In reality, however, there is a great shortage of good single family homes since housing starts have not yet made up for the gap in new construction created during the recession. Thus renters are still likely to be quite plentiful.Prices, however, are likely to get a boost from this increased buying activity. The home buyers using the 3.5%-down FHA loan are less price sensitive and willing to pay more for a home they like (after all the difference for them is only 3.5% of the extra amount which is negligible).
Millennials are buying homes, steering builders toward lower price points
Home buyer Darin Fredericks and his wife Summer Fredericks in the kitchen of their new home in Ontario, Calif., last November. PHOTO: PATRICK T. FALLON FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Updated May 11, 2017 8:09 p.m. ET
First-time buyers are rushing to buy homes after a decade on the sidelines, promising to kick a housing market already flush with luxury sales into higher gear.
Tracking home sales to a particular age group is hard, but a series of data points form a mosaic of a generation of young people ready to buy: The number of new-owner households was double the number of new-renter households in the first quarter of this year, the share of first-time buyers is creeping back toward the historical average, and mortgages for first-timers are on the rise.
“They’re crawling out of their parents’ basements, they’re forming households and they’re looking to buy,” said Doug Bauer, chief executive of home builder Tri Pointe Group which operates in eight states.
In a shift, new households are overwhelmingly choosing to buy rather than rent. Some 854,000 new-owner households were formed during the first three months of the year, more than double the 365,000 new-renter households formed during the period, according to Census Bureau data. It was the first time in a decade there were more new buyers than renters, according to an analysis by home-tracker Trulia.
Home builders are beginning to shift their focus away from luxury homes and toward homes at lower price points to cater to this burgeoning millennial clientele. Demographers generally define millennials as people born between roughly 1980 and 2000.
In the first quarter of this year, 31% of the speculative homes built by major builders were smaller than 2,250 square feet, indicating they were in the starter-home range, according to housing-research firm Zelman & Associates. That is up from 27% a year ago and 24% in the first quarter of 2015.
“There’s an increasing confidence level in that part of the market,” said Gregg Nelson, co-founder of California home builder Trumark Cos. “The recovery is finally starting to take hold in a broader way.”
The shift reflects a reversal of a pattern that has driven the five-year housing-market expansion.
Up until now the luxury market has soared, while the more affordable end of the market has struggled. Tough lending standards, slow wage growth, growing student-debt obligations and a newfound fear of homeownership have combined to crimp demand among millennials in particular.
Now, the return of first-time buyers is allaying fears that millennials might eschew homeownership permanently. But it also provides an infusion of new demand while housing supply is tight and home price growth is significantly outstripping wage gains.
Home prices in February increased by 5.8% over the same month a year earlier, according to the most recent S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index.
The return of first-time buyers is accelerating. In all they have accounted for 42% of buyers this year, up from 38% in 2015 and 31% at the lowest point during the recent housing cycle in 2011, according to Fannie Mae, which defines first-time buyers as anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the past three years.
While economists and builders said lending standards have started to ease, getting a mortgage remains challenging for young buyers with shorter credit histories and, in many cases, student debt. Mortgage rates are also expected to rise further this year, posing an added challenge. Rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage have risen to 4.05%, up from about 3.5% in November, according to Freddie Mac.
In Orange County, Calif., Trumark’s Mr. Nelson said he has been selling entry-level homes at nearly double the rate of his higher-end ones. He is even gaining confidence to build homes in more far-flung locations. The company is about to begin construction on a 114-home project in the Inland Empire east of Los Angeles and another development in Manteca, Calif., about 80 miles east of San Francisco. Both areas were hard-hit during the housing crash and were among the slowest to recover.
Builders largely avoided the exurbs after the bubble burst in 2006. But because land there is cheaper, they can build lower-end homes more profitably.
“Most builders really preferred to stick straight down the fairway, right at the corner of Main and Main. They were afraid to go back into the rough where they built a lot of homes in the prior cycle,” said Alan Ratner, senior home-building analyst at Zelman.
Outside Las Vegas, Tri Pointe has introduced a new-home design that is specifically targeted to millennial buyers, featuring indoor-outdoor patios and deck spaces, as well as a separate downstairs bedroom-and-bathroom suite that could be rented out to a housemate. Mr. Bauer said the homes, geared toward first-time buyers, have been selling more rapidly than pricier homes.
Joey Liu, a 28-year-old technology worker, purchased his first home in San Jose, Calif., earlier this year. He said it is more expensive than renting but that he is getting to the stage in life where it was time to buy.
“A lot of friends of mine bought a home so I started thinking maybe it was time to buy a home and stop paying rent,” said Mr. Liu, who settled on a three-bedroom townhouse for $690,000. He plans to rent out a room to help with the expenses.
He had three housewarming parties to celebrate his newfound status. “This is my first house, so it definitely feels different,” he said.
Builders say their return to the starter-home market shouldn’t invite comparisons to the fevered construction of the mid-2000s.
“One of the misconceptions is that, here we go again, this is another 2005, 2006 where all these builders are going to build hundreds of thousands of homes. We’re not going crazy,” said Brent Anderson, vice president of investor relations at Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Meritage Homes Mr. Anderson said that last year the company was building four to five speculative homes per community and is now up to 6.4 on average.
Building executives said one challenge is that many people are buying first homes later in life, meaning they have higher incomes and greater expectations molded by years of living in luxury downtown rentals. Such buyers also appear wary of driving farther out to get more space.
Sheryl Palmer, president and chief executive of Scottsdale-Ariz.-based Taylor Morrison Home , said to cater to this demographic the company is building more three-story townhouses or single-family homes on narrow lots. She said about one-third of the company’s buyers this year are millennials, up from 22% last year.
Even Toll Brothers which typically builds homes for the top end of the market, is venturing into lower price points. In Houston, the company is building homes starting in the mid-$300,000s range, while a typical Toll home in the area costs around $850,000.
Appeared in the May. 12, 2017, print edition as ‘Generation of Renters Now Buying.’
Surging Home Prices Are a Double-Edged Sword
Affordability Troubles Grow, Especially for First-Time Buyers
Mr. Timiraos says:
Prices have risen largely because of shortages of homes for sale. While there is growing evidence that inventories hit bottom last year and that some markets are moving back in favor of buyers, the number of homes for sale remains relatively tight still. Foreclosure-related listings have plunged, and traditional buyers haven’t flocked to list homes—at least not yet. New construction, meanwhile, won’t be back to normal historical levels for years. The consensus view is that price growth continues at a somewhat slower pace, but that consensus view could be wrong—for the third year in a row—if there aren’t more homes for sale.
2. WHERE IS THE HOME-CONSTRUCTION RECOVERY?
While home prices have recovered strongly, new construction activity hasn’t. Part of this may have to do with the fact that home prices are still too low to justify construction, particularly given land, labor, and materials costs. For smaller builders, credit may also be harder to come by. Some economists say new-home demand could remain muted because many move-up buyers don’t have enough equity to “trade up” to that new home. Key issues to watch here: What happens to household formation, and do builders begin to throttle back price gains in favor of selling more homes in 2014?
3. WHAT HAPPENS TO MORTGAGE CREDIT?
Lenders could begin to ease certain “overlays”—or additional credit and documentation checks—that have been imposed over the past few years. Mortgage insurance companies are getting more comfortable insuring loans with down payments of just 5%. So don’t be surprised if, at the margins, it gets a little easier to get a mortgage—especially if you have lots of money in the bank.
Even if it gets easier to get a loan—by no means a given—borrowing costs and fees could rise. Banks also face new mortgage regulations that could keep most of them cautious. Borrowers with more volatile or harder-to-document incomes, including the self-employed or those who make a lot of money on commissions, bonuses, or tips, could continue to face tough sledding.
4. WHAT WILL INVESTORS DO WITH THEIR HOMES?
A handful of institutional investors have purchased tens of thousands of homes that are being rented out. These homes tend to be concentrated in a few of the regions that have been hardest-hit by foreclosures over the past five years. Investor purchases played key roles in stabilizing prices, especially because investors were wolfing up homes at a time when supplies were already dwindling. A key question now is what happens after the initial rush to invest subsides. More lenders and investors are extending debt financing to some of these property owners, which should help boost returns. Can owners perfect the expense management associated with maintaining and leasing tens of thousands of individual homes?
Can owners perfect the expense management associated with maintaining and leasing tens of thousands of individual homes?
5. WHEN DOES HOUSING HIT A TIPPING POINT ON AFFORDABILITY?
Rising home prices are a double-edged sword, especially in pricier coastal markets such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. On the one hand, rising prices are giving many homeowners equity in their homes again—an extremely positive development to the extent it means these borrowers are less at risk of foreclosure.
But price inflation is making housing less affordable. This will be a bigger problem if cash buyers retreat from the market in 2014 and/or if interest rates rise in a meaningful way. Consider: In Los Angeles, prices have jumped by nearly 30% in the past two years, to a median of $448,900 in the third quarter. Assuming a 20% down payment, the monthly payment of principal and interest on the median priced home has jumped from $1,255 in the third quarter of 2011 to $1,823 in 2013—a 45% increase.
The housing sector will get a much-needed shot in the arm and for investors, there will be many more potential buyers upon liquidation. Will easing bring us closer to another mortgage meltdown? Possibly, but I think lessons have been learned during the recession which will prevent a wholesale catastrophe as we have seen before.My opinion is that for us as real estate investors this is an excellent bit of news. And remember – get your own 30-year fixed rate mortgage as soon as you can at these rates, which likely will increase in coming years. We will discuss this and much more at our quarterly 1-Day Real Estate Expo Saturday June 14th near SFO. Please see more details and to register, click here.Looking forward to seeing you!
U.S. Backs Off Tight Mortgage Rules
In Reversal, Administration and Fannie, Freddie Regulator Push to Make More Credit Available to Boost Housing Recovery
By Nick Timiraos and Deborah Solomon
The Obama administration and federal regulators are reversing course on some of the biggest post-crisis efforts to tighten mortgage-lending standards amid concern they could snuff out the fledgling housing rebound and dent the economic recovery. Nick Timiraos reports.
WASHINGTON—The Obama administration and federal regulators are reversing course on some of the biggest post crisis efforts to tighten mortgage-lending standards amid concern they could snuff out the fledgling housing rebound and dent the economic recovery.
Click here for the rest of the article.
This movement plays right into our investment emphasis and is encouraging to see. We will discuss this trend and many more pertinent issues during our 1-Day Expo Saturday June 14th near the San Francisco Airport (click here to register.) We will have expert lectures on asset preservation, general financial planning and non-recourse IRA loans for houses. Our ICG Real Estate Investors team from the top real estate markets in the nation will be present all day providing learning tools and networking opportunities.
Below is the entire Wall Street Journal article:
In April last year, the couple rented out the condo and moved to Deerfield, a Chicago suburb. Having sold the condo a week ago, they plan to buy a home later this year. They got $14,000 more for the condo than they would have if they had sold earlier, Ms. Dorr said. “It made sense to wait,” she added.
Overall, cities are still growing slightly faster than the suburbs—a historical anomaly after decades of American migration to the burbs. Some of the growth has been fueled by younger Americans and retirees preferring city life, either for life-style reasons or to downsize their living arrangements.
Cities in metro areas greater than 1 million people grew at a 1.02% annual rate in 2012-2013, down from 1.13% in 2011-12, according to Mr. Frey’s analysis. Suburban areas, by contrast, grew at a rate of 0.96%, roughly on par with the 0.95% the prior year, Mr. Frey’s analysis shows.
The slowing growth in these urban cores and the increasing gains in the suburbs may be the first indication of a return to more traditional patterns of city-suburban growth,” said Ken Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire.
Write to Neil Shah at firstname.lastname@example.org