Home Buyers Interested in Down Payment More Than Rates

lower down payment Changes in down payment requirements have more influence over home buyers’ willingness to buy than changes in mortgage rates, according to a new study published by economists at the New York Federal Reserve.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Survey of Consumer Expectations found evidence that buyers and renters impact of interest rates is highly overrated compared to the impact of even small changes in down payment requirements. The study found that decreasing the required down payment from 20% to 5% increases the willingness to purchase on the average about 15% among all buyers and 40% among renters.  Decreasing interest rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, though it would save the buyer much more than the lower down payment, raised the willingness to purchase a home by only 5% on average.

A key takeaway is that the effect of a change in down payment requirements on housing demand strongly depends on households’ financial situation. For instance, a loosening of down payment requirements will have little effect on the willingness to purchase for a new home of current owners with substantial equity, or of renters with substantial liquid savings.  The results also imply that macroprudential measures such as a loan-to-value (LTV) cap may predominantly affect the lower end of the housing market, and that the effect on house prices will depend on the state of the economy and other asset markets,” said economists Andreas Fuster and Basit Zafar of the New York Federal Reserve.

Wealthy Chinese Flood Market With Special Federal Program

chinese real estate investorsThe Chinese are coming here with their money, and, often, with their families. Rather than seeing China as the land of opportunity, more Chinese have been establishing homes in America, particularly in California, where they account for roughly one-third of foreign homebuyers, with upward of 70 percent paying cash. Overall Chinese investment in U.S. real estate has grown from $50 million in 2000 to $14 billion in 2013, surpassing all other foreign investors.

Chinese are buying U.S. homes and investing in U.S. mega-developments. Chinese home shoppers spent $28.6 billion on U.S. homes in the year ending in March, double the amount two years earlier, the National Association of Realtors reported. At least $10 billion of that went to buying homes in California.

In addition, Chinese citizens seeking green cards are a growing source of cash for housing and commercial developments under a federal program known as EB-5. The program allows foreign investors to get permanent U.S. residency for themselves, their spouse and children under 21 if they invest enough to create at least 10 jobs here. EB-5 investors in 2014 claimed the full 10,000-visa allotment by August. This year’s allotment was gone by May. More than 80 percent of the visas are going to Chinese citizens.

Since most foreign investors don’t have the ability to create their own businesses, designated organizations pool cash from multiple investors, funneling the money into job-creating development projects. Minimum investments range from $500,000 to $1 million. The most recent data available shows EB-5 investments totaled almost $2 billion in 2013, of which $317 million was spent in residential and commercial real estate development, according to Invest in the USA, an industry trade group.

EB-5 spending in the county, totaled $25.1 million in 2013, up from $2.1 million, Invest in the USA reported. “It’s very hard to get residency here. EB-5 is a foolproof way,” Fieldstone said. EB-5 money also is helping to finance the Hunters Point Shipyard and Treasure Island projects, two San Francisco housing developments managed by Orange County-based FivePoint Communities, he said.

5 Reasons to Buy a House Now

best-time-to-buy-a-homeThe down payment, interest rate, economic factors, qualification variables can be so confusing. Rising rates, loosening requirements, down payment options, buyer’s market, seller’s market. What does it all mean for you if you want to buy a home? The truth is that while the banks might have a magical formula to determine your mortgage worthiness, determining if the time is right really comes down to three main questions:

Do you want to buy a home?
Are you financially prepared?
Is your credit where it needs to be?

If your answer is yes, then you should take that leap of faith and go for it. Here are six reasons to do it now.

1. Prices are good. In most regional markets, home prices are still gaining, but have slowed. This is good news if you were afraid that big price gains would put homeownership out of reach and also bodes well for your long-term equity once you purchase. Attempting to buy a home when the market is at its lowest point—or to sell at the peak—is tricky. Like trying to time the stock market. ,you might get lucky one or two times, but overall, timing the market does not work. It is all about purchasing power, and that’s a reflection of price and interest rates, which will both be higher in the future.”

2. Rates are low. Mortgage interest rates are still low—for now. A 30-year-fixed-rate loan now averages 4.16%, according to Freddie Mac, but many economists believe we will see 5% rates next year. As interest rates increase, so do your monthly payments. Imagine the unthinkable. paying over 18% interest on a 30-year fixed mortgage.  That was the reality for home buyers in October 1981. The average rate has been 5.18% since the start of this country’s history,” making today’s rates, which hover around historic lows at 4%, sound even better.

3. Loan requirements are softening. It is not quite the look-the-other-way-and-stamp-it-approved levels of 2008, but the overly tough restrictions that followed have loosened. Major lenders are making adjustments, and lowering the minimum FICO score for borrowers applying for loans. You can look to banks that have lowered loan-to-value standards in certain markets for both jumbos and conforming mortgages. For buyers that can mean an easier road to loan approval, even without a ton of money upfront and perfect credit.

4. Fewer buyers around the holidays means less competition. Sellers that are actively looking to sell their homes during the holiday months — namely, October through December — are serious about shedding their residences. This often works in favor of savvy buyers looking to get favorable terms on an aquisition. Having less competition on the buyer’s side can mean lower prices on homes, in addition to fewer counter-offers to compete against.

5. It’s time to move on with your life. The ‘cost’ of a home is determined by two major components: the price of the home and the current mortgage rate. It appears that both are on the rise. But, what if they weren’t? Would you wait? Look at the actual reason you are buying and decide whether it is worth waiting. Whether you want to have a great place for your children to grow up, you want your family to be safer or you just want to have control over renovations, maybe it is time to buy.

If the right thing for you and your family is to purchase a home this year, buying sooner rather than later could lead to substantial savings.

Luxury Real Estate is Leading the Recovery

luxury real estate salesWhen real estate values dropped during the downturn and other investments lost their luster, luxury residences really became an investment focus and became a portfolio as much as a lifestyle purchase.

The luxury market has been leading the recovery for about two years. The pause button might have been hit on home sales this year, but the luxury market is keeping pace.  Sales of the priciest 1% of homes in the U.S. are up 21.1% so far this year, following a gain of 35.7% in 2013. For the rest of the market, sales have dropped 7.6% since the start of the new year. There are currently more than 9 million millionaires in the U.S., according to Millionaire Corner Affluent Market Insightsand they’re spending. According to the National Association of Realtors, sales of homes costing $1 million or above increased 7.8% in March from the same period a year ago. During that same time, homes costing $250,000 or less dropped 12%

There are many factors stimulating the growth of the top sector of the real estate market. First of all, the wealthy are opting to invest in fewer stocks due to the volatility of the European markets. Instead, they are taking advantage of historically low mortgage rates and investing in real estate assets. Foreign buyers from Asia, Russia and Latin America are also contributing to the decreased inventory of real estate in the most sought after U.S. neighborhoods.

While it seems wealthy individuals are comfortable with the economic recovery and spending money again, that doesn’t mean they’ve totally forgotten about the housing bubble burst.  When it comes to luxury home purchases, it’s not all about the McMansions. Many high-income buyers are not actually downsizing, but moving to big cities like New York and Los Angeles—the top two luxury markets in the U.S.

When it comes to buying a home with a seven-figure price tag, here’s what  buyers are demanding:

Décor that Tells a Story. Owners want to be able to tell their guests stories about a home’s features. It’s like luxury travel; it’s all about the experience. They want their home to have a story.

Not Your Average Amenities. People paying top dollar want all the bells and whistles from their homes

Outdoor Living Space. Not only do these buyers want a big back yard that they can landscape and entertain in, they also want to be able to cook outdoors. Affluent homeowners want outdoor space that offers room for multiple gardens, swimming pools, and maybe even a putting green.

Every Chef’s Dream Kitchen. According to Leslie Piper, consumer housing specialist at realtor.com, 54% of luxury buyers identify a chef’s kitchen as their top feature when house hunting.

Green for Green. Expert says wealthy homeowners want properties that have environmentally-friendly appliances and features–and are willing to pay extra for them.

Wine Cellar. Move over wine fridge, luxury homeowners want a wine cellar that allows for both case and bottle storage.

Home Buying Season Shaping Up

imagesPP39YVA8The majority of housing markets are entering the 2014 home buying season in significantly better shape than they were one year ago.  The outlook for a more abundant, more affordable selection of homes for sale this spring improved considerably in February.  This is signaling growing seller optimism and a strong, early start to the spring home-buying season. Sellers in most markets are responding to the price increases of the past year, suggesting they are increasingly optimistic about the housing recovery and the underlying strength of market demand through 2014, according to the latest February data from realor.com.

While February inventories remain low by historic standards, following seasonal patterns, they will probably continue grow over the next two months with the coming of spring. With the spring buying season around the corner, inventories of new listings are growing. Despite the increase in inventory, the median list price jumped by more than 2 percent in February. These list price increases are another sign of seller confidence going into the selling season as sellers price their homes in anticipation of market conditions in the coming months.

There are positive signs that the market is more balanced and that we will not see a repeat of last year’s overheated markets, soaring prices and multiple bid situations. On a year-over-year basis, the median list price and the size of the for-sale inventory were up by 7.57% and 10.14 percent, respectively. Record low inventories last January set the stage for a selling season featuring soaring prices, bidding wars and the outbreak of price bubbles in several California markets. The improved conditions for sellers prompted many to list their homes, but not enough to measurable improve the inventory picture as real estate markets go into hibernation to prepare for the 2014 season.

Home Buyers Planning Moves This Winter

Buying-a-HomeHome buyers unable to find a home earlier this year due to limited inventories and competition from all-cash offers are looking to retry their luck in the winter, according to realtor.com®’s Winter Home Buyer Report. “This summer and spring, home-buying season was particularly challenging for buyers, especially first-time home buyers trying to compete with all-cash offers and bidding wars because of reduced inventory,” says Alison Schwartz, vice president of corporate communications at realtor.com®. Consumers looking to buy a home during the winter months told realtor.com that lingering conditions from the past home-buying season, including inventory challenges and all-cash offers, continue to set the tone for them as they enter the winter season. But winter home buyers know they’ll face some challenges. Forty-five percent of those surveyed say they believe they will be up against inventory challenges again, with few homes for sale within the price range they desire. Twenty-nine percent also say that winter weather makes house-hunting unpleasant. While the majority of winter home buyers describe themselves as relocation buyers, downsizers are also a large portion of those looking to buy a house in the next four months, according to the report. There are advantages to looking for a home in the winter, Motivated sellers, better prices and less competition between buyers are some of the top reasons winter home buyers are interested in purchasing a home. Of those looking to buy this winter, 23 percent are planning to make a down payment of 10 to 20 percent, according to the realtor.com® survey. Twenty-two percent are planning to put down 21 to 99 percent in cash; 19 percent plan to put down 100 percent cash; and 13 percent are planning to make a down payment of 3.5 percent to qualify for a Federal Housing Administration loan.