Sales of existing homes skyrocketed a whopping 11.8 percent in February compared with January, according to the National Association of Realtors. That is the largest monthly jump ever, with the exception of a change in mortgage policy in 2015 that temporarily skewed the data.
Realtors pointed squarely to dropping mortgage rates and home prices for the increase in demand.
“Consumers are very sensitive to mortgage rates, at least that’s what we are finding out. So as mortgage rate began to drop, there was evidently a strong pent-up demand,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors.
At the start of last year, housing demand was robust and rates relatively low, with the average rate on the popular 30-year fixed right around 4 percent, according to Mortgage News Daily. That caused a frenzy in buying through the spring. But with supply remaining tight, prices overheated.
By summer, those prices were moving out of reach, especially as interest rates began rising. By November, the average rate on the 30-year fixed had spiked over 5 percent, and home sales plummeted.
Mortgage rates then began falling in December and moved decidedly lower in January to around 4.5 percent, causing the renewed interest in buyer demand. More consumers now believe it is a good time to buy a home and more believe the economy is improving, according to a sentiment survey by the Realtors in the first quarter of this year.
Sales of existing homes skyrocketed a whopping 11.8 percent in February compared with January, according to the National Association of Realtors.
That is the largest monthly jump ever, with the exception of a change in mortgage policy in 2015 that artificially pushed one month’s sales into the next month.
Home prices have been moderating for months and were up just 3.2 percent in February, the smallest annual gain in a few year.
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Created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, opportunity zones are new territory for real estate investors. Peter Muoio, executive vice president and chief economist at Ten-X Commercial, an online transaction platform for commercial real estate, says opportunity zones are on track to be the hottest trend in commercial real estate for 2019. “With valuations at cycle highs and fundamentals waning, the tax incentivesoffered by these programs are massively attractive, especially as not all of these zones are created equal,” Muoio says, acknowledging numerous cities may prove to be diamonds in the rough. As capital flows in, certain submarkets could see increased volume, and “increased liquidity is a positive for the commercial real estate environment.”
New construction gets pricier.
Construction prices inched up 0.5 percent in October, reflecting a 7.9 percent increase year-over-year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Producer Price Index. That’s something investors should be watching closely in the year ahead, says Lee Roberts, managing partner of SharpVue Capital in Raleigh, North Carolina. “In addition to supply-demand factors, there is a large policy component to this,” Roberts says. “Not only are interest rates being driven higher by the Fed, but materials costs are being affected in part by trade policy, while labor costs are moving higher in part due to immigration policy.”
Build-to-rent gains momentum.
Build-to-rent is a relatively new trend, says George Maravilla, vice president at Tower Capital in Phoenix, but poised to expand. “These newly built and to-be-built rental communities have a lot of the conveniences and amenities of an apartment but feel more like a home,” Maravilla says, and as more developers move into this space it’s likely to join the mainstream of CRE asset classes. Build-to-rent communities are designed to fit the privacy and affordability needs of younger buyers shopping for a mortgage loan and boomers looking to downsize. Maravilla says build-to-rent represents a new frontier for investors with a pioneer mindset looking to diversify into non-traditional housing.
Real estate investment trends you can expect in 2019