The Winds of Change
Good news is in the air when it comes to the home-purchase market
By Laura Brandao,
President, American Financial Resources Inc.
Mortgage rates increased at the end of last year, seemingly blown in with the crisp fall air. These higher rates added to the deceleration in home-price growth that was already underway as home shoppers balked at record housing prices.
As rates continue to increase, the number of refinances will likely decline, chilling the demand frenzy that has occurred since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mortgage originators will need to shift their focus to purchase loan business. Fortunately, tailwinds could be behind this shift in the market.
Pending home sales began rebounding this past August after two months of declines as the supply of properties on the market increased, according to the National Association of Realtors. Entering the new year, contract signing activity is increasingly pronounced in areas of the country where affordability is more prevalent — including communities in the South and Midwest — especially with many workers still able to do their jobs remotely. And the supply of homes shows a stabilizing housing market.
New construction also has begun to increase as lumber prices are finally coming down from their pandemic-era peaks, and construction timelines are improving as ongoing supply chain issues reach a resolution. The Biden administration aims to limit price growth by adding 100,000 affordable homes to the U.S. market over the next three years.
According to some industry experts, the “coming of age” for millennial homebuyers may be the greatest driver of 2022 home sales. The typical age of a first-time buyer in 2021 was 36, according to Zillow.
More than half of all home-purchase applications in 2020 came from millennials, a first-time occurrence, according to CoreLogic. This share is only expected to grow in the coming years as this generation continues to age into prime homebuying years. Millions of older millennials are getting married, starting families and planning to buy a home.
Although the enthusiasm of those who have been shopping for a home for a while might fade, there are still plenty of new buyers entering the market. And there are many buyers who built up a lot of motivation during pandemic-induced quarantines. They have been waiting for skyrocketing home prices to settle, and they may now be ready to consider renovating a fixer-upper or even purchasing a newly constructed home.
At the other end of the spectrum, many baby boomers are downsizing from the large residences in which they raised their families. Some retire and look for smaller properties in warm, desirable destinations, but thanks in part to pandemic-related travel restrictions, many older Americans are moving in with their adult children to be closer to their grandchildren.
In fact, one of the intriguing trends coming out of the pandemic has been the dramatic rise in multigenerational households. The pandemic reshaped the way people see their homes and, in turn, transformed architectural design styles and trends for new and renovated homes.
One of the many things the COVID-19 pandemic has taught is the importance of making the most of time with friends and family, along with the need for well-designed places to connect. Multigenerational home remodels are likely to be a trend that continues to gather momentum, and it includes the need for space designs that offer ways to be together as well as apart within a home. This means that demand for designated home offices and multipurpose spaces are increasing.
Today, the mother-in-law suite — whether it’s a portion of a house that has been remodeled to accommodate a relative, or a smaller, detached “granny flat” — is beginning to see a resurgence with homeowners. According to USA Today, some 51 million Americans now live in multigenerational households, a 10% increase since 2007. One reason why these units are so popular is that these living arrangements allow multiple generations to share in the financial responsibilities that come with homeownership.
Latinos may not have the wealth of other demographic groups, but as a whole they are the most likely to pool their incomes to buy a house, according to a 2021 report from the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals. The survey found that 41% of Latino respondents live in a multigenerational household supported by at least three incomes.
Half of these people reported combining all household income to pay for at least some expenses, including rents or mortgages. That’s the highest of any racial demographic in the report. And it’s just one reason that the Hispanic homeownership rate is expected to reach 50% over the next five years.
In another finding which indicates that Latinos are likely to play a major role in sustaining the housing market, more than half of respondents who are renters said they plan to buy a home within the next five years. That’s twice as many as non-Hispanic, white renters. And this trend is even more pronounced among those who own businesses or currently live in multigenerational households.
For those who plan to buy a home for the first time, there is a lot of help pending on Capitol Hill. Late last year, lawmakers were debating a $15,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit to spur homeownership opportunities across the country.
Legislation is only one element of a bold housing agenda to combat the housing-affordability crisis while addressing centuries of discriminatory housing policies that have left massive wealth, homeownership and opportunity gaps between white communities and communities of color. Another proposal would give downpayment assistance of up to $25,000 to first-time homebuyers but only those who also are first-generation buyers and are classified as economically disadvantaged.
Yet another bill proposes the creation of a new 20-year fixed-rate mortgage program through Ginnie Mae. This legislation, dubbed the Low-Income First Time Homebuyers Act, would create a program through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to sponsor low-cost, long-term loans.
As long as a borrower attests to the fact that they’re a first-generation buyer, they are able to apply. According to the bill, Ginnie Mae and the U.S. Department of the Treasury would subsidize the interest rate and origination fees associated with these 20-year mortgages so that the monthly payment would be in line with a new 30-year Federal Housing
Administration-insured mortgage. This would allow qualified buyers to build equity at a faster rate than with a conventional 30-year loan. Additionally, as part of last year’s American Rescue Plan stimulus relief bill, states, municipalities, territories and tribal governments were allotted $350 billion to speed up their economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many states provided grants to cities and counties to help fund affordable housing where it was needed most.
The plan provided $10 billion to cover the costs of capital projects such as broadband infrastructure. This capital projects fund took critical steps in addressing the challenges laid bare by the pandemic — especially in rural America and low- and moderate-income communities — and will help ensure that all communities have access to the high-quality, modern infrastructure needed to thrive, including internet access.
Economists raised their projections for early 2022, when they expect the impacts of the virus and supply chain disruptions to diminish. The Mortgage Bankers Association forecast purchase loan originations to grow to a record $1.73 trillion in 2022. Home purchases will make up nearly 75% of the market by the end of 2023.
Lenders and originators attempting to differentiate themselves on price alone will not find this conducive to establishing strong client relationships, nor will it produce the referral business needed to successfully navigate a purchase-centric market. After a strong refinance wave that lasted well over a year, it is time to focus on specialty loan programs that will help more borrowers.
Far too many veterans, first-time homebuyers, student debtholders and other prospective borrowers with competitive market bids have lost out on homes due to a lack of tailored mortgage advice. Conventional loans are not a one-size-fits-all solution — and they never have been.
Make this the year that you understand and provide a full suite of loan options to help differentiate your business in the new purchase market. The more niche loan programs you know of — and the more you partner with a lender experienced in processing these loans that will walk with you every step of the way — the more people you’ll help to bring home, no matter their family situation or location.