain details about these loans. Rates may vary so you will want to check around with various banks before deciding. There are several types of reverse mortgage loans and they include the following:
Home Equity Conversion Mortgage – HECMs are the oldest types of reverse mortgage loans and the most popular. They are insured by the federal government through the Federal Housing Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The amount of money you can take out as a reverse mortgage loan depends upon your age, the appraised value of your home, current interest rates and the location of your home. The older you are and the higher the equity (what it would sell for less what you still owe), the higher the loan amount can be. For 2006, the loan limit for a home in a rural area is $200,160 while the limit for high cost areas is $362,790.
Another reverse home mortgage product that you can obtain from a lender is the Fannie Mae Home Keeper. Fannie Mae is the largest investor of home mortgages in the country and a major investor in reverse mortgages. Fannie Mae developed its own reverse mortgage product as an alternative to the HECM to address the needs of customers who had a higher property value on their home. Home Keeper loans can be larger than HECMs because their mortgage limit is higher. Another Fannie Mae reverse mortgage product is the Home Keeper for Home Purchase program. This is for seniors who wish to use the reverse mortgage loan to buy a new home. For example, let’s say someone sold his home for a $60,000 profit and wants to buy a new house for $100,000. He could get a reverse mortgage using money from a Home Keeper loan so he would not have to use his savings to purchase the more expensive home.
The triggers, industry executives say, include lenders becoming risk-averse during the coronavirus crisis, knock-on effects of Congress allowing millions of borrowers to delay their monthly payments, and policies implemented amid the pandemic by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The impact has been dramatic, with one model showing mortgage credit availability has plunged by more than 25% since the U.S. outbreak of the virus.
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The tightened lending could add another headwind for the nation’s besieged economy by dampening home sales just as some states lift stay-at-home orders and the spring months herald the traditional buying season. Already, mortgage refinances are coming in at a much slower pace than analysts would expect, considering the rock-bottom borrowing rates.
In March, riskier borrowers “could get a mortgage but just pay a higher price than other people,” said Michael Neal, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute Housing Finance Policy Center. “Now, some people are just not going to get mortgages.”
JPMorgan Chase & Co. tightened its standards last month, requiring borrowers to have minimum credit scores of 700 and to make down payments of 20% of the home price on most mortgages, including refinances if the bank didn’t already manage the loan.
Wells Fargo & Co. increased its minimum credit score to 680 for government loans that it buys from smaller lenders before aggregating them into mortgage bonds.
The banks’ revised standards are far above the typical minimum score of 580 and down payment of 3.5% that borrowers need to qualify for home-buying programs supported by the federal government.
Wells Fargo is no longer letting borrowers refinance their mortgages while cashing out home equity, and both Wells and JPMorgan have suspended new home-equity lines of credit. Truist Financial Corp. has suspended some cash-out refinances for jumbo loans with high balances because of economic conditions, a spokesman said.
There are signs that banks are even trying to limit regular refinances. Wells Fargo on Thursday quoted a refinance rate of 4% for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, more than half a percentage point higher than it quoted for the same loan if used to buy a home.
A Wells Fargo spokesman said the company believes its rates are within the range of what they see from other lenders. He said the company suspended home-equity lines of credit in light of uncertainty surrounding the economic recovery.
A JPMorgan spokeswoman said the bank’s changes are temporary and due to the unclear economic outlook.
Refinances surged in early March as homeowners utilized low rates to reduce their monthly payments. But refinance rate locks, a forward-looking measure of refinance activity, had plunged 80% from their peak by mid-April, according to Black Knight Inc., a mortgage information service. The company said that even the steep increase in unemployment in March and April couldn’t explain why refinance activity fell so dramatically.
Industry executives say the tighter underwriting is partly in response to policies put in place by Fannie and Freddie that make it expensive or risky to make certain kinds of mortgages. For instance, Fannie and Freddie said last month they would buy mortgages where the borrower had already entered forbearance. But the mortgage-finance companies excluded cash-out refinances. Mortgage Bankers Association Chief Economist Michael Fratantoni said that prompted many lenders to limit issuance of those products.
Fannie, Freddie and government agencies such as the Federal Housing Administration set standards for the mortgages they’re willing to back. For example, the FHA will insure loans where the borrower has a credit score of as low as 580 with a 3.5% down payment.
However, mortgage lenders sometimes set their own, stricter standards, even if they intend to sell the loans to Fannie or Freddie or have them insured by the FHA. Fannie and Freddie, which have been under the U.S. government’s control since the 2008 financial crisis, buy mortgages from lenders and package them into trillions of dollars of bonds with guarantees that protect investors against the risk of borrowers defaulting.
Mortgage credit availability has fallen 26% since the end of February, the Mortgage Bankers Association said in a Thursday statement, citing an index of lending standards. Most of the pain has been for loans not supported by the government. Still, mortgages backstopped by Fannie, Freddie and federal agencies in April did have the toughest credit terms that such loans have had in more than five years.
Many lenders appear to have put restrictions in place in response to the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill that lawmakers passed in March. Under the new law, lenders must let borrowers with government-guaranteed mortgages delay as much as a year’s worth of payments if they were impacted by coronavirus.
Even though they eventually get reimbursed, mortgage servicers are required to advance the missed payments to bond investors. That makes lenders less eager to offer loans to borrowers who they think will need forbearance, such as consumers with low credit scores and those who can only afford minimal down payments.
The MBA’s Fratantoni said the credit crunch has been exacerbated by the reticence of federal regulators to establish a liquidity facility that would help servicers advance payments to bondholders. While Fratantoni said large servicers may not go under, they’re still protecting themselves by tightening mortgage requirements.
“I can’t imagine any lender wanting to be aggressive at all in this environment,” said Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi. “It’s how far deep into the bunker are you.”