This Week in Real Estate: September 25, 2017


While America’s largest living generation, Millennials, are delaying their home-buying plans by a median seven years as a result of their student loan debt, according to a report released by the National Association of Realtors, single-family starts and single-family permits are up 9% and nearly 11% respectively year-over-year and owners of mortgaged U.S. properties realized an aggregate gain of $766 billion in additional equity between second quarter 2016 and the same quarter this year. Below are a few highlights from the third week of September that influence our business:

* Home Equity Increases, Average Gains Vary Wildly. Rising home prices continue to fuel fast growth in household equity. CoreLogic said on Thursday that owners of mortgaged properties in the U.S. (roughly 63 percent of all homes) gained an aggregate of $766 billion in additional equity between the second quarter of 2016 and the same quarter this year. This is an increase of 10.6 percent in nationwide equity over that period. The average increase for each homeowner was just under $13,000, but the distribution is far from even across the states. A few states in the west, notably Washington, Hawaii, and California, with equity gains of $40,000, $33,000 and $30,000 respectively, have offset much poorer performances elsewhere. Homeowners in Alaska saw their equity decline by an average of $1,200 and Delaware homeowners also posted a tiny loss. On the other side of the ledger, the number of underwater homes declined by 10 percent from the first quarter of 2017, to 2.8 million properties, or 5.4 percent of mortgaged homes. A year earlier 7.1 percent of mortgaged homes had been underwater, a total of 3.6 million properties. This is an annual decrease of 22 percent. Negative equity had peaked at 26 percent of mortgaged properties in the fourth quarter of 2009. “Over the last 12 months, approximately 750,000 borrowers achieved positive equity,” said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. “This means that mortgage risk continues to decline and, given the continued strength in home prices, CoreLogic expects home equity to rise steadily over the next year.” “Homeowner equity reached $8 trillion in the second quarter of 2017, which is more than double the level just five years ago,” said Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “The rapid rise in homeowner equity not only reduces mortgage risk, but also supports consumer spending and economic growth.”
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* Single Family Starts Post Slight Gain in August. The pace of single-family starts posted a slight gain in August, albeit over downwardly revised estimates of the rate of July construction. Nonetheless, the three-month moving average for single-family starts is at a post-recession high of 849,000 as the gradual recovery in home building continues. Total starts declined almost 1% in August to a 1.180 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, according to the joint data release from the Census Bureau and HUD. The headline decline was due to multifamily production decreases. Single-family starts increased, rising slightly to an 851,000 seasonally adjusted rate in August. Single-family starts are up almost 9% year-to-date compared to 2016 as limited existing inventory and solid builder confidence make for positive market conditions. Single-family permits declined slightly in August, falling 1.5%. However, on a year-to-date basis, single-family permits are nearly 11% higher compared to this time in 2016, representing an additional 54,400 permits for a total of 564,000 thus far this year. These data are consistent with recent trends in the NAHB/Wells Fargo measure of single-family builder confidence and NAHB’s forecast of modest single-family construction growth in 2017. However, we can expect volatility ahead, as the counties affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma represent about 14% of national single-family production. With respect to housing’s economic impact, 56% of homes under construction in August were multifamily (610,000). As noted in the graph above, with recent production declines for apartments, the current count of multifamily units is effectively unchanged from a year ago. There were 472,000 single-family units under construction, a gain of 11% from this time in 2016.
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* Student Debt Delaying Millennial Homeownership by 7 Years. College debt is having a compounding effect on how millennials perceive and plan for homeownership. Eighty-three percent of millennials in a recently released report by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) say they are delaying their home-buying plans by a median seven years as a result of their student loan debt. Twenty percent of the millennials surveyed in the study are homeowners; 80 percent are not. The typical millennial homeowner is burdened by $41,200 in student debt, and earning $38,800 annually. Homeownership is not the only casualty of student debt—millennials are also postponing career changes, children, marriage and retirement savings, the study shows. Forty-one percent of millennials have put off marriage; 61 percent have skipped a retirement savings payment; and 86 percent have stayed in an unsatisfying job, or taken on a second job or one outside of their field, as a result of student debt.
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