Strength of the Economy Is Surprising the Experts

Strength of the Economy Is Surprising the Experts | Simplifying The Market

We’re currently in the longest economic recovery in U.S. history. That has caused some to ask experts to project when the next economic slowdown (recession) could occur. Two years ago, 67% of the economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) for the Economic Forecasting Survey predicted we would have a recession no later than the end of this year (2020). The same study done just three months ago showed more than one third of the economists still saw an economic slowdown right around the corner.

The news caused concern among consumers. This is evidenced by a recent survey done by realtor.com that shows 53% of home purchasers (first-time and repeat buyers) currently in the market believe a recession will occur by the end of this year.

Wait! It seems the experts are changing their minds….

Now, in an article earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) revealed only 14.3% of those economists now believe we’re in danger of a recession occurring this year (see graph below):Strength of the Economy Is Surprising the Experts | Simplifying The MarketThe WSJ article strongly stated,

“The U.S. expansion, now in its 11th year, will continue through the 2020 presidential election with a healthy labor market backing it up, economists say.”

This optimism regarding the economy was repeated by others as well.

CNBC, quoting Goldman Sachs economists:

“Just months after almost everyone on Wall Street worried that a recession was just around the corner, Goldman Sachs said a downturn is unlikely over the next several years. In fact, the firm’s economists stopped just short of saying that the U.S. economy is recession-proof.”

Barron’s:

“When Barron’s gathers some of Wall Street’s best minds—as we do every January for our annual Roundtable—we expect some consensus, some disagreement…But the 10 veteran investors and economists who convened in New York on Jan. 6 at the Barron’s offices agree that there’s almost no chance of a recession this year.”

Washington Post:

“The U.S. economy is heading into 2020 at a pace of steady, sustained growth after a series of interest rate cuts and the apparent resolution of two trade-related threats mostly eliminated the risk of a recession.”

Robert A. Dye, Chief Economist at Comerica Bank:

“I expect that the U.S. economy will avoid a recession in 2020.”

Bottom Line

There probably won’t be a recession this year. That’s good news for you, whether you’re looking to buy or sell a home.

Where Have All the Houses Disappeared To?

Where Have All the Houses Disappeared To? | Simplifying The Market

If you’re following what’s happening in the current housing market, you’ve seen how the lack of newly constructed homes is a major reason there’s a shortage of housing inventory available to today’s buyers. Another reason is that the inventory of existing homes for sale is shrinking. According to the most recent Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), sales are up 10.8% from the same time last year. That exceeds expectations and is great news.

The troubling news from the report is that the sold inventory is not being replaced. As NAR explained,

“Total housing inventory at the end of December totaled 1.40 million units, down 14.6% from November and 8.5% from one year ago. Unsold inventory sits at a 3.0-month supply at the current sales pace, down from the 3.7-month figure recorded in both November and December 2018. Unsold inventory totals have dropped for seven consecutive months from year-ago levels, taking a toll on home sales.”

The situation was also addressed in a recent Zillow article stating,

“The number of for-sale homes in the U.S. is at its lowest point in at least seven years, and the shortage appears poised to get worse before it gets better.”

Bill McBride of Calculated Risk further noted,

“Inventory always decreases sharply in December as people take their homes off the market for the holidays. However, based on the data I’ve collected, this was the lowest level for inventory in at least three decades (the previous low was 1.43 million in December 1993).”

Why is inventory falling so dramatically? I thought the housing market had softened.

A year ago, that was the case – but the market shifted again. Skylar Olsen, Director of Economic Research at Zillow, explains,

“A year ago, a combination of a government shutdown, stock market slump and mortgage rate spike caused a long-anticipated inventory rise. That supposed boom turned out to be a short-lived mirage as buyers came back into the market and more than erased the inventory gains. As a natural reaction, the recent slowdown in home values looks like it’s set to reverse back to accelerating growth right as we head into home shopping season with demand outpacing supply.”

What does this mean if you’re a homeowner thinking of selling?

Now is a great time to consider putting your home on the market. The competition (number of houses on the market) has not been this low in decades. It’s best not to wait for the inventory (both existing homes and new construction) to increase in the spring, as it always does.

Bottom Line

The supply of homes for sale is at a historic low. Buyer demand is surprisingly strong. Now would be a great time to sell.

Should I Sell My House This Year?

Should I Sell My House This Year? | Simplifying The Market

If one of the questions you’re asking yourself today is, “Should I sell my house this year?” the current Housing Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) Survey from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) should boost your confidence as it relates to the current selling sentiment in the housing market. Even with all the information overload in the media circling around talk of a possible recession, the upcoming 2020 election, and more, Americans feel good about selling a house now. That’s some news to get excited about!

As the graph below shows, as of Q4 2019, 75% of people surveyed indicate they believe now is a good time to sell a home:Should I Sell My House This Year? | Simplifying The MarketIn the case of those with a yearly salary of $100,000 or more, the results jumped even higher, coming in at an 82% positive sentiment.

When the study divided the outcomes by region, the results still consistently showed Americans feeling good about selling:

  • Northeast: 71% positive
  • Midwest: 76% positive
  • South: 72% positive
  • West: 81% positive

In addition to looking at income and region, the report also divided the results by generation, as shown in the graph below:Should I Sell My House This Year? | Simplifying The MarketAs you can see, many believe that, despite everything going on in the world, it is still a good time to sell a home.

According to NAR, the unsold inventory available today “sits at a 3.0-month supply at the current sales pace,” which is down from a 3.7-month supply in November. The current inventory is half of what we need for a normal or neutral housing market, which should have a 6.0-month supply of unsold inventory. This is good news for sellers, as Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR, says:

“Home sellers are positioned well, but prospective buyers aren’t as fortunate. Low inventory remains a problem, with first-time buyers affected the most.”

Bottom Line

If you’re ready to list your home, you can feel good about the current sentiment in the market. Let’s get together today to determine the best next step when it comes to selling your house this year.

First-Time Buyers Are Searching for Existing Homes This Year

First-Time Buyers Are Searching for Existing Homes This Year | Simplifying The Market

In the latest Housing Trends Report, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) measured the share of adults planning to buy a home over the next 12 months. The report indicates the percentage of all buyers that will be first-time buyers looking to purchase a home grew from 58% in Q4 2018 to 63% in Q4 2019.

The results revealed,

“Millennials are the most likely generation to be making plans to purchase a home within a year (19%), followed by Gen Z (13%) and Gen X (12%)…Prospective buyers in the youngest two generations are primarily first-time buyers:  88% of Gen Z buyers and 78% of Millennial buyers are reaching out to homeownership for the first time in their lives.”

With a high demand from first-time homebuyers and a shortage of inventory in the current market, selling your existing home this year might be your best move. Why? Because when homebuyers begin their search, they’re not all looking for new construction. Many are eager to find a little charm and character in a place to call home – possibly yours.

In fact, according to the same study, there is a significant demand for existing homes:

“In terms of the type of home these prospective home buyers are interested in, 40% are looking to buy an existing home and 19% a newly-built home. The remaining 41% would buy either a new or existing home.”

With showing activity up among buyers and more new construction coming to market, as a homeowner, you have the opportunity to sell your existing house now and move up into a new one, or downsize into a home that better fits your current and ever-changing needs.

Bottom Line

Not all buyers are looking for a newly built house. If you’re ready to take advantage of low mortgage rates and a high demand for your existing home, let’s get together to determine how we will market the charming details of your current house to potential buyers.

2020 Homebuying Checklist

2020 Homebuying Checklist | Simplifying The Market

2020 Homebuying Checklist [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights:

  • If you’re thinking of buying a home, plan ahead and stay on the right track, starting with pre-approval.
  • Being proactive about the homebuying process will help set you up for success in each step.
  • Make sure to work with a trusted real estate professional along the way, to help guide you through the homebuying steps specific to your area.

The #1 Reason It Is Difficult to Find Your Dream Home

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The headlines in real estate today all revolve around one major point: there is a shortage of homes available for sale. Price appreciation is accelerating again because there is a shortage of homes available for sale. First-time buyers are taking longer to purchase a home because there is a shortage of homes available for sale in the lower price points. Boomers are staying in their current homes longer because there is a shortage of homes available for sale to which they would move. In certain markets, affordability is becoming more challenging because there is a shortage of homes available for sale.

What’s the major reason for this lack of housing inventory?

The issue was examined in a recent article by the National Home Builders Association (NAHB). In the article, Robert Dietz, Chief Economist for NAHB, explained:

“Home building in the 2010s was a story of the Long Recovery. After the Great Recession, the number of home builders declined significantly, and housing production was unable to meet buyer demand…Years of population and household formation growth, combined with relatively reduced levels of home building, have left the market with a critical supply shortage.”

Here are the single-family home construction starts by decade for the last six decades:The #1 Reason It Is Difficult to Find Your Dream Home | Simplifying The MarketObviously, there’s a current shortage of homes for sale because not enough houses were built over the last ten years. To add to the challenge, the U.S. population expanded by more than 20 million people during the 2010s.

Below is a graph showing the number of starts per every million in population. The last decade shows that starts per population were less than half the average of the previous five decades.The #1 Reason It Is Difficult to Find Your Dream Home | Simplifying The Market

There’s good news coming!

The NAHB article explains that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

How confident home builders are in the housing market is a great indicator of how much building is about to get started. The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair,” or “poor.” The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “high to very high,” “average,” or “low to very low.” Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as “good” than “poor.”

Here are the HMI readings going back to 2008:The #1 Reason It Is Difficult to Find Your Dream Home | Simplifying The MarketThe 2019 confidence reading of 76 was the highest since 1999. The January 2020 index came in one point lower at 75. These readings indicate we should see an increase in new residential construction in 2020. Just last week, NAHB Chairman Greg Ugalde stated:

“Low interest rates and a healthy labor market combined with a need for additional inventory are setting the stage for further home building gains in 2020.”

The increase in housing starts has already begun. According to the January report from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, single‐family housing starts were up 11.2% and attained the highest level in thirteen years.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seller thinking of moving up or down, 2020 could be your year with more new construction homes coming to market.

Find Out What’s Covered Under Your Health Insurance

Many people don’t really have a clear understanding of what is, and isn’t, covered under health insurance plans. And unfortunately, it’s easy to run into a health issue and be surprised at the wrong time. Learn more about your policy BEFORE you need it!

  1. Make a list of a few procedures that you may need, now or in the future, and call your insurance provider (Medicare, too). Ask if each is covered, and what will be your out-of-pocket cost.
  2. Read through your “summary of benefits and coverage,” a document your provider must have available and written in ‘plain English.’ You can find it online in your account, or can ask that it be mailed or emailed to you.
  3. Considering an expensive procedure? Your insurance provider should provide a “coverage agreement” that may be hundreds of pages long. You can read it online, and search through it for the name of the procedure (use your browser’s search function to find it quickly).

How Pets Make Us Healthier

Image by Sven Lachmann from Pixabay

Almost 70% of U.S. homes have a pet member of the family, and with that large percentage it’s good to know there are other reasons than unconditional love to have furry (or scaled or feathered!) friends. Pets can actually improve our health, too.

  • People with dogs have reduced risk for heart disease, and may even live longer. The American Heart Association says it could be due to the increased activity since dog owners are out walking and exercising. Petting and cuddling with dogs can also lower stress levels and increase the calming endorphin Oxytocin.
  • Having a pet can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Some studies also suggest that cat owners are less likely to have a heart attack or a stroke, which could be due to their calming presence.
  • Children with ADHD and autism both seem to benefit greatly from working with and around animals. Animals help them pay attention, learn discipline and caring for others, and build self-esteem. Pets like to play, too, and help kids burn energy.
  • Children raised around animals seem to have fewer allergies. While it’s not the case for all people, especially those with specific animal allergies, early exposure to pets may help kids build immunity and reduce likelihood of allergies and asthma.
  • Companionship and connection makes people healthier. Dogs especially are very focused on their humans, and that attention and connection can help comfort people in pain or distress. This is why therapy dogs are on the rise in hospital settings. Taking your dog out with you to dog parks and dog-friendly events can help you create human connections, too. Connection can reduce loneliness and the effects of depression.

Are you looking to add a pet to the family? Check out petfinder.com or visit your local animal shelter and maybe even save a life. Who knows, your new friend could even improve your health!

Budgeting Without Stress

Budgeting seems like a great idea in theory, but the reality of putting it into practice can be stressful. Here’s how to tackle budgeting in a stress-free way that also helps you achieve your financial goals.

  1. Commit to a date. The first thing to do is set a “money date” with yourself (and your partner if you budget together). Pick an hour on the weekend — or a time when you know you’ll be relaxed — and commit to sitting down to review your budget.
  2. Expenses. Make a list of categories of regular expenses, like rent or mortgage, utilities, phone, car payments, insurance, food, and gas. Next, list one-off or irregular expenses, like clothing, travel, haircare, and gifts.
  3. Habits. Now that you have a list of expenses, it’s time to look at spending habits. Rather than treating this as a punitive exercise, think of it as a learning experience instead. Use your money date to review your bank account each week, and log how much you actually spend and on what category of item. Look for any trends: how much are you spending at Starbucks that you hadn’t listed on your initial expenses? Are you getting takeout more regularly than you thought?
  4. Consider your financial goals. Do you want to save money, or pay down a credit card? Visualize how you’ll feel when you’ve paid off that high interest card or imagine sitting on the beach during the vacation you saved for. That goal can help make it easier to save.
  5. Cut back. Once you have real-life goals in mind, you’re more likely to be motivated to save. Consider if you really need a latte every day, or would you rather have one a week and save the rest of the money?
  6. Stay on track. There are a number of great apps available (Mint.com, or YouNeedABudget.com) that can take the hassle out of updating a spending log. They can help keep track of your goals easily and automatically.