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Updated: 46 min 22 sec ago

REALTORS® Reported Strong Demand But Weak Supply in September 2015

Wed, 11/11/2015 - 12:58

Local conditions vary, but the number of REALTOR® respondents who reported “strong” buyer traffic outnumbered those who reported “weak” traffic in September 2015, according to the September 2015 REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey Report.[1] The REALTORS® Buyer Traffic Index registered at 53 (60 in August 2015; 44 in September 2014). Buyer traffic was stronger compared to a year ago, but was slower after the strong spring and summer months, as is typically the case.

Inventory remained tight, with more respondents reporting “weak” than “strong” traffic from prospective sellers. The REALTORS® Seller Traffic Index dipped to 41 (45 in August 2015 and 39 in September 2014). While the construction of new privately owned housing units has been improving, reaching 1.2 million units in the second quarter of 2015, roughly 40 percent of recent new construction has been multifamily structures which are typically for rental occupancy. Historically, multifamily structures accounted for only 20 percent of new construction, so the availability of single-units for purchase among recently constructed properties is lower than was historically normal. REALTORS® reported low inventory of properties in the lower price range and for those that are move-in ready.

[1] Respondents were asked “How do you rate the past month’s traffic in the neighborhood(s) or area(s) where you make most of your sales?” for Prospective Buyers and Prospective Sellers.

Veterans Day: Active Military and Veteran Home Buyers

Wed, 11/11/2015 - 10:18

Today we honor those who have served, and those who are actively serving in the military. Looking at data from the recently released 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, we can see home buying trends among active military and veteran home buyers.

  • Recent home buyers who were active military or veterans made up 21 percent of all recent home buyers. 28 percent were first-time home buyers.

  • The median age among active military and veteran home buyers was 48 years old. Active military buyers were typically 34 years old, and veteran buyers were 61 years old.
  • Seventy-eight percent of buyers were married couples, nine percent single males, and 6 percent single females.
  • The most commonly purchased home type was a single-family home at 86 percent, five percent purchased townhomes, and two percent purchased apartments or condos.
  • Prior to purchasing, 50 percent of buyers rented an apartment or house.
  • The main reason for their recent purchase was the desire to own a home of their own, 26 percent. Twenty-one percent purchased because of a job related relocation or move.

  • Forty-one percent of recent buyers found virtual home tours to be very useful during the home search process.
  • When searching for their home 85 percent of active military and veteran home buyers bought their home through a real estate agent or broker.

For more information on active military and veteran home buyers view the Veterans Day infographic, and highlights from the 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.

In What States Did Properties Sell Quickly in July-September 2015?

Tue, 11/10/2015 - 15:33

In the monthly REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey, NAR asks REALTORS® “For the last house that you closed in the past month, how long was it on the market from listing time to the time the seller accepted the buyer’s offer?” The map below shows the median days on market respondents indicated for their sales from July-September 2015, according to the September 2015 REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey Report.[1]

Properties typically sold within a month in California, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska, Texas, and the District of Columbia. In Vermont, properties were typically on the market for longer than 90 days when sold. All real estate is local. State-level data is provided for REALTORS® who may want to compare local markets against the state and national summary

[1] The median days on market is the value such that half of properties stayed in the market below the median days and half of properties stayed on the market above the median days.


Cap Rates Compress in REALTORS® Commercial Markets During Q3.2015

Tue, 11/10/2015 - 13:12

Commercial real estate transactions span the price spectrum, but tend to be measured and reported based on size. While the majority of buildings (81 percent) are relatively small (SCRE), with the bulk of commercial space (71 percent) concentrated in larger buildings (LCRE), larger buildings account for the majority of sales. CRE deals at the higher end—$2.5 million and above—comprise a large share of investment sales, with transaction data readily available from several sources, including Real Capital Analytics (RCA).

Data for smaller transactions—$2.5 million and below—many of which are handled by REALTORS®, are less widely available. NAR’s Commercial Real Estate Market Trends gathers market information for SCRE properties and transactions.

Based on the latest NAR report on REALTORS® CRE markets, capitalization rates averaged 7.9 percent across all property types, a 26 basis point decline on a yearly basis. Apartments posted the lowest cap rate, at 6.7 percent, followed by retail properties with average cap rates at 7.7 percent. Office and industrial spaces posted identical cap rates of 7.8 percent. Hotel transactions reported the highest comparative cap rates—8.8 percent.

Investors in SCRE markets have been attracted by the yield premiums. Capitalization rates for transactions in LCRE markets averaged 6.9 percent in the third quarter, based on RCA reports. Transactions of office properties in CBD markets recorded the lowest cap rates, at 5.3 percent, followed by apartment, at 5.8 percent. Retail and industrial properties also posted sub-7.0 percent cap rates, while hotel transactions averaged cap rates of 8.2 percent in the third quarter.

The interest rate on 10-year Treasury Notes—a standard measure of risk-free investments—averaged 2.2 percent during the third quarter of 2015, higher than the second quarter. Based on the prevailing rates, the spread between cap rates and 10-year Treasury Notes ranged from 470 basis points in LCRE market to 573 basis points in SCRE markets. The spread denotes that CRE investors are continue to enjoy healthy returns in the rebounding markets.

To access the latest Commercial Real Estate Market Trends report, visit:


Selling Your Home Solo to Save Money? You’ll Actually Make Less Than You Think

Mon, 11/09/2015 - 15:48

Some homeowners opt to sell their residence without a real estate agent to get around paying a commission and make more of the profit. Forty-eight percent of people who sell without a real estate agent think that if they sell themselves, they’ll end up doing a little extra work in exchange for not paying a commission or closing fee. According to the research, however, what they actually get is a lot of time spent hustling to make the sale and a final selling price that is less than what the market can bear.

Do you have a lot of extra time to market your home and do all the work to meet and greet properly? Are you versed in local trends on the housing market and know the latest regulations for closing a sale? Do you have a list of potential buyers ready to view your home? Eighty-nine percent of all homes sold in 2015 were sold with the assistance of an experienced real estate professional, according to the 2015 Home Buyers and Sellers Profile. Most leave it to the professionals, yet there is still a small group of people who prefer to do it themselves. Eight percent of home sellers chose to list themselves, known as For-Sale-By-Owners (FSBO) home sales. That number has steadily declined since 2004 where only 82 percent of all home sales were agent-assisted and 14 percent of homes were listed FSBO. FSBO sales are currently at an all-time low since data collection began in 1981.

Let’s break it down further. Thirty-eight percent of all FSBOs—that’s only three percent of the total home sales in 2015—were homes sold to people where the buyer knew the seller selling to a friend, neighbor, or family member. However, 62 percent of FSBO home sales—five percent of total homes sold—were sold by the owner to someone they didn’t know. According to the 2015 Home Buyers and Sellers Profile report, sellers cited creating yard sings, listing their homes online on multiple websites, spreading the news through word of mouth, putting out classified ads, displaying on social media, hosting an open house, and registering with the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) database. That’s a lot of work just on marketing and finding potential buyers.

The time it takes to sell a home on the market was roughly the same for FSBOs and for agent-assisted homes, the median time listed was four weeks for both groups. A third of all homes were sold in less than two weeks last year. Most FSBO homes sales were located in a resort area (16 percent), rural area (15 percent), or a small town (13 percent). Seventy-five percent of FSBO sales were detached single-family homes. Ten percent were mobile or manufactured homes. FSBOs typically had lower incomes than those who worked with an agent. The median income of FSBOs was $84,000 and for those who sold through an agent was $105,600. Those who sell themselves have the perception that they have less money to pay for assistance when selling their home and opt to go it alone.

As it turns out, FSBO make less money on their home sales than buyers who work with a real estate agent. According to the report, the median selling price for all FSBO homes was $210,000 last year. When the buyer knew the seller in FSBO sales, the number plunges to the median selling price of $151,900. For homes sold with the assistance of an agent, the median selling price was $249,000 ̶ almost $40,000 more for the typical home sale. According to NAR’s 2015 Member Profile, sixty-nine percent of all real estate agents get paid by a percentage commission split between two agents representing the buyer and seller.

Talk to an agent and find out what they suggest for the commission and then do the math yourself. The closing price for the agent-assisted seller is likely going to be way above an FSBO. In reality, homes sold by the owner make less money overall. Based on these closing numbers, why not save yourself time and make more money by working with a real estate agent that is excited to sell your home?


FHA Lending Likely to Tighten Modestly

Mon, 11/09/2015 - 10:41

Lenders who responded to the 3rd Quarter Survey of Mortgage Originators indicated that proposed changes by the FHA may cause them to tighten their credit standards modestly. While this change is unfortunate, it would be a mild reversion to what is already a tight credit environment. These changes are not likely to affect the FHA’s profitability, nor will it impact the market as demand is currently strong relative to supply, but it does limit opportunities for first-time, boomerang, and credit impaired homebuyers.

In September, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) proposed an update to its certification policy. Under current policy lenders must certify that the loans they send for FHA for insurance comply with all standards set forth by the FHA. However, in recent years the FHA has forced some lenders to indemnify the FHA of losses on some loans, while the Department of Justice has pursued lawsuits against lenders under the False Claims Act for discrepancies between what lenders certified and what was actually produced. Lenders have been looking for more clarity from the certification policy as to what errors will trigger a lawsuit or indemnification as well as more variation in the degree of punishment relative to the infraction. To protect themselves, lenders have raised their minimum credit scores to ameliorate potential defaults and to avoid gaining the attention of the FHA and DOJ.

More than half (60.0 percent) of respondents indicated that the new proposal would not have an impact on their lending. 10.0 percent of the lenders in the survey indicated that they would raise their minimum credit requirement, while an additional 20 percent indicated that at least some of their investors had raised their requirements for purchasing loans. Of those raising their minimum credit score, 71.4 percent indicated that the new minimum would be 640, while the remaining 28.6 percent would set the floor at 620.

This reading may give some false comfort as many lenders did not follow the example of Wells Fargo and other lenders who lowered their credit standards in the spring of 2014. Thus, this move suggests a modest reversion toward the same overlays that have dominated the market place for several years. Despite this setback, the FHA’s finances will continue to improve due to advantageous pricing and limited risk on its book of business.

Real Estate Agents: Still Primary Source for Homes

Fri, 11/06/2015 - 15:25

We have been mistakenly focused on the wrong thing about the home search process. It is true, we are in a digital age and when Millennials as first-time buyers begin their home search for the first time, without knowing anything about how to buy a home, they go online as the first step. New NAR data from the 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers shows that the first step in the buying process is to look online – 42 percent of buyers started here and 13 percent of buyers looked online for information about the home buying process in the effort to educate themselves. Only 14 percent contact a real estate agent right out of the gate.

We also know from the research that the majority of buyers work with a real estate agent to close on a home, nine in 10 buyers signed with the help of an agent in fact. We dug a little further to inquire about the role of the real estate agent in the entire process. Here are some quick facts in response to questions from our survey:

When we factor in the real estate agent’s use of digital technology, their share in introducing buyers to the home they eventually purchased is the overwhelming factor for buyers at 42 percent of the sources. Buyers found their homes 34 percent of the time from a variety of online sources and 17 percent of the time from either from someone they knew or in person.

For buyers that looked online for properties, they visited 10 homes over the course of 10 weeks before they purchased. For buyers that went straight to a real estate agent and did not look online, they visited five homes over only five weeks before they made their purchase. The numbers indicate that working with an agent can save a buyer time and effort. Ninety-one percent said they were satisfied with the home buying process.

Latest Employment Report (October 2015)

Fri, 11/06/2015 - 10:23
  • Big numbers on employment with a whopping 271,000 net new job creation in October. Over the past 12 months the tally comes to an impressive 2.8 million net new jobs. Real estate can therefore expect further expansion.
  • Even better news: wages are breaking higher. The average hourly earnings rose by 2.5 percent over the past 12 months to $25.20, which is the best gain in seven years. Given that rents and home prices are rising faster than income, more gain in income is needed to help on the affordability front. Wages in the construction rose by 2.6 percent to $27.54 per hour.
  • Even though construction jobs pay more, only 5,000 jobs were created in the construction of residential homes and related general contractor work. Today there are a total of 2.5 million working in the residential construction area, which is about one million below the peak employment in the sector a decade ago. Homebuilders constantly mention the worker shortage in hindering the building of more homes.
  • The unemployment rate remained at 5.0 percent, which is reflecting good conditions. But the opposite side of the coin – the employment rate – measuring what percentage of people have jobs still remains low and stuck at 59 percent. Therefore, it is a mix bag still on employment conditions.
  • As to REALTORS®, the overall membership figures have been rising at around 6 percent from one year ago. Some states are experiencing a faster gain such as in Florida, Utah, and South Carolina where the local job market and the local housing market has been doing well. Though the median income is slightly under $50,000 per year, one should keep in mind that the median is derived from 23 percent of members earning $100,000 or more per year and 19 percent of members earning less than $10,000 per year.



Properties Typically Sold Within 49 Days in September 2015

Thu, 11/05/2015 - 15:10

Properties that closed in September 2015 were typically on the market for a shorter time compared to a year ago, staying on the market only 49 days (47 days in August 2015; 56 days in September 2014), according to the September 2015 REALTORS® Confidence Index survey report .11 Days on market usually increase after the spring and summer months due to the seasonal slowing down in demand. Respondents reported that it typically took another 41 days to close the sale.

Short sales were on the market for the longest time at 135 days, while foreclosed properties generally stayed on the market for 57 days. Non-distressed properties were typically on the market for 48 days.

Properties that stay on the market for longer are more likely to sell at a discount. The chart below show the price discount or premium from the listing price for properties that sold from January-September 2015 based on a survey of REALTORS®. Only three percent of properties that sold within one month were sold for a discount of 12 percent or more from the listing price. Meanwhile, 37 percent of properties that sold after sitting for 12 months or more on the market were discounted by 12 percent or more.

11 Respondents were asked “For the last house that you closed in the past month, how long was it on the market from listing time to the time the seller accepted the buyer’s offer?” The median is the number of days at which half of the properties stayed on the market.

Sales in REALTORS® Commercial Markets Rise During Q3.2015

Thu, 11/05/2015 - 10:28

Commercial real estate space is heavily concentrated in large buildings, but large buildings are a relatively small number of the overall stock of commercial buildings. In terms of inventory, commercial real estate markets are bifurcated, with the majority of buildings (81 percent) being relatively small (SCRE), while the bulk of commercial space (71 percent) is concentrated in larger buildings (LCRE). The bifurcation continues along transaction volumes as well, with deals at the higher end—$2.5 million and above—comprising a large share of investment sales, while transactions at the lower end make up a smaller piece of the pie.

Data are readily available for transactions in excess of $2.5 million from several sources, including Real Capital Analytics (RCA). However, in general, data for smaller transactions—many of which are handled by REALTORS®—are less widely available. NAR’s Commercial Real Estate Market Trends gathers market information for SCRE properties and transactions, mostly valued below $2.5 million.

Commercial real estate sales volume in LCRE markets posted a 3 percent year-over-year increase, totaling $115 billion during the third quarter of 2015, based on RCA data. The pace of deals has been declining steadily during 2015, with each successive quarter posting smaller year-over-year increases.

In SCRE markets sales advanced, with REALTORS® reporting rising investment volume.  Sales of commercial properties during the second quarter rose 7.0 percent on a year-over-year basis.

Prices in LCRE markets rose by 14.2 percent during the third quarter of this year, based on RCA’s Commercial Property Price Index. The advance was driven by strong appreciation in prices of apartment and CBD office properties, both of which have exceeded their prior 2007 peaks.

Price growth moderated in SCRE markets during the third quarter of 2015, with properties trading at 3.8 percent higher average prices compared with the same period in 2014.  The average transaction price decreased from $2.0 million in the second quarter 2015 to $1.9 million in the third quarter 2015.

To access the latest Commercial Real Estate Market Trends report, visit:

Applications for Purchase Mortgages

Wed, 11/04/2015 - 15:37
  • Applications for purchase mortgages eased 0.6 percent for the week ending October 23rd after a 3.1 percent decline in the prior week, but the 4-week moving average remains strong. A boom and bust pattern developed around the implementation of the new TILA RESPA Integrated Documentation (TRID) closing documents and process also known as the Know Before You Owe rule on October 3rd.

  • Subsequent to the implementation, purchase applications have fluctuated, but the 4-week moving average, a means of smoothing this weekly volatility, is still 15.4% stronger than a year earlier, though it slipped 8.3% from a week earlier as the strong post-TRID jump cycled out of this measure.
  • Conventional applications rose 0.8 percent relative to last week, while government applications slipped 3.8 percent.
  • The average contract rate on a 30-year fixed inched 3 basis points higher to 4.01 percent. Though slightly up from last week, it is well below the 4.17 percent average rate at the same time in 2014.  That difference is a savings of more than $220 a year on a $200,000 mortgage.


Latest State-Level Employment (September 2015)

Wed, 11/04/2015 - 10:47
  • Utah continues to hold the lead in job creation in the latest data. Idaho and South Carolina are catching up and narrowing the gap. At the opposite end, any state with an exposure to energy production is getting slammed. North Dakota and West Virginia have measurably fewer jobs now compared to one year ago.
  • It should be no surprise that the states with faster job growth are generally the ones with better real estate performance. Home sales and commercial leasing activity roll along with jobs.
  • The one-year change provides a good picture of the momentum: better/worse and accelerating/decelerating. It is nonetheless worth noting a longer term trend as well. North Dakota is the worst performer for jobs in the past 12 months but it is the best performer over the past 15 years. Michigan is ranked #11 over the past 12 months but it is the worst performer over the past 15 years.
  • Another worthy point in the latest job data is the importance of diversification of the local economy. Dallas, used to the most popular TV show many years back with the sleazy oil tycoon J.R. Ewing. Today, Dallas is no longer strictly oil and is creating jobs in insurance, auto parts, and many other industries. Houston by contrast is more oil dependent and the job creations look to be halting in the near future.
  • As an aside Utah has been in the lead from the beginning of the year. Governor Gary Herbert, a former REALTOR® and a former president of Salt Lake Board of REALTORS® has said his background in real estate has helped formulate right policies for the state economy. It could be his policies or other random economic forces at work. But one unique thing about Utah is that it is dead last in spending on education at only $6,500 per pupil compared to $10,700 U.S. average. Many studies on early childhood education emphasize reading books by parents and the number of vocabulary words exposure as significant determinants of kid’s later educational success. Evidently, there must be a lot of reading going on at home in Utah.

Demand Continues to Outstrip Supply in Many States in September 2015

Tue, 11/03/2015 - 15:37

REALTORS® continue to report that buyer demand is outpacing supply in many states, according to the September 2015 REALTORS® Confidence Index survey report. An index above 50 suggests more respondents reporting “strong” than “weak” conditions.

In most states, the number of respondents who reported “strong” buyer traffic outnumbered those who reported “weak” buyer traffic, measured by the REALTORS® Buyer Traffic Index. States with the strongest buyer traffic were Washington, Oregon, and Wyoming. Supply conditions, measured by the REALTORS® Seller Traffic Index, remained broadly “weak” in many states, except in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Alabama, and Maine.

REALTOR® University Speaker Series

Tue, 11/03/2015 - 11:21

Don’t miss this week’s REALTOR® University session on ‘Dynamic Scoring’ presented by Thomas A. Barthold on Friday, November 6th.

The REALTOR® University Speaker Series is a platform for noted economists, demographers, and social scientists to share views on real estate and economic topics of interest to REALTORS® and others involved with residential and commercial real estate and related professions.

This week’s speaker is Thomas A. Barthold, chief of staff for the Joint Committee on Taxation, who will discuss Dynamic Scoring: Methodology, Issues, and Implications on Tax Legislation on Friday, November 6th. Registration for the luncheon presentation is requested and can be completed here.

Presentations, including this week’s, are generally held at the National Association of Realtors® Washington, DC office at 12:00 p.m. ET. These presentations are open to the public and a light lunch is available.

A complimentary webinar session is available to guests who cannot attend in-person. Register here for the webinar on Dynamic Scoring.

Attendees will find information on a diverse selection of real estate topics. These sessions can appeal to a variety of audiences:

  • REALTOR® University students enhancing their capabilities
  • State and local associations for staff or member training
  • Brokerages providing education to participating staff
  • University classes on real estate
  • Members of the general public

Videos from past Realtor® University Speaker Series events are available here and written summaries of the events can be found on the Economists’ Outlook blog here.

We hope that you will attend in person or engage with us online using the hashtag #RULectures. Upcoming Realtor® University Speaker Series events can be found here.

Modest Improvements to Lending in the 3rd Quarter

Mon, 11/02/2015 - 15:29

NAR research continues to monitor access to credit and other issues affecting the ability of homebuyers to finance their purchase. In the 3rd Quarter Survey of Mortgage Originators, lenders were queried about recent production trends and expectations for the future. Survey participants were also queried about their preparation for the Know Before You Owe (a.k.a. TRID) changes to the closing process, the FHA’s proposed changes to its certification policy, and the CFPB’s expansion of the small lender exemption to the Ability to Repay (ATR) rule. Access to credit has expanded in the conventional space, while volume in the rebuttable presumption space has improved, but access remains tight in the non-QM space and clouds are forming on the horizon.

Highlights of the Survey:

  • The non-QM share of originations shrank again to just 0.3 percent of production in the 3rd quarter, while the rebuttable presumption share expanded to 6.7 percent.
  • Both the share of lenders offering and willingness to extend non-QM and rebuttable presumption loans eased, while willingness to extend plateaued at a high level for prime loans.
  • Investor demand slipped sharply in the 3rd quarter with more lenders indicating a “wait and see” strategy with respect to investor takeout.
  • Over the next six months, respondents expect access to credit for non-QM and rebuttable loans to moderate.  However, investor demand for all loan categories is expected to rise over this same time frame.
  • Only 20.0 percent of respondents indicated full confidence in their own preparations for TRID after implementation in October and 75.0 percent were recommending longer lock periods for their clients.
  • 40.0 percent of respondents indicated some reluctance to offer pre-approval letters.
  • In response to the FHA’s proposed certification policy, 30.0 percent of lenders plan to raise their minimum credit standards, with 71.4 percent of that group targeting a 640 minimum score.
  • Finally, none of the respondents in this survey either benefit from or were willing to take advantage of the CFPB’s expansion of the small lender exemption under the qualified mortgage (QM) rule.


Government data show that home buyers are older than they used to be, but Millennials are on the horizon

Mon, 11/02/2015 - 11:30

New data about 2015 home buyers will be out later this week.

Most of what we know about home buyers comes from the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers released by the National Association of Realtors® each November. The Profile is based on a comprehensive survey targeted at recent home buyers and sellers. The 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers will be released this week (Thursday, November 5, 2015), and it will be full of the latest insights on this past year’s home buyers.

The government also surveys people to gather information. In fact, the recently released American Community Survey (ACS) gathered information from roughly 3 million people across the country. While the ACS does not specifically target recent home buyers, we can get a decent approximation of recent “home buyers” by looking at data for those who currently own their own home and moved into the residence within the last year[1]. In the rest of the article, we will use the term “home buyers” to refer to these owners who recently moved.

Digging into the ACS data on recent home buyers by age, we find that older home buyers are a bigger share of the market. The shares in the 50+ age brackets are larger in 2014 than they were in 2005. These shares have grown while the shares of buyers in the under 30 and 35 to under 50 age groups have shrunk since 2005. The promise of the millennial buyer is seen in the recently growing share of those aged 30 to under 35.

In spite of the small changes in home buyer shares by age, the government data shows a remarkably steady median age over the years. The typical home buyer was 39 years old from 2005 to 2010 and 41 years old from 2011 to 2014. Data from the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers shows a similar trend with a slightly older median age than in the government data. One explanation for the relative steadiness in the government data may be the way that the data is collected. The American Community Survey (ACS) is an ongoing survey gathered each month such that recent movers could have moved in any month in a roughly 24 month window which is roughly centered on January of the survey year. By comparison, the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers targets only those who purchased a home from July to June of the survey year. Still, the data between the two surveys is remarkably consistent as seen in the tables below, and the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers has is available nearly a full year ahead of the government data.So is the government survey wasteful and duplicative? No. The ACS provides data on a variety of topics in addition to recent movers, and it adds valuable information where there may be none. One additional benefit of the ACS data in relation to recent movers is that the large sample size enables us to see sub-groups that may not be visible in the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. For example, we can see a decent amount of variation by looking at the age of the typical recent buyer in each of the 50 states. Comparing 2005 and 2014 we can see that most states mirror the national trend of older buyers, some more significantly than others. A few states, 9 plus the District of Columbia, actually saw a younger typical home buyer in 2014 compared to 2005. North Dakota had the biggest move from 41.3 years to 34.6 years. Other large movers included Alaska, Nebraska, Alabama, the District of Columbia, and Wyoming where the age of the typical home buyer in 2014 was at least 2 years younger than the age of the typical home buyer in 2005. What does the age of the typical mover look like in your state? 

[1] Current home owners could have been gifted the residence that they own, could have married into ownership, or could have previously purchased the property and used it as a second or investment home before moving into the property as a primary residence, so this definition is not an exact match for recent home buyers, but it is a good approximation.

Raw Count of Home Sales (September 2015)

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 12:31
  • Existing-home sales increased 4.7 percent in September from one month prior while new home sales decreased 11.5 percent. These headline figures are seasonally adjusted figures and are reported in the news. However, for everyday practitioners, simple raw counts of home sales are often more meaningful than the seasonally adjusted figures. The raw count determines income and helps better assess how busy the market has been.
  • Specifically, 471,000 existing-homes were sold in September while new home sales totaled 36,000. These raw counts represent a 7 percent loss for existing-home sales from one month prior while new home sales dropped 16 percent. What was the trend in the recent years? Sales from August to September decreased by 16 percent on average in the prior three years for existing-homes and remained the same for new homes. So this year, existing-homes outperformed compared to their recent norm while new home sales underperformed.
  • Why are seasonally adjusted figures reported in the news? To assess the overall trending direction of the economy, nearly all economic data – from GDP and employment to consumer price inflation and industrial production – are seasonally adjusted to account for regular events we can anticipate have an effect on data around the same time each year. For example, if December raw retail sales rise by, say, 20 percent, we should not celebrate this higher figure if it is generally the case that December retail sales rise by 35 percent because of holiday gift buying activity. Similarly, we should not say that the labor market is crashing when the raw count on employment declines in September just as the summer vacation season ends. That is why economic figures are seasonally adjusted with special algorithms to account for the normal seasonal swings in figures and whether there were more business days (Monday to Friday) during the month. When seasonally adjusted data say an increase, then this is implying a truly strengthening condition.
  • What to expect about home sales in the upcoming months in terms of raw counts? Independent of headline seasonally adjusted figures, expect better activity in October for existing-home sales. For example, in the past 3 years, October sales increased by 2 to 8 percent from September. In contrast, existing-home sales slipped in November by 4 to 21 percent. For the new home sales market, the raw sales activity in October tends to be better than that occurring in September, and activity slows back down in November. For example, in the past 3 years, October sales rose by 3 to 16 percent from September while November sales dropped by 3 to 18 percent. All in all, REALTORS® get ready to give out a candy to your “trick or treater” buyers.

Latest Personal Spending and Income (September 2015)

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 11:37
  • Personal income barely rose in September but was comfortably higher from one year ago. Consumer spending is therefore rising. The economy is in a reasonably good shape as it goes into a cycle of rising income leading to more spending which in turn is leading to job creations and a further rise in income.
  • Specifically, personal income grew 0.1 percent in September and is up by 4.1 percent from one year ago. Income generated from rents grew better at 7 percent. Farm income is recovering after a big tumble last year. Income from unemployment checks are falling rapidly indicating fewer people on the dole.
  • While the total income of everyone combined grew by 4.1 percent, personal consumption grew by a tad less of 3.4 percent. Savings rate is therefore modestly higher, which is helping improve overall balance sheet of families. Based on the latest income and spending patterns and the shift in momentum, GDP in the fourth quarter should be better than the disappointing third quarter performance. No recession over the horizon. Therefore, more jobs will lead to more real estate activity in upcoming quarters.
  • Per person basis and after taxes, the disposable income of a typical person in the U.S. is $41,850, which is a gain of 2.8 percent from a year ago.
  • As an aside, rising income naturally means more consumption. Interestingly, the language company Rosetta Stone is trying to persuade people to buy not things and stuff but to buy a foreign language as something more lasting and impressive. Despite some concern about an increase use of Spanish language in America, globally the biggest growth is in the English language as this language has in essence become the passport to the world. The real rosetta stone is displayed in the British Museum even though Napoleon and his scientists had discovered it in Egypt. Admiral Nelson simply took it from Napoleon after winning a sea battle.

Halloween and Home Sellers

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 12:29

Home sellers decide to move for many reasons. Using the 2014 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, we can discover these reasons as well as some surprising reasons for selling a home.

  • While not also the typical reason for selling, 28 percent of REALTOR® respondents have at least once had to sell a house or find a new home for a seller who was convinced that their house was haunted.

  • Among all home sellers, 15 percent decided to sell their current home because it was too small.
  • Fifteen percent of sellers also sold their homes because of job relocation.
  • The desire to move closer to friends and family was the deciding factor for 14 percent of home sellers.
  • All at 10 percent, the neighborhood becoming less desirable, a change in family situation, or that the home is too large were all primary reasons for selling.
  • First-time sellers sold because their current home was too small, for job relocation, and because the neighborhood became less desirable more than any other group of sellers.
  • Repeat sellers sold to move closer to friends and family, because their home is too large, or for retirement at a higher rate than any other seller group.

See the Haloween and Home Sellers infographic, and for more information on home buyers and sellers check out the 2014 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.

Latest GDP (3rd Quarter 2015)

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 11:10
  • There is no consistency to be found with the GDP. After a solid showing in the second quarter, the third quarter performance fizzled. The housing sector is one of the few bright spots and consequently is holding up the economy from slipping into a recession.
  • Specifically, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by only 1.5 percent in the first reading of the third quarter performance. It will get revised as more data trickles in. But assuming this figure is reasonably accurate, it is a disappointing underperformance. At times the economy shows a spark of fast growth like in the prior quarter when GDP grew by 3.9 percent. However, the problem has been inconsistency. Across four straight quarters, GDP has been below the historical average growth of 3 percent for 10 straight years.
  • The residential real estate’s contribution to the economy grew more solidly, expanding by 6 percent. With much more room to grow for new home construction and home sales, this sector will be the main savior for the economy. Homeowners furthermore have been accumulating equity from rising home values and will therefore have greater confidence to raise consumer spending.
  • As for other sectors, commercial real estate was mildly negative, implying not enough new construction for office, retail, warehouse, and other commercial buildings. Vacancy rates will surely fall and rents will rise as a result.  Overall, business spending remains soft. Federal non-defense spending rose, while defense expenditure fell. Imports and exports both grew by a tad and had little net impact on economic growth.
  • A hypothetical situation versus reality reveals that the economy is short by $1.7 trillion or by $5,000 per person. The hypothetical is what the economy would be had it grown at just the historical normal rate of 3 percent. This missing $5,000 may be one of the contributing factors behind why some people are fed up with Washington politics and turning to extremes. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are likely beneficiaries of this unease and are getting huge turnouts at their political events.