There’s no relief in sight for high borrowing costs as interest rate cuts are pushed further into the distance. Still, a surge in housing inventory could give buyers more options, Fannie Mae said in a report.

Mortgage rates have ticked above 7% in recent weeks and that, combined with high home prices, has rendered housing unaffordable for many. Fannie Mae is still forecasting for mortgage rates to decrease later this year to 6.6%, but borrowing costs will only drop meaningfully once the Fed dials back interest rates. That won’t come until the central bank is confident that inflation will reach a 2% target rate. 

The inflation data registered this year has been higher than the Fed expected. The latest reading of the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, excluding food and energy prices—a key metric the Federal Reserve tracks to measure inflation—increased by 3.7% after rising to 2% in the fourth quarter, raising concerns that inflation may be headed in the wrong direction. Fannie Mae has readjusted its expectations on inflation and now expects the Consumer Price Index to end 2024 at a 3.1% annual rate, compared to the previously projected 2.5%.   

“While we still expect economic growth and inflation to moderate going forward – and, thus, for mortgage rates to drift downward – interest rates existing in a ‘higher for longer’ state seems to be an increasingly real possibility in the eyes of market participants, as well as some homebuyers and sellers,” Fannie Mae Vice President, Economic and Strategic Research Hamilton Fout said. “While we’ve recently seen evidence that some potential home sellers are becoming more acclimated to the higher mortgage rate environment and putting their homes on the market, the recent move upward in rates is yet another headwind to the recovery of home sales, and it intensifies long-standing affordability challenges for consumers.”

The silver lining for the housing market is that supply is expected to build as home sales lag, which “should help gradually thaw housing inventory and contribute to decelerating home price growth,” Fannie Mae said. 

Homebuyers can find the best mortgage rate by shopping around and comparing your options. You can visit an online marketplace like Credible to compare rates, choose your loan term and get preapproved with multiple lenders at once.

SOCIAL SECURITY: COLA INCREASING BUT MEDICARE COSTS RISING TOO IN 2024

Home prices forecasted to keep rising

Fannie Mae has readjusted its home price projection and forecasts upwards, but there are signs that gains are slowing. Home prices are forecasted to increase 4.8% annually in 2024 and 1.5% in 2025.

Home prices are now 6.4% above their level this time last year, up from the 6% increase registered in January, according to the latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller national home price index report.  Across the nation, home prices increased 0.6% month-over-month after dipping the previous month. This annual and monthly growth in home prices comes as homebuyers struggle with affordability issues caused by high mortgage rates and a lack of housing supply.  

“Home price growth pivoted in February, as the impact of the January 2023 Home Price Index bottom finally faded,” CoreLogic Chief Economist Selma Hepp said in a statement. “As a result, the U.S. should begin to see slowing annual home price gains moving forward.”  

If you’re looking to become a homeowner, you could still find the best mortgage rates by shopping around. Visit Credible to compare your options without affecting your credit score.

MILLENNIALS ARE DESPERATE TO BUY A HOME, MOST WILLING TO PAY A MORTGAGE RATE ABOVE 7%: SURVEY

Here’s how much homebuyers need to earn 

Homebuyers need to earn more today to afford a home. Based on the current interest rate of 7.22% over a 30-year mortgage, buyers today would need to earn an annual income of roughly $120,000, plus a 10% down payment, to afford a home, according to the Clever Real Estate report. However, the average American household earns about $45,000 less than that, and most first-time buyers can’t afford a 10% down payment.

Based on the median annual salary and a 10% down payment, most first-time buyers can afford a home priced at about $207,529 — 38% less than the current median-priced home. Increasing the down payment to 20% lowers the salary threshold to $98,202, but saving that amount could take years, the Clever report said. 

Moreover, higher mortgage rates and home prices mean that 20% of Americans spend roughly 30% of their paychecks on monthly home loan payments, and 10% spend more than half of their pay, according to a recent NewHomesMates.com survey. Homeownership is considered affordable if households spend at most 28% of their monthly income on housing costs. The survey said those ready to take the plunge have had to sink a larger portion of their paychecks into mortgage payments and make significant cuts to everyday spending.  

If you’re considering becoming a homeowner, it could help to shop around to find the best mortgage rate. Visit Credible to compare options from different lenders and choose the one with the best rate for you.

THIS IS THE #1 CITY FOR FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYERS, AND OTHER HOT US HOUSING MARKETS

Have a finance-related question, but don’t know who to ask? Email The Credible Money Expert at [email protected] and your question might be answered by Credible in our Money Expert column.

Source: foxbusiness.com

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Newly increased loan limits for Title I Program supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to increase the supply and use of manufactured homes as an affordable housing source.

WASHINGTON – Today, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) announced new loan limits for its Title I Manufactured Home Loan Program. The increased amounts use new methodologies for calculating and updating the program’s limits, which were announced in a final rule published on February 29, 2024. The increases better align with current market prices and are expected to encourage more lenders to offer the program to homebuyers seeking to purchase manufactured homes and the lots on which they sit. This is the first update to the Title I program loan limits since 2008 and supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to increase the supply and use of manufactured homes as an affordable housing source.

“We are using every tool possible to make affordable housing available for all Americans,” said HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge. “Today’s announcement is another positive step toward helping people to buy manufactured homes, an innovative solution to the affordable housing supply crisis.”

“Updating the Title I loan limits was the next critical piece in our ongoing efforts to make the Title I Manufactured Home Loan Program work for lenders and homebuyers for whom manufactured housing offers an affordable way to meet their housing needs,” said Federal Housing Commissioner Julia R. Gordon. “We hope these changes will prompt more lenders to consider using the Title I program to meet the financing needs of consumers purchasing or refinancing manufactured homes.”

Effective for FHA case numbers assigned on or after March 29, 2024, the new nationwide Title I Manufactured Home Loan Program loan limits are as follows:

  • Combination Loan (Single-section), $148,909
  • Combination Loan (Multi-section), $237,096
  • Manufactured Home Loan (Single-section), $105,532
  • Manufactured Home Loan (Multi-section), $193,719
  • Manufactured Home Lot Loan, $43,377

FHA will recalculate the program’s loan limits on an annual basis so that they keep pace with home price changes over time.

Last month, HUD announced a first-of-its-kind $225 million funding opportunity to support the affordability of manufactured homes and communities.

Source: hud.gov

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Video above: What does it take to be “middle class” in America

(NEXSTAR) – Despite persistently-high mortgage rates, home prices in U.S. metro areas continue to rise in 2024, new data shows.

Over 90% of metro markets have seen gains in the first quarter of the year, according to the National Association of Realtors, with Illinois taking six of the top 10 spots. The highest year-over-year jump was in Fond du Lac, Wis. (23.7%), with Kankakee, Ill. (22%); Rockford, Ill. (20.1%); Champaign-Urbana, Ill. (20%); and Johnson City, Tenn. (19.3%) rounding out the top five.

Illinois low-income utility assistance programs may get renewed due to bill

The spike in prices in those areas happened as the 30-year fixed mortgage rate ranged from 6.60% to nearly 7%, data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows.

“Astonishingly, greater than 90% of the country’s metro areas experienced home price growth despite facing the highest mortgage rates in two decades,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “In the current market, rising prices are the direct result of insufficient housing supply not meeting the full demand.”

In February, 2024 a Zillow report found that the U.S. now has 550 “million-dollar” cities where the average home value is at least $1,000,000. That’s up from 491 at the same time in 2023.

Looking at metropolitan areas – which can include several cities – we see some regions jumping 20% or more year-over-year.

Rank Metro Area YOY Increase
1. Fond du Lac, Wis. 23.7%
2. Kankakee, Ill. 22.0%
3. Rockford, Ill.  20.1%
4. Champaign-Urbana, Ill. 20.0%
5. Johnson City, Tenn. 19.3%
6. Racine, Wis. 19.0%
7. Newark, N.J.-Pa.  18.8%
8. Bloomington, Ill. 18.5%
9. New York-Jersey City-White Plains, N.Y.-N.J. 18.4%
10. Cumberland, Md.-W.Va. 18.2%
(NAR)

When it comes to the overall home price, California markets made up eight of the top 10 most expensive, led by San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. ($1,840,000; 13.7%), Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, Calif. ($1,365,000; 14.2%) and San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif. ($1,300,000; 14%).

“The expensive markets in the West, where home prices declined last year, are roaring back,” Yun said. “Price dips in that region were viewed as second-chance opportunities by many buyers.”

The two non-California markets in the top 10 were Urban Honolulu, Hawaii ($1,085,800; 5.5%); and Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Fla. ($850,000; 9.4%).

Source: fox59.com

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The refi market continues to be anemic as higher rates are persisting, with refi volume dropping 3.4% compared to the prior month. Seven of the top nine lenders recorded gains in April, with Plaza Home Mortgage, Liberty Reverse Mortgage/PHH and Guild Mortgage standing out for their gains between 36% and 48%.

When asked about whether or not these gains lead to overarching optimism for the direction of the industry or if caution should remain, RMI President John Lunde said he’d split the difference.

“I’ll call it cautious optimism,” he said. “Nothing we’ve seen recently suggests rampant growth, but if we can manage steady gains that would be a big step in the right direction.”

H4P gains are particularly encouraging, which likely stems from renewed industry attention likely brought about by rule changes announced in 2023 and 2024 by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

“I do think there’s more focus and attention on it this year with the changes by FHA, which gives originators a reason to take a fresh approach and energy into that niche,” he said.

When asked about where refi business is still taking place despite high rates and falling share of total volume, Lunde said it comes down to the concentration of home price appreciation in a given area of the country.

“Refi is generally going to happen where home price appreciation has been the strongest for the past several years, which can outpace the decline in principal limit factors from higher interest rates,” he said. “I’d expect to see these endorsements continue to whither though, as the recent increase in the 10-year CMT took away the benefit of the declines in the fourth quarter.”

As for what industry professionals should be keeping in mind, purchase may be the name of the game in the near future, Lunde said.

“I continue to think it’s all about purchase business, and getting in front of borrowers that are looking at a forward mortgage right now,” he said. “In many cases, reverse-eligible borrowers will see a lot more benefit for their financial goals from a reverse than a new forward or HELOC.”

HMBS issuance

The top HMBS issuer for April was Finance of America Reverse (FAR), which will soon consolidate under the overarching Finance of America brand. It created $155 million in new issuance, outdoing its March figure by $15 million. Longbridge Financial increased its own issuance to $107 million, while Liberty Reverse Mortgage/PHH and Mutual of Omaha Mortgage jumped to $95 million and $88 million, respectively.

“April’s original (first participation) production of $322 million was $54 million higher than March’s $268 million, though lower than that of April 2023, when approximately $379 million in original new HMBS pools were issued,” New View said in one of its two HMBS commentaries.

When asked about HMBS performance for the month, New View Partner Joe Kelly said that while performance is improved, “it’s not much of a bounce back but a period of relative stability and tightening spreads helps.”

A healthier first-participation pool market — in this case 20 of the month’s 89 pools — could be a good sign for the industry, but it largely “remains to be seen,” he said. “There is enough so far to keep reasonable liquidity and pricing.”

Mandatory purchase of HMBS loans out of pools — required when a loan reaches 98% of its maximum claim amount (MCA) — is generally stable, at least relatively speaking, Kelly explained, according to data shared in a second commentary. The payoff rate for April beat the 12-month average, and when asked how that factors into overall HMBS market health, Kelly explained the benefits.

“Payoff rates have stabilized at a lower rate for non-assignment payoffs,” he said. “The reduction in refinancing risk has had a beneficial effect on overall pricing.”

In terms of trends that New View is observing now, Kelly said that prepayments and losses are tracking low versus historical averages, which is largely healthy for the market. He added that he cannot “recall a time when there were so many proprietary reverse mortgage issuers.”

Source: housingwire.com

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Hedging, Community Lending, Verification, CRM, Warehouse Products; NAR Reports on Q1; FHA and USDA Changes

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Hedging, Community Lending, Verification, CRM, Warehouse Products; NAR Reports on Q1; FHA and USDA Changes

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Wed, May 8 2024, 11:25 AM

After a very long travel day filled with odd, time-sucking delays, when I arrived in Birmingham I was happy to hear Alabama on the Uber car’s radio singing, “My Home’s in Alabama.” “That my home’s in Alabama, no matter where I lay my head. My home’s in Alabama, Southern born and Southern bred.” Home prices in Alabama have tended to mimic many parts of the United States: In March 2024, home prices in Alabama were up 1.1 percent compared to last year, selling for a median price of $273,500 with the number of homes sold being down 8.9 percent year over year, per Redfin. (This morning NAR reported that more than 90 percent of metro markets posted home price gains in the first quarter of 2024: latest quarterly report.) There’s ample inventory, with over 22,000 homes for sale in Alabama, up nearly 11 percent year over year. A chunk of those are in Huntsville, 100 miles to the north of Birmingham, Alabama’s most populous city and the home of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. (Found here, this week’s podcasts are sponsored by Matic, the digital insurance marketplace built for the mortgage industry. Matic integrates home insurance shopping into the lending and servicing experience, allowing customers to shop carriers and find a policy in minutes. Create a new revenue stream that boosts customer happiness today! Hear an interview with Matic’s Ben Madick on the insurance landscape and trends impacting both potential homebuyers and existing homeowners.)

Lender and Broker Software and Services

Do you love your technology partner so much that you’d tattoo its name on your arm? A top producing team at VanDyk Mortgage resorted to “tattoo” tactics when management replaced Floify with a competing mobile-first POS. The new system’s shortcomings in functionality and vendor support impacted the productivity and satisfaction of VanDyk’s team, particularly affecting branch managers and loan officers who struggled with the platform’s limitations and the vendor’s responsiveness. The result? A “baring” of arms and quick return to Floify, which in addition to preventing an LO mutiny saves VanDyk $300,000 annually in operating costs compared to the interim system. Read the full case study and see pics of the team’s “tats.”

Compliance Review Roadmap for Financial Institutions! Regular compliance testing and monitoring helps you get out in front of potential issues, identifying areas that might not normally receive enough attention. When you embrace compliance reviews, your entire institution becomes involved in building a culture of compliance. This whitepaper offers a how-to guide for implementing a compliance review process at your financial institution. Included in this roadmap is: Step-by-step instructions for building a compliance testing program; A checklist of what to assess in compliance monitoring; A breakdown of the roles and responsibilities for each department and division; The importance of conducting a root cause analysis; Challenges encountered in implementing compliance reviews and how to overcome them; and Solutions for automating your compliance review process. Download the free whitepaper now.

PlainsCapital Bank National Warehouse Lending, a subsidiary of Hilltop Holdings (NYSE: HTH), understands the importance of efficiency when it comes to meeting mortgage lenders funding requests. “Express Funding” is how we help our customers reduce the time needed to get loans funded quickly. Express Funding allows our customers to submit multiple loans for funding in one simple data upload, whether it is one loan or 100 loans. We have a growing list of 5,000+ approved closing agents, No Doc funding requirements and funding turn times averaging under 20 minutes! As a well-capitalized financially strong banking partner we give our customers confidence in an uncertain market. If you attending the MBA Secondary Conference in NY or the TMBA Annual Conference in Austin and interested in learning more about PlainsCapital Bank National Warehouse Lending please contact John White or Brent Amos.

Usherpa’s SmartCRM and Relationship Engagement Platform has been vetted by The Mortgage Collaborative (TMC), one of the largest mortgage cooperatives in the country, and is now a Preferred Partner to TMC’s growing network of mortgage lenders. According to TMC’s 2024 “Pulse of the Network” survey of 2,000 industry executives, finding new opportunities to grow volume and market share ranked first among the top critically important issues facing mortgage lenders. Having a CRM platform that is powerful but easy to use with guaranteed adoption is crucial. “TMC prides itself on having best in class preferred partners that help our lenders lower their cost of origination, improve their customer experience, and retain their best Loan Officers so that they can easily compete with even the largest lenders,” said Melissa Langdale, TMC’s President and COO. “We are thrilled to add Usherpa as a Preferred Partner.”

During the loan process, expedited turn times are crucial. Traditional methods of obtaining tax transcripts using a 4506-C form are slow and susceptible to rejections by the IRS due to minor discrepancies between the submitted form and what is on file at the IRS, thereby extending the verification process. Xactus, a leader in verification solutions, offers a streamlined alternative, Tax TranscriptX. Providing real-time IRS data feeds, this innovative tool enables fast and easy income verification, with the IRS rejecting less than 3 percent of the requests. Endorsed by the Government-Sponsored Enterprises (GSE), this solution empowers lenders to accelerate loan closures by furnishing tax transcripts within minutes rather than days. Lenders can use Xactus’ technology to streamline workflows, boost profits, and close loans right away. For more information, email Xactus. To stay up to date on its industry innovations, follow Xactus on LinkedIn.

Wholesale and Correspondent Products

Attention all TPO and wholesale lenders: Don’t miss out on “The Wholesale Lending Sales Machine” webinar hosted by OptifiNow and Lender Price on May 15th at 10 am PT. The webinar will discuss how wholesale lenders are finding success in today’s challenging market by equipping their account executives with technology tools that are proven to generate more submissions and fundings. Make sure to register for this webinar today!

“Visio Lending is breaking records with a relentless focus on improving our Broker Experience. We are the nation’s leader in Non-QM Investor DSCR loans for buy and hold SFR rentals with nearly a decade of experience and over $2.8 billion in originations. No-DTI, 30-year terms, rate buy downs, free 45-day rate locks; I/O and Sub-1 DSCR options available. Now choose your own title company (including on refinances). Through our top-notch Broker Program, brokers are able to earn up to 2 points YSP, and 5 points total. Visio Brokers can count on a designated Account Executive and in-house processing.”

“Citi Correspondent Lending remains committed to responsible and sustainable growth with a focus on expanding our Community Lending platform. We’ve continued to gain momentum in these areas as illustrated by the 126 percent increase year-over-year in non-delegated Agency production and April’s 22 percent month-over-month increase in our proprietary HomeRun program production. We’re excited to discuss all that Citi offers now and what’s on the horizon at the upcoming Secondary and Capital Markets Conference. Reach out to your Citi Account Executive or our National Client Services Team to schedule time to talk with us.”

Government Program Updates

The lion’s share of locks continues to be headed Freddie & Fannie’s way, but there is a sizeable chunk that are either non-Agency (non-QM, jumbo, bond programs spring to mind) or are FHA, VA, and USDA. Let’s see what’s happening in that latter category.

FHA’s Mortgagee Letter (ML) 2024-08 further extends its foreclosure moratorium for borrowers with FHA-insured mortgages in Maui County, Hawaii. This extension, which runs through August 4, 2024, is effective immediately.

Mortgagee Letter (ML) 2024-07 strengthens FHA’s existing ROV process as part of HUD’s commitment to strengthening safeguards against unlawful discrimination in residential property valuations as outlined in the Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity (PAVE) Interagency Task Force. This update is the result of FHA’s consideration of the feedback received on its January 2023 proposed policy posted to its Single Family Drafting Table, and subsequent engagement with stakeholders and other federal agencies, including the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), to identify policies that would support a consistent industry-wide framework of minimum standards for the ROV process.

Updated information on SFH Section 502 Direct Funding was posted in USDA Rural Development SFH Bulletin.

Revisions that impact the AmeriHome USDA Guaranteed Rural Housing Program Guide are available in AmeriHome Mortgage Announcement 20240403-CL.

Newrez is updating its Government and Conforming loan underwriting guidelines, details are available in announcement 2024-024 and announcement 2024-025.

Capital Markets

With little in the way of economic releases this week or next until April CPI a week from today, investors continue to focus on Fed Chair Powell’s post-FOMC comments, potential Fed rate cuts in the latter half of the year, and the softer than expected April payrolls print. The MBS market is also busy digesting April agency prepayments, which were released late Monday, where speeds increased much less than expected. In reaction to the reports, UMBS30 and GNII rolls were mixed in mostly small moves.

Yesterday brought bland remarks from Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari and some supply hitting the front end of the curve with a $58 billion 3-year Treasury auction that was received with good demand. Internationally, there was a policy hold from the Reserve Bank of Australia and a better-than-expected March Retail Sales report from the Eurozone.

Today’s domestic economic calendar kicked off with mortgage applications increasing 2.6 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey. Sweden’s Riksbank was out with their latest monetary policy decision before the open. Later today brings wholesale inventories and sales, a Treasury auction of $42 billion 10-year notes, and remarks from three Fed speakers: Vice Chair Jefferson, Boston President Collins, and Governor Cook. We begin the day with Agency MBS prices little changed from Tuesday’s close and the 10-year yielding 4.48 after closing yesterday at 4.46 percent; the 2-year is at 4.83.

Employment

“Loan officers! Discover the radius advantage. Are you navigating a market that’s forgotten the value of loyalty? At radius financial group, we’re rewriting the script with our MLO Partnership-Proposition (MPP). We understand the industry’s pulse and the need for a genuine partnership—not just a platform to process loans. As lenders focus on consumers, we concentrate on you, the heartbeat of our business. You’re not just a number here; you’re the face of our brand, co-branded for success. We’re committed to investing in you, providing a stable home where your talents are nurtured and your book of business flourishes. For confidential inquires please contact Carla Herrera (781-742-6500).

Tired of having outdated news on your website or a stale newsletter? A skilled writer has some extra bandwidth and is available to produce weekly, monthly, or as-needed mortgage-related content for lenders on their website, email marketing or digital advertising. Reach out to Dustin Hobbs.

Carrington Mortgage Services has hired Steven Winokur to serve as VP, Marketing, Third-Party Origination using his “significant expertise in marketing strategy, brand development, marketing communications and digital marketing” to quickly build on existing marketplace momentum for Carrington’s diverse non-QM offerings. Congratulations!

Planet Home Lending has hired 20+ year vet Paul Walker to be Chief Financial Officer. “Paul will guide our financial strategy, leading Planet’s integrated platform to continuously deliver efficient, innovative solutions and services to consumers, business partners, and clients,” said Michael Dubeck, CEO and President of Planet Financial Group, parent of Planet Home Lending.

Flagstar Bank has promoted Rich Hoffman to senior vice president and head of TPO lending. Congratulations!

 Download our mobile app to get alerts for Rob Chrisman’s Commentary.

Source: mortgagenewsdaily.com

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The cost to buy a home has reached historic highs in the U.S. — the median price of a home is $420,800, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis — and housing and mortgage costs are increasingly turning into a November election issue. 

Home shoppers today need to an annual income of $114,000 in order to comfortably afford a typical home in the U.S., according to Redfin, nearly double what was needed to afford a typical home in 2020. That figure is far above the 2022 median household income of $74,580, according to the Census Bureau. 

Higher monthly payments are driven by higher home prices as well as significantly higher interest rates. Mortgage interest rates, which dipped to an historic low of 2.65% on a 30-year fixed mortgage in 2021, have soared beyond 7%, higher than they’ve been since 2001. Interest rates are set by the independent Federal Reserve, and President Joe Biden has insisted on the Fed’s independence. The Federal Reserve has been raising interest rates since 2021 in order to combat stubborn inflation. 

smaller, entry-level homes, several experts agree.

Once interest rates are removed from the picture, “then you’re left focusing mainly on the supply shortfall,” said Jim Parrott, fellow at the Urban Institute and former Obama White House economic adviser. 

The housing market has seen a severe shortage of smaller starter homes, Parrott said. Builders, he said, are incentivized to build large, often mansion-like homes, which more easily turn a profit. 

“The cost of building larger homes tends to be quite high, and it’s easier to recoup those costs if you’re making big, expensive homes,” Parrott said. 

The federal government needs to “make the math for building homes at the bottom of the market more favorable” for developers, Parrott suggested. And Congress can do this with the tax code. One approach would be to give a tax cut to any builder who constructs a residence for a first-time home buyer at below the median home price, Parrott said. 

“You need to provide some sort of tax benefit for building homes in the parts of the market where we need them the most,” Parrott said. 

But getting this divided Congress to work together on something like this would be challenging, Parrott said. 

“I’m afraid that the legislative environment right now just isn’t conducive to this sort of big, bipartisan effort,” Parrott said. “Hopefully after the election we’ll see a reboot that provides a more hopeful window.”

Withhold funding from localities that don’t change zoning laws

Most of the control over zoning lies with state and local governments. And states have been working to overhaul zoning to ease restrictions on denser residential construction. But the federal government isn’t entirely powerless on zoning. 

Parrott said the federal government has used a carrot approach to encourage localities to rezone in favor of denser housing, but now he thinks maybe it’s time to use a stick. For instance, any federal funding for communities could be conditioned on how zoning decisions are made. Communities receive substantial financial support from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Transportation Department and other agencies for projects, Parrott noted. 

“If federal policymakers were to condition even a little bit some of that funding on whether or not local decision-making is supportive of or prohibitive of more density,…then you could begin to change things at the local level in a way that would really matter,” Parrott said. 

Such a move would be almost certain to trigger strict opposition from localities and unions. But more states have already been enacting legislation to supersede local zoning rules, said Alex Horowitz, director of housing policy at The Pew Charitable Trusts. Horowitz said nine states have passed laws allowing accessible dwelling units or ADUs — like small, independent, mother-in-law suites — on homeowners’ properties. 

Sell federal land to use for housing

“The federal government owns hundreds and hundreds of millions of acres, and we’re not talking about the National Parks here,” said Edward Pinto, co-director of the American Enterprise Institute’s Housing Center. 

But that’s a proposal that Congress would need to authorize. 

It has been tried. Sen. Mike Lee’s HOUSES Act of 2022 would have approved the sale of federal land to states and localities for below-market rates for housing projects. The federal government owns two-thirds of the land in Lee’s home state of Utah, and the gap between median household income and median home cost is largest in the West, according to HUD. 

But his bill went nowhere. The Bureau of Land Management, which oversees federal land, said in written Senate testimony that it would be forced to “sell land without sufficient evaluation of the values to the public or to future generations, or sufficient compensation to the American taxpayer.”

The sale of unused land could also attract opposition from environmentalist groups, though sometimes that can be overcome. In March, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a law that will allow that state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to transfer some of its property to localities to build affordable housing. 

Washington state GOP Rep. April Connors, who introduced the bill, noted that that the DNR had 7,000 acres of land that was unusable for timber harvesting because it was too close to developed land. Building housing on it could ease the shortage of homes in Washington, Connors noted in a statement, pointing out that the state has the “fewest housing units per household in the nation and nearly half of renters spend a third of their income on rent.”

Improve consumer access to financing for manufactured housing 

Manufactured homes are factory-built residences built after 1976 — formerly known as mobile homes — that can be placed on land. The average new manufactured home sold for $126,600 in November 2023, according to the Census Bureau. 

But loans are harder for homebuyers to secure for manufactured homes than for traditional ones, Horowitz said. And since manufactured housing usually involves shipping over state lines, the federal government plays a big role. HUD controls access to financing for manufactured homes, and rules are stricter than they are for traditional homes. 

Interest rates are typically also higher for manufactured home loans than for traditional home loans, in part because unlike traditional homes, which tend to appreciate in value over time, manufactured homes can depreciate. The structures are also viewed as riskier than conventional homes because they’re usually harder to sell on the market. Horowitz suggests HUD could make it easier for borrowers to access loans. 

Eliminate tax breaks for second (and third) homes 

Congress could increase the national housing stock over time by eliminating tax breaks for any homes that aren’t a primary residence, said AEI’s Pinto. 

Getting rid of the mortgage interest rate deduction for non-primary residences would eventually encourage many homeowners to sell, Pinto said. 

“Why should they be subsidized by the tax code,” Pinto asked. 

Without that tax break, hundreds of thousands of homes would come back onto the market as primary residences, Pinto said. 

“It would cost the federal government basically nothing,” Pinto said. “They’d actually save some money on the tax savings, and it would not increase demand at all.”

This isn’t likely to happen soon though. Such a measure would have to be passed by Congress — and many lawmakers own second and third residences. And a number of their constituents and donors own multiple homes. Realtor interest groups would oppose it, too, Pinto said.

The most Congress has done in recent years to address tax breaks for expensive residences was in 2017, when the GOP-controlled Congress capped the deduction limit for state and local income taxes, which hit coastal, heavily Democratic states like New York and California particularly hard. 

Still, eliminating the tax break for secondary homes is “low-hanging fruit,” and would increase supply and reduce demand simultaneously, Pinto said. 

Lowering interest rates probably wouldn’t lower housing costs 

Economists mostly doubt that action by the Federal Reserve to significantly lower interest rates would help much. 

“If the Fed were to cut rates in a way that allowed mortgage rates to fall to the 4% range, we would see both supply and demand increase in the housing market,” said Chen Zhao, who leads the economics team at Redfin. 

And whether home prices rise or fall would depend on what then happens to housing supply and demand. 

“If demand increases more, then prices would grow at a faster rate than they are currently,” Zhao said. “However, it’s also possible that supply would increase more because sellers have been so locked in by low existing mortgage rates. If that’s the case, then price growth could fall. I think it’s unlikely in either case that prices would fall outright.”

Would Biden or Trump’s policies help or hurt housing costs?

Former President Donald Trump hasn’t offered policy suggestions to address housing affordability yet, although he criticizes mortgage interest rates and home prices under President Biden. 

The president has proposed giving a $10,000 tax credit to first-time middle class homebuyers, and up to $25,000 to first generation home buyers. He’s also introducing a $20 billion fund that in addition to helping build affordable rental units, is meant to peel away local barriers to housing development and spur the construction of starter homes. 

Down payment assistance may help home shoppers in the near term, although the tax credit probably falls short of the traditional 20% down payment on most homes. With monthly payments at record highs, this down payment assistance would not lower monthly costs. And down payment assistance could have unintended consequences, Pinto said: “It would increase the price of entry level homes.”  

What can the White House do about high housing costs?

05:26

The effect down payment assistance or a buyer tax credit would have on the housing market is complicated in a supply-constrained market, Horowitz said.

While Trump hasn’t made specific proposals on housing, his proposals in other policy areas would likely drive home prices up, Parrott said. Mass deportations of undocumented migrants, for instance, could drive the cost of labor higher, and raising tariffs on China could drive up material costs, Parrott said. 

“The things that Trump has said relevant to housing almost all cut the wrong way,” Parrot said. 

How home costs could affect the election 

The cost of home ownership is a top concern for Democrats and Republicans, city dwellers and rural residents alike, said Parrott. Once an issue has broken through the barriers of red and blue, metro and rural, “then it changes the probability of something happening,” Parrott said. 

“Housing has found its way to the grownups table, in effect, for the first time,” Parrott said. 

And even though it’s the Fed that controls interest rates, Mr. Biden could be held accountable by voters. 

“President Biden’s reelection is closely tied to the cost of homeownership and thus, the fixed mortgage rates,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics predicted. “The fixed rate is currently just over 7%. If it rises above 8% for any length of time, his reelection odds will fade, and if it falls closer to 6% his odds will increase meaningfully, all else equal.”

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Source: cbsnews.com

Apache is functioning normally

“Housing sentiment increased from November through February, driven largely by consumer belief that mortgage rates would move lower,” he said in the report. “However, recent data showing stickier-than-expected inflation, rising mortgage rates, and continued home price appreciation appear to have given consumers pause regarding the market’s direction.” While 67% of consumers surveyed said they believe … [Read more…]

Apache is functioning normally

Americans are in limbo about where the housing market could go next, but they are resolute about the conditions for buying right now.

Nearly 80% of Americans think it’s a bad time to buy a house, according to the Fannie Mae Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI), a survey gauging homebuying and selling confidence. The index stayed flat in April compared to the previous month as consumers adjust to elevated mortgage rates that show little promise of easing. The average rate on a 30-year loan stood at 7.22% last week. Consumer confidence is still up 8% year over year.

In addition, fewer Americans believe mortgage rates will decline over the next 12 months, sidelining buyers awaiting affordability improvement.

“Housing sentiment increased from November through February, driven largely by consumer belief that mortgage rates would move lower,” said Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae senior vice president and chief economist. “However, recent data showing stickier-than-expected inflation, rising mortgage rates, and continued home price appreciation appear to have given consumers pause regarding the market’s direction.”

Waning expectations of a rate drop are becoming a common trend.

In the latest survey, only about 1 in 4 Americans believed rates would drop over the next 12 months, a decline from nearly 1 in 3 a month prior. In comparison, at the beginning of the year, almost 40% of survey respondents said they expected rates to fall.

“[Strong economic and job market data] will keep mortgage rates at elevated levels for the near future, sidelining some prospective buyers from entering the housing market,” said Edward Seiler, Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) associate vice president.

With rates hovering around 7% for a 30-year loan over the last few months, monthly mortgage costs have risen. The national median payment rose past $2,200 in March from $2,184 in February, according to the MBA. Payments could become even more expensive going forward as average 30-year loan rates surpassed 7% over the last three weeks, with no signs of falling.

Read more: Mortgage rates top 7% — is this a good time to buy a house?

Contrasting homebuyers’ woes, an increasing number of Americans think now is a good time to sell. The share of survey respondents confident in selling reached nearly 70% in April, up from 60% at the beginning of the year and 62% in the same month last year.

Home sellers’ growing optimism could be attributed to the continual growth in home prices nationwide. The latest national housing price index gained 6.4% in February, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller US National Home Price.

“As interest rates go up, people’s purchasing power goes down, and thus, so should home prices. But that hasn’t happened in this latest correction cycle,” Jon Grauman, founder of Grauman Rosenfeld, a real estate firm in Los Angeles, told Yahoo Finance.

Only about 1 in 4 Americans believed rates would drop over the next 12 months, a decline from nearly 1 in 3 a month prior. (JUSTIN TALLIS via Getty Images)

Consumers are braced for high prices — more than 40% of Fannie Mae’s survey participants expect home prices to increase over the next 12 months, compared to 37% earlier this year.

“We think consumers’ generally improved sense of home-selling conditions bodes well for listings and housing activity, particularly for the segment of the population who may need to move for lifestyle reasons and have already begun adjusting their financial expectations to the current mortgage rate and price environment,” Duncan said.

Correction: A previous version of this article listed the incorrect firm name for Grauman Rosenfeld. We regret the error.

Rebecca Chen is a reporter for Yahoo Finance and previously worked as an investment tax certified public accountant (CPA).

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