Boosted by historically low mortgage rates, existing home sales, as reported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), rose for a fourth consecutive month in September and reached its highest level in more than 14 ½ years.
Total existing home sales, including single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 9.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.54 million in September, the highest level since May 2006. On a year-over-year basis, sales were 20.9% higher than a year ago.
The first-time buyer share decreased to 31% in September from 33% both last month and a year ago. However, price gains threaten this share in the future. The September inventory level fell to 1.47 million units from 1.49 million units in August and is down from 1.82 million units a year ago.
At the current sales rate, the September unsold inventory represents a 2.7-month supply, down from 3.0-month in August and 4.0-month a year ago. This low level supply of resale homes is good news for home construction.
Homes stayed on the market for an average of just 21 days in September, an all-time low, down from 22 days last month and 32 days a year ago. In September, 71% of homes sold were on the market for less than a month.
The September all-cash sales share was 18% of transactions, unchanged from last month but up from 17% a year ago.
Tight supply continues to push up home prices. The September median sales price of all existing homes was $311,800, up 14.8% from a year ago, representing the 103rd consecutive month of year-over-year increases. The median existing condominium/co-op price of $272,700 in September was up 9.9% from a year ago.
Regionally, all four regions saw month-over-month gains for existing home sales in September, ranging from 7.1% in the Midwest to 16.2% in the Northeast. On a year-over-year basis, sales grew in all four regions as well, with the Northeast seeing the greatest gain (22.9%).
Though sales have flourished and demand remains strong due to low mortgage rates, the imbalance between housing supply and demand could hamper future sales. Low inventory will not only continue to drive up home prices but also hurt affordability and homeownership attainment. Though housing starts remain at solid pace, more listings and home construction are still needed to meet this rising demand.
The CDC issues a nationwide ban on evictions through Dec. 31, but tenants who are behind on rent must advocate for themselves. We explain.
A national eviction moratorium is back in effect, this time with far broader protections than the now-defunct eviction ban established by the CARES Act. While the previous law only covered certain types of properties, the new moratorium effectively protects everyone living in one of the nation’s 43 million rental households, regardless of where they reside.
But the new ban on evictions, which went into effect Sept. 1 and is set to expire Dec. 31, didn’t come from Congress or the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Instead, it was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using authority granted to the federal government in a 1944 public health law. To that end, the stated purpose of the order is to keep people out of homeless shelters or other crowded living conditions that could worsen the spread of COVID-19.
Unlike previous federal measures, the CDC’s real estate leads order requires tenants who fall behind on rent to submit a declaration to their landlord that states they’ve lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic and have made an effort to look for financial assistance, as well as a few other conditions.
We’ll dig into this new eviction moratorium to unpack who is covered, what might not be covered and what you need to do now if you’re worried about getting evicted. Plus we’ll take a look at what other resources and options are available to help you stay in your home. We update this story frequently.
What does the new eviction ban do (and not do)?
The CDC’s new order halts evictions across the US for anyone who has lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic and has fallen behind on rent. It doesn’t prohibit late fees, nor does it let tenants off the hook for back rent they owe. It also doesn’t establish any kind of financial fund to help renters get caught up — a safeguard some have say is critical to preventing a massive wave of evictions when the ban lifts.
The order only halts evictions for not paying rent. Lease violations for other infractions — criminal conduct, becoming a nuisance, etc. — are still enforceable with eviction. And it only protects renters earning less than $99,000 per year ($198,000 for joint filers).
The order requires renters facing eviction to fill out an as-yet unreleased government form attesting to several things: The tenant has lost income due to the pandemic, is currently unable to pay full rent, has made an effort to pay as much as possible, has sought financial help where available and would likely end up homeless or otherwise forced to live in crowded quarters if evicted.
CDC’s order doesn’t change state laws
Any state-level eviction bans still in effect will remain in place as they are as broad or broader than that established by the CDC. To help you find out the status of eviction protection in your state, legal services site Nolo.com maintains an updated list of state eviction provisions.
Nonprofit 211.org connects those in need of help with essential community services in their area and has a specific portal for pandemic assistance. If you’re having trouble with your food budget or paying your housing bills, you can use 211.org’s online search tool or dial 211 on your phone to talk to someone who can try to help.
The online legal services chatbot at DoNotPay.com has a coronavirus financial relief tool that it says will identify which of the laws, ordinances and measures covering rent and evictions apply to you based on your location.
If you’re seriously delinquent or know you will be soon, you may want to consult a lawyer to better understand how laws in your area apply to your situation. Legal Aid provides attorneys free of charge to qualified clients who need help with civil matters such as evictions. You can locate the nearest Legal Aid office using this search tool.
Finally, if you can no longer afford rent on your current home, relocation might be an option. Average rental prices have declined across the US since February, according to an August report by Zillow. Apps like Zillow, Trulia and Zumper can help you find something more affordable. Just be aware that you may still be held responsible for any back rent you currently owe as well as any rent that accrues between now and the end of your lease (if you have one), whether or not you vacate.
“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.
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 2.98 percent, the lowest rate in the survey’s history dating back to 1971.
“Mortgage rates fell below 3 percent for the first time in 50 years. The drop has led to increased homebuyer demand and, these low rates have been capitalized into asset prices in support of the financial markets,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist. “However, the countervailing force for the economy has been the rise in new virus cases which has caused the economic recovery to stagnate, and this economic pause puts many temporary layoffs at risk of ossifying into permanent job losses.”
30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.98 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending July 16, 2020, down from 3.03 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.81 percent.
15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.48 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.51 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.23 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.
The volume of loans in active forbearance, in which borrowers are allowed to delay their monthly payments, fell by 435,000 from the previous week, according to mortgage data firm Black Knight.
That is the largest one-week drop yet.
Roughly 4.14 million loans were in forbearance, representing 7.8% of all active mortgages, down from 8.6% the prior week. That’s the lowest amount since April 28.
A man walks past the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, June 25, 2020.Al Drago | Reuters
The number of homeowners in government and private sector mortgage bailout plans declined for the second straight week, as borrowers who got in earliest saw their plans expire.
More borrowers, however, are getting extensions of those initial three-month plans, proving the pain in the market is not over yet.
As of Tuesday, the volume of loans in active forbearance, in which borrowers are allowed to delay their monthly payments, fell by 435,000 from the previous week, according to Black Knight, a mortgage data and technology firm. That is the largest one-week drop yet.
Roughly 4.14 million loans were in forbearance, representing 7.8% of all active mortgages, down from 8.6% the prior week. That’s the lowest amount since April 28. These loans together represent just under $900 billion in unpaid principal.WATCH NOWVIDEO03:31Covid-19 mortgage bailouts drop by 435,000 but extensions increase
By category, about 6% of all mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and 11.6% of all FHA/VA loans are in forbearance plans. Just over 8.2% of loans in private label securities or banks’ portfolios are also in forbearance. The largest drop in forbearances was in Fannie and Freddie mortgages, down by 200,000 during the week
“The reduction of roughly 435,000 was driven at least in part by the fact that more than half of all active forbearance plans entering the month were set to expire at the end of June,” said Andy Walden, an economist with Black Knight. “While the majority of those have been extended, this week’s data suggests a significant share were not.”
More than 26% of loans in forbearance were extensions, according to a count by the Mortgage Bankers Association for the week ending June 28. That share has increased steadily for the past three weeks.
The bulk of the loans in forbearance are government backed and part of the mortgage bailout program in the CARES Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in March. It allows borrowers to miss monthly payments for at least three months and potentially up to a year. Those payments can be remitted either in repayment plans, loan modifications, or when the home is sold or the mortgage refinanced. For loans not backed by the government, most banks and private lenders have set up similar plans.
While the drop in active mortgage forbearances is encouraging, recent spikes in coronavirus cases in various states, in addition to the expiration of expanded unemployment benefits at the end of this month, present significant risk to the recovery in the mortgage market.
The National Multifamily Housing Council’s Rent Payment Tracker has found that 89% of apartment households—sourced from 11.4 million professionally managed units across the country—had made a full or partial June 2020 rent payment by June 13.
This number represents an increase in the share of collections over the same periods in May and April, when 87.7% and 85% of renters had made a rent payment, respectively. Notably, it also shows a 0.1 percentage point increase over the share of collections during the same period in June 2019.
“Once again, it appears that residents of professionally managed apartments were able to largely pay their rent. However, there is a growing realization that renters outside of this universe are experiencing profound hardships as the nation continues to grapple with historic unemployment and economic dislocation,” says Doug Bibby, NMHC president.
While rent collections appear to be on the rise, NMHC vice president of business strategy Sarah Yaussi warns that this data is not necessarily a forward-looking indicator, and no sources are available to show how rent is being paid based on income resources. About half of renter households report being affected by unemployment, which suggests that unemployment benefits could make a difference in renters’ ability to pay. This could become a concern in August, when expanded unemployment benefits are due to expire.
When asked if the worst is behind us, Chase Harrington, COO of Entrata, says it’s hard to tell. Despite rising leasing activity in May and into June, he also notes a decrease in renewals, as well as a rise in month-to-month leases. Brian Zrimsek, industry principal at MRI Software, reports a substantial spike in credit card payments in May, which could suggest either rent payment by credit card out of necessity or an attempt to receive credit card perks based on the relaxing of limits.
“In the midst of a pandemic and a recession, it is critical that those on the front lines are safely and securely housed,” Bibby adds. “Accordingly, we urge lawmakers to take swift action to create a Rental Assistance Fund and extend unemployment benefits so we can avoid future eviction-related problems and don’t undermine the initial recovery.”
Construction of new homes plunged just over 30 percent in April from the previous month, amid the widespread US lockdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to government data released Tuesday.
The collapse to just 897,000 units put the annual rate of housing starts 29.7 percent below the same month of 2019, the Commerce Department reported.
The declines were widespread across the country, with the Northeast taking the worst hit — a 44 percent drop in construction starts — while the Midwest saw a relatively small 15 percent decline.
Building of multifamily housing saw the most severe impact in most regions.
Meanwhile, permits for new construction, which in normal times is a sign of demand in the pipeline, fell 20.8 percent compared to March.
But with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, these are hardly normal times.
“Due to recent events surrounding COVID-19, many governments and businesses are operating on a limited capacity or have ceased operations completely,” the Commerce Department said, adding that the data quality still meet publication standards.
Housing is a critical sector of the US economy and demand was high before the crisis, given low mortgage lending rates, and builders were struggling to keep up with demand while prices were moving higher.
Since the pandemic hit, the Federal Reserve has slashed the benchmark interest rate to zero, which could be expected to help support home buying. But with 30 million jobs lost to the pandemic — at least temporarily — the outlook remains uncertain.
Still, Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics said, “Housing construction likely has hit bottom.”
“A steep drop in activity was inevitable given the lockdowns, but we think these numbers will mark the floor; May will be better, and June better still,” he said in an analysis, noting that mortgage applications had picked up, recovering more than half the pandemic-related declines.
The Mortgage Bankers Association’s latest Weekly Application Survey shows a 0.3% seasonally adjusted decline in loan application volume from the previous week. The Refinance index decreased by 1% from the previous week and was 225% higher than it was the same week one year ago. The Purchase Index increased 2% from one week earlier but was 31% lower than it was the same time a year ago. The MBA notes that the pandemic-related economic stoppage has caused some buyers and sellers to delay their decisions until there are signs of a turnaround. This has resulted in reduced buyer traffic, less inventory, and March existing-homes sales falling to their slowest annual pace in nearly a year. Most importantly, the economic stoppage has halted the momentum in the housing market generated by young, would-be homebuyers, mostly from the millennial generation, preventing them from entering the market.
With the federal government’s recent passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, not only did qualifying individuals receive economic impact payments, i.e., stimulus checks, but small businesses were also extended emergency advances of up to $10,000 as part of the Small Business Administration’s economic injury grant. With these measures in place, expanding businesses and families’ balance sheets to accommodate for more real estate is less of a priority than keeping their existing assets afloat. The CARES act also provides options for mortgage forbearance. As can be seen from the above figure, year-over-year gains in refinancing skyrocketed in the middle of March and continued their upward trajectory towards the end of the second week of April. Year-over-year purchasing changes, however, slipped into negative territory for that period, posting a year-over-year decline of 31% in the latest week. The National Association of Realtors cites that lender credit standards such as higher down payments and credit scores would likely deter home sales’ bounce when the pandemic is over. Before the outbreak, foreclosure rates were at historic lows.
In the third week of NAHB’s online poll, the coronavirus’s impact on traffic of prospective buyers has become almost ubiquitous. A full 96 percent of respondents said the virus was having at least some adverse effect on traffic, and 72 percent characterized it as a major adverse effect. However, if you are in need of professional home builders, then you can contact the Randy Jeffcoat Builders for their expertise.
This result is based on 256 responses collected online between March 31 and April 6. As in the first two weeks of the poll, the largest share of responses in week 3 came from single-family home builders; and most were owner, president or CEO of their companies. The geographic distribution of the responses continues to be somewhat variable, with the share of from Northeast increasing regularly, from 6 percent of all responses in week 1 of the poll to 15 percent in week 3.
The week 3 poll listed nine possible impacts of the coronavirus and asked if each has so far had a major, minor, or no adverse effect on respondents’ businesses. Many of the adverse impacts have become extremely widespread. In addition to traffic, over 80 percent of respondents for whom the items were applicable said the virus was having a noticeable, adverse impact on six aspects of their businesses: cancellations or delays of existing remodeling projects (87 percent), homeowners’ concerns about interacting with remodeling crews (86 percent), how long it takes to obtain a plan review for a typical single-family home (also 86 percent), rate at which inquiries for remodeling work are coming in (85 percent), and how long it takes the local building department to respond to a request for an inspection (82 percent).
Less widespread but still cited as virus-induced problems by over 70 percent of respondents were willingness of workers and subs to report to a construction site and supply of building products and materials. A new item added to the list in week 3, ability to obtain new business loans or deal with banks on existing loans, turned out to be the least common problem in the poll, but even that was cited by over half of respondents.
There has been a general tendency for the incidence of the various virus-induced problems to increase over time during the first three weeks of the online poll. It is necessary to interpret this trend with caution, however, due to the rising share of responses coming from the Northeast, where problems have tended to be particularly widespread and severe. Nevertheless, it is evident that willingness of workers to report to construction sites has become a growing concern, cited as a virus-induced problem by a consistently rising share of respondents in each of the four regions.
For additional details—including tables for each question broken down by respondents’ region, primary business, and position in the company—please see the full survey report.