From Fox News:

Spring home buying season shows ‘steady demand’ as mortgage rates slip for second week

The spring home buying season is showing “steady demand” as mortgage rates slip for a second week in a row. 

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve raised its key interest rate by a quarter-percentage point and signaled that it could soon pause the increases amid the worst banking crisis since 2008.

Despite the Fed’s announcement this week, Redfin says its overall housing-market outlook for this spring hasn’t wavered. 

“Mortgage rates are likely to temporarily decline but not plummet, and demand is likely to swing up and down based on fluctuations in rates and availability of homes on the market,” the real estate brokerage reported.

Over the past week, in particular, demand increased as the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate slipped to 6.42% as of March 23, down from 6.6% a week prior, according to mortgage buyer Freddie Mac. As a result, the typical U.S. homebuyer’s monthly housing payment was pulled down from its peak two weeks ago, according to Redfin. 

Redfin also noted that mortgage-purchase applications are up 17% from a month ago and the number of homebuyers contacting Redfin agents for tours also rose this week. 

The issue, though, is that there is still a tight supply of homes given that “sellers are typically slower to return than buyers,” according to the brokerage. 

New listings during the four weeks ending March 19 fell 22% compared to a year earlier, marking “one of the biggest declines since the housing market nearly ground to a halt in the beginning of the pandemic.” 

On top of that, Redfin projected that competition could increase further as we get deeper into spring as long as rates stay closer to 6% than 7%. 

Posted in Housing Bubble, Mortgages, National Real Estate | 108 Comments

NJ adds 4,600 jobs in Feb

From the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development:

NJ’s Strong Labor Market Continues in February

New Jersey continued to experience a strong labor market, preliminary estimates produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show, with 4,600 nonfarm jobs added in February to a seasonally adjusted level of 4,321,400.

According to the estimates, the state’s private sector added 3,600 jobs, and the unemployment rate increased by 0.1 percentage point to 3.5 percent.

New Jersey has added 105,400 jobs over the past year.

January employment estimates were revised downward by 4,800 to a total gain of 19,400 jobs. The January unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.4 percent.

In February, four out of nine major private industry sectors experienced job growth. Sectors that recorded employment increases were education and health services (+3,500), professional and business services (+2,600), manufacturing (+600), and financial activities (+100). Sectors that recorded a loss were leisure and hospitality (-1,600), other services (-900), trade, transportation, and utilities (-500), and information (-100). Construction had no change. Month-over-month, the state’s public sector increased by 1,000 jobs.

Between February 2022 and February 2023, preliminary estimates show that job growth in New Jersey was broad based, with all nine major private industry sectors recording job gains. In descending order, these industries are education and health services (+47,700), leisure and hospitality (+22,800), trade, transportation, and utilities (+8,400), manufacturing (+6,600), other services (+5,500), professional and business services (+4,100), information (+2,700), financial activities (+2,400), and construction (+1,200). Year-over-year, the state’s public sector added 4,000 jobs.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, New Jersey Real Estate | 116 Comments

Don’t sell, rent.

From Fortune:

Homeowners who held onto a 3% mortgage rate are becoming ‘accidental landlords’

The era of lower-than-ever mortgage rates is long gone, and it’s been replaced with rates hovering around 7%. But homeowners who locked in lower ratesbefore or during the Pandemic Housing Boom aren’t selling. In fact, some of them are becoming “accidental landlords,” simply because they don’t want to lose their low rates of the past. 

That being said, the so-called lock-in effect is putting pressure on both sides of the market. There aren’t as many buyers looking for new digs and not as many sellers looking to move up or downsize, if they’ll get stuck with a mortgage rate more than twice as high as their old one.

Redfin’s chief economist Daryl Fairweather told Fortune that high rates are constricting activity. “They’re looking at their monthly payment, which is quite low if they locked in a 3% mortgage rate compared to what their monthly payment would be if they sold and bought again, which would be quite high given how high mortgage rates are,” Fairweather said“And it just makes a lot of sense for them to hold on to that low interest rate.”

Although rates are down from their 7.37% peak, the 30-year fixed mortgage ratecame in at 6.57% on Monday. According to Goldman Sachs, 99% of borrowers have a mortgage rate lower than the current market rate. 

So if you took on a $700,000 mortgage with a 7% rate, your total monthly payment would be $4,657. But with the same size loan at a 4% rate, your monthly payment would be $3,342. Let’s say it’s a 3% rate with the same size loan, your monthly payment would be $2,951. It’s the golden-handcuffs of mortgage rates, and it’s keeping homeowners with low rates from selling and turning some into landlords.

Fairweather said there’s both anecdotal evidence and data showing that homeowners are holding on tight to their low rates. For example, new listings of homes for sale fell 21.7% year-over-year for the four-week period ending March 5, making it the biggest decline in two months, according to Redfin. In the same period, the biggest declines were seen in Sacramento (at -45.6%), Oakland (-44.5%), Portland (-42.3%), San Jose (-42.1%), and Seattle (-41.2%). 

Michael Zuber, author of One Rental at a Time and former tech worker turned real estate investortold Fortune that a 30-year fixed mortgage at a rate of 3% is without question one of the best assets most homeowners will ever have. 

“They shouldn’t sell, they should rent it out,” Zuber said, adding that several people on Twitter have told him they’re making around $1,000 a month after expenses from doing exactly that, sarcastically adding that the prospect of that “doesn’t suck.” 

Posted in Economics, Housing Bubble, Mortgages, National Real Estate | 140 Comments

NAR: First price decline in 11 years

From CNBC:

Home sales spike 14.5% in February as the median price drops for the first time in over a decade

Sales of previously owned homes rose 14.5% in February compared with January, according to a seasonally adjusted count by the National Association of Realtors. That put sales at an annualized rate of 4.58 million units.

It was the first monthly gain in 12 months and the largest increase since July 2020, just after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Sales were, however, 22.6% lower than they were in February of last year.

These sales counts are based on closings, so the contracts were likely signed at the end of December and throughout January, when mortgage rates had fallen sharply. The average rate on the popular 30-year fixed loan hovered in the low 6% range throughout January after reaching a high of 7% last fall.

Higher mortgage rates have been cooling home prices since last summer, and for the first time in a record 131 consecutive months — nearly 11 years — prices were lower on a year-over-year comparison. The median price of an existing home sold in February was $363,000, a 0.2% decline from February 2022.

That lower median price could be a sign that homes on the more affordable end of the market are selling.

Sales might have been even higher were it not for what is still very low supply. There were just 980,000 homes for sale at the end of February, according to the Realtors, flat compared with January. At the current sales pace, that represents a 2.6-month supply. A balanced market between buyer and seller is considered a 4- to 6-month supply.

“Inventory levels are still at historic lows,” Yun added. “Consequently, multiple offers are returning on a good number of properties.”

This could start to heat prices again, but with mortgage rates now higher than they were in January it will be harder for some buyers to compete.

All-cash sales accounted for 28% of transactions in February, down from 29% in January but up from 25% in February 2022. Individual investors returned, making up 18% of buyers, up from 16% in January but down from 19% in February 2022.

When looking at sales at different price points, they were all down in the range of 20% from February last year, with sales down the most in the top, million-dollar-plus segment.

Posted in Economics, Housing Bubble, Mortgages, National Real Estate | 93 Comments

Fed to take a breather?

From the Hill:

Goldman Sachs expects pause in Fed’s interest rate hikes

Analysts at Goldman Sachs expect the Federal Reserve to pause its interest rate hikes this week, citing concerns about uncertainty in the global financial system spurred by a string of destabilizing bank failures.

The Fed has been on a path of monetary tightening as it continues its fight against inflation, and it was expected to raise rates by another 0.25 percentage points at its upcoming policy meeting March 21-22. But bank failures, like the fall of Silicon Valley Bank, have put immediate tightening on a possible halt.

“We expect the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) to pause at its March meeting this week because of stress in the banking system,” Goldman economists, led by Jan Hatzius, said in a analysis.

“While policymakers have responded aggressively to shore up the financial system, markets appear to be less than fully convinced that efforts to support small and midsize banks will prove sufficient.”

Goldman economists argued that not raising rates at the end of this month would only be a “pause” in the fight against inflation, saying the Fed will still be able to reach its long-term goals related to inflation if it does not increase interest rates immediately.

“This would mean taking a pause in the inflation fight, but that should not be such a problem. Bringing inflation back to 2% is a medium-term goal, which the FOMC expects to solve only gradually over the next two years,” the economists said. “The FOMC can get back on track quickly if appropriate, and the banking stress could have disinflationary effects.”

Posted in General | 109 Comments

And then there were 3

From CNN:

UBS is buying Credit Suisse in bid to halt banking crisis

Switzerland’s biggest bank, UBS, has agreed to buy its ailing rival Credit Suisse in an emergency rescue deal aimed at stemming financial market panic unleashed by the failure of two American banks earlier this month. 

“UBS today announced the takeover of Credit Suisse,” the Swiss National Bank said in a statement Sunday. It said the rescue would “secure financial stability and protect the Swiss economy.”

UBS is paying 3 billion Swiss francs ($3.25 billion) for Credit Suisse, about 60% less than the bank was worth when markets closed on Friday. Credit Suisse shareholders will be largely wiped out, receiving the equivalent of just 0.76 Swiss francs in UBS shares for stock that was worth 1.86 Swiss francs on Friday. Owners of $17 billion worth of “additional tier one” bonds — a riskier class of bank debt — will lose everything, Swiss regulators said.

Extraordinarily, the deal will not need the approval of shareholders after the Swiss government agreed to change the law to remove any uncertainty about the deal.

Credit Suisse (CS) had been losing the trust of investors and customers for years. In 2022, it recorded its worst loss since the global financial crisis. But confidence collapsed last week after it acknowledged “material weakness” in its bookkeeping and as the demise of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank spread fear about weaker institutions at a time when soaring interest rates have undermined the value of some financial assets.

Shares in the 167-year-old bank fell 25% over the week, money poured from investment funds it manages and at one point account holders were withdrawing deposits of more than $10 billion per day, the Financial Times reported. An emergency loan of nearly $54 billion from the Swiss National Bank failed to stop the bleeding. 

But it did “build a bridge” to the weekend, to allow the rescue to be pieced together, Swiss officials said Sunday night. 

“This acquisition is attractive for UBS shareholders but, let us be clear, as far as Credit Suisse is concerned, this is an emergency rescue,” UBS chairman Colm Kelleher told reporters.

“It is absolutely essential to the financial structure of Switzerland and … to global finance,” he told reporters.

Posted in Crisis | 53 Comments

Pandemic boomtowns get crushed

From the Real Deal:

US home prices drop annually for first time in 12 years

How long has it been since the median U.S home price fell year-over-year?

Hint: Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” was the top song, Superstorm Sandy caused more than $60 billion in damage and mass shootings in Connecticut and Colorado traumatized America.

The answer is 2012 — or was, until last month, when the median sale price dropped 1 percent from February 2022 to $386,700, according to Redfin.

“Buyers are struggling because higher interest rates have increased the cost of homeownership, and sellers are struggling because they’re still adjusting to the fact that their home won’t sell for what their neighbor’s did a year ago,” Redfin agent Andrew Vallejo said in a press release.

Austin’s price plunge can be explained by a nation-leading increase in supply, as active listings in the Texas tech hub were 79 percent more numerous last month than they were a year before. Nashville (up 72 percent), Fort Worth (69 percent) and Tampa (63 percent) also had big inventory jumps.

The number of sales in February fell 44 percent in Miami from a year earlier, more than in any other metro area that Redfin analyzed. New York was second worst with a 40 percent drop, followed by San Jose and Baton Rouge at 38%, and Long Island at 37.

The smallest drops in closed sales were in Dallas (-1 percent), Richmond (-8 percent) and Fort Worth (-10 percent).

The price and sales data are a lagging indicator, as they reflect contracts largely signed in December and January.

Redfin noted that the biggest drops in prices and sales were inexpensive coastal markets and pandemic boomtowns. They were the most stable in affordable areas; Pittsburgh, Oklahoma City and Cleveland. 

Posted in Economics, Housing Bubble, National Real Estate | 77 Comments

Can’t buy? Just rent!

From the NY Post – Hat Tip ChiFi:

North Jersey beats out NYC for the hottest rental market in the US

As interest rates remain high to combat languishing inflation, warding off potential home buyers, the rental market has been very competitive. 

And while New York City’s Manhattan and Brooklyn boroughs have seen the biggest leaps in competitiveness, neighboring North Jersey is now considered the most aggressive market for renters in the nation, according to a new study. 

Data from RentCafe’s newest Rental Competitivity Report shows that North New Jersey — which makes up Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Passaic counties in the city suburbs — earned the top spot for rental demand.

The study found that those North Jersey areas — which comprise Jersey City, Hoboken, East Orange and Hackensack — are twice as competitive as Manhattan due to a drastic housing shortage.

Specifically, an influx of renters is pushing occupancy close to 97%.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, New Jersey Real Estate | 93 Comments

NJ – The Independent State

From WalletHub:

2023’s Most & Least Federally Dependent States

RankStateTotal ScoreState Residents’ DependencyState Government’s Dependency
2West Virginia76.0219
5New Mexico69.73217
7South Carolina59.86627
11North Dakota55.91435
15South Dakota52.22294
21Rhode Island39.653113
23New Hampshire37.394114
37North Carolina28.433733
39New York27.274429
50New Jersey8.414949
Posted in Economics, Politics | 124 Comments

Post Pandemic Job Recovery

From the State of NJ:

Updated Labor Data: New Jersey Experienced Higher Employment Growth Over Past 2 Years Than First Reported

TRENTON – The state’s job market performed better than initially estimated over the past two years, with 34,000 additional jobs gained, according to updated data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The information also shows the Garden State’s employment recovery from the pandemic occurred months earlier than first reported.

The BLS’s benchmark process, a required annual review and adjustment of previously released employment data at the state and metropolitan area levels, adjusts monthly, sample-based survey estimates to full-universe counts of employment, primarily derived from records of the unemployment insurance tax system.

The annual benchmarking adjustments indicate that the over-the-year (Dec. 2021 – Dec. 2022) change in total nonfarm jobs was revised to a gain of 129,700, a smaller increase from the previously reported gain of 148,900. However, including higher revisions made for 2021, the two-year job gain now stands at 395,300 – 34,000 more jobs than originally estimated.

Benchmarked data also revised employment losses due to the pandemic. The revisions show that in March and April 2020, New Jersey lost a total of 730,200 nonfarm jobs, or 17.3 percent of the state’s nonfarm employment total in February 2020. Previous estimates had shown 732,600 jobs lost. Revisions also indicate the total nonfarm employment recovery back to February 2020 levels occurred earlier than previously estimated. The payroll gain was fully realized in April 2022 – rather than in August 2022.

The revised data show that over the December 2021 – December 2022 period, all nine major private industry sectors added to their payrolls. The year-over-year gains were led by education and health services (+41,400), trade, transportation, and utilities (+29,200), leisure and hospitality (+26,900), other services (+9,300), professional and business services (+7,100), manufacturing (+6,700), information (+4,700), financial activities (+2,400), and construction (+1,800). Public sector employment was essentially flat, recording a year-over-year gain of just 100 jobs.

Labor force estimates for New Jersey residents were also revised. The average annual unemployment rate was 3.7 percent for 2022, a decline from 6.6 percent in 2021, and just one-tenth of a percentage point above the 2022 national rate of 3.6 percent. 

Posted in Economics, Employment, New Jersey Real Estate | 114 Comments

Mortgage rates drop

From CNBC:

Mortgage rates tumble in the wake of bank failures

The average rate on the popular 30-year fixed mortgage dropped to 6.57% on Monday, according to Mortgage News Daily. That’s down from a rate of 6.76% on Friday and a recent high of 7.05% last Wednesday.

Mortgage rates loosely follow the yield on the 10-year Treasury, which fell to a one-month low in response to the failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank and the ensuing ripple through the nation’s banking sector.

In real terms, for a buyer looking at a $500,000 home with a 20% down payment on a 30-year fixed mortgage, the monthly payment this week is $128 less than it was just last week. It is still, however, higher than it was in January.

So what does this mean for the spring housing market?

In October, rates surged over 7%, and that started the real slowdown in home sales. But rates then started falling in December and were near 6% by the end of January. That caused a surprising 8% monthly jump in pending home sales,which is the National Association of Realtors’ measure of signed contracts on existing homes. Sales of newly built homes, which the Census Bureau measures by signed contracts, also surged far higher than expected.

While the numbers for February are not in yet, anecdotally, agents and builders have said sales took a big step back in February as rates shot higher. So if rates continue to drop now, buyers could return once again — but that’s a big “if.”

Posted in Economics, Housing Recovery, Mortgages, National Real Estate | 115 Comments

The bailout that’s not a bailout…

From CNBC:

Bill Ackman says U.S. did the ‘right thing’ in protecting SVB depositors. Not everyone agrees

Billionaire investor Bill Ackman said the U.S. government’s action to protect depositors after the implosion of Silicon Valley Bank is “not a bailout” and helps restore confidence in the banking system.

In his latest tweet on SVB’s collapse, the hedge fund investor said the U.S. government did the “right thing.”

“This was not a bailout in any form. The people who screwed up will bear the consequences,” wrote the CEO of Pershing Square. “Importantly, our gov’t has sent a message that depositors can trust the banking system.”

Ackman’s comments came after banking regulators announced plans over the weekend to backstop depositors with money at Silicon Valley Bank, which was shut down on Friday after a bank run.

“Without this confidence, we are left with three or possibly four too-big-to-fail banks where the taxpayer is explicitly on the hook, and our national system of community and regional banks is toast,” Ackman added.

Ackman further explained that in this incident, shareholders and bondholders of the banks will be mainly the ones affected, and the losses will be absorbed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s (FDIC) insurance fund.

This is in contrast to the great financial crisis in 2007-2008, where the U.S. government injected taxpayers’ money in the form of preferred stock into banks, and bondholders were protected.

Posted in Economics, Politics, Risky Lending | 155 Comments

The old NAR is back..

From Insider:

A top real estate economist explains why a housing rebound is coming as rising sales and lack of supply look poised to lift home prices

While some experts have warned of an impending US housing crash, Nadia Evangelou, senior economist and director of research at the National Association of Realtors, anticipates the opposite.

Home prices and sales will dip this year, but she anticipates a rebound in 2024 with sales rising and limited supplies sparking price gains.

“It seems that home sales activity has bottomed out, and 2023 will be the turning point for the housing market,” Evangelou told Insider. “We don’t expect any housing crash.”

In fact, some indicators are already turning positive. The NAR’s pending home sales index has ticked higher for two consecutive months and saw its largest monthly increase since June 2020.

The real estate economist said the US continues to suffer from a severe housing shortage, which has persisted for over a decade coming out of the Great Financial Crisis

“Back in 2008, we had an oversupply of homes by like 4 million, but now we have less than 1 million,” Evangelou said. “And this is the main factor that keeps home prices from falling.”

On the demand side, she said it will stay elevated, helped by the robust labor market. So even though there are relatively few buyers now amid low inventory, housing demand continues to outpace supply, Evangelou said.

While higher interest rate expectations are weighing on homebuying activity, Evangelou anticipates the trend to ease in the latter half of this year.

NAR forecasts that there could be up to an 11% drop in home sales this year. Then in 2024, activity could jump by about 18%, she said. 

Similarly, home prices should drop about 2% this year, then rise about 3% to 4% next year, she added. That’s much more upbeat than other forecasts.

Posted in Economics, Housing Bubble, National Real Estate | 82 Comments

Suck it up

From the Record:

Is $500K the new $300K? What you’ll pay for a starter home in North Jersey

Newlyweds Joseph and Cheryl Petta just wanted to buy their first home in North Jersey.

It was a disheartening year and a half of house-hunting. Rockaway, West Milford, Midland Park, Wharton. They looked everywhere.

“We’ve looked close to 50, maybe more houses, and we made a couple offers on a couple houses, and we’ve gotten blown out of the water every time,” said Joseph Petta. “Not even considered.”

The Pettas budget is in the $400,000 range, and with uncertainty about how a recession could affect housing prices, they’re hesitant to go too far beyond that.

They may get shut out. Peruse Zillow, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a starter home listed below $500,000. 

It’s the new trend: $500,000 is the new $300,000 — what was once the typical asking price for a starter home before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This is definitely happening over the years, and obviously with Covid, back in 2020, when prices just skyrocketed,” said Andrew Gangi, a Woodcliff Lake realtor that serves the Pascack Valley region. “It just raised the prices of everything.” 

Added Steven Pescatore, a Wayne realtor, “it’s a lot harder for young people to get a starter home. Even if they’re looking for a condo, there’s not really a lot available. It used to be you get a nice condo for $150,000, $200,000, now it’s $350,000, $400,000.” 

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Housing Bubble, New Jersey Real Estate | 197 Comments

Welcome to the Top 10

From CoreLogic:

US Home Price Insights – March 2023

January 2023 National Home Prices

Home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased year over year by 5.5% in January 2023 compared with January 2022. On a month-over-month basis, home prices declined by 0.2% in January  2023 compared with December 2022 (revisions with public records data are standard, and to ensure accuracy, CoreLogic incorporates the newly released public data to provide updated results).

Forecast Prices Nationally

The CoreLogic HPI Forecast indicates that home prices will decrease on a month-over-month basis  by 0.1% from January 2023 to February 2023 and increase on a year-over-year basis by 3.1% from January 2023 to January 2024.

Home Prices Decline in Three Western States and Washington, D.C. From January 2022

U.S. home prices continued their gradual free fall in January, with the 5.5% annual gain down for the ninth straight month and the lowest recorded since June 2020. Deceleration was particularly noticeable in the Western U.S. and other states and metro areas that saw substantial appreciation over the past few years. Three Northwestern states (along with Washington, D.C.) posted at least slight annual declines as migration patterns that began during the pandemic shifted, slowing demand and driving price decreases.

Posted in Economics, Housing Bubble, National Real Estate, New Jersey Real Estate | 110 Comments