There seems to be some concern that the 2020 economic downturn will lead to another foreclosure crisis like the one we experienced after the housing crash a little over a decade ago. However, there’s one major difference this time: a robust forbearance program.
During the housing crash of 2006-2008, many felt homeowners should be forced to pay their mortgages despite the economic hardships they were experiencing. There was no empathy for the challenges those households were facing. In a 2009 Wall Street Journal article titled Is Walking Away From Your Mortgage Immoral?, John Courson, Chief Executive of the Mortgage Bankers Association, was asked to comment on those not paying their mortgage. He famously said:
“What about the message they will send to their family and their kids?”
Courson suggested that people unable to pay their mortgage were bad parents.
What resulted from that lack of empathy? Foreclosures mounted.
This time is different. There was an immediate understanding that homeowners were faced with a challenge not of their own making. The government quickly jumped in with a mortgage forbearance program that relieved the financial burden placed on many households. The program allowed many borrowers to suspend their monthly mortgage payments until their economic condition improved. It was the right thing to do.
What happens when forbearance programs expire?
Some analysts are concerned many homeowners will not be able to make up the back payments once their forbearance plans expire. They’re concerned the situation will lead to an onslaught of foreclosures.
The banks and the government learned from the challenges the country experienced during the housing crash. They don’t want a surge of foreclosures again. For that reason, they’ve put in place alternative ways homeowners can pay back the money owed over an extended period of time.
Another major difference is that, unlike 2006-2008, today’s homeowners are sitting on a record amount of equity. That equity will enable them to sell their houses and walk away with cash instead of going through foreclosure.
The differences mentioned above will be the reason we’ll avert a surge of foreclosures. As Ivy Zelman, a highly respected thought leader for housing and CEO of Zelman & Associates, said:
“The likelihood of us having a foreclosure crisis again is about zero percent.”
In today’s real estate market, the buzz is all about how it’s a great time to sell your house. Buyer demand is high, and there simply aren’t enough homes available to buy to meet that growing need. This means now is the time to make a move so you can close the deal on your ideal terms.
Even in today’s strong sellers’ market, there are homeowners who are choosing not to sell due to ongoing concerns around the health crisis, financial uncertainty, and life in general. According to Zillow, here are the top three reasons homeowners who are thinking of selling sometime in the next three years are not putting their houses on the market right now:
· 34% – Life is too uncertain right now
· 31% – Financial uncertainty
· 25% – COVID-19 health concerns
If you identify with any of these, you’re not alone. Whether it’s the future of your employment situation or simply being uncomfortable having guests in your home for showings, life feels a lot different than it did at this time last year. The good news is, real estate professionals have spent the majority of 2020 figuring out how to sell homes safely, and it’s paying off for those who are choosing to move this year.
Real estate agents are doing two things very well to make selling your house possible:
1. Agents Are Implementing Technology in the Process
While abiding by state and local regulations as a top priority, real estate agents are making sales happen safely and effectively by leveraging key pieces of technology. Agents know exactly what today’s buyers and sellers need and how to put the necessary digital steps in place. For example, agents have capitalized on the technology buyers find most helpful when deciding on a new home:
· Virtual tours
· Accurate and detailed listing information
· Detailed neighborhood information
· High-quality listing photos
· Agent-led video chats
They’re listening to their audience and leveraging the tools that help buyers get an initial look at a home without having to step inside. This helps reduce the number of people entering your home, so only those who are very seriously interested need to take the next step: in-person showings.
2. Agents Are Facilitating Safe and Effective In-Person Showings
After leveraging technology, if you have serious buyers who still want to see your house in person, agents are following the guidelines set by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and utilizing safe ways to proceed. Here are a few of them, understanding again that the agent’s top priority is always to follow state and local restrictions first:
· Limiting in-person activity
· Requiring guests to wash their hands or use an alcohol-based sanitizer
· Removing shoes or covering them with booties
· Following CDC guidance on social distancing and wearing face coverings
Getting comfortable with your agent – a true trusted advisor – taking these steps under the modern-era safety standards might be your best plan. This is especially important if you’re in a position where you need to sell your house sooner rather than later.
As Jeff Tucker, Senior Economist for Zillow notes:
“Homeowners who feel life is uncertain right now may think they can still get a strong price if they delay selling until they have more clarity. The catch is that waiting to sell may raise the cost of a trade-up. This fall’s record low mortgage rates, which make a trade-up more affordable on a monthly basis, are not guaranteed to last.”
In this new era in our lives, things are shifting quickly, and virtual strategies for sellers may be your ideal option. Opening your doors up to new approaches could be game-changing when it comes to selling your house while the market is leaning in your favor. Let’s connect so you have a trusted real estate professional to help you safely and effectively navigate all that’s new when it comes to making your next move.
As the current forbearance mortgage relief options come to an end, many are wondering if we’ll face a foreclosure crisis next year. This is understandable, especially for those who remember the housing crisis that began in 2008. The reality is, plans have been put in place through forbearance to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself.
This year, homeowners are able to request 180 days of mortgage relief through forbearance. Upon expiration of that timeframe, they’re also entitled to request 180 additional days, bringing the total to 360 days of deferred payment eligibility. As forbearance expires, homeowners should stay in touch with their lender, because creating a plan for the deferred payments is a critical next step to avoiding foreclosure. There are multiple options for homeowners to pursue at this point, and with the right planning and communication with the lender, foreclosure doesn’t have to be one of them.
Many homeowners are concerned that they’ll have to pay the deferred payments back in a lump sum payment at the end of forbearance. Thankfully, that’s not the case. Fannie Mae explains:
“You don’t have to repay the forbearance amount all at once upon completion of your forbearance plan…Here’s the important thing to remember: If you receive a forbearance plan, you will have options when it comes to repaying the missed amount. You don’t have to pay the forbearance amount at once unless you are able to do so.”
When looking at the percentage of people in forbearance, we can also see that this number has been decreasing steadily throughout the year. Fewer people than initially expected are still in forbearance, so the number of homeowners who will need to work out alternative payment options is declining.
This means there are fewer and fewer homeowners at risk of foreclosure, and many who initially applied for forbearance didn’t end up needing it. Mike Fratantoni, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), explains:
“Nearly two-thirds of borrowers who exited forbearance remained current on their payments, repaid their forborne payments, or moved into a payment deferral plan. All of these borrowers have been able to resume – or continue – their pre-pandemic monthly payments.”
For those who are still in forbearance and unable to make their payments, foreclosure isn’t the only option left. In their Homeowner Equity Insights Report, CoreLogic indicates:
“In the second quarter of 2020, the average homeowner gained approximately $9,800 in equity during the past year.”
Many homeowners have enough equity in their homes today to be able to sell their houses instead of foreclosing. Selling and protecting the overall financial investment may be a very solid option for many homeowners. As Ivy Zelman, Founder of Zelman & Associates, mentioned in a recent podcast:
“The likelihood of us having a foreclosure crisis again is about zero percent.”
If you’re currently in forbearance or think you should be because you’re concerned about being able to make your mortgage payments, reach out to your lender to discuss your options and next steps. Having a trusted and knowledgeable professional on your side to guide you is essential in this process and might be the driving factor that helps you stay in your home.
Tomorrow, Americans will decide our President for the next four years. That decision will have a major impact on many aspects of life in this country, but the residential real estate market will not be one of them.
Analysts will try to measure the impact feasible changes in regulations might have on housing, the effect of a possible first-time buyer program, and any number of other situations based on who wins. The housing market, however, will remain strong for four reasons:
1. Demand Is Strong among Millennials
The nation’s largest generation began entering the housing market last year as they reached the age to marry and have children – two key drivers of homeownership. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported:
“Millennials, long viewed as perennial home renters who were reluctant or unable to buy, are now emerging as a driving force in the U.S. housing market’s recent recovery.”
2. Mortgage Rates Are Historically Low
All-time low interest rates are also driving demand across all generations. Strong demand created by this rate drop has countered other economic disruptions (e.g., pandemic, recession, record unemployment).
In addition, Freddie Mac just forecasted mortgage rates to remain low through next year:
“One of the main drivers of the strong housing recovery is historically low mortgage interest rates…Given weakness in the broader economy, the Federal Reserve’s signal that its policy rate will remain low until inflation picks up, and no signs of inflation, we forecast mortgage rates to remain flat over the next year. From the third quarter of 2020 through the end of 2021, we forecast mortgage rates to remain unchanged at 3%.”
3. Prices Continue to Appreciate
The continued lack of supply of existing homes for sale coupled with the surge in buyer demand has experts forecasting strong price appreciation over the next twelve months.
4. History Says So
Though it’s true that the market slows slightly in November when it’s a Presidential election year, the pace returns quickly. Here’s an explanation as to why from the Homebuilding Industry Report by BTIG:
“This may indicate that potential homebuyers may become more cautious in the face of national election uncertainty. This caution is temporary, and ultimately results in deferred sales, as the economy, jobs, interest rates and consumer confidence all have far more meaningful roles in the home purchase decision than a Presidential election result in the months that follow.”
Ali Wolf, Chief Economist for Meyers Research, also notes:
“History suggests that the slowdown is largely concentrated in the month of November. In fact, the year after a presidential election is the best of the four-year cycle. This suggests that demand for new housing is not lost because of election uncertainty, rather it gets pushed out to the following year as long as the economy stays on track.”
There’s no doubt this is one of the most contentious presidential elections in our nation’s history. The outcome will have a major impact on many sectors of the economy. However, as Matthew Speakman, an economist at Zillow, explained last week:
“While the path of the overall economy is likely to be most directly dictated by coronavirus-related and political developments in the coming months, recent trends suggest that the housing market – which has basically withstood every pandemic-related challenge to this point – will continue its strong momentum in the months to come.”
The number of houses for sale today is significantly lower than the high buyer activity in the current housing market. According to Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR):
“There is no shortage of hopeful, potential buyers, but inventory is historically low.”
When the demand for homes is higher than what’s available for sale, it’s a great time for homeowners to sell their house. Here are three ways low inventory can help you win if you’re ready to make a move this fall.
1. Higher Prices
With so many more buyers in the market than homes available for sale, homebuyers are frequently entering into bidding wars for the houses they want to purchase. This buyer competition drives home prices up. As a seller, this can definitely work to your advantage, potentially netting you more for your house when you close the deal.
2. Greater Return on Your Investment
Rising prices mean homes are also gaining value, which drives an increase in the equity you have in your home. In the latest Homeowner Equity Insights Report, CoreLogic explains:
“In the second quarter of 2020, the average homeowner gained approximately $9,800 in equity.”
This year-over-year growth in equity gives you the ability to put that money toward a down payment on your next home or to keep it as extra savings.
3. Better Terms
When we’re in a sellers’ market like we are today, you’re in the driver’s seat if you sell your house. You have the power to sell on your terms, and buyers are more likely to work with you if it means they can finally move into their dream home.
So, is low housing inventory a big deal?
Yes, especially if you want to sell your house at the perfect time. Today’s market gives sellers immense negotiating power. However, it won’t last forever, especially as more sellers return to the housing market next year. If you’re considering selling your house, the best time to do so is now.
If you’re interested in taking advantage of the current sellers’ market, let’s connect today to determine your best move in our local market.
Equity continues to rise, helping American homeowners secure a much more stable financial future. According to the most recent data from CoreLogic, the average homeowner gained $9,800 in equity over the past year. In addition, experts project 2020 home prices to continue rising. With prices going up, equity gains will also keep accelerating. Black Knight just reported:
“The annual percent change in the overall median existing single-family-home price has skyrocketed in the past several months, with recent numbers at three to five times higher than rates seen in the past several years.”
Jeff Tucker, Senior Economist at Zillow, just qualified recent price increases as “jaw-dropping” and “within a hair’s breadth of double-digit year-over-year appreciation.”
Knowing equity will help enable many homeowners to better survive the economic distress caused by the ongoing pandemic, it’s important to break down two key homeowner benefits of increasing equity.
1. Equity Increases a Homeowner’s Options to Buy a New Home
Aside from the financial damage of the last seven months, there has also been a tremendous emotional toll on many people. Shelter-in-place mandates, quarantine requirements, and virtual schooling have all made us re-evaluate the must-have requirements a home should deliver. Having equity in your current house gives you a better opportunity to move-up or build your perfect home from scratch.
Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, recently explained:
“As homeowners gain equity in their homes, they are more likely to consider using that equity to purchase a larger or more attractive home – the wealth effect of rising equity.”
If you need to make a move, the equity in your current home can help make that possible – right now.
2. Equity Enables Homeowners to Help Future Generations
An increase in home equity grows overall wealth, which can transfer to future generations. The Federal Reserve, in an addendum to their recent Survey of Consumer Finances, explains:
“There are numerous ways families can transmit wealth and resources across generations. Families can directly transfer their wealth to the next generation in the form of a bequest. They can also provide the next generation with inter vivos transfers (gifts), for example, providing down payment support to enable a home purchase or a substantial wedding gift.”
The Federal Reserve also explains another way wealth (including the additional net worth generated by an increase in home equity) can benefit future generations:
“In addition to direct transfers or gifts, families can make investments in their children that indirectly increase their wealth. For example, families can invest in their children’s educational success by paying for college or private schools, which can in turn increase their children’s ability to accumulate wealth.”
Equity can help a homeowner grow their confidence in a more stable financial future. It provides near-term move-up options and creates a positive impact for future generations. In many cases, the largest single investment a person has is their home. As that investment appreciates in value, financial options increase too.
Many housing experts originally voiced concern that the mortgage forbearance program (which allows families impacted financially by COVID to delay mortgage payments to a later date) could lead to an increase in foreclosures when forbearances end.
Some originally forecasted that up to 30% of homeowners would choose to enter forbearance. Less than 10% actually did, and that percentage has been dropping steadily. Black Knight recently reported that the national forbearance rate has decreased to 5.6%, with active forbearances falling below 3 million for the first time since mid-April.
Many of those still in forbearance are actually making timely payments. Christopher Maloney of Bloomberg Wealth recently explained:
“Almost one quarter of all homeowners who have demanded forbearance are still current on their mortgages…according to the latest MBA data.”
However, since over two million homeowners are still in forbearance, some experts are concerned that this might lead to another wave of foreclosures like we saw a little over a decade ago during the Great Recession. Here is why this time is different.
There Will Be Very Few Strategic Defaults
During the housing crash twelve years ago, many homeowners owned a house that was worth less than the mortgage they had on that home (called negative equity or being underwater). Many decided they would just stop making their payments and walk away from the house, which then resulted in the bank foreclosing on the property. These foreclosures were known as strategic defaults. Today, the vast majority of homeowners have significant equity in their homes. This dramatically decreases the possibility of strategic defaults.
Aspen Grove Solutions, a business consulting firm, recently addressed the issue in a study titled Creating Positive Forbearance Outcomes:
“Unlike in 2008, strategic defaults have not emerged as a serious problem and seems unlikely to emerge given stronger expectations for property price increases, a record low inventory of homes, and stable residential underwriting standards leading up to the crisis which has reduced the number of owners who are underwater.”
There Are Other Options That Were Not Available the Last Time
A decade ago, there wasn’t a forbearance option, and most banks did not put in other programs, like modifications and short sales, until very late in the crisis.
Today, homeowners have several options because banks understand the three fundamental differences in today’s real estate market as compared to 2008:
1. Most homeowners have substantial equity in their homes.
2. The real estate market has a shortage of listings for sale. In 2008, homes for sale flooded the market.
3. Prices are appreciating. In 2008, prices were depreciating dramatically.
These differences allow banks to feel comfortable giving options to homeowners when exiting forbearance. Aspen Grove broke down some of these options in the study mentioned above:
· Refinance Repay: Capitalize forbearance amount – For borrowers who have strong credit, have good or improved equity in their homes, possibly had a higher interest rate on their original loan, have steady employment/no significant wage loss, and income.
· Repayment Plan: Pay it back in higher monthly payments – For people who cannot reinstate using savings, but have increased monthly income, and do not want to use a deferral program.
· Deferral Program: Shift payments to the end of the loan term – For borrowers who lost income temporarily and regained most or all of their income but are not in a position to refinance due to credit score, home equity, low total loan value relative to closing costs, or simple apathy.
· Modification: Flex modification or other mod – For households that permanently lost 20% to 30% of their income, but not all of their income, and want to remain in their home.
Each one of these programs enables the homeowner to remain in the home.
What about Those Who Don’t Qualify for These Programs?
Homeowners who can’t catch up on past payments and don’t qualify for the programs mentioned have two options: sell the house or let it go to foreclosure. Some experts think most will be forced to take the foreclosure route. However, an examination of the data shows that probably won’t be the case.
A decade ago, homeowners had very little equity in their homes. Therefore, selling was not an option unless they were willing to tap into limited savings to cover the cost of selling, like real estate commission, closing costs, and attorney fees. Without any other option, many just decided to stay in the house until they were served a foreclosure notice.
As mentioned above, today is different. Most homeowners now have a large amount of equity in their homes. They will most likely decide to sell their home and take that equity rather than wait for the bank to foreclose.
In a separate report, Black Knight highlighted this issue:
“In total, an estimated 172K loans are in forbearance, have missed three or more payments under their plans and have less than 10% equity in their homes.”
In other words, of the millions currently in a forbearance plan, there are few that likely will become a foreclosure.
Some analysts are talking about future foreclosures reaching 500,000 to over 1 million. With the options today’s homeowners have, that doesn’t seem likely.
The September Jobs Report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate dropped to 7.9%. Though that percentage is well below what experts projected earlier this year, it still means millions of people are without work. There’s no way to minimize the tremendous impact this pandemic-induced recession continues to have on many Americans.
However, the latest Home Purchase Sentiment Index from Fannie Mae shows how more and more Americans believe the worst is behind us, and their personal employment situation is good. The index revealed:
“The percentage of respondents who say they are not concerned about losing their job in the next 12 months increased from 78% to 83%, while the percentage who say they are concerned decreased from 22% to 16%. As a result, the net share of Americans who say they are not concerned about losing their job increased 11 percentage points.”
Americans Are Game-Changers Too
Americans are naturally optimistic and have always responded to challenges with both resiliency and resourcefulness. Today is no different. As an example, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) just reported:
“Americans are starting new businesses at the fastest rate in more than a decade, according to government data, seizing on pent-up demand and new opportunities after the pandemic shut down and reshaped the economy.”
Why would someone start a business in the middle of an economic crisis? The WSJ explains:
“The jump may be one sign that the pandemic is speeding up ‘creative destruction,’ the concept…to describe how new, innovative businesses often displace older, less-efficient ones, buoying long-term prosperity.”
The WSJ also notes that these new businesses will have a positive impact on the overall employment situation, as new businesses “are a critical engine of job creation. Startups have historically accounted for around one-fifth of job creation.”
For the millions of Americans still unemployed, we hope for a quick return to the workforce. We should, however, realize that over 90% of people are still employed, and some are venturing into new business start-ups. Perhaps the next big game-changing company is right around the corner.
Here’s a look at what several industry-leading experts have to say.
“Home sales continue to amaze, and there are plenty of buyers in the pipeline ready to enter the market…Further gains in sales are likely for the remainder of the year, with mortgage rates hovering around 3% and with continued job recovery.”
“Homeowners’ balance sheets continue to be bolstered by home price appreciation, which in turn mitigated foreclosure pressures…Although the exact contours of the economic recovery remain uncertain, we expect current equity gains, fueled by strong demand for available homes, will continue to support homeowners in the near term.”
“Zillow’s predictions for seasonally adjusted home prices and pending sales are more optimistic than previous forecasts because sales and prices have stayed strong through the summer months amid increasingly short inventory and high demand.
The pandemic also pushed the buying season further back in the year, adding to recent sales. Future sources of uncertainty including lapsed fiscal relief, the long-term fate of policies supporting the rental and mortgage market, and virus-specific factors, were incorporated into this outlook.”
Many economists are in unison, indicating the housing market will continue to fuel the economy through the end of the year, maintaining this unprecedented strength.
Many industries have been devastated by the economic shutdown caused by the COVID-19 virus. Real estate is not one of them.
Mark Fleming, Chief Economist for First American, just reported:
“Since hitting a low point during the initial stages of the pandemic, the only major industry to display immunity to the economic impacts of the coronavirus is the housing market. Housing has experienced a strong V-shaped recovery and is now exceeding pre-pandemic levels.”
Buyer demand is still strong heading into the fall. ShowingTime, which tracks the average number of buyer showings on residential properties, just announced that buyer showings are up 61.9% compared to the same time last year. They went on to say:
“Normally, real estate activity begins to slow down in the late summer, but this year it peaked in July, August and into September.”
There Is One Big Challenge
Purchaser demand is so high, the market is running out of available homes for sale. Just last week, realtor.com reported:
“Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic in March, nearly 400,000 fewer homes have been listed compared to last year, leaving a gaping hole in the U.S. housing inventory.”
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) revealed that, while home sales are skyrocketing, the inventory of existing homes for sale is dropping dramatically.
Homebuilders are increasing construction, but they cannot keep up with the high demand. Bill McBride, founder of the Calculated Risk blog, in discussing inventory of newly constructed houses, notes:
“The months of supply decreased to 3.3 months…This is the all-time record low months of supply.”
What does this mean for sellers?
Anyone thinking of putting their home on the market should not wait. A seller will always negotiate the best deal when demand is high and supply is limited. That’s exactly the situation in the real estate market today.
Next year, when the pandemic is hopefully behind us, there will be many more properties coming to the market. Don’t wait for that increase in competition in your neighborhood. Now is the time to sell.
Let’s connect today to get your house on the market at this optimal time to sell.