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Understand Your Options To Avoid Foreclosure

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Understand Your Options To Avoid Foreclosure | Simplifying The Market

Even though experts agree there’s no chance of a large-scale foreclosure crisis, there are a number of homeowners who may be coming face-to-face with foreclosure as a possibility. And while the overall percentage of homeowners at risk is decreasing with time (see graph below), that’s little comfort to those individuals who are facing challenges today.Understand Your Options To Avoid Foreclosure | Simplifying The MarketIf you haven’t taken advantage of the forbearance period, it may be time to research and understand your options. It starts with knowing what foreclosure is. Investopedia defines it like this:

Foreclosure is the legal process by which a lender attempts to recover the amount owed on a defaulted loan by taking ownership of and selling the mortgaged property. Typically, default is triggered when a borrower misses a specific number of monthly payments . . .” 

The good news is, there are alternatives available to help you avoid having to go through the foreclosure process, including:

  • Reinstatement
  • Loan modification
  • Deed-in-lieu of foreclosure
  • Short sale

But before you go down any of those paths, it’s worth seeing if you have enough equity in your home to sell it and protect your investment.

Understand Your Options: Sell Your House

Equity is the difference between what you owe on the home and its market value based on factors like price appreciation.

In today’s real estate market, many homeowners have far more equity in their homes than they realize. Over the last year, buyer demand has been high, but housing supply has been low. That’s led to a substantial increase in home values. When prices rise, so does the amount of equity you have in your house.

According to CoreLogic, on average, homeowners gained $33,400 in equity over the last 12 months, and the average equity on mortgaged homes is now $216,000 (see map below):Understand Your Options To Avoid Foreclosure | Simplifying The MarketSo, what does that mean for you? Over the past year, chances are your home’s value and therefore your equity has risen dramatically. If you’ve been in your home for a while, the mortgage payments you’ve made over time chipped away at the balance of your loan. If your home’s current value is higher than what you still owe on your loan, you may be able to use that increase to your advantage.

Frank Martell, President and CEO of CoreLogic, elaborates on how equity can help:

Homeowner equity has more than doubled over the past decade and become a crucial buffer for many weathering the challenges of the pandemic. These gains have become an important financial tool and boosted consumer confidence in the U.S. housing market.”

Don’t Go at It Alone – Lean on Experts for Advice

To find out what your house is worth in today’s market, work with a local real estate professional. We’ll be able to give you an estimate of what your house could sell for based on recent sales of similar homes in your area. Since home prices are still appreciating, you may be able to sell your house to avoid foreclosure.

If you find out that you have to pursue other options, your agent can help with that too. We’ll be able to connect you with other professionals in the industry, like housing counselors who can look into your unique situation and offer advice on next steps if selling isn’t the best alternative.

Bottom Line

If you’re a homeowner facing hardship, let’s connect to explore your options and see if you can sell your house to avoid foreclosure.

4 Reasons Why the End of Forbearance Will Not Lead to a Wave of Foreclosures

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4 Reasons Why the End of Forbearance Will Not Lead to a Wave of Foreclosures | Simplifying The Market

With forbearance plans about to come to an end, many are concerned the housing market will experience a wave of foreclosures like what happened after the housing bubble 15 years ago. Here are four reasons why that won’t happen.

1. There are fewer homeowners in trouble this time

After the last housing crash, about 9.3 million households lost their home to a foreclosure, short sale, or because they simply gave it back to the bank.

As stay-at-home orders were issued early last year, the overwhelming fear was the pandemic would decimate the housing industry in a similar way. Many experts projected 30% of all mortgage holders would enter the forbearance program. Only 8.5% actually did, and that number is now down to 3.5%.

As of last Friday, the total number of mortgages still in forbearance stood at  1,863,000. That’s definitely a large number, but nowhere near 9.3 million.

2. Most of the 1.86M in forbearance have enough equity to sell their home

Of the 1.86 million homeowners currently in forbearance, 87% have at least 10% equity in their homes. The 10% equity number is important because it enables homeowners to sell their houses and pay the related expenses instead of facing the hit on their credit that a foreclosure or short sale would create.

The remaining 13% might not all have the option to sell, so if the entire 13% of the 1.86M homes went into foreclosure, that would total 241,800 mortgages. To give that number context, here are the annual foreclosure numbers of the three years leading up to the pandemic:

  • 2017: 314,220
  • 2018: 279,040
  • 2019: 277,520

The probable number of foreclosures coming out of the forbearance program is nowhere near the number of foreclosures coming out of the housing crash 15 years ago. The number does, however, draw a similar comparison to the three years prior to the pandemic.

3. The current market can absorb any listings coming to the market

When foreclosures hit the market in 2008, there was an excess supply of homes for sale. The situation is exactly the opposite today. In 2008, there was a 9-month supply of listings for sale. Today, that number stands at less than 3 months of inventory on the market.

As Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), explains when addressing potential foreclosures emerging from the forbearance program:

“Any foreclosure increases will likely be quickly absorbed by the market. It will not lead to any price declines.”

4. Those in power will do whatever is necessary to prevent a wave of foreclosures

Just last Friday, the White House released a fact sheet explaining how homeowners with government-backed mortgages will be given further options to enable them to keep their homes when exiting forbearance. Here are two examples mentioned in the release:

  • “For homeowners who can resume their pre-pandemic monthly mortgage payment and where agencies have the authority, agencies will continue requiring mortgage servicers to offer options that allow borrowers to move missed payments to the end of the mortgage at no additional cost to the borrower.”
  • “The new steps the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are announcing will aim to provide homeowners with a roughly 25% reduction in borrowers’ monthly principal and interest (P&I) payments to ensure they can afford to remain in their homes and build equity long-term. This brings options for homeowners with mortgages backed by HUD, USDA, and VA closer in alignment with options for homeowners with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

When evaluating the four reasons above, it’s clear there won’t be a flood of foreclosures coming to the market as the forbearance program winds down.

Bottom Line

As Ivy Zelman, founder of the major housing market analytical firm Zelman & Associates, notes:

“The likelihood of us having a foreclosure crisis again is about zero percent.”

It’s Not Too Late To Apply For Forbearance

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It’s Not Too Late To Apply For Forbearance | Simplifying The Market

Over the past year, the pandemic made it challenging for some homeowners to make their mortgage payments. Thankfully, the government initiated a forbearance program to provide much-needed support. Unless they’re extended once again, some of these plans and the corresponding mortgage payment deferral options will expire soon. That said, there’s still time to request assistance. If your loan is backed by HUD/FHA, USDA, or VA, you can apply for initial forbearance by June 30, 2021.

Recently, the Consumer Finance Institute of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia surveyed a national sample of 1,172 homeowners with mortgages. They discussed their familiarity with and understanding of lender accommodations that might be available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The results indicate that some borrowers didn’t take advantage of the support available through forbearance:

Most borrowers who had not used forbearance during the pandemic reported that it was because they simply did not need it. However, among the remainder, a lack of understanding about available accommodations may also be playing a role. Around 2 out of 3 in this group reported not seeking forbearance because they were unsure or pessimistic about whether they would qualify — even though a high fraction of borrowers are eligible for forbearance under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.”

Here are some of the reasons why those borrowers didn’t opt for forbearance:

  • They were concerned forbearance may be costly
  • They didn’t understand how to request forbearance
  • They didn’t understand how the plans worked and/or whether they would qualify

If you have similar questions or concerns, the following answers may ease your fears.

If you’re concerned forbearance may be costly:

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) explains:

For most loans, there will be no additional fees, penalties, or additional interest (beyond scheduled amounts) added to your account, and you do not need to submit additional documentation to qualify. You can simply tell your servicer that you have a pandemic-related financial hardship.”

It’s important to contact your mortgage provider (the company you send your mortgage payment to every month) to explain your current situation and determine the best plan available for your needs.

If you’re not sure how to request forbearance:

Here are 5 steps to follow when requesting mortgage forbearance:

  1. Find the contact information for your servicer
  2. Call your servicer
  3. Ask if you’re eligible for protection under the CARES Act
  4. Ask what happens when your forbearance period ends
  5. Ask your servicer to provide the agreement in writing

If you don’t understand how the plans work and/or whether you will qualify:

This is how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) explains the program:

Forbearance is when your mortgage servicer or lender allows you to pause or reduce your mortgage payments for a limited time while you build back your finances

Forbearance doesn’t mean your payments are forgiven or erased. You are still obligated to repay any missed payments, which, in most cases, may be repaid over time or when you refinance or sell your home. Before the end of the forbearance, your servicer will contact you about how to repay the missed payments.”

The CFPB also addresses who qualifies for forbearance relief:

You may have a right to a COVID hardship forbearance if:

  • You experience financial hardship directly or indirectly due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • You have a federally backed mortgage, which includes HUD/FHA, VA, USDA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac loans.

For mortgages that are not federally backed, servicers may offer similar forbearance options. If you are struggling to make your mortgage payments, servicers are generally required to discuss payment relief options with you, whether or not your loan is federally backed.”

Bottom Line

Like many Americans, your home may be your biggest asset. By acting quickly, you might be able to take advantage of critical relief options to help keep you in your home. Even if you tried to apply at the beginning of the pandemic and it for some reason didn’t work out, try again. Contact your mortgage provider today to determine if you qualify. If you have additional concerns, let’s connect to answer your questions and determine if there are other mortgage relief options in our area as well.

4 Major Reasons Households in Forbearance Won’t Lose Their Homes to Foreclosure

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4 Major Reasons Households in Forbearance Won’t Lose Their Homes to Foreclosure | Simplifying The Market

There has been a lot of discussion as to what will happen once the 2.3 million households currently in forbearance no longer have the protection of the program. Some assume there could potentially be millions of foreclosures ready to hit the market. However, there are four reasons that won’t happen.

1. Almost 50% Leave Forbearance Already Caught Up on Payments

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), data through March 28 show that 48.9% of homeowners who have already left the program were current on their mortgage payments when they exited.

  • 26.6% made their monthly payments during their forbearance period
  • 14.7% brought past due payments current
  • 7.6% paid off their loan in full

This doesn’t mean that the over two million still in the plan will exit exactly the same way. It does, however, give us some insight into the possibilities.

2. The Banks Don’t Want the Houses Back

Banks have learned lessons from the crash of 2008. Lending institutions don’t want the headaches of managing foreclosed properties. This time, they’re working with homeowners to help them stay in their homes.

As an example, about 50% of all mortgages are backed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). In 2008, the FHFA offered 208,000 homeowners some form of Home Retention Action, which are options offered to a borrower who has the financial ability to enter a workout option and wants to stay in their home. Home retention options include temporary forbearances, repayment plans, loan modifications, or partial loan deferrals. These helped delinquent borrowers stay in their homes. Over the past year, the FHFA has offered that same protection to over one million homeowners.

Today, almost all lending institutions are working with their borrowers. The report from the MBA reveals that of those homeowners who have left forbearance,

  • 35.5% have worked out a repayment plan with their lender
  • 26.5% were granted a loan deferral where a borrower does not have to pay the lender interest or principal on a loan for an agreed-to period of time
  • 9% were given a loan modification

3. There Is No Political Will to Foreclose on These Households

The government also seems determined not to let individuals or families lose their homes. Bloomberg recently reported:

“Mortgage companies could face penalties if they don’t take steps to prevent a deluge of foreclosures that threatens to hit the housing market later this year, a U.S. regulator said. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) warning is tied to forbearance relief that’s allowed millions of borrowers to delay their mortgage payments due to the pandemic…mortgage servicers should start reaching out to affected homeowners now to advise them on ways they can modify their loans.”

The CFPB is proposing a new set of guidelines to ensure people will be able to retain their homes. Here are the major points in the proposal:

  • The proposed rule would provide a special pre-foreclosure review period that would generally prohibit servicers from starting foreclosure until after December 31, 2021.
  • The proposed rule would permit servicers to offer certain streamlined loan modification options to borrowers with COVID-19-related hardships based on the evaluation of an incomplete application.
  • The proposal rule wants temporary changes to certain required servicer communications to make sure borrowers receive key information about their options at the appropriate time.

A final decision is yet to be made, and some do question whether the CFPB has the power to delay foreclosures. The entire report can be found here: Protections for Borrowers Affected by the COVID-19 Emergency Under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), Regulation X.

4. If All Else Fails, Homeowners Will Sell Their Homes Before a Foreclosure

Homeowners have record levels of equity today. According to the latest CoreLogic Home Equity Report, the average equity of mortgaged homes is currently $204,000. In addition, 38% of homes do not have a mortgage, so the level of equity available to today’s homeowners is significant.

Just like the banks, homeowners learned a lesson from the housing crash too.

“In the same way that grandparents and great grandparents were shaped by the Great Depression, much of the public today remembers the 2006 mortgage meltdown and the foreclosures, unemployment, and bank failures it created. No one with any sense wants to repeat that experience…and it may explain why so much real estate equity remains mortgage-free.”

What does that mean to the forbearance situation? According to Black Knight:

“Just one in ten homeowners in forbearance has less than 10% equity in their home, typically the minimum necessary to be able to sell through traditional real estate channels to avoid foreclosure.”

Bottom Line

The reports of massive foreclosures about to come to the market are highly exaggerated. As Ivy Zelman, Chief Executive Officer of Zelman & Associates with roughly 30 years of experience covering housing and housing-related industries, recently proclaimed:

“The likelihood of us having a foreclosure crisis again is about zero percent.”

6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time

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6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time | Simplifying The Market

Last March, many involved in the residential housing industry feared the market would be crushed under the pressure of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Instead, real estate had one of its best years ever. Home sales and prices were both up substantially over the year before. 2020 was so strong that many now fear the market’s exuberance mirrors that of the last housing boom and, as a result, we’re now headed for another crash.

However, there are many reasons this real estate market is nothing like 2008. Here are six visuals to show the dramatic differences.

1. Mortgage standards are nothing like they were back then.

During the housing bubble, it was difficult not to get a mortgage. Today, it’s tough to qualify. Recently, the Urban Institute released their latest Housing Credit Availability Index (HCAI) which “measures the percentage of owner-occupied home purchase loans that are likely to default—that is, go unpaid for more than 90 days past their due date. A lower HCAI indicates that lenders are unwilling to tolerate defaults and are imposing tighter lending standards, making it harder to get a loan. A higher HCAI indicates that lenders are willing to tolerate defaults and are taking more risks, making it easier to get a loan.

The index shows that lenders were comfortable taking on high levels of risk during the housing boom of 2004-2006. It also reveals that today, the HCAI is under 5 percent, which is the lowest it’s been since the introduction of the index. The report explains:

“Significant space remains to safely expand the credit box. If the current default risk was doubled across all channels, risk would still be well within the pre-crisis standard of 12.5 percent from 2001 to 2003 for the whole mortgage market.”

6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time | Simplifying The MarketThis is nothing like the last time.

2. Prices aren’t soaring out of control.

Below is a graph showing annual home price appreciation over the past four years compared to the four years leading up to the height of the housing bubble. Though price appreciation was quite strong last year, it’s nowhere near the rise in prices that preceded the crash.6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time | Simplifying The MarketThere’s a stark difference between these two periods of time. Normal appreciation is 3.8%. So, while current appreciation is higher than the historic norm, it’s certainly not accelerating out of control as it did in the early 2000s.

This is nothing like the last time.

3. We don’t have a surplus of homes on the market. We have a shortage.

The months’ supply of inventory needed to sustain a normal real estate market is approximately six months. Anything more than that is an overabundance and will causes prices to depreciate. Anything less than that is a shortage and will lead to continued appreciation. As the next graph shows, there were too many homes for sale in 2007, and that caused prices to tumble. Today, there’s a shortage of inventory, which is causing an acceleration in home values.6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time | Simplifying The MarketThis is nothing like the last time.

4. New construction isn’t making up the difference in inventory needed.

Some may think new construction is filling the void. However, if we compare today to right before the housing crash, we can see that an overabundance of newly built homes was a major challenge then, but isn’t now.6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time | Simplifying The MarketThis is nothing like the last time.

5. Houses aren’t becoming too expensive to buy.

The affordability formula has three components: the price of the home, the wages earned by the purchaser, and the mortgage rate available at the time. Fifteen years ago, prices were high, wages were low, and mortgage rates were over 6%. Today, prices are still high. Wages, however, have increased, and the mortgage rate is about 3%. That means the average homeowner pays less of their monthly income toward their mortgage payment than they did back then. Here’s a chart showing that difference:6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time | Simplifying The MarketAs Mark Fleming, Chief Economist for First American, explains:

“Lower mortgage interest rates and rising incomes correspond with higher house prices as home buyers can afford to borrow and buy more. If housing is appropriately valued, house-buying power should equal or outpace the median sale price of a home. Looking back at the bubble years, house prices exceeded house-buying power in 2006, but today house-buying power is nearly twice as high as the median sale price nationally.”

This is nothing like the last time.

6. People are equity rich, not tapped out.

In the run-up to the housing bubble, homeowners were using their homes as personal ATM machines. Many immediately withdrew their equity once it built up, and they learned their lesson in the process. Prices have risen nicely over the last few years, leading to over 50% of homes in the country having greater than 50% equity – and owners have not been tapping into it like the last time. Here’s a table comparing the equity withdrawal over the last three years compared to 2005, 2006, and 2007. Homeowners have cashed out almost $500 billion dollars less than before:6 Simple Graphs Proving This Is Nothing Like Last Time | Simplifying The MarketDuring the crash, home values began to fall, and sellers found themselves in a negative equity situation (where the amount of the mortgage they owed was greater than the value of their home). Some decided to walk away from their homes, and that led to a wave of distressed property listings (foreclosures and short sales), which sold at huge discounts, thus lowering the value of other homes in the area. With the average home equity now standing at over $190,000, this won’t happen today.

This is nothing like the last time.

Bottom Line

If you’re concerned that we’re making the same mistakes that led to the housing crash, take a look at the charts and graphs above to help alleviate your fears.

Are There Going to Be More Homes to Buy This Year?

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Are There Going to Be More Homes to Buy This Year? | Simplifying The Market

If you’re looking for a home to purchase right now and having trouble finding one, you’re not alone. At a time like this when there are so few houses for sale, it’s normal to wonder if you’ll actually find one to buy. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), across the country, inventory of available homes for sale is at an all-time low – the lowest point recorded since NAR began tracking this metric in 1982. There are, however, more homes expected to hit the market later this year. Let’s break down the three key places they’ll likely come from as 2021 continues on.

1. Homeowners Who Didn’t Sell Last Year

In 2020, many sellers decided to pause their moving plans for a number of different reasons. From health concerns about the pandemic to financial uncertainty, plenty of homeowners decided not to move last year.

Now that vaccines are being distributed and there’s a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, it should bring some peace of mind to many potential sellers. As Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com, notes:

“Fortunately for would-be homebuyers, we expect sellers to return to the market as we see improvement in the economy and progress against the coronavirus.”

Many of the homeowners who decided not to sell in 2020 will enter the market later this year as they begin to feel more comfortable showing their house in person, understanding their financial situation, and simply having more security in life.

2. More New Homes Will Be Built

Last year was a strong year for home builders, and according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), 2021 is expected to be even better:

“For 2021, NAHB expects ongoing growth for single-family construction. It will be the first year for which total single-family construction will exceed 1 million starts since the Great Recession.”

With more houses being built in many markets around the country, homeowners looking for new houses that meet their changing needs will be able to move into their dream homes. When they sell their current houses, this will create opportunities for those looking to find a home that’s already built to do so. It sets a simple chain reaction in motion for hopeful buyers.

3. Those Impacted Financially by the Economic Crisis

Many experts don’t anticipate a large wave of foreclosures coming to the market, given the forbearance options afforded to current homeowners throughout the pandemic. Some homeowners who have been impacted economically will, however, need to move this year. There are also homeowners who didn’t take advantage of the forbearance option or were already in a foreclosure situation before the pandemic began. In those cases, homeowners may decide to sell their houses instead of going into the foreclosure process, especially given the equity in homes today. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR, explains:

“Given the huge price gains recently, I don’t think many homes will have to go to foreclosure…I think homes will just be sold, and there will be cash left over for the seller, even in a distressed situation. So that’s a bit of a silver lining in that we don’t expect a massive sale of distressed properties.”

As we can see, it looks like we’re going to have an increase in the number of homes for sale in 2021. With fears of the pandemic starting to ease, new homes being built, and more listings coming to the market prior to foreclosure, there’s hope if you’re planning to buy this year. And if you’re thinking of selling and making a move, doing so while demand for your house is high might create an outstanding move-up option for you.

Bottom Line

Housing demand is high and supply is low, so if you’re thinking of moving, it’s a great time to do so. There are likely many buyers who are looking for a home just like yours, and there are options coming for you to find a new house too. Let’s connect today to see how you can benefit from the opportunities available in our local market.

3 Ways Home Equity Can Have a Major Impact on Your Life

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3 Ways Home Equity Can Have a Major Impact on Your Life | Simplifying The Market

There have been a lot of headlines reporting on how homeowner equity (the difference between the current market value of your home and the amount you owe on your mortgage) has dramatically increased over the past few years. CoreLogic indicated that equity increased for the average homeowner by $17,000 in the last year alone. ATTOM Data Solutions, in their latest U.S. Home Equity Report, revealed that 30.2% of the 59 million mortgaged homes in the United States have at least 50% equity. That doesn’t even include the 38% of homes that are owned free and clear, meaning they don’t have a mortgage at all.

How can equity help a household?

Having equity in your home can dramatically impact your life. Equity is like a savings account you can tap into when you need cash. Like any other savings, you should be sensible in how you use it, though. Here are three good reasons to consider using your equity.

1. You’re experiencing financial hardship (job loss, medical expenses, etc.)

Equity gives you options during difficult financial times. With equity, you could refinance your house to get cash which may ease the burden. It also puts you in a better position to talk to the bank about restructuring your home loan until you can get back on your feet.

Today, there are 2.7 million Americans who are currently in a forbearance program because of the pandemic. Ninety percent of those in the program have at least 10% equity. That puts them in a better position to get a loan modification instead of facing foreclosure because many banks will see the equity as a form of collateral in a new deal. If you’re in this position, even if you can’t get a modification, the equity allows you the option to sell your house and walk away with your equity instead of losing the house and your investment in it.

2. You need money to start a new business

We’ve all heard the stories about how many great American companies started in the founder’s garage (i.e., Disney, Hewlett Packard, Apple, Yankee Candle, Keeping Current Matters). What we might not realize, however, is the garage (along with the rest of the home) supplied the start-up money for many of these companies in the form of a refinance.

If you’re passionate about an idea you have for a new product or service, the equity in your home may enable you to make that dream a reality.

3. You want to invest in a loved one’s future

It’s been a long-standing tradition in this country for many households to help pay college expenses for their children. Some have tapped into the equity in their homes to do that.

Additionally, George Ratiu, Senior Economist for realtor.com, notes:

52% of Americans who bought their first home in 2020 said they got help with their down payment from friends or family. The number one lender? Their parents.

It’s safe to assume a percentage of that down payment money likely came from home equity.

Bottom Line

Savings in any form is a good thing. The forced savings you can earn from making a mortgage payment enables you to build wealth through home equity. That equity can come in handy in both good and more challenging times.

3 Reasons We’re Definitely Not in a Housing Bubble

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3 Reasons We’re Definitely Not in a Housing Bubble | Simplifying The Market

Home values appreciated by about ten percent in 2020, and they’re forecast to appreciate by about five percent this year. This has some voicing concern that we may be in another housing bubble like the one we experienced a little over a decade ago. Here are three reasons why this market is totally different.

1. This time, housing supply is extremely limited

The price of any market item is determined by supply and demand. If supply is high and demand is low, prices normally decrease. If supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally increase.

In real estate, supply and demand are measured in “months’ supply of inventory,” which is based on the number of current homes for sale compared to the number of buyers in the market. The normal months’ supply of inventory for the market is about 6 months. Anything above that defines a buyers’ market, indicating prices will soften. Anything below that defines a sellers’ market in which prices normally appreciate.

Between 2006 and 2008, the months’ supply of inventory increased from just over 5 months to 11 months. The months’ supply was over 7 months in twenty-seven of those thirty-six months, yet home values continued to rise.

Months’ inventory has been under 5 months for the last 3 years, under 4 for thirteen of the last fourteen months, under 3 for the last six months, and currently stands at 1.9 months – a historic low.

Remember, if supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally increase.

2. This time, housing demand is real

During the housing boom in the mid-2000s, there was what Robert Schiller, a fellow at the Yale School of Management’s International Center for Finance, called “irrational exuberance.” The definition of the term is, “unfounded market optimism that lacks a real foundation of fundamental valuation, but instead rests on psychological factors.” Without considering historic market trends, people got caught up in the frenzy and bought houses based on an unrealistic belief that housing values would continue to escalate.

The mortgage industry fed into this craziness by making mortgage money available to just about anyone, as shown in the Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI) published by the Mortgage Bankers Association. The higher the index, the easier it is to get a mortgage; the lower the index, the more difficult it is to obtain one. Prior to the housing boom, the index stood just below 400. In 2006, the index hit an all-time high of over 868. Again, just about anyone could get a mortgage. Today, the index stands at 122.5, which is well below even the pre-boom level.

In the current real estate market, demand is real, not fabricated. Millennials, the largest generation in the country, have come of age to marry and have children, which are two major drivers for homeownership. The health crisis is also challenging every household to redefine the meaning of “home” and to re-evaluate whether their current home meets that new definition. This desire to own, coupled with historically low mortgage rates, makes purchasing a home today a strong, sound financial decision. Therefore, today’s demand is very real.

Remember, if supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally increase.

3. This time, households have plenty of equity

Again, during the housing boom, it wasn’t just purchasers who got caught up in the frenzy. Existing homeowners started using their homes like ATM machines. There was a wave of cash-out refinances, which enabled homeowners to leverage the equity in their homes. From 2005 through 2007, Americans pulled out $824 billion dollars in equity. That left many homeowners with little or no equity in their homes at a critical time. As prices began to drop, some homeowners found themselves in a negative equity situation where the mortgage was higher than the value of their home. Many defaulted on their payments, which led to an avalanche of foreclosures.

Today, the banks and the American people have shown they learned a valuable lesson from the housing crisis a little over a decade ago. Cash-out refinance volume over the last three years was less than a third of what it was compared to the 3 years leading up to the crash.

This conservative approach has created levels of equity never seen before. According to Census Bureau data, over 38% of owner-occupied housing units are owned ‘free and clear’ (without any mortgage). Also, ATTOM Data Solutions just released their fourth quarter 2020 U.S. Home Equity Report, which revealed:

“17.8 million residential properties in the United States were considered equity-rich, meaning that the combined estimated amount of loans secured by those properties was 50 percent or less of their estimated market value…The count of equity-rich properties in the fourth quarter of 2020 represented 30.2 percent, or about one in three, of the 59 million mortgaged homes in the United States.”

If we combine the 38% of homes that are owned free and clear with the 18.7% of all homes that have at least 50% equity (30.2% of the remaining 62% with a mortgage), we realize that 56.7% of all homes in this country have a minimum of 50% equity. That’s significantly better than the equity situation in 2008.

Bottom Line

This time, housing supply is at a historic low. Demand is real and rightly motivated. Even if there were to be a drop in prices, homeowners have enough equity to be able to weather a dip in home values. This is nothing like 2008. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

What Happens When Homeowners Leave Their Forbearance Plans?

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What Happens When Homeowners Leave Their Forbearance Plans? | Simplifying The Market

According to the latest report from Black Knight, Inc., a well-respected provider of data and analytics for mortgage companies, 6.48 million households have entered a forbearance plan as a result of financial concerns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s where these homeowners stand right now:

  • 2,543,000 (39%) are current on their payments and have left the program
  • 625,000 (9%) have paid off their mortgages
  • 434,000 (7%) have negotiated a repayment plan and have left the program
  • 2,254,000 (35%) have extended their original forbearance plan
  • 512,000 (8%) are still in their original forbearance plan
  • 116,000 (2%) have left the program and are still behind on payments

This shows that of the almost 3.72 million homeowners who have left the program, only 116,000 (2%) exited while they were still behind on their payments. There are still 2.77 million borrowers in a forbearance program. No one knows for sure how many of those will become foreclosures. There are, however, three major reasons why most experts believe there will not be a tsunami of foreclosures as we saw during the housing crash over a decade ago:

  1. Almost 30% of borrowers in forbearance are still current on their mortgage payments.
  2. Banks likely don’t want to repeat the mistakes of 2008-2012 when they put large numbers of foreclosures on their books. This time, many will instead negotiate a modification plan with the borrower, which will enable households to maintain ownership of the home.
  3. With the significant equity homeowners have today, many will be able to sell instead of going into foreclosure.

Will there be foreclosures coming to the market? Yes. There are hundreds of thousands of foreclosures in this country each year. People experience economic hardships, and in some cases, are not able to meet their mortgage obligations.

Here’s the breakdown of new foreclosures over the last three years, prior to the pandemic:

  • 2017: 314,220
  • 2018: 279,040
  • 2019: 277,520

Through the first three quarters of 2020 (the latest data available), there were only 114,780 new foreclosures. If 10% of those currently in forbearance go to foreclosure, 275,000 foreclosures would be added to the market in 2021. That would be an average year as the numbers above show.

What happens if the number is more than 10%?

If we do experience a higher foreclosure rate from those in forbearance, most experts believe the current housing market will easily absorb the excess inventory. We entered 2020 with 1,210,000 single-family homes available for purchase. At the time, that was low and problematic. The market was experiencing high buyer demand, and we needed more houses to meet that demand. We’re now entering 2021 with 320,000 fewer homes for sale, while buyer demand remains extremely strong. This means the housing market has the capacity to soak up a lot of inventory.

Bottom Line

There will be more foreclosures entering the market later this year, especially compared to the record-low numbers in 2020. However, the market will be able to handle the increase as buyer demand remains strong.

What Experts Are Saying about the 2021 Job Market

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What Experts Are Saying about the 2021 Job Market | Simplifying The Market

Earlier this month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their most recent Jobs Report. The report revealed that the economy lost 140,000 jobs in December. That’s a devastating number and dramatically impacts those households that lost a source of income. However, we need to give it some context. Greg Ip, Chief Economics Commentator at the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), explains:

“The economy is probably not slipping back into recession. The drop was induced by new restrictions on activity as the pandemic raged out of control. Leisure and hospitality, which includes restaurants, hotels, and amusement parks, tumbled 498,000.”

In the same report, Michael Pearce, Senior U.S. Economist of Capital Economics, agreed:

“The 140,000 drop in non-farm payrolls was entirely due to a massive plunge in leisure and hospitality employment, as bars and restaurants across the country have been forced to close in response to the surge in coronavirus infections. With employment in most other sectors rising strongly, the economy appears to be carrying more momentum into 2021 than we had thought.”

Once the vaccine is distributed throughout the country and the pandemic is successfully under control, the vast majority of those 480,000 jobs will come back.

Here are two additional comments from other experts, also reported by the WSJ that day:

Nick Bunker, Head of Research in North America for Indeed:

“These numbers are distressing, but they are reflective of the time when coronavirus vaccines were not rolled out and federal fiscal policy was still deadlocked. Hopefully, the recent legislation can help build a bridge to a time when vaccines are fully rolled out and the labor market can sustainably heal.”

Michael Feroli, Chief U.S. Economist for JPMorgan Chase:

“The good news in today’s report is that outside the hopefully temporary hit to the food service industry, the rest of the labor market appears to be holding in despite the latest public health challenges.”

What impact will this have on the real estate market in 2021?

Some are concerned that with millions of Americans unemployed, we may see distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) dominate the housing market once again. Rick Sharga, Executive Vice President at RealtyTrac, along with most other experts, doesn’t believe that will be the case:

“There are reasons to be cautiously optimistic despite massive unemployment levels and uncertainty about government policies under the new Administration. But while anything is possible, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see another foreclosure tsunami or housing market crash.”

Bottom Line

For the households that lost a wage earner, these are extremely difficult times. Hopefully, the new stimulus package will lessen some of their pain. The health crisis, however, should vastly improve by mid-year with expectations that the jobs market will also progress significantly.