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As we enter the final months of 2020 and continue to work through the challenges this year has brought, some of us wonder what impact continued economic uncertainty could have on home prices. Looking at the big picture, the rules of supply and demand will give us the clearest idea of what is to come.
Due to the undersupply of homes on the market today, there’s upward pressure on prices. Consider simple economics: when there is high demand for an item and a low supply of it, consumers are willing to pay more for that item. That’s what’s happening in today’s real estate market. The housing supply shortage is also resulting in bidding wars, which will also drive price points higher in the home sale process.
There’s no evidence that buyer demand will wane. As a result, experts project price appreciation will continue over the next twelve months. Here’s a graph of the major forecasts released in the last 60 days:
I hear many foreclosures might be coming to the market soon. Won’t that drive prices down?
Some are concerned that homeowners who entered a mortgage forbearance plan might face foreclosure once their plan ends. However, when you analyze the data on those in forbearance, it’s clear the actual level of risk is quite low.
Ivy Zelman, CEO of Zelman & Associates and a highly-regarded expert in housing and housing-related industries, was very firm in a podcast last week:
With demand high, supply low, and little risk of a foreclosure crisis, home prices will continue to appreciate.
Originally, many thought home prices would depreciate in 2020 due to the economic slowdown from the coronavirus. Instead, prices appreciated substantially. Over the next year, we will likely see home values rise even higher given the continued lack of inventory of homes for sale.
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Many housing experts originally voiced concern that the mortgage forbearance program (which allows families impacted financially by COVID to delay mortgage payments to a later date) could lead to an increase in foreclosures when forbearances end.
Some originally forecasted that up to 30% of homeowners would choose to enter forbearance. Less than 10% actually did, and that percentage has been dropping steadily. Black Knight recently reported that the national forbearance rate has decreased to 5.6%, with active forbearances falling below 3 million for the first time since mid-April.
Many of those still in forbearance are actually making timely payments. Christopher Maloney of Bloomberg Wealth recently explained:
However, since over two million homeowners are still in forbearance, some experts are concerned that this might lead to another wave of foreclosures like we saw a little over a decade ago during the Great Recession. Here is why this time is different.
There Will Be Very Few Strategic Defaults
During the housing crash twelve years ago, many homeowners owned a house that was worth less than the mortgage they had on that home (called negative equity or being underwater). Many decided they would just stop making their payments and walk away from the house, which then resulted in the bank foreclosing on the property. These foreclosures were known as strategic defaults. Today, the vast majority of homeowners have significant equity in their homes. This dramatically decreases the possibility of strategic defaults.
Aspen Grove Solutions, a business consulting firm, recently addressed the issue in a study titled Creating Positive Forbearance Outcomes:
There Are Other Options That Were Not Available the Last Time
A decade ago, there wasn’t a forbearance option, and most banks did not put in other programs, like modifications and short sales, until very late in the crisis.
Today, homeowners have several options because banks understand the three fundamental differences in today’s real estate market as compared to 2008:
1. Most homeowners have substantial equity in their homes.
2. The real estate market has a shortage of listings for sale. In 2008, homes for sale flooded the market.
3. Prices are appreciating. In 2008, prices were depreciating dramatically.
These differences allow banks to feel comfortable giving options to homeowners when exiting forbearance. Aspen Grove broke down some of these options in the study mentioned above:
Each one of these programs enables the homeowner to remain in the home.
What about Those Who Don’t Qualify for These Programs?
Homeowners who can’t catch up on past payments and don’t qualify for the programs mentioned have two options: sell the house or let it go to foreclosure. Some experts think most will be forced to take the foreclosure route. However, an examination of the data shows that probably won’t be the case.
A decade ago, homeowners had very little equity in their homes. Therefore, selling was not an option unless they were willing to tap into limited savings to cover the cost of selling, like real estate commission, closing costs, and attorney fees. Without any other option, many just decided to stay in the house until they were served a foreclosure notice.
As mentioned above, today is different. Most homeowners now have a large amount of equity in their homes. They will most likely decide to sell their home and take that equity rather than wait for the bank to foreclose.
In a separate report, Black Knight highlighted this issue:
In other words, of the millions currently in a forbearance plan, there are few that likely will become a foreclosure.
Some analysts are talking about future foreclosures reaching 500,000 to over 1 million. With the options today’s homeowners have, that doesn’t seem likely.
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The September Jobs Report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate dropped to 7.9%. Though that percentage is well below what experts projected earlier this year, it still means millions of people are without work. There’s no way to minimize the tremendous impact this pandemic-induced recession continues to have on many Americans.
However, the latest Home Purchase Sentiment Index from Fannie Mae shows how more and more Americans believe the worst is behind us, and their personal employment situation is good. The index revealed:
Americans Are Game-Changers Too
Americans are naturally optimistic and have always responded to challenges with both resiliency and resourcefulness. Today is no different. As an example, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) just reported:
Why would someone start a business in the middle of an economic crisis? The WSJ explains:
The WSJ also notes that these new businesses will have a positive impact on the overall employment situation, as new businesses “are a critical engine of job creation. Startups have historically accounted for around one-fifth of job creation.”
For the millions of Americans still unemployed, we hope for a quick return to the workforce. We should, however, realize that over 90% of people are still employed, and some are venturing into new business start-ups. Perhaps the next big game-changing company is right around the corner.
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The 2020 housing market has surpassed all expectations and continues to drive the nation’s economic recovery. The question is, will this positive trend continue throughout the rest of the year, especially given the uncertainty around the current health crisis, the upcoming election, and more?
Here’s a look at what several industry-leading experts have to say.
Many economists are in unison, indicating the housing market will continue to fuel the economy through the end of the year, maintaining this unprecedented strength.
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Earlier this year when the nation pressed pause on the economy and unemployment rates jumped up significantly, many homeowners were immediately concerned about being able to pay their mortgages, and understandably so. To assist in this challenging time, two protection plans were put into place to help support those in need.
First, there was a pause placed on initiating foreclosures for government-backed loans. This plan started on March 18, 2020, and it extends at least through December 31, 2020. Second, homeowners were able to obtain forbearance for up to 180 days, followed by a potential extension for up to another 180 days. This way, there is a relief period in which homeowners have the opportunity to halt payments on their mortgages for up to one year.
Not Everyone Understands Their Options
The challenge, according to Matt Hulstein, Staff Attorney at non-profit Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, is, “A lot of homeowners aren’t aware of this option.”
There’s definitely traction behind this statement. In a recent survey by The National Housing Resource Center, housing counselors from across the country noted that many homeowners really don’t know that there is help available. The following graph indicates the reasons why people who are in this challenging situation are not choosing to enter forbearance:The Urban Institute explained:
Clearly, a more focused effort on education about forbearance and relief programs may make a big difference for many people, and a clear understanding of their options is mission-critical. Some communities, however, have been impacted by the economic challenges of the pandemic more so than others, further confirming the need to deliver education more widely. The Urban Institute also indicates:
It’s important to note that any homeowner experiencing financial hardship has the right to request forbearance. If you’re unfamiliar with the plans available, contact your mortgage provider (the company you send your mortgage payment to each month) to discuss your options. It is a necessary next step, as you may qualify for mortgage relief options or forbearance.
One option many homeowners may not realize they have is the ability to sell their house in this time of need. With the growing equity that homeowners have available today, making a move might be the best option to protect your financial future.
If you need additional information on your options, you can review the Protect Your Investment guide from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Homeowner’s Guide to Success from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). For the majority of people, our home is the most important asset we have, and you should use all the help available right now to be able to preserve your investment.
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