Dying? Already dead.

From Fast Company:

How the starter home became a dying American dream

When 26-year old Memphis resident DeMario Johnson returns to his home after working a long day servicing waterwells for the local utility in Raleigh, North Carolina, he doesn’t just see a two-bed, two-bath home—he sees a place that makes his family happy. His wife loves having bigger rooms, his daughter delights in a space all her own, his two-year-old son spends afternoons stretching out in the hallway, running back and forth, and he personally loves the large, low-slung front porch. 

But Johnson also sees security, something he and his family can depend on, no matter what. “When I’m paying my mortgage, I can see where my money is going,” he says. “When I’m renting, I feel like I’m pissing in the wind.”

For years, Johnson had tried to do what so many young adults are still struggling to accomplish  in today’s housing market: finally buy a place of their own. The idea implicit in the starter home is that it is a beginning: you acquire an affordable home with a handful of bedrooms, laying down roots as a way to build assets for your future home. The starter home is not perfect, or a final destination—but it was a step on the ladder towards a stereotypical American Dream.  

What was once a big, but manageable step, has for many become an impossible leap over an ever-widening chasm. The exact numbers vary depending on the market and the circumstances of a buyer or couple, but the math behind buying a starter, or entry-level, home today remains increasingly cruel. 

The U.S. is short roughly 1.5 million homes, per Robert Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Homebuilders, a gap weighing heavily on the kind of lower-cost models favored by first-time buyers. The competition for a smaller starter home has become cutthroat: even 15 years ago, realtors had more than 2.2 million vacant housing units available to show buyers. Today, due to rampant underproduction of housing for decades, there’s just 732,000, or a third less options, all with 30 million more Americans looking for a place to call home. 

Underproduction has led one economist to call the starter home “an endangered species,” and others to consider current generations resigned toward renting for life. Rents have seen an astronomical rise in recent years, only outpaced by rising home costs, making it that much more challenging to save for a downpayment; the average mortgage now costs 52% more than rent, and a stunning 175% more in Seattle and Austin. 

Posted in Crisis, Demographics, Economics, Housing Bubble, National Real Estate | 93 Comments

Free and Clear

From NJ.com:

More than 1 in 3 N.J. homes now mortgage free in major home debt shift

More than one-third of homes in New Jersey are mortgage free, mirroring national trends and reaching new highs, federal data shows.

U.S. Census data from 2022 shows that 36.7% of homes in New Jersey are owned outright, with no mortgage or home equity loan. That’s up significantly from 2010, when 28.9% of homes were owned outright.

The same trend is playing out nationally. In 2010, 33.8% of homes were owned debt free nationwide. In 2022, that number surged to 39.3%.

The increase in mortgage-free homeownership is likely due to a mix of factors, said Robert Scott, a finance and real estate expert and professor at Monmouth University.

An aging ownership group could have simply reached the end of the traditional 30-year mortgate terms, Scott said. Or, owners near the end of their terms could have refinanced when rates were low, allowing them to pay off loans early.

Another likely factor is owners who sold their homes for huge profits, allowing them to buy their next home in cash, Scott said. Second homeowners buying vacation homes in cash also could contribute to the rise.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Mortgages, National Real Estate, New Jersey Real Estate | 37 Comments

Sold out, come back again later.

From NJ.com:

New listings of homes for sale plummeted 10% or more in these 7 N.J. counties. See latest prices.

More than half of New Jersey counties saw fewer homes hit the real estate market in January with seven counties showing declines of at least 10% compared to last year, the latest figures from Realtor.com showed.

The biggest year-over-year decline was in Morris County with a more than 21% decrease in newly listed homes for sale from January 2023, according to the data. The median price for the 254 new listings in Morris County was $691,225.

Statewide, a total of 6,088 homes were listed at a median price of $524,950. A total of 295,178 homes were listed nationwide at a median price of $409,500.

Posted in Economics, Housing Bubble, New Jersey Real Estate | 8 Comments

Florida’s new “property tax”

From the NY Post:

Florida home prices fall as surging insurance costs scare buyers

Home prices along Florida’s southwest coast have plummeted as excess inventory soars due to the ongoing insurance crisis that has gripped the Sunshine State.

Realtors said that the soaring cost of home insurance has scared off would-be snowbirds from buying properties in the popular corridor between Sarasota and Naples.

Potential buyers have been spooked by insurance premiums which have climbed precipitously since Hurricane Ian in 2022.

Since the storm, insurance rates rose by 42% last year, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

While Floridians paid on average $6,000 for insurance last year, the average US homeowner paid $1,700, according to the insurance watchdog.

Marlissa Gervasoni, president of the Royal Palm Coast Realtor Association, told Bloomberg that in Fort Myers, “we’re seeing anywhere from a 50%-to-100% increase in spending [on insurance costs] depending on the age of the home.”

Gervasoni said that local residents are eager to sell due to the inability to afford homeowners insurance, but the pool of potential buyers has shrunk for the same reason.

Posted in Economics, National Real Estate, Unrest | 43 Comments

Oh boy, now they did it…

From Business Insider:

The myth of the housing bubble

Almost as soon as home prices began their unprecedented climb in 2020, doomsayers began warning of a looming crisis. The housing market, they claimed, was a bubble destined to burst.

A litany of supposed catalysts was going to send prices into a tailspin: the “Airbnbust,” the sudden surge in mortgage rates, a flood of grifters and hucksters looking to make a quick buck in real estate.Bubble watchers forecast chaos, then sat back and waited. And waited. And waited.

I’ve spent the past few years asking experts a simple question: Has the housing market reached bubble territory? The answer remains a resounding no. More than three years after prices started to soar, the only thing that’s gone bust is the gloomy predictions. Despite some cooling in a handful of overheated markets such as Charlotte, North Carolina, and Austin, the median home-sale price increased by a respectable 4% nationwide in 2023, Redfin reported. The price for a typical home has risen by more than 47% since late 2019, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, a closely watched measure of housing costs. 

But maybe I’ve been posing the wrong question all along. The B-word implies an impending pop, a point when the combination of greedy speculation, unscrupulous behavior, and soaring prices brings everything crashing down. Barring a large-scale economic disaster, there’s no pop in sight. 

The staggering jump in home prices is concerning, to be sure. But it’s a function of a severe lack of supply, not a byproduct of investors swarming the market or shady lenders artificially juicing demand. Those looking for parallels to 2008 are grasping at straws — homeowners are in far better financial shape than they were the last time prices cratered, and homebuilders, rather than flooding the market with new properties, aren’t keeping pace with the sheer volume of millennials suddenly consumed by dreams of backyards and picket fences.

So if you’ve been waiting — maybe even cheering — for prices to plummet: Don’t hold your breath. 

Posted in Economics, Housing Bubble, National Real Estate | 42 Comments

Mortgage see-saw takes it’s toll

From CNBC:

Mortgage rates surge higher again, causing homebuyers to pull back

After a brief reprieve in December and January, mortgage rates are moving higher again, and that is taking its toll on mortgage demand.

Total mortgage application volume fell 2.3% last week compared with the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted index.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($766,550 or less) increased to 6.87% last week from 6.80% the week before, with points rising to 0.65 from 0.59 (including the origination fee) for loans with a 20% down payment. That is the highest rate since early December 2023.

Applications to refinance a home loan, which are most sensitive to weekly rate changes, fell 2% for the week but were 12% higher than the same week one year ago. Rates are still about one-half a percentage point higher now than they were a year ago, but the recent drop in rates from a 20-year high last fall has brought more borrowers out looking for any savings they can get. The vast majority of current borrowers, however, have loans with rates far lower than those available today.

Applications for a mortgage to purchase a home dropped 3% for the week and were 12% lower than the same week a year ago.

“Purchase applications remained subdued as elevated rates continue to add to affordability challenges along with still-low existing housing inventory,” said Joel Kan, an MBA economist, in a release.

A recent report from Redfin showed an 8% drop in pending home sales over the last four weeks compared with the same period a year ago. These measure signed contracts on existing homes.

Posted in Economics, Housing Bubble, Mortgages, National Real Estate | 52 Comments

37 NJ towns you can’t afford

From the Star Ledger:

These 37 N.J. towns have home values of at least $1M. See latest statewide ranking.

New Jersey’s home prices continued to steadily increase through the end of last year with typical home values of at least $1 million in 37 towns across the state, according to the latest Zillow data.

The top five home values were once again reported two pairs of neighboring Jersey Shore towns – Deal and Allenhurst in Monmouth County and Avalon and Stone Harbor in Cape May County – along with Alpine in Bergen County.

Nearly every ZIP code included in Zillow’s data for December posted increases in home values, topped by a more than 20% surge in the Three Bridges section of Readington Township. Just seven towns reported declines and five of those were less than 1% drops in Jersey Shore towns, which can be swayed by seasonality.

Statewide, the typical home value was $495,287 as of December, placing the Garden State eighth in the nation for most expensive homes. Nationwide, the typical home value was $342,685 in December, according to the data.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, New Jersey Real Estate | 100 Comments

Flooding kicks off new wave of Blue Acres buyouts

From ABC News:

Flood-stricken New Jersey residents look into government-funded home buyout program

The flooding in parts of New Jersey over the past few months left mounts of headaches for residents.

Countless residents from those affected areas came out to meet with New Jersey State Department of Environmental Protection officials in Pompton Lakes Thursday night to learn about the Blue Acres Program.

The program is voluntary and it relocates flood-stricken residents who are considering government-funded buyouts of their homes.

It eligible, homeowners would be offered fair market value for their homes, using state and federal funds.

“I’ve been in this town 60 years,” said David Woll of Pompton Lakes. “So, I’ve been through enough floods.”

For 10-year-old Melina, who says she was trapped inside her Wayne home during the recent storms, it’s a tough decision.

“I like my school and I wanna stay in my school, but I don’t like the flooding,” she said.

Her family bought their Wayne home six years ago.

But the flooding problems have been worse than expected.

From CBS News:

Some New Jersey flood victims looking to be bought out by government

Flooding across New Jersey in recent months has many residents in those areas saying they’ve had enough.

Thursday afternoon, some flood victims met with New Jersey’s Blue Acres, a government buy-out program.

This is the second Blue Acres meeting this month at the library in Lodi, a borough that’s seen its share of flooding. The one-on-one meetings are closed to the media and flood victims from across the state can attend.

Some tell us while the program is voluntary, the buy-out offers are low and confusing.

“We had the sewage coming up through this pipe, which was insane,” Manville homeowner Brianna Lohr said.

Lohr has begun the buy-out process and says even though she’s being offered what she and her boyfriend paid at the time of flood, she doesn’t care.

“Sign me up. I will sign the line. If we could get out today, we absolutely would,” she said.

Other residents in flood-ravaged neighborhoods say they want the full market value of their homes.

“They are saying that it is market value at the time of the incident, which is not fair,” Milford resident Leeana Jones said.

Jones’ life was turned upside down after Hurricane Ida damaged her Milford home and sent water into the basement.

She says she can’t get more funding to raise her home like others and her credit’s shot after making repairs.

Shawn M. Latourette, the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, oversees the federally funded Blue Acres program. He says the rules are mandated by Congress.

“That is tied to fair market value at the time of the event, and it is one of those issues of bureaucracy that is a bit ignorant of or not attuned to the realities, the facts on the ground,” he said.

Posted in Crisis, New Jersey Real Estate, Politics, Unrest | 77 Comments

Priced out of Monmouth

From the APP:

Monmouth County median home prices start the new year by rising over the $800K mark

The median home in Monmouth County listed for $808,750 in January, up 2.5% from the previous month’s $789,000, an analysis of data from Realtor.com shows.

Compared with January 2023, the median home list price increased 13.9% from $699,950.

The statistics in this article only pertain to houses listed for sale in Monmouth County, not houses that were sold. Information on your local housing market, along with other useful community data, is available at data.app.com

Monmouth County’s median home was 1,960 square feet, listed at $388 per square foot. The price per square foot of homes for sale is up 12.6% from January 2023.

Listings in Monmouth County moved briskly, at a median 65 days listed compared with the January national median of 69 days on the market. In the previous month, homes had a median of 57 days on the market. Around 524 homes were newly listed on the market in January, a 10.3% decrease from 584 new listings in January 2023. 

The median home prices issued by Realtor.com may exclude many, or even most, of a market’s homes. The price and volume represent only single-family homes, condominiums or townhomes. They include existing homes, but exclude most new construction as well as pending and contingent sales.

Across the New York-Newark-Jersey City metro area, median home prices rose to $741,500, slightly higher than a month earlier. The median home had 1,509 square feet, at a list price of $533 per square foot.

Posted in Housing Bubble, New Jersey Real Estate, Shore Real Estate | 57 Comments

NYC’s rent controlled time bomb

From Bloomberg:

Why NYC Apartment Buildings Are on Sale Now for 50% Off

Even in the crisp afternoon sunlight, the two-bedroom Manhattan apartment has a ghostly pallor, its cracked walls yellowing like an ancient black-and-white photograph. Paint chips are falling from the ceiling. A dead pigeon lies on the kitchen floor.

Its landlord, Douglas Peterson, is making a stop on a dispiriting tour of a 21-unit building he bought in 2018 for $4.8 million. Peterson’s City Skyline Realty Inc. specializes in a subgenre of real estateinvestment: properties subject to the New York City rent-regulation system, the oldest and biggest program in America. For this well-situated apartment on West 164th Street in Washington Heights, the quickly gentrifying Dominican enclave immortalized in a Lin-Manuel Miranda musical, he can charge no more than $650 a month, perhaps a quarter of the market rate.

For landlords the playbook had long been simple and lucrative. Buy run-down buildings that are, in New York lingo, rent-stabilized. Fix them up. Pass along the expense to tenants by raising rents, which was allowed under the regulations. Cash out. Repeat. Once rents approached $2,800 a month, owners could charge what the market would bear, and the apartments became a potential gold mine. “You just had to be patient,” Peterson says.

But his bet on raising rents has gone disastrously bad, as it has for landlords across the city. In 2019, alarmed about the decline in affordable housing, New York state lawmakers rewrote the rules. In one key change they sharply reduced how much landlords could raise rents after renovations. In an even more important shift, the apartments no longer leave the program when rents rise high enough.

Peterson—who’s bought more than 40 properties for $300 million over 20 years—is now in distress. He’s falling behind on his mortgages and scrambling to find money for repairs. In October, Fannie Mae, the government-backed home loan company, started foreclosure proceedings against a dozen of his properties, including the building on 164th Street. “My career is over,” Peterson says. “Now it’s just a question of: What’s my legacy going to be? Is it going to be that I abandoned the ship when it was sinking, or that I stayed and fought?”

Last year, New York buildings with at least one rent-­stabilized apartment sold on average for $203,000 a unit, down 34% since 2019, according to Maverick Real Estate Partners, a New York investment manager. By contrast, the price of nonregulated apartments rose 23%. The value of rent-stabilized units declined by as much as $75 billion, Maverick found. In December the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. unloaded $15 billion in loans backed primarily by New York rent-stabilized apartments—at a 40% discount. Last week, amid concern over real estate exposure, shares of New York Community Bancorp Inc.—which holds about $37 billion in apartment loans, half backed by rent-regulated units—dropped 38% in a single day. “A lot of owners I’m speaking with want to walk away from buildings,” says Lazer Sternhell, chief executive officer of Cignature Realty Associates Inc. in the city.

Posted in Crisis, Demographics, Economics, NYC, Politics, Price Reduced | 55 Comments

Shocker: Rental agents say you should rent…

From CBS/Philly:

Jersey Shore real estate experts urge families to book summer rentals quickly as warm weather approaches

Jersey Shore real estate experts are urging families to book their summer rentals quickly as they expect a spike in demand for homes in the coming weeks.

Maria Kirk, who runs the 20-year-old website Shore Summer Rentals, said traffic to her site is up 20% since the start of the new year.

“Soon as New Year’s passed, a light bulb goes on, and everyone starts booking,” Kirk said. “We had a really strong January and an even stronger February.”

She said the recent stretch of sunny weather has also nudged people to browse rentals.

“I have a feeling this year is going to be just like last year, maybe even better,” Kirk said. “Last year was a little slower, but at the end, everybody was booked.”

Mary Ann Madrak, who lives in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, said her family already booked their summer rental in Ocean City.

“We didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity, and we had very specific needs as far as location, number of bedrooms, things like that,” Madrak said. “We were able to find something that suited us, so it took a little bit of planning and contacting different real estate agents to find the perfect place that would be best for us.”

Posted in Philly, Shore Real Estate | 100 Comments

Best geopolitical news in a decade

Has nothing to do with real estate, but our neighbors on this side of the world really should be our strongest trade partners. From Quartz:

The US imported more from Mexico than China for the first time in decades

For the first time in two decades, US imports from Mexico surpassed those from China, according to data from the US Census Bureau, signaling a shift in global trade due to tensions between the US and China

The US’s trade deficit, which represents exports minus imports, with China fell, with imports falling 20% to $427.2 billion last year, noting that consumers and businesses in the US also turned to Canada and countries in Europe and Asia to import goods such as auto parts and raw materials. Meanwhile, exports from Mexico to the US were worth $475.6 billion, staying close to last year’s number.

While the US’s total trade deficit slimmed to 18.7% last year, its exports around the world increased in 2023. However, the report shows US consumers and businesses bought less goods such as crude oil and cellphones, leading imports to fall. 

In January, US Census Bureau data showed that US imports from China from January to November 2023 fell over 21% when compared to the same period the previous year, while US imports from Mexico grew almost 5% at the same time.

The Census Bureau also reported that Chinese imports to the US from January to November 2023 made up 13.9% of the US’s total imports—its lowest level since 2004. At the same time, Mexico’s share of total imports to the US grew to 15.5%, which was a record high.

The recent fall in Chinese trade with the US is partially due to high demand during the pandemic, the New York Times reported, noting that during the pandemic, US consumers bought many Chinese-made products. 

Posted in Economics, Politics, Unrest | 106 Comments

Jersey Shore Timeshares

Sorry, this one is behind the paywall, but I couldn’t help but post it. From the Philadelphia Business Journal:

With Jersey Shore home prices soaring, owners are now selling fractions of their houses

With skyrocketing home prices and rental rates at the Jersey Shore pricing out many families, the owner of a $3.39 million home in Stone Harbor is offering fractional ownership stakes in his house — and he’s not the only one.

Posted in Crisis, Housing Bubble, New Jersey Real Estate | 127 Comments

Short refi window closes

From CNBC:

Mortgage rates jump back over 7% as stronger economic data rolls in

The average rate on the popular 30-year fixed mortgage crossed over 7% on Monday for the first time since December, hitting 7.04%, according to Mortgage News Daily.

It comes after the rate took the sharpest jump in more than a year Friday, after the January employment report came in much higher than expected. Rates then moved up even more Monday after a monthly manufacturing report came in high as well.

Mortgage rates have been on a wild ride since the summer, briefly crossing to a 20-year high of 8% in October. Rates then fell sharply, as investors saw more and more evidence that the Federal Reserve would end its latest phase of interest rate increases.

“The rapid increase in rates over the past two days is actually not too surprising given the fact that the market was widely seen as overly optimistic on the Fed rate cut outlook. The Fed has repeatedly pointed to economic data having the final say in that outlook and data has been shockingly unfriendly to rates as of Friday morning’s jobs report,” said Matthew Graham, chief operating officer at Mortgage News Daily.

As mortgage rates fell over the past two months, buyers seemed to be returning to the market. That coincided with a slight uptick in the number of homes for sale. Total inventory, however, is still historically low and is keeping competition high. It is also keeping home prices stubbornly hot.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Housing Bubble, Mortgages, National Real Estate | 111 Comments

Sorry Texas

… Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Posted in Economics, Housing Bubble, National Real Estate | 78 Comments