The Treasury Department on Tuesday issued final regulations that will officially prohibit high-tax states from utilizing workarounds to evade the new cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions.
As part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, SALT deductions were capped at $10,000 – which is well below the average amounts claimed by individuals residing in states such as New York, California and New Jersey. The average deduction claimed in California, for example, is $22,000, according to Kevin de Leon, a Democratic member of the California state senate.
Therefore, in response, a number of state governments proposed or enacted legislation that would allow taxpayers to make charitable contributions to an established state fund in order to earn a credit. The goal would be to allow the residents to take the full amount given as a deduction by transforming a non-deductible payment into a charitable contribution.
However, the IRS blocked that strategy through guidelines issued on Tuesday, which require taxpayers to subtract the value of their state and local tax deductions from their charitable contributions.
The regulations also provide exceptions for state tax deductions and tax credits of no more than 15 percent of the amount of the donation.
The regulations apply to contributions made after Aug. 27, 2018.C
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in 2017 that he hoped it sent a message to state governments that “they should try to get their budgets in line.”
Meanwhile, Democrats have said they would try to undo the cap on state and local tax deductions. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said the new tax change would lead to a decline in revenues in the state because taxpayers would leave.
The Treasury said it would continue to evaluate the issue and release further guidance if necessary.
Freddie Mac today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate dropped below four percent for the first time since January 2018.
Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, says, “While economic data points to continued strength, financial sentiment is weakening with the spread between the 10-year and the 3-month Treasury bill narrowing as fears of the impact of the trade war with China grow. Lower rates should, however, give a boost to the housing market, which has been on the upswing with both existing and new home sales picking up recently.”
30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.99 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending May 30, 2019, down from last week when it averaged 4.06 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.56 percent.
15-year FRM averaged 3.46 percent with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.51 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 4.06 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.
In March, the nation’s home-sale prices remained virtually stagnant, inching backward only 0.1% from 2018 levels, according to new data from Redfin.
This means U.S. home-sale prices reached a median of $295,000 in March, marking the first year-over-year price decrease on record since February 2012.
Despite this decline, Redfin’s data determined that only nine of the 85 largest metros saw a year-over-year decline in their median price.
This was especially so for San Jose, California, which saw its home prices fall 13% in March. That being said, other California cities like San Francisco experienced declines as little as 1%.
When it comes to home sales, the report revealed that expensive West Coast markets like Los Angeles, Orange County and Seattle posted double-digit year-over-year sale declines.
However, large markets on the East Coast saw big annual sales gains, as market affordability worked in their favor.
“Homebuyers have backed off in West Coast metros where home prices have risen far out of their budgets,” Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather said. “The opposite is happening in more affordable metros where buyers are eager to buy now to take advantage of low mortgage rates. In California, where the tax burden is high, some people are finding they have to move out of state to afford to buy a home. As a result, home sales are down in metros throughout the state.”
In fact, Redfin’s analysis indicated March’s home sales fell in 37 of the 85 largest housing markets. Whereas, only 24 of these markets saw double-digit year-over-year increases in home sales.
Interestingly, the housing markets that did experience the biggest declines features homes that were 2.5 times more expensive than homes belonging in areas where sales surged, according to Redfin.
The image below highlights March’s home-price growth:
The steady mortgage-rate decline is making purchasing a home more affordable just as the spring buying season heats up.
According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average dipped to 4.35 percent with an average 0.5 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount.) It was 4.37 percent a week ago and 4.40 percent a year ago. The 30-year fixed rate has fallen 16 basis points since the first of the year. (A basis point is 0.01 percentage point.)
The 15-year fixed-rate average slipped to 3.78 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 3.81 percent a week ago and 3.85 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average dropped to 3.84 percent with an average 0.3 point. It was 3.88 percent a week ago and 3.65 percent a year ago.
“Today’s news from Freddie Mac should give buyers some optimism this spring as mortgage rates remain at one-year lows,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com. “But this spring won’t be without its challenges. Most markets are continuing to see rising home prices, which means many buyers will have to make some trade-offs in order to close this year.”6
The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that sales of existing homes declined 1.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.94 million last month, the slowest sales rate since November 2015.
During the past 12 months, sales have plunged 8.5 percent. Would-be home buyers are increasingly priced out of the market as years of climbing prices and strained inventories have made ownership too costly. Declining mortgage rates could aid buyers.
The Federal Reserve released the minutes from its January meeting this week, which showed central bank officials unsure about the need for interest rate increases in 2019. Although the Fed doesn’t set mortgage rates, its decisions influence them.
“Wednesday’s release of the minutes from January’s (Federal Open Market Committee) meeting paints a picture of a more muted outlook for interest rates over the next year,” said Aaron Terrazas, Zillow senior economist. “All eyes are on a string of Fed speakers over the coming week, when we will also see a slew of housing market data, which was a soft spot in the economy at the end of last year. However, the January data are unlikely to provide a definitive judgment on the underlying health of the economy. The market signal in January home sales and permits is likely blurred by the partial federal government shutdown and the polar vortex that hit much of the country mid-month.”
Mixed economic news is putting a damper on rates. More than 84 percent of purchase borrowers and 81 percent of refinance borrowers were offered rates below 5 percent last week, according to LendingTree’s weekly mortgage comparison shopping report.
Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found nearly two-thirds of the experts it surveyed say rates will remain relatively stable in the coming week. Michael Becker, branch manager at Sierra Pacific Mortgage, is one who predicts rates will hold steady.
“Mortgage rates follow the 10-year Treasury and have similarly been consolidating with small differences in rates on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis,” Becker said. “At some point, rates will break out of this tight range and we will see either a spike or drop in rates. If global economic concerns dominate markets, then we will see a drop in rates. If optimism based on progress on trade wars or central bank dovishness prevails in the markets, then there will be a spike in rates. For now, I think rates continue their consolidation pattern and that mortgage rates will be flat in the coming week.”
Meanwhile, mortgage applications have finally started to pick up, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index — a measure of total loan application volume — increased 3.6 percent from a week earlier. The refinance index rose 6 percent from the previous week, while the purchase index grew 2 percent.
The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 41.7 percent of all applications.
“After slumping over the past month, purchase mortgage applications reversed course, rising nearly 2 percent over the past week and 2.5 percent from a year ago,” said Bob Broeksmit, MBA president and CEO. “With mortgage rates lower than in previous months and holding steady, lenders are indicating that prospective buyers may be eager to start their home search before the spring buying season gets underway.”
With slews of tent encampments in a fast-growing city flush with tech-sector cash, it’s tough questioning Seattle’s serious problem with homelessness and affordable housing.
But an unprecedented new city law — forbidding landlords from checking into potential renters’ criminal past — is very much in dispute and setting up a closely-watched court battle.
Landlords argue their free speech, property rights and possibly their safety is being jeopardized by a law that forces them to close their eyes to relevant public information about possible tenants. They’re backed by landlord groups and background screeners who call the ordinance a perilous precedent.
The “Fair Chance Housing Act” was anything but that, according to landlords’ lawyers. Ethan Blevins, an attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, said the law’s premise “is this paternalistic idea that the city gets to decide what information is relevant or important to a landlord’s decision making process.”
An unprecedented new city law — forbidding landlords from checking into potential renters’ criminal past — is very much in dispute and setting up a closely-watched court battle.
The City of Seattle and tenant advocates are fighting back. They say the act helps chip away at a housing crisis, especially for over-policed minorities disproportionately saddled with arrests and convictions.
It’s a court case that landlords and lawmakers in the other parts of the country are looking at with keen interest. A ruling upholding the law could pave the way for its enactment elsewhere, said Kimberlee Gunning, a lawyer for tenants advocates at Columbia Legal Services. “Folks across the country are watching this,” she said.
Though the law has been in effect since February, a judge will be scrutinizing its merits following President Donald Trump’s enactment of criminal justice reforms. The “First Step Act” signed Friday, among other things, broadens re-entry efforts and quicken a well-behaved inmate’s release.
The new federal law was a sign Seattle “on the vanguard” of needed reforms with its own housing law, Herbold said. The city also was one of the first cities to enact paid sick leave laws and $15 minimum wage requirements, she noted.
“We’re all safer if people are housed,” Council member Lisa Herbold, the bill’s chief sponsor, told MarketWatch. “You’re reducing the likelihood of recidivism. That goes for violent crimes as well.”
What should matter to landlords, Herbold said, is someone’s ability to make the rent on time and not wreck the place; Blevins said criminal background checks had bearing for those kinds of issues.
While other cities limit how far in time landlords can delve into a tenant’s criminal past, Herbold said Seattle’s law appears to be the first blocking any inquiry at all. Those involved should learn about Singleton Law Firm legal assistance, there are cases of the efficient way out.
“It is an embarrassment and shame that a city like ours, with so many resources, is not doing a very good job taking care of those who have the most significant barriers to access in housing,” Herbold said, “And having a mark on your background related to the criminal justice system is one of those barriers.”
The law’s premise ‘is this paternalistic idea that the city gets to decide what information is relevant or important to a landlord’s decision making process.’
A January 2017 tally put Seattle’s homeless population around 8,500. Average Seattle rents jumped 43% from 2012 to 2017, accord to a local task force. During that time, vacancy rates in buildings with at least 20 units have hovered between 4% and 5%, it said. Almost one-third of Seattle residents have an arrest or conviction on their record, court papers said.
The city is already locked in two other lawsuits with landlords, who object to ordinances capping deposits and requiring landlords to take the first applicant who comes to them. A judge upheld the limits on move-in costs, but another judge voided the rule on taking the first tenant to come along. Both cases are being appealed.
Ahead of its unanimous passage, some residents in support of the Fair Chance Housing Act said landlords kept dredging up their past as they tried to make a new life. One man testified at a bill hearing he had enough money, good credit and a good rental history. “But I kept hearing ‘no.’” The law, he said, “will help level the playing field for some of us.”
The plaintiffs include landlords who rent out a handful of units and live close to their tenants. One landlord couple that’s suing, Chong and MariLyn Yim, say they charge below-market rent prices. But they’ll “have to raise rents in order to build up a larger cushion of reserves to absorb the risks they face under the new law,” court papers said.
The Yims, two other private landlords and the Rental Housing Association of Washington are asking Seattle Federal Judge John Coughenour to call the statute unconstitutional.
Some say Seattle’s law is not an outlier
The law prevents landlords from checking prospective tenants for any convictions or arrests. The ordinance does not apply to convicted sex offenders who committed their crime from age 21 and above. It does shield juvenile criminal records from landlord eyes, including those for sex-crime charges. The law doesn’t apply to federally-assisted housing, the landlords note.
Renters across America face a mix of federal, state and local laws when it comes to what publicly-funded and private landlords can weigh when deciding on a tenant.
There’s a variety of anti-discrimination laws barring the consideration of race, sex, religion and disability. The range of state and city rules for considering tenant’s criminal past get more complicated — with many laws now confining what parts of a criminal record landlords should weigh, housing advocates point out.
“Seattle’s ordinance is by no means an outlier. It is part of a larger trend at the federal, state, and local levels toward removing barriers for people reentering society,” said lawyers for the National Housing Law Project and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.
But renters on the private market don’t have “the same constitutional protections against arbitrary admission denials as applicants to federally subsidized housing,” the organizations said, noting 87% of Seattle’s rental housing stock is owned by private landlords.
A spokesman for the city’s Office for Civil Rights said that, as of last month, the agency has filed nine civil charges against several landlords since the law went on the books. Four ended in settlement, four are pending and one was dismissed.
Blevins acknowledged city officials are trying to cope with “legitimate problems” of recidivism and the criminal justice system’s disproportionate lean on minorities. “The problem is, they’ve taken the wrong approach by burdening landlords with this inability to look into valid information about rental applicants.”
Blevins noted Seattle has been under a federal consent decree since 2012 to stop biased policing. “It’s ironic for them to point the finger,” he said. In January, a judge said the police was in full compliance and had two years to keep it up before the order lifted.
Landlords argue they could be exposed to liability. In one pending lawsuit, a family of a raped and murdered tenant is suing a Chicago property manager for not running a background check on a fellow tenant.
Landlords argue they could be exposed to liability if they don’t do their due diligence. There was one dire example in a pending lawsuit where a family of a raped and murdered tenant is suing a Chicago property manager for not running a background check on a fellow tenant.
The landlord arguments are seconded by supporting groups like the National Apartment Association and the National Consumer Reporting Association, which assailed the ordinance as vaguely worded.
John McDermott, general counsel of the National Apartment Association, a trade association for owners and property managers in the rental market, said Seattle’s law was “stunning in saying our solution to the [shortage of affordable housing] problem is you should make decisions with less information.”
But tenants’ advocates said the ordinance was a break from Seattle’s troubled housing history.
Seattle was a segregated city with racially restrictive covenants and “redlining” in its past — not to mention gentrification that were now pricing out certain areas, filings said. Companies like Amazon AMZN, +5.21% and StarbucksSBUX, +2.54% are based in Seattle, while the headquarters of MicrosoftMSFT, +3.39% are nearby.
Background checks on their face didn’t ask about race, but landlords, playing “private juries and judges” kept the divided city’s status quo intact.
“The Ordinance will not eliminate racism and segregation in Seattle entirely”, said lawyers for the groups Pioneer Human Services, a social enterprise based in Washington, D.C. that serves individuals released from prison, and Tenants Union. “But, by eliminating some of the barriers to finding adequate housing, it will strengthen families and, by extension, communities.”
Arguments about landlord duties to protect tenants were “misleading,” the court papers said. Landlords can’t be expected to be on notice about a tenant’s past when they’re not even allowed to look at a person’s criminal past, housing advocates said.
The sides have to file all their arguments in the suit by next month.
As interest rates rise, access to capital is increasingly restricted for the small businesses that make up the core of the American economy. However, some far-left lawmakers and activists want to restrict access even further under the guise of protecting consumers.
Rising interest rates mean that the rate at which banks can lend reserve balances to other banks is rising, increasing the costs for small businesses to receive traditional loans from banks. As costs exponentially increase, consumers will have even less cash due to paying off inevitably higher interest rates on credit cards.
During the summer, many economists warned that rising interest rates would restrict capital to small businesses over time. Rohit Arora explained in Forbes on June 20, 2018 that small businesses should apply early for loans because capital will be restricted to them over time as a result of rising interest rates.
“Companies that need to borrow money for growth incur a higher cost of capital when interest rates go up. This includes firms that have already borrowed money since most small business loans come with floating, rather than fixed, rates,” Mr. Arora wrote.
While interest rate hikes will have a negligible impact on larger companies seeking access to capital, smaller companies will find slim opportunities for access to cash. In response to this growing crisis of capital, a highly specialized form of financing company has emerged, dubbed the merchant cash advance (MCA) business model.
The merchant cash advance model is an alternative form of financing, rather than a traditional loan. Companies in need of a quick influx of capital receive cash from a MCA company in exchange for a portion of future sales or profits. Since the MCA model doesn’t constitute a traditional loan, it is not subjected to regulations on annual percentage rates of interest.
These cash advances range from $5,000 to $500,000 and have advantages over the route of acquiring a traditional loan. For example, seasonal businesses that operate for many months without a cash flow can easily acquire sorely needed capital utilizing the MCA model.
These financial instruments have become the preferred method of acquiring capital to pay expenses for many small businesses who are not excited about long waits for approval and having to put up personal property, like a home, as collateral for a small business loan.
Unsurprisingly, liberals in California who favor increased federal regulations over free markets are targeting this innovative form of financing.
In response to California state legislation attacking the MCA model, the Commercial Finance Coalition (CFC), an organization seeking to standardize the MCA industry, wrote a letter opposing “undue hardship upon small business” by “removing their freedom of choice in the financial marketplace.” The California example is being considered by other states as a way to crack down on a handful of bad actors in the industry in a way that will sideline all the other ethical companies who use this model of financing small businesses in a way that both benefits small business as a whole and the providers of this financial instrument.
“Small businesses need funding to maintain and expand their operations and CFC member companies offer fair and innovative marketplace alternatives to typical term loans and have filled the void created by the decline in small business lending by larger, traditional banks. The continuation of this bill will not only hurt our business, but will hurt the countless small and medium sized businesses across the state,” the letter continues.
Small businesses remain the backbone of the U.S. economy. According to a Small Business Administration 2015 report, 99.9 percent of U.S. employer firms are small businesses that employ 47.5 percent of private sector employees. When companies have no alternative, an MCA agreement can mean the difference when it comes to staying in business, and it’s important that the federal government respect free markets by preserving small business owners’ freedom of financial choice.
When critics on the left decry the high interest rates associated with MCA agreements and call for regulation, they not only misunderstand the industry entirely, but deny the free agency of millions of small business owners across the country.
MCA agreements fill a need at a time when only 25 percent of small business loan applications are accepted by big banks, small businesses remain desperate for funding. Interference by a overbearing government would not only endanger this burgeoning industries’ financial future, but that of the thousands of small businesses and workers that are dependent upon it.
As 2018 winds to a close, the housing market has shown signs of a slowdown. Wages are rising, according to the most recent figures released Friday, which economists say may give the Federal Reserve more impetus to raise interest rates later this month.
Throughout this year, observers have begun to speculate that the country’s housing market may have hit its peak. Meanwhile, millions of Americans continue to wait on the sidelines. Housing inventory remains incredibly tight, meaning that buying a home is a very expensive and difficult proposition for many. At the same time, expensive rents and low wages have constrained people’s ability to save up for a down payment.
And 2019 appears set to bring more of the same. “I would still rather be a seller than a buyer next year,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at real-estate website Realtor.com. Here is what forecasters predict the New Year will hold for America’s housing market:
Mortgage rates will continue to rise, causing home prices and sales to drop
In the Dec. 7 week, the interest rate on a fixed-rate 30-year mortgage was hovering 4.75%,down six basis points. But by this time next year, experts predict it will be even higher.
Realtor.com estimated that the rate for a 30-year mortgage will reach 5.50% by the end of 2019, while real-estate firm Zillow estimated that it could hit 5.80% in a year’s time. Mortgage liquidity provider Fannie Mae was more moderate, predicting that rates will only increase to 5% by then.
Either way, homebuyers can expect to pay more in interest if they buy next year. And rising mortgage rates will cause ripple effects throughout the market, said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at real-estate data firm Attom Data Solutions.
“What’s driving the slowdown in price appreciation and the rise in inventory is not so much that inventory is being created, but that demand is decreasing,” he said. “This is an extremely mortgage-rate sensitive housing market.”
Realtor.com only expects the national median home price to increase 2.2% next year and for sales to drop 2%. Zillow was a bit more upbeat, expecting home prices to rise 3.8%. (In October, the median sales price only increased 3.8% from a year earlier amid a 1.8% annual uptick in home sales, the first such increase in six months.)
Added inventory won’t make it a buyer’s market
In some of the nation’s priciest markets, housing inventory has improved in recent months, relieving some of the inventory-related constraints on housing markets.
But that’s not good news for buyers or sellers. The increase in inventory in this case is more the result of a decrease in demand because of rising interest rates than it is a sign of new homes being built.
For sellers, this shift will lead to fewer offers and bidding wars, which could in turn could cause some to feel pressure to drop their asking price. However, all of these factors won’t outweigh the price appreciation that’s occurred in recent years. “You’re still likely to walk away with a decent profit in 2019 if you sell,” Hale said.
Moreover, the uptick in inventory has mostly occurred in the pricier tier of homes, meaning that the change doesn’t directly benefit buyers. Rather, it could provide some wiggle room for people looking to upgrade their home. That in turn might marginally expand the number of starter homes on the market.
People will continue to move away from costly housing markets
That trend won’t stop in 2019, which is good news for people looking to sell homes in smaller cities. “Home buyers are going to look for affordability and, often times, that will mean moving from a high cost major market to a lower cost secondary market,” Hale said. Many of these cities, such as Raleigh, N.C., and Nashville, Tenn., have growing economies and healthy job markets, further sweetening the deal.
Another factor that could fuel migration in the future is the new tax code signed into law by President Trump in 2017, which removed the deductions for state and local taxes. Taxpayers will only fully feel the effects of that change for the first time next spring as they receive their refund checks in the mail, said Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow ZG, -1.57%
“You’ve already seen some of the backlash to the tax bill in the elections that happened in New Jersey and Orange County,” Terrazas said. “Whether or not it spurs migrations, that’s something that happens pretty slowly. People certainly get upset and vote. Actually picking up and moving is a whole other level of seriousness.”
The threat of a recession remains a big question mark
The economy is still strong, but it’s unclear for how long that will continue to be the case. Economists have predicted that a recession could come as soon as late 2019.
Whenever it occurs, the recession is sure to shrink demand for homes and cause prices and sales to drop. The magnitude of those effects will depend on how bad the recession is. In short, the more jobs that are lost, the more hard-hit the housing market will be.
And the housing market may begin to feel the recession before it even starts. With memories of the pre-2008 housing bubble still fresh in people’s minds, would-be homebuyers may be hesitant to purchase a property if they believe they’d be buying at the top of the market in doing so.
“That could be more detrimental to the housing market than the actual underlying issues,” Blomquist said.
Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes jumped seven points to a level of 70 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). This is the highest reading since July 2005.
The increase in market confidence follows the November election results, increasing hopes among home builders and other stakeholders in the residential construction industry that the incoming administration will reduce costly regulatory burdens, particularly for small businesses. Research from NAHB published earlier this year indicated that for home builders, such regulatory costs have risen by more than 29% over the last five years.
While the significant increase in builder confidence for December could be considered an outlier, the fact remains that the economic fundamentals continue to look good for housing as we head into 2017. And the rise in the HMI is consistent with recent gains for the stock market and consumer confidence. At the same time, builders remain sensitive to rising mortgage rates and continue to deal with shortages of lots and labor.
Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 30 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.
All three HMI components posted healthy gains in December. The component gauging current sales conditions increased seven points to 76 while the index charting sales expectations in the next six months jumped nine points to 78. Meanwhile, the component measuring buyer traffic rose six points to 53, marking the first time this gauge has topped 50 since October 2005.
30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.47 percent with an average 0.6 point for the week ending October 13, 2016, up from last week when they averaged 3.42 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.82 percent.
15-year FRM this week averaged 2.76 percent with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when they averaged 2.72 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.03 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.
Quote Attributed to Sean Becketti, chief economist, Freddie Mac.
“This week the 10-year Treasury yield continued its climb as an increasing number of financial market participants foresee a December rate hike after a series of positive economic data releases. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage moved up 5 basis points to 3.47 percent in this week’s survey, the first increase in one month. Even though we’ve seen economic activity pick up, consumer price inflation and implied inflation expectations remain below the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target.”
That’s the landscape for much of the Southern California housing market as the spring selling season gets underway. Competition is as fierce, or even greater, than last year in many corners of the Southland, and would-be buyers can expect a pitched battle if they want to close a deal, real estate agents say.
The frenzied start has been driven by a dearth of homes for sale, low mortgage rates and steady job growth. Homes are selling faster than a year earlier, with more of them going for above the list price, data from online brokerage Redfin show.
“Be ready to write the offer on the Realtor’s car,” mortgage broker Jeff Lazerson said.
Another sign of the market’s strength came this month when data provider CoreLogic reported that sales in February jumped 9% from a year earlier. The median price, meanwhile, climbed 3.7% — the 47th straight month it’s risen.
Lazerson said his clients in Los Angeles and Orange counties are putting an average of five offers on a house before they’re successful. And he’s seeing more demand from first-time home buyers, as well as those who want to upgrade to a bigger home.
“The market seems to be healthy again on all levels,” he said.
Real estate agent Heather Presha has seen the craziness firsthand.
With few homes for sale in the Leimert Park neighborhood where she works, buyers are flooding open houses that pop up. Many are coming from the Westside, no longer able to afford a home near the ocean as prices have steadily risen across the region.
The added demand is pushing values higher in the South L.A. neighborhood filled with old Spanish-style homes.
Pat Douglas, another agent in Leimert Park, put it this way: “Anything good that is on the market is going quick with multiple offers.”
In Los Angeles County, there was a 4.9-month supply of homes for sale in February compared with a 5.2-month supply a year earlier — meaning no homes would be on the market after that time period if sales continued at their current pace and no new listings emerged, according to the California Assn. of Realtors. Orange County saw a similar trend.
The Realtors consider a six- to seven-month supply a market that favors neither buyers nor sellers.
“The inventory issue is why price growth is strong,” said Redfin chief economist Nela Richardson.
Recently there’s been a healthy jump in listings, Richardson said, but it’s unclear if the trend will hold.
If it does, house hunters such as Abigail Lee and her husband, Ray, would be overjoyed.
The couple are looking for a home under $2 million, but they’ve found little suitable near a good public school. They’ve put in only two offers in the roughly six months they’ve been looking — and were unsuccessful both times.