Homeownership/Tax Plan

Major reforms are needed to lower tax rates and simplify the tax code, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of current and prospective homeowners, according to National Association of Realtors® President William E. Brown.
Brown said that while the President’s tax proposal released today is well-intentioned, it’s a non-starter for homeowners and real estate professionals who see the benefits of housing and real estate investment at work every day. By doubling the standard deduction and repealing the state and local tax deduction, the plan would effectively nullify the current tax benefits of owning a home for the vast majority of tax filers. In light of the plan’s release, Brown issued the following statement:
“For over a century, America has committed itself to homeownership with targeted tax incentives that help lower- and middle-class families purchase what is likely their largest asset. No surprise, real estate now accounts for over 19 percent of America’s gross domestic product, or more than $3 trillion in investment.
“Targeted tax incentives are in place to help people get there. The mortgage interest deduction and the state and local tax deduction make homeownership more affordable.

Home Sales Jumped 4.4% in March

Existing-home sales took off in March to their highest pace in over 10 years, and severe supply shortages resulted in the typical home coming off the market significantly faster than in February and a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) only the West saw a decline in sales activity in March.
Sales rose 4.4 percent to an annual rate of 5.71 million in March a sales pace which is 5.9 percent above a year ago and surpasses January as the strongest month of sales since February 2007.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says existing sales roared back in March and were led by hefty gains in the Northeast and Midwest. “The early returns so far this spring buying season look very promising as a rising number of households entered into the market and were successfully able to close on a home last month,” he said. “Although finding available properties to buy continues to be a strenuous task for many buyers, there was enough of a monthly increase in listings in March for sales to muster a strong gain. Sales will go up as long as inventory does.”
The median existing-home price for all housing types in March was $236,400, up 6.8 percent from March 2016 ($221,400). March’s price increase marks the 61st consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

Home Buyers Interested in Sustainability

Growing consumer interest and demand for greener, more sustainable properties is driving a dialogue between Realtors® and home-buyers and sellers. Realtors® find that consumers have interest in real estate sustainability issues and practices.
The home features that Realtors® said clients consider as important include a home’s efficient use of lighting (50 percent), a smart/connected home (40 percent), green community features such as bike lanes and green spaces (37 percent), landscaping for water conservation (32 percent), and renewable energy systems such as solar and geothermal (23 percent).
When it comes to the sustainable neighborhood features for which clients are looking, 60 percent of Realtors® listed parks and outdoor recreation, 37 percent listed access to local food and nine percent listed recycling as important to home buyers.
The transportation and commuting features of a community that Realtors® listed as important to their clients included walkability (51 percent), public transportation (31 percent) and bike lanes/paths (39 percent).
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) initiated the Sustainability Program as a platform for dialogue on sustainability for Realtors®, brokers and consumers. The program’s efforts focus on coordination of NAR’s existing sustainability resources, while also supporting a growing area of interest for consumers.

Realtor Survey – Optimism Surges

Multiple years of uninterrupted job gains and hope that the best is yet to come in 2017 are igniting consumer confidence across the country, and especially in rural and middle America, according to new consumer survey findings from the National Association of Realtors®.

In NAR’s quarterly survey, respondents were asked about their confidence in the U.S. economy and various questions about their housing expectations. In the first three months of 2017, the share of households believing the economy is improving soared to its highest share in the survey’s five-quarter history (62 percent), and is up from 54 percent last quarter and 48 percent in March 2016.

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist said, “Confidence levels generally rise after a presidential election as the nation hopes for the best. Even though it is a highly polarized country, consumers for the most part have upbeat feelings about the economy right now,” he said. “Stronger business and consumer morale typically lead to even more hiring and spending, which in turn encourages more households to make big decisions like buying a home.”

Higher confidence in the economy is also translating to better feelings about households’ financial situation. The survey’s monthly Personal Financial Outlook Index showing respondents’ confidence that their financial situation will be better in six months, climbing to 62.6 in March from 59.8 in December 2016.

MAINE HOME VALUES UP

Maine’s real estate continues to increase in value, despite a decline in sales last month. Maine Listings reported an impressive 12.50 percent jump in home prices, bringing the statewide median sales price (MSP) to $180,000 during the month of February.

Weather certainly affected buyers last month, and sales eased 12.91 percent. “The February 2017 data was impacted by a 10-day period of record-breaking snow and a comparison February 2016 (Leap Year with an additional day),” explains Greg Gosselin, President of the Maine Association of REALTORS. “Statistics indicate continuing strong real estate sales and value trends throughout Maine.

REALTORS report that pre-qualified buyers are actively searching now to take advantage of the long-term affordability and tax benefits that home ownership provides.” According to the National Association of Realtors, sales of single-family homes nationwide rose 5.8 percent over the past year. The national MSP of $229,900 represents a 7.6 percent jump. Regionally, single-family existing home sales in the Northeastern US increased 1.5 percent while values were up 4.1 percent to $250,200.

MAINE HOME VALUES UP

Maine’s real estate continues to increase in value, despite a decline in sales last month. Maine Listings reported an impressive 12.50 percent jump in home prices, bringing the statewide median sales price (MSP) to $180,000 during the month of February.
Weather certainly affected buyers last month, and sales eased 12.91 percent. “The February 2017 data was impacted by a 10-day period of record-breaking snow and a comparison February 2016 (Leap Year with an additional day),” explains Greg Gosselin, President of the Maine Association of REALTORS. “Statistics indicate continuing strong real estate sales and value trends throughout Maine.
REALTORS report that pre-qualified buyers are actively searching now to take advantage of the long-term affordability and tax benefits that home ownership provides.” According to the National Association of Realtors, sales of single-family homes nationwide rose 5.8 percent over the past year. The national MSP of $229,900 represents a 7.6 percent jump. Regionally, single-family existing home sales in the Northeastern US increased 1.5 percent while values were up 4.1 percent to $250,200.

Fed Quickens Pace, Raises Rate 3 Months After Last Hike

The Federal Reserve voted on Wednesday to again raise the key interest rate one-quarter percentage point, the first of three hikes anticipated for 2017. The rate was increased one-quarter percentage point just three months ago, in December 2016.
“In view of realized and expected labor market conditions and inflation, the [Federal Open Market] Committee decided to raise the target range for the federal funds rate to 3/4 to 1 percent,” according to a statement by the Fed. “The stance of monetary policy remains accommodative, thereby supporting some further strengthening in labor market conditions and a sustained return to 2 percent inflation.”
The probable decision, which followed encouraging employment figures in February, marks a turning point in policy. The Fed raised the rate only twice in the past decade; Wednesday’s decision quickens the pace, signaling the potential for more aggressive action as the year unfolds.
Rising rates have been top of mind for members of the housing industry, who fear diminishing affordability—a concern, still, that could be overblown. A recent survey by Zillow Group Mortgages revealed the majority of homebuyers would see their purchase plans through if rising rates resulted in a $100 increase to their mortgage payments. Many would continue with their plans even if their payment were to increase by $200.
Mortgage rates are indirectly impacted by the movement of the key rate. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate jumped to a year-high last week.
While this may have a downward effect on buyer demand, home prices are still at historic lows and interest rates remain relatively low. These two factors make for robust activity in the 2017 real estate market.