The US Census Bureau publishes information on characteristics of new homes started, including air conditioning and heating systems.
In 2015, approximately 93 percent of new homes started in the US had central AC. Central AC has been a common feature in new homes for some time, but its share did grow some between 2000 and 2015, going from 86 percent to 93 percent.
The share of new homes with central AC differs by Census Division (Figure 1). The New England and Pacific divisions, which have more temperate climates, have lower rates of central AC installed (73 percent and 69 percent in 2015, respectively). In contrast, in regions that are hotter and more humid, all or nearly all of the new homes started have central AC: for example, in the South Atlantic (100 percent), East South Central (100 percent), and the West South Central Divisions (99 percent).
The majority of new homes started in 2015 have either a forced air system (55 percent) or an air or ground source heat pump system (42 percent). The share of new homes that have a heat pump has grown over time, going from 23 percent in 2000 to 42 percent in 2015. Meanwhile, the share with a forced air system has declined, going from 71 percent in 2000 to 55 percent in 2015.
Heat pumps are more prevalent in Southern regions where air and ground temperatures don’t fall as much (Figure 2): East South Central (75 percent), South Atlantic (74 percent), and West South Central (45 percent). They are less so in the West North Central (29 percent), Pacific (14 percent), Middle Atlantic (13 percent), Mountain (12 percent), East North Central (11) percent, and New England divisions (4 percent).
The majority of new homes started had their heating systems powered by either electricity (40 percent) or natural gas (55 percent) in 2015. In regions such as the Middle Atlantic and New England, where electricity tends to be more expensive, the share of new homes with systems powered by electricity is low (13 and 5 percent, respectively). On the other hand, systems powered by electricity are more common in the south: for example, the South Atlantic (72 percent), the East South Central (71 percent), and the West South Central (41 percent).
Housing demand is rising rapidly, but a key cog in the wheel to homeownership is in deep trouble. The people most needed to close the deal are disappearing. Appraisers, the men and women who value homes and whom mortgage lenders depend upon, are shrinking in numbers.
That is causing growing delays in closings, costing buyers and sellers money and in some cases even scuttling deals.
The share of on-time closings has dropped from 77 percent last April to 64 percent today for loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance. Appraisal-related issues in these delays jumped by 50 percent in that time.
“The appraisal shortage is massive. You’re seeing significant delays, you’re seeing cost increases, you’re seeing rate [locks] expire,” said Brian Coester, CEO of Rockville, Maryland-based CoesterVMS, a national appraisal management company.
Since 2007, when the U.S. housing market came crashing down, the number of appraisers has shrunk by 22 percent, according to the Appraisal Institute, an industry association. With so few new cadets, the current population of appraisers is aging. More than 60 percent are over the age of 50.
Ironically, the decline in new appraisers is largely due to new regulations designed to safeguard both banks and borrowers. They were put in place at the end of 2008 by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the FHA, as the entire mortgage banking community was under strict scrutiny after the financial crisis. They changed the rules that would allow appraiser apprentices to do full appraisals and instead require the licensed appraiser to be on-site for the inspection.
The result is that appraisers no longer see a need to pay apprentices, but at the same time, licensing requirements to become an appraiser include 2,500 hours of appraisal experience to be completed in two years as an apprentice.
“The typical appraiser, he’s going to do approximately 10-15 appraisals a week. For him to be able to take a trainee, he needs the ability for the trainee to go ahead and inspect the property for him,” said Coester. “The rules have changed now, and you cannot do what you used to be able to do 10 years ago, which is hire three to four trainees and really have them go and inspect the properties, go and do work for you and really function as an apprentice. That market has been completely eliminated.”
At 1 p.m. on a Monday in Frederick, Maryland, appraiser Joyce Smith has already valued three homes and is walking into the fourth. A 23-year veteran of the business, she said she has never been this busy.
“I get calls five, six, seven, eight times a day. I used to go far away to do appraisals, but there are so many, I don’t have to go very far anymore,” said Smith.
In some of the nation’s hottest housing markets, where sales are up double digits compared to a year ago, the shortage means searching far and wide for an appraiser.
“We’ve been hearing from our agents in Colorado about significant delays in getting appraisals done,” said Alina Ptaszynski, a spokesperson for Redfin. “Our Denver market manager said for one deal, the appraiser came in from Cheyenne, Wyoming. She reported it taking up to seven weeks to get an appraisal done. Valuations aren’t the concern as much as the delays.”
Valuations are, however, becoming increasingly important, as home price gains accelerate, and competition in the market heats up. Prices could change in the course of two months, the delay time it is now taking in some markets to have an appraisal done. Mortgage rates are also starting to move in a wider range, and that makes rate-locks ever more important. It can cost significant cash to extend a rate lock.
Last year, 66-year-old Lauren Knoblauch sold or donated nearly everything she owned, from her two-bedroom home on a suburban Seattle lake to her furniture and many of her clothes. She moved everything else, two small carloads’ worth, into her new home: a downtown apartment that, at less than 150 sq. ft., is smaller than the average U.S. master bedroom.
The move came as Knoblauch, who works in inmate rehabilitation, pondered her impending retirement. “I started thinking about what I was passionate about,” she said. “I wanted to see opera in Europe, to spend money on what was exciting to me.”
Her new apartment, which costs $575 a month — less than half the $1,400 average for a Seattle one-bedroom — puts her about 20 minutes from Symphony Hall by foot and a short bus ride from the Opera House. With new financial flexibility, she’s traveled to Germany and Ireland to see opera performances. “I’m loving it,” she says.
The burgeoning tiny house and micro-apartment movements, which generally describe accommodations smaller than about 400 sq. ft., are sometimes seen as young person’s trends, with budget- and environmentally conscious millennials and Gen Xers seeking to slash living costs while lessening their environmental footprints. Some familiar with the industry, however, say they are increasingly of interest to older people at or nearing retirement age.
About 10,000 people live in tiny houses in the U.S. — the Pacific Northwest, Colorado and the Carolinas are particularly popular areas — though just a fraction are older; many more people, especially those in expensive cities, live in micro-apartments, according to Ryan Mitchell, owner of the website TheTinyLife. Their numbers are growing, he says, as modifications that make the homes more accessible to older residents, such as staircases rather than ladders and designs that keep everything easily reachable, become more commonplace.
While their appeal is varied, the principal attraction is price. Smaller homes can give seniors “more disposable income and the ability for many to comfortably survive within their Social Security means and/or part time work,” says consultant Erik Blair, a tiny house advocate. “The number one reason to get into a tiny house: You can save 70% or more of your recurring cost of living.”
Why older Americans want to retire in tiny houses
For older Americans, many on fixed incomes that may not heavily supplement their Social Security, the cost of living is of utmost importance. Nearly 60% of workers 55 and older have saved less than $100,000 for retirement, while 24% have saved less than $1,000, according to the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute. Both figures are much lower than financial advisers recommend.
Enter tiny houses, which are relatively inexpensive to build, buy and maintain. It usually costs between $10,000 and $100,000 to buy or build one, according to Blair; the average U.S. home costs nearly $200,000. Tiny apartments tend to cost much less than larger rental units in the same area.
In both cases, less space means lower utility payments: Mitchell, who lives in a 150 sq. ft. home, says his average monthly bills are around $20.
Less storage space, meanwhile, can reduce the impulse to acquire new stuff because, simply put, there’s nowhere to put it. “When I want to buy something, I have to think of what can I get rid of,” said Knoblauch. Often, “I realize I have everything I need already.”
Money isn’t the only reason tiny houses and micro-apartments appeal to retirees. Many empty nesters long to downsize, surveys show, even if they can afford more space. With their children grown, extra rooms can attract clutter and require maintenance; some, anticipating an eventual move to a nursing home, like the idea of simplifying early.
“I used to spend an entire Saturday cleaning my house,” said Fivecoat-Campbell. “Now I can clean it top-to-bottom in under two hours.”
For still others, the houses allow them to live near family while retaining their own space. So-called “granny cottages” can be placed in the yard of a family’s home, allowing residents to live both independently and close by. They’re often fitted with amenities useful to older residents, including grab bars, barrier-free showers and elevated toilets that can reduce falling risks, and wheelchair access.
‘I love this place — life works’
Tiny-house living isn’t without challenges. Knoblauch doesn’t have a full kitchen or bathtub; she has just one sink; and her clothes hang on a free-standing rack rather than in a closet. Fivecoat-Campbell wishes she had space for her now-deceased mother’s china cabinet and other full-size furniture.
The National Association of Home Builders’ housing market index increased for the second straight month by 1 point to 62 in September of 2015. It is the highest figure since October of 2005, boosted by an increase in buyer traffic and current sales while the gauge for sales over the next 6 months decreased. Nahb Housing Market Index in the United States averaged 48.63 from 1985 until 2015, reaching an all time high of 78 in December of 1998 and a record low of 8 in January of 2009. Nahb Housing Market Index in the United States is reported by the National Association of Home Builders.
1985 – 2015
NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) is based on a monthly survey of home builders. They are asked to rate current sales of single-family homes and sales expectations for the next six months and to rate traffic of prospective buyers. Scores for responses to each component are used to calculate a seasonally adjusted overall index, where a number over 50 indicates more builders view sales conditions as good than poor. This page provides the latest reported value for – United States Nahb Housing Market Index – plus previous releases, historical high and low, short-term forecast and long-term prediction, economic calendar, survey consensus and news. Content for – United States Nahb Housing Market Index – was last refreshed on Wednesday, September 16, 2015.
Home prices increases may be leveling out, according to one closely-followed real estate report.
In 20 major American cities, home prices this May were about 4.9% higher than May of last year, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, released Tuesday. That’s the same pace of growth as April, and surprised economists when it fell short of expected growth.
Economists predicted a 5.6% year-over-year increase, according to an Econoday survey.
Price increases of single-family homes have settled at a steady pace of 4-5% this year, said David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. He said he expects price increases to slow over the next two years, as wages rise to catch up with housing costs.
“First time homebuyers are the weak spot in the market,” said Blitzer, citing research that high down-payments may be putting off first-time home purchases. “Without a boost in first timers, there is less housing market activity, fewer existing homes being put on the market, and more worry about inventory.”
Overall, 10 of the 20 cities surveyed saw housing price increases slow on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Some real estate markets remain hot, however.
Home prices in Denver are 10% higher than this time last year, and San Francisco and Dallas are also seeing prices increase at almost twice the national pace. New York City and Phoenix have seen prices rise for six consecutive months.
Between April and May, the index slowed 0.2% on a monthly, seasonally adjusted basis. An analyst at Barclays said they were not inclined to “read too much” into the decline.
“This could be a pause for breath in the data after a strong performance for half a year,” wrote Blerina Uruçi in a research note.
New-home construction in the U.S. climbed in June to the second-highest level since November 2007 as builders stepped up work on apartment projects.
Housing starts rose 9.8 percent to a 1.17 million annualized rate from a revised 1.07 million in May that was stronger than previously estimated, figures from the Commerce Department showed Friday in Washington. The median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg was a 1.11 million rate. Ground-breaking on multifamily dwellings jumped 29.4 percent.
Building permits for single and multifamily properties, a gauge of future construction, climbed to an almost eight-year high, the report showed. Steady job gains, low mortgage rates and a gradual easing of lending standards are propelling sales, indicating housing will become a bigger source of strength for the economy.
“They’re pretty positive numbers,” said Lewis Alexander, chief economist at Nomura Securities International Inc. in New York. “You’ve got decent employment growth that’s been particularly good for young people, you’ve got relatively low interest rates, somewhat easing of credit standard — all of those things are helping.”
Estimates for housing starts in the Bloomberg survey of 76 economists ranged from 1.03 million to 1.23 million. The May figure was revised up from 1.04 million.
The gain in starts of multifamily homes followed a 16.9 percent decrease the previous month and a 37.5 percent April surge. Data on these projects, which have led housing starts in recent years, can be volatile.
Starts of single-family houses eased to a 685,000 rate from 691,000 a month earlier, the report showed.
Three of four regions had a decrease in single-family construction in June, paced by a 27.3 percent drop in the Northeast and a 7.1 percent decline in West, according to the report.
Building permits increased 7.4 percent in June to a 1.34 million annualized rate, the highest since July 2007. They were projected to fall to 1.15 million.
More than 13,000 Detroit-area property owners have entered into payment plans hoping to avoid losing their homes to tax foreclosure, but another 16,000 living in their homes have yet to take advantage of the offer ahead of Tuesday’s deadline.
Hundreds of applicants sat in a hotel ballroom waiting for the chance to plead their cases before Wayne County Treasury workers. Many had lined up before 7 a.m. to be heard before the 4:30 p.m. deadline.
“I’m downhill and I can’t get out,” said Kevin Franklyn, who was waiting his turn to see if the more than $15,000 he owes on his home and a dozen or so rental properties can be turned into something more manageable.
“I’m going to try to pay what I can,” said Franklyn, 46, who blamed his tenants’ nonpayment of rent for his struggles.
More than 60,000 of the county’s 76,000 foreclosed properties are in Detroit, threatening neighborhoods hard hit by the national mortgage crisis. About $326 million in taxes, interest and fees are owed on the foreclosed homes, lots and other buildings in Detroit.
City officials fear that more foreclosures will only add to the glut of vacant houses in Detroit and blight that keeps potential homebuyers away.
Taxes have been paid in full for about 20,700 of the foreclosed properties, partly through the payment plan, according to Chief Deputy Treasurer David Szymanski.
Of the 38,100 properties still facing foreclosure, only 15,900 are occupied.
“Those are the ones we want to get to,” Szymanski said. The county has to collect property taxes by law.
City and county officials urged state lawmakers to pass foreclosure prevention bills and Gov. Rick Snyder signed the legislation in January to provide homeowners facing financial hardship with the option to sign up for a payment plan to avoid foreclosure. The bills also cut interest rates, reduced down payments and capped past due taxes.
Szymanski said more than 13,000 homeowners have entered into payment assistance plans already.
Bryan Ely, 28, of Detroit, said he owes about $20,000 in back taxes on his home on Detroit’s northwest side.
When you ask 29-year-old Anthony Walker about the home he owns, his response is a chorus of resigned sighs. It’s not quite the reaction you’d expect from one of the few in his generation who has managed to achieve homeowner status. But the property Walker co-owns with a good friend and former roommate is deeply underwater. That means that since he purchased the property, the value has slipped so much that the house is worth less than total mortgage debt taken out to buy it. As time passes, he’s growing increasingly doubtful that he’ll ever see the property value back in the black.
It’s a predicament that more and more owners of less expensive starter properties are facing. Homes that were bought for a “reasonable” price at the top of the market are now floundering in negative equity and according to Svenja Gudell, the director of economic research at the real-estate data firm Zillow, there’s a good chance that such properties will never be worth the mortgage debt owed on them. “In the lowest third of the housing market, not only are you more likely to be underwater, but homeowners tend to be very deeply underwater,” says Gudell. “It will take a really long time to lift some of those homeowners out of negative equity. And some of them will never reach positive equity.”
Walker bought his home in 2007. The two-bedroom, two-bath condo is in a renovated building in East Orange, New Jersey, which borders Newark. Though the neighborhood isn’t the most polished, Walker says that they were already constrained by price because they were close to New York City, which is less than 20 miles away. “The budget restrictions forced us into neighborhoods that were probably fringe, transition-zone neighborhoods at best,” Walker says. “There were several new townhouse communities, condos, or residential buildings that were going up within a mile radius of where we were looking to buy. So in some respects we thought that the neighborhood was transitioning to be more like neighboring West Orange and Orange than Newark.”
Walker, like most Americans in 2007, figured he was making a sound investment in real estate that would surely appreciate during his lifetime. Even if he chose to move, he thought, his condo might provide some financial benefit down the line
Slightly lower interest rates and home prices in markets across the country contributed to a slight increase in nationwide housing affordability in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI). In all, 62.8 percent of new and existing homes sold between the beginning of October and end of December were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $63,900. The HOI in the third quarter was 61.8 percent.
The national median home price declined from $220,800 in the third quarter to $215,000 in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, average mortgage interest rates decreased from 4.35 percent to 4.29 percent in the same period.
Syracuse, N.Y. claimed the title of the nation’s most affordable major housing market, as 92.8 percent of all new and existing homes sold in the fourth quarter of 2014 were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $67,700.
Cumberland, Md.-W.Va. topped the affordability chart among smaller markets in the final quarter of 2014. There, 96.2 percent of homes sold during the fourth quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $54,100.
For a ninth consecutive quarter, San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif. was the nation’s least affordable major housing market. There, just 11.1 percent of homes sold in the fourth quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $100,400.
All five least affordable small housing markets were in California. At the very bottom was Napa, where 12 percent of all new and existing homes sold were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $70,300.