2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers:

Real Estate Trends Have Changed Due to COVID

The coronavirus pandemic changed many things, buying and selling trends among them. The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) recently released its annual Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers report, which found that the pandemic incentivized buyers to search out multi-generational homes, while pushing sellers to sell their properties faster.

According to the report, buyers who purchased after March were more likely to seek out multi-generational homes. These purchases accounted for 15 percent of sales after March, compared to 11 percent for those who closed before April. This may have to do with quarantining periods, during which consumers stayed home, individuals moved back in with their parents, and some worked remotely, causing people to rethink their living spaces.

“The coronavirus, without a doubt, led homebuyers to reassess their housing situations and even reconsider home sizes and destinations,” said Jessica Lautz, vice president of Demographics and Behavioral Insights at NAR. “Buyers sought housing with more rooms, more square footage and more yard space, as they may have desired a home office or home gym,” she added. “They also shopped for larger homes because extra space would allow households to better accommodate older adult relatives or young adults that are now living within the residence. So many sellers were eager to get out of their old home and move to something bigger that would better meet their needs during quarantine.”

Due to a growing interest in having more space, as well as added privacy, buyers who purchased after March were likely to relocate to the suburbs and pay more for that home. On average, buyers who purchased before April spent $270,000 on a property. After April, that number increased to $339,400, on average. According to NAR, the longevity of homes may shrink for these purchasers, with post-April buyers likely to stay in their home for 10 years compared to the 15 years forecast for pre-April buyers.

COVID also impacted people’s sense of immediacy. NAR found that owners who sold in 2020 were more likely to say their need to sell was “at least somewhat urgent.” In addition, 18 percent of those who sold in April or later likely sold because their home was too small, compared to the 13 percent before April.

There was a demographics-related impact as well. The average buyer age is 55, found NAR—an all-time high. The average first-time buyer was 33 years old, and first-time buyers made up 31 percent of all buyers, down from 33 percent in 2019 and the lowest percentage since 1987. NAR also reported a slight rebound in single women buyers, from 17 percent to 18 percent YoY.

In terms of searching and the purchasing process, starting online has continued to grow in popularity. According to NAR, 97 percent of buyers searched for their home online—the highest percentage and up from last year’s 93 percent. On average, buyers looked at nine homes in person and an additional five homes via online virtual tour. Most buyers (88 percent) used an agent to purchase their home—a near-historical high. Ninety-one percent of buyers said they would “definitely” or “probably” use the same agent in the future.

“Some buyers purchased their homes before ever physically seeing them in person,” said Lautz. “They researched, viewed photos online and did virtual tours from their computers and phones, and ultimately made an offer through their agent.”

“REALTORS® did their part in not only keeping afloat America’s real estate industry, but also in helping sustain our nation’s economy as it faced unprecedented and unexpected challenges throughout the past year,” said NAR President Vince Malta, broker at Malta & Co., Inc., in San Francisco, Calif. “We are all in unknown territory with this pandemic, so it’s no surprise that more buyers than ever turned to agents to help them navigate through some of the uncertainties and one of the most complex, competitive markets any of us have ever seen.”

To read the entire report, click here.

For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s senior online editor.

Persistent Buyer Demand Pushes Market Frenzy Past Summer Peak

By RISMedia Staff

Persistent buyer demand continues to push the frenzied housing market further into fall and winter months and way past the typical summer peak, according to a new Zillow® report.

In September, 22.4 percent of homes purchased in the U.S. sold over list price, an increase from 20.2 percent in August and above the estimated 15 percent of homes that did so during September 2018 and 2019. According to Zillow, it is highly unusual for the share of homes sold above list price to continue increasing this late in the year. In both 2018 and 2019, the share peaked in July before steadily declining during the fall and winter months.

This strong demand is helping to “keep a lid on inventory” as homes are being sold faster than sellers are listing them, according to Zillow. Inventory continues to fall, down 37.4 percent year-over-year at the end of October, even as new listings returned near last year’s level. This is an indication of how fast the market is moving; homes were typically selling after only 12 days (17 days faster than the same time last year).

“The housing market is taking us all back to Economics 101 and teaching lessons about supply and demand,” said Zillow senior economist Chris Glynn. “A persistent interest in buying and moving is creating an imbalance that is driving prices higher than we typically see at this time of year. In many cases, buyers in this market should be realistic about the chance of bidding wars and leave themselves financial flexibility by looking at homes listed for less than their maximum price point. With tight inventory, low interest rates, and robust demand from households re-evaluating their housing needs, a strong, competitive market with many transactions is likely here to stay into 2021.”

Bidding wars are commonly occurring for homes priced just above and below the typical U.S. home value of $259,906. Homes priced between $192,001 and $264,000 sold above list in 28.2 percent of September sales. In the most-expensive tier—above $487,000—homes sold above list 15.7 percent of the time.

Source: Zillow

Mortgage rates hit another record low this week

From Housing Wire

This week’s dip marks 13 consecutive weeks of rates below 3%

October 22, 2020, 10:01 am By Alex Roha

The average U.S. mortgage rate for a 30-year fixed loan fell to 2.8% this week, another record low, Freddie Mac said in a report on Thursday. The rate fell one basis points from the week prior and is now six basis points lower than the original all-time low set in mid-September.

The average fixed rate for a 15-year mortgage was 2.33%, falling from last week’s 2.35%.

After this week’s dip, there have now been 13 consecutive weeks when average mortgage rates have been below 3%, and rates have broken records 11 times this year.

“Mortgage rates remain very low, providing homeowners who have not already taken advantage of this environment ample opportunity to do so,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Mortgage rates today are on average more than a full percentage point lower than rates over the last five years.”

In March, in an effort to buffer the economic blows from the shutdown, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell announced the Fed would start buying bonds to prevent a credit crunch and make borrowing cheaper. According to Fed data, the central bank has bought over $1 trillion in bonds backed by home loans since then.

While purchase loans are seeing record-low rates, the adverse market fee imposed on refinance loans by the FHFA in August make record lows for those loans unlikely.

During this week’s Mortgage Bankers Association annual event, the heads of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac discussed the adverse market fee.

“As you know, safety and soundness is one, two, and three for us,” said Fannie Mae CEO Hugh Frater. “And for us to play our role in all markets, good and bad, markets small and large, we have to do it safely and soundly with long-term risk management in mind. And that’s the rationale for this change, as the GSEs are shouldering significant risks associated with the pandemic — as the principal risk taker, we have to price that risk appropriately.”

He added that while the housing market has demonstrated real resiliency, “many millions of borrowers are under stress, there’s still significant risk caused by economic uncertainty both in the near term and the longer term. And we’re required by law and regulation to be compensated for these risks and these costs.”

Freddie Mac CEO David Brickman struck a similar tone, saying that the GSEs have provided “extraordinary support” to the market.

“Costs have changed, risks have changed. What we put in place is an appropriate and prudent response to that change in the external environment for us to support struggling homeowners.”

They both noted that with interest rates still low, borrowers will realize savings, even with the 50 basis point refinance fee factored in. “But obviously, anybody who’s refinancing their mortgage at a lower rate is already beginning to save in terms of their mortgage payments, this only means they save just a little bit less than they would have otherwise,” said Brickman.

Housing Starts Continue To Baffle Experts, Trend Is Upward

Single-family starts displayed continued growth in September, according to the latest report from the Commerce Department. Overall housing production increased 1.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.42 million units.

The September reading of 1.42 million starts is the number of housing units builders would begin if they kept this pace for the next 12 months. Within this overall number, single-family starts increased 8.5 percent to a 1.11 million seasonally adjusted annual rate—the highest pace of single-family starts since June 2007. The multifamily sector, which includes apartment buildings and condos, decreased 16.3 percent to a 307,000 pace.
Regionally, combined single-family and multifamily starts are 11.0 percent higher in the Midwest, 5.7 percent higher in the South, 4.5 percent higher in the West and 1.4 percent lower in the Northeast.

The Breakdown:

Housing Starts: 1,415,000 (+1.9 percent month-over-month, +11.1 percent year-over-year)
Multifamily Permits: 295,000
Single-Family Permits: 1,108,000

Building Permits:
 1,553,000 (+5.2 percent month-over-month, +8.1 percent year-over-year)
Multifamily Permits: 390,000
Single-Family Permits: 1,119,000

 1,413,000 (+15.3 percent month-over-month, +25.8 percent year-over-year)
Multifamily Completions: 480,000
Single-Family Completions: 921,000

What the Industry Is Saying:

“When homes get built, jobs are created through multiple cascading effects. Aside from construction and trade contractors, lumber mills and moving trucks get going along with land developers and title companies. And of course, more inventory becomes available for consumers. That is why today’s data in surging housing starts is so welcome: moving the economy in a better direction. Homeownership will also rise with more choices.

“A gain of 8.1 percent from a year ago to 1.415 million new unit production (annualized) is good but far more units are needed. Housing permits, a precursor to starts, were better at 1.55 million. Rising lumber prices and a shortage of construction workers could present challenges. The country needs to boost vocational training to move workers who lost jobs in retail, restaurants, and hotels into the higher paying construction industry.” — Dr. Lawrence Yun, National Association of REALTORS® Chief Economist

“Mortgage interest rates near record lows continue to propel the housing industry, including construction. There has been a surge of demand for new homes as a result of the longstanding inventory constraints across the country. Today’s news is encouraging for those enduring bidding wars and other challenges in the current market.” — Bill Banfield, Rocket Mortgage Executive Vice President of Capital Markets

“The housing market remains a bright spot in the U.S. economy, and this is reflected in today’s positive housing starts report. Builder confidence is at an all-time high as buyer traffic is strong-another sign that housing is helping to lift the economy.” — Chuck Fowke, Chairman, National Association of Home Builders

“Home sales have exceeded for-sale home construction recently, which means additional home building in the near term. Demand is being supported by low interest rates, a suburban shift in demand and demographic tailwinds. However, headwinds due to limited building material availability is slowing some construction activity despite strong demand, with authorized but not started single-family homes up 22.4 percent compared to a year ago.” — Robert Dietz, Chief Economist, National Association of Home Builders

5 reasons mortgage rates will rise in 2021

September 23, 2020, 2:08 pm By David Stevens

Published in Housingwire

Let me be contrarian: Get ready, because mortgage rates are going to rise in 2021. Now before you respond, just read the rest as to why.

The Mortgage Bankers Association in its most recent forecast sees two things that stand out. First, 2020 will prove itself to be the second biggest mortgage year in history. Topping $3 trillion will put it only behind 2003 in single family mortgage production history.

Second, the MBA joined the GSEs and other economists who forecast a significant drop in mortgage production in 2021, with most estimating declines in the range of $700 – $800 billion year over year.

Some will try to argue, “but wait, Powell said the Federal Reserve would keep rates low for the foreseeable future! You must be wrong.” There is a difference here. Yes, the Fed will likely keep short rates low, but mortgage rates and some longer-term Treasuries likely won’t enjoy the same ride.

Here are the reasons why upward pressure on mortgage rates could stall the refinance wave and cut overall national originations volume in 2021:

1. The Fed: The Federal reserve is the single biggest buyer of agency mortgage backed securities (MBS) in the world. According to the Urban Institute, “In March the Fed bought $292.2 billion in agency MBS, and April clocked in at $295.1 billion, the largest two months of mortgage purchases ever; and well over 100 percent of gross issuance for each of those two months. After the market stabilized, the Fed slowed its purchases to around $100 billion per month in May, June and July. Fed purchases in July were $104.6 billion, 35 percent of monthly issuance, still sizable from a historical perspective.”

The question is what happens after a covid vaccine and a normalization of economic activity which is expected next year. The Fed is already being very careful not to commit to MBS purchases after the end of this year, a lack of commitment very different to their clear stance on fed funds. If the fed continues to slow or stop, something which is inevitable, the supply imbalance will force rates higher as MBS prices drop in search buyers to take up the excess.


2. The Debt: The national debt is now at 100% of GDP, the highest level since WWII. Per CBO’s September paper, “By the end of 2020, federal debt held by the public is projected to equal 98% of GDP. The projected budget deficits would boost federal debt to 104% of GDP in 2021, to 107% of GDP (the highest amount in the nation’s history) in 2023, and to 195% of GDP by 2050.”

The CBO’s projections for the U.S. deficits looking forward and the mounting debt load threaten the nation’s ability to do many things, as the majority of spending will be to mandatory expenditures that include interest on the growing debt load. Inflationary pressure will result from the need to finance these deficits through new issuance of treasuries, thus putting upward pressure across the stack of interest rates, a far different outcome than what the Fed may do to keep short rates low.

3. The GSE Capital Rule: The FHFA just closed off the comment window on the proposed capital rule for Fannie and Freddie. This rule is a critical component to FHFA’s plan to release the GSEs from conservatorship. The proposed rule is considered onerous by many with the consensus view stating in comment letters that rates would rise between 20-30 bps. Former Freddie Mac CEO Don Layton, former Arch MI CEO Andrew Reppert, and Fannie Mae each stated the same in their comment letters.

4. The Adverse Market Fee: This arbitrary add-on for most refinance mortgages from the GSEs of 50 bps equates to roughly an increase in rate of .125. This goes into effect on Dec. 1 of this year.

5. Release from Conservatorship: FHFA Director Calabria is working feverishly to release Fannie and Freddie from conservatorship and moving at a pace to lock in as much of this as possible quickly given the risk of an administration change. There have been outcries from MBS investors, including some of the largest buyers.

As reported, in a letter to Mark Calabria, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, PIMCO said freeing the companies by executive fiat would be interpreted by investors as an end to the government’s guarantee of the MBS. “That would boost mortgage rates and force some investors to sell the bonds,” the PIMCO executives said. Investors would demand a higher return for the increased risk. “Mortgage rates will increase, homeownership will likely suffer and the national mortgage rate will no longer exist,” the executives wrote.

For those in the mortgage industry, it doesn’t take all of these things to result in the forecasted 700-800 billion drop next year. Frankly just the slowing of MBS purchases and the implementation of the capital rule alone would do it. In fact, MBA’s forecast of the volume decline assumes only the slightest increase in mortgage rates, remaining in the low 3% range next year. In my conversations with economists, the view is that we will end the year with a good first quarter in 2021 simply based on year end overflow.

The second quarter may start off well, but the general sense is that by the third and fourth quarters the market will reflect the impact of coupon burn out and any of these events above beginning to take shape. One thing for certain is that the Fed does not like being in this deep, we saw that following QE activities during the Great Recession.

As MBA’sFratantoni states in his recent Housing Wire article, “2020 has been a banner year for mortgage originators and the millions of households who have benefitted from record-low rates through refinancing. The industry will enjoy this boom for a while longer, but our expectation is that the refi wave is cresting.”

“Make hay while the sun shines” is an old expression. The sun is clearly shining on our industry this year. But it’s important for mortgage banking executives to not misread the statements of Chairman Powell as a commitment to anything more than short rates. The rally you are experiencing this year is due to interventions in the market due to a pandemic recession. Normalization will take out buyers, eliminate the supply “short,” and inflation will ultimately do its thing on rates just enough to cut the market by 25%-30% in 2021 and a bit more in 2022.

Planning ahead for that environment is critically important as market contractions will reduce spreads as well as volume. Thinking about the appropriate right sizing and forward-looking market strategies now will separate the winners from the rest.

Average mortgage rates tick up this week

The rate is 2.9% this week, up from last week’s 2.87%, Freddie Mac says

September 24, 2020, 10:00 am By Kathleen Howley

The average U.S. mortgage rate for a 30-year fixed loan is 2.9% this week, up from 2.87% last week, Freddie Mac said in a report on Thursday. It’s the ninth consecutive week the rate has been below 3%.

The average rate for the less-popular 15-year mortgage was 2.4%, rising from last week’s record low of 2.35%, the mortgage giant said.

Sub-3% rates are boosting real estate demand and fueling bidding wars. U.S. home prices jumped more than 2% between May and July, the largest two-month gain on record, as Americans emerging from COVID-19 lockdowns bought real estate, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said in a Wednesday report.

“Historically low interest rates are the primary driver behind the strength in housing demand that we’ve seen in recent months, and that has led housing to be a bright spot for the overall economy,” Robert Dietz, chief economist of the National Association of Home Builders, said in an interview.

Rates started tumbling after the Federal Reserve committed to buying mortgage-backed securities in March to keep credit flowing amid the worst pandemic in more than a century. Because of that, the average U.S. rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage, as measured by Freddie Mac, has hit new lows nine times since COVID-19 first started spreading in America.

Sales of existing homes rose to a 14-year high of 6 million at an annualized pace in August, the National Association of Realtors said in a report on Tuesday.

Combined sales of single-family houses, townhomes, condominiums and cooperatively owned apartments rose 2.4% from July, according to the report. Compared to a year ago, last month’s sales were 11% higher, NAR said.

The median existing-home price last month was $310,600, up 11.4% year over year, and prices rose in every region, according to NAR.

Zillow predicts market slowdown is on the way

Is the market frenzy coming to an end? According to Zillow’s Weekly Market Report for the week ending Sept. 26, “tapering pending sales and minimal recent growth in list prices point to an overdue seasonal market slowdown.”

According to the report, pending listings were up 22.2 percent year-over-year for the week, but have fallen 4.6 percent month-over0month and 1.5 percent week-over-week. Days on market, however, has stayed the same as August at 13 days—15 days sooner than the same week in 2019.

Inventory now stands at 35 percent below 2019 levels—the largest YoY drop in total inventory in Zillow’s history of monthly inventory records, dating back to 2013. As for new for-sale listings, they are down 9.5 percent YoY and 6.9 percent month-over-month.

Prices are much higher compared to last year. Median sale price has increased 1.2 percent month-over-month and 9.3 percent YoY. The median list price increased to $345,000 (10.4 percent over last year’s figures)—the highest YoY increase in Zillow’s weekly data history through last year.

What about consumer confidence? September experienced the strongest MoM gain since April 2003, with the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index increasing 15.5 points from August.

What’s in store for the future? Zillow expects sales to stay high but taper through 2021, remaining higher than pre-pandemic levels throughout this year and next. Additionally, home prices are expected to increase 1.2 percent from August to November, as well as increase 4.8 percent between August 2020 and August 2021.

Home Prices Rising Amid Continued Inventory Challenge

By RISMedia Staff

It’s more of the same, according to realtor.com®’s Weekly Housing Report for the week ending Sept. 19. Home prices continue rising and inventory continues to pose a challenge in today’s markets. Some areas are, however, on the rebound after wildfires and hurricanes impacted the real estate markets.

The latest on home prices? They’ve continued to grow at last week’s record-breaking pace of 11.1 percent, according to the report. This is the 19th consecutive week of price acceleration, and more than double what was recorded in January 2020. And homes aren’t lasting long. They’re selling in 53 days—12 days faster, on average, than the same time last year, and a day faster since last week.

But inventory is still low. According to the report, there are approximately 390,000 fewer homes on the market than the 3.30 million listed at the same time last year. Overall, the number of homes on the market is down 39 percent YoY. New listings are down 15 percent YoY—a slight improvement over last week’s 17 percent drop.

Realtor.com®’s Housing Market Recovery Index is 107.2 this week—1.0 point stronger than last week and 7.2 points stronger than before COVID. According to the report, some of this improvement can be attributed to containment efforts of recent wildfires and hurricanes.

“Sellers are more reluctant to list their home given the uncertainty over the economy and the pandemic environment. Buyers on the other hand, especially hungry first timers, remain largely unfazed by the challenges, and are motivated by low mortgage rates and the fear of missing out on the right home,” said Javier Vivas, director of economic research for realtor.com®. “The majority of sellers are also buyers, so even as new listings hit the market, another buyer is also added. Adding to the inventory issues, thousands of previously vacant homes, such as second homes and rentals, have been reoccupied by their owners during the pandemic, effectively taking them off the market.”

How the Age of Your HVAC System Impacts Your Home’s Resale Value

When considering what to upgrade before you sell your home, it’s just as important to think through your home’s mechanical systems as it is your home’s aesthetic elements. After all, aesthetic elements are often easier and less expensive to change than mechanical systems.

One of your home’s most important mechanical systems is your HVAC system. Even though it’s not immediately visible, it can have an outsized impact on your home’s resale value. Here are different ways your HVAC system’s age can affect your home’s resale value:

Comfort During Home Tours

One of the most obvious things to keep in mind is that your HVAC system can provide comfort to potential buyers during home tours. If your system is too old to provide reliable comfort, potential buyers are sure to notice. While some buyers will be able to overlook this issue, it will be a turn-off for other buyers, meaning that you will have less competition for your home, which could then lower the eventual selling price.

Selling Disclosures

To avoid financial mistakes, the home-selling process is regulated to be transparent. One way this happens is through selling disclosures that must be presented to the buyer before the transaction closes. The age of HVAC systems is one component that appears on these seller disclosures, meaning that potential buyers will be fully aware of the age of your HVAC system. Therefore, even if your older HVAC system works well, it could still turn away some buyers once they see how old your system is.

Selling Concessions

Even if a buyer chooses to offer the original asking price for your home, you may still lose out on money when the details are worked out. That’s because the buyer may ask for concessions from you, which may include replacing all or part of your HVAC system. Considering the cost of a new HVAC system, this could significantly cut down on your sale proceeds.


While an older HVAC system could be a liability when it comes to the selling price, a newer one could prove to be an asset that could boost the selling price. This is because you can advertise the energy savings of your newer HVAC system when compared to other similar homes. For a buyer that’s looking for the total package, this could be the feature that convinces them to put an offer on your house.

It’s important to remember that just because you have an older HVAC system doesn’t mean that your home will be hard to sell. While it may affect the value of your home, there will still be buyers who are eager to have your home, even if it means that they’ll have to do some work on the HVAC system down the road.

September Market Hotter Than Usual, Report Finds

September is typically the sweet spot for buyers: the summer frenzy is slowing down and competition isn’t as fierce. This year, however, things were different. According to realtor.com®’s September Monthly Housing Trends Report, this fall, homebuyers are typically paying roughly $20,000 more for a home, facing 25 percent more competition than at the start of the year.

According to the report, in 2019, the best week to purchase a home was Sept. 22-28. However, this year, listings have decreased 21 percent compared to the start of the year and there are 25 percent more buyers in the market. This means that homes are flying off the market—12 days faster than expected, in fact.

For the first time since 2016, according to the report, homes sold faster in September than August. In the largest 50 U.S. metros, the typical home sold in 44 days in September, which is 10 days faster than last year.

And because there’s more activity than last year, prices are up. In the Northeast, price acceleration is up 12.8 percent YoY, while it has increased 10.9 percent in Midwestern metros, 8.6 percent in the West and 7.2 percent in the South.

Inventory is also still lacking. According to realtor.com®, the number of newly listed homes on the market in September declined by 13.8 percent since last year. This is a larger decrease than the 11.8 percent YoY loss in August.

“Many buyers tend to put their home search on hold after the start of the school year, but remote learning and the desire for more space continued to fuel buyer interest in September,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist, realtor.com®. “Unseasonably high buyer interest, coupled with historically low inventory and favorable mortgage rates, are creating a perfect storm in the housing market. While this is good news for anyone looking to sell their home, it has created tremendous competition among buyers.”