REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey: May 2018 Highlights

The REALTORS® Confidence Index (RCI) survey[1] gathers monthly information from REALTORS® about local real estate market conditions, characteristics of buyers and sellers, and issues affecting homeownership and real estate transactions.[2] This report presents key results about market transactions from May 2018. View and download the full report here.

Market Conditions and Expectations

  • The REALTORS® Buyer Traffic Index registered at 73 (74 in May 2017).[3]
  • The REALTORS® Seller Traffic Index registered at 44 (46 in May 2017).
  • The REALTORS® Confidence Index—SixMonth Outlook Current Conditions registered at 72 for detached single-family, 59 for townhome, and 57 for condominium properties. An index above 50 indicates market conditions are expected to improve.
  • Properties were typically on the market for 26 days (27 days in May 2017).
  • Eighty-eight percent of respondents reported that home prices remained constant or rose in May 2018 compared to levels one year ago (90 percent in May 2017).

Characteristics of Buyers and Sellers

  • First-time buyers accounted for 31 percent of sales (33 percent in May 2017).
  • Vacation and investment buyers comprised 15 percent of sales (16 percent in May 2017).
  • Sales of distressed properties (foreclosed or sold as a short sale) accounted for 3 percent of sales (5 percent in May 2017).
  • Cash sales made up 21 percent of sales (22 percent in May 2017).
  • Seventeen percent of sellers offered incentives such as paying for providing a warranty (9 percent), closing costs (6 percent), and undertaking remodeling (2 percent).[4]

Issues Affecting Buyers and Sellers

  • From March–May 2018, 76 percent of contracts settled on time (76 percent in May 2017).
  • Among sales that closed in May 2018, 77 percent had contract contingencies. The most common contingencies pertained to home inspection (58 percent), obtaining financing (45 percent), and getting an acceptable appraisal (44 percent).
  • REALTORS® report “low inventory”, “interest rates”, and “multiple offers” as the major issues affecting transactions in May 2018.

About the RCI Survey

  • The RCI Survey gathers information from REALTORS® about local market conditions based on their client interactions and the characteristics of their most recent sales for the month.
  • The May 2018 survey was sent to 50,000 REALTORS® who were selected from NAR’s 1.3 million members through simple random sampling and to 7,495 respondents in the previous three surveys who provided their email addresses.
  • There were 4,169 respondents to the online survey which ran from June 1-12, 2018. The survey’s overall margin of error at the 95 percent confidence level is one percent. The margins of error for subgroups and sample proportions of below or above 50 percent are larger.
  • NAR weighs the responses by a factor that aligns the sample distribution of responses to the distribution of NAR membership.

The REALTORS® Confidence Index is provided by NAR solely for use as a reference. Resale of any part of this data is prohibited without NAR’s prior written consent. For questions on this report or to purchase the RCI series, please email: Data@realtors.org


[1] Thanks to George Ratiu, Managing Director, Housing and Commercial Research and Gay Cororaton, Research Economist for their data analysis and comments to the RCI Report.

[2] Respondents report on the most recent characteristics of their most recent sale for the month.

[3] An index greater than 50 means more respondents reported conditions as “strong” compared to one year ago than “weak.” An index of 50 indicates a balance of respondents

who viewed conditions as “strong” or “weak.”

[4] The difference in the sum of percentages to the total percentage of sellers who offered incentives is due to rounding.

Median Prices Rose to Highest Level, But Inflation-Adjusted Prices Still Below Bubble Peak

The median sales price of all existing homes sold rose to its highest level in May 2018, to $264,800. This peak price exceeds the housing bubble peak of $230,400 in July 2006. The median sales price of existing homes sold has been trending up (on a year-on-year basis) in the past 75 months since March 2012. This also represents a 71 percent nominal increase from its lowest level in January 2012 of $154,600. However, netting out the effect of inflation, the May 2018 inflation-adjusted median home sales price is at $172,928. This is still 11 percent lower than the inflation-adjusted peak price of $193,781 in June 2005. On an inflation-adjusted basis, home prices have increased 58 percent since February 2012.

An inflation-adjusted measure of house prices provides useful information for both current homeowners and for homebuyers. For current homeowners, a desirable situation is one where home prices are appreciating at a faster rate than inflation, so that they get a positive real return. For homebuyers, a desirable situation is one where home prices are not appreciating too far off from the overall increase in prices (inflation), so that households are not forced to make significant adjustments to their spending behavior just to purchase a home. Moreover, home prices should not be appreciating too far ahead of the rate of increase in income (which is also tied to some extent to inflation), which makes a home purchase unaffordable.

The median sales price of existing homes sold at the nominal and inflation-adjusted levels are still rising, but the pace of appreciation has slowed compared to the double-digit growth rates in October 2012‒ January 2013. Although the May 2018 nominal median home price of $264,800 is a new high, this represents a modest appreciation of 4.9 percent (year-on-year basis) compared to the average price appreciation of 8.5 percent during the bubble period and the 7.0 percent average during this current recovery period.  The inflation-adjusted median home price rose by 2.0 percent in May 2018, also a slower pace of appreciation compared to the 5.7 percent average during the housing bubble period and the 5.5 percent average during this recovery period. This indicates that, nationally, the real estate market during this recovery period has not overheated to the same intensity as that of housing bubble period of January 2012–July 2006.

The pace of price appreciation has started to taper off as home prices have become less affordable, along with interest rates on the rise. Home prices have been rising at a faster pace than income, making a home purchase less affordable.  As of 2017, the median sales price of existing homes was up 40 percent compared to the annual average in 2012, while incomes (measured by weekly earnings) were up by only 12 percent.

Interest rates are still at historically low levels, though they are on the rise, as monetary policy is expected to tighten in response to rising inflation.  The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has increased to 4.62 percent during the week of June 14 compared to 3.91 percent nearly one year ago. A one-percentage point increase in mortgage rates increases the monthly mortgage by $119 (or $1,426 annually) for a borrower making a 20 percent down payment and by $143 for a borrower making a 3.5 percent down payment (or $1,720 annually). For some borrowers, this additional cost can mean the difference between buying or renting.

In summary, nominal home prices are above the peak seen during the bubble years, but the inflation-adjusted price is still below the housing bubble peak. Moreover, while home prices are still increasing, the pace of price appreciation is slowing, as demand is adjusting to the higher price and rising mortgage rates. The trends indicate that the pace of price appreciation during the current recovery period is not likely to reach the intensity of the housing bubble period on a national scale.

Younger Boomers: Purchased Multi-Generational Homes

Younger Boomers, buyers aged 53 to 62 years, made up 18 percent of all home buyers in 2017. The median age for this group was 58 years old and they were born between 1955 and 1964. This age group was the most likely to purchase a multi-generational home at 20 percent. Their reasons for purchasing a multi-generational home were children or relatives over the age of 18 years moving back in (23 percent), health/caretaking of aging parents (22 percent), and children over 18 years that never left (16 percent).

For Younger Boomers, the primary reasons they purchased homes were the desire to own a home of their own (17 percent), a job-related relocation or move (13 percent), and the desire for a smaller home (10 percent), more than other generations. Compared to other buyers, they said it was the right time and that they were just ready to buy when they did (49 percent).

Younger Boomers were less likely to purchase in the suburbs (50 percent) and most likely to purchase in rural areas (15 percent) compared to other generations. They had the second highest median household income at $94,000. They also purchased the second most expensive homes of all generations with a median home price of $249,200. This generation of buyers also purchased the third largest homes in size at a median square footage of 1,870.

Younger Boomers were the most likely to consider heating and cooling costs very important. This age group was unlikely to compromise on the price of the home as well as the quality of and distance from schools. Younger Boomers moved from their previous residence at a median of 17 miles.

Younger Boomers were the most likely to look online for properties for sale as their first step in the home search process (48 percent). They were also the most likely to cite yard signs as useful search information on homes (50 percent) more than other generations. Younger Boomers were the most likely to use money from an inheritance for the downpayment of their home purchase.

Younger Boomers were the second largest share of home sellers last year at 23 percent. They had the third highest median incomes for sellers at $100,000 (Millennials surpassed them this year) and sold the second highest median priced homes at $264,300. Younger Boomers were the most likely to sell a detached single-family home and sold the largest homes at a median of 2,100 square feet. They were the most likely to offer home warranty incentives to help sell the home.

 

REALTORS® Expect Home Prices to Increase by 4% in the Next 12 Months

In a monthly survey of REALTORS®, respondents are asked “In the neighborhood(s) or area(s) where you make the most sales, what are your expectations for residential property prices over the next year?

Among the respondents, the median expected price change is four percent. The chart below shows median expected price change by state based on survey responses collected during February–April 2018[1], according to the  April 2018 REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey

Respondents from the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, California, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, and Wisconsin expect the highest price growth in the next 12 months, with the expected median price growth at more than five to nearly eight percent.

Owing to tight lack of construction, house prices have increased steeply since 2012 compared to the growth in income. Nationally, the median price of U.S. existing homes sold was 68 percent higher than the level in January 2012, the year the housing market started to recover solidly.  Meanwhile, wages have increased only 15 percent since then.

Based on the FHFA House Price Index at the state level, the strongest price growths from 2012 through 2017 were in the West region such as Nevada (102 percent), California (85 percent), Arizona (76 percent), Oregon (74 percent), Idaho (70 percent), Washington (68 percent), Colorado (68 percent), Utah (65 percent). Home prices have also increased steeply in Florida (73 percent), Michigan (71 percent), and Texas (47 percent).

Use the data visualization below to view median listing prices in April 2018. Red areas are areas where prices are higher than the U.S. median home price growth. Hover on the map to view the historical median listing prices of properties listed on Realtor.com from June 2012 through April 2018.[2]

[1] Because each month’s survey asks about the outlook in the next months, the responses collected from January-March 2018 covers the outlook for January 2018-March 2019.

[2] Realtor.com data is freely available and can be download from https://www.realtor.com/research

Older Boomers: Most Satisfied Buyers Purchasing Forever Homes

Older Boomers, buyers aged 63 to 71 years, made up 14 percent of all home buyers in 2017. The median age for this group was 66 years old and they were born between 1946 and 1954. Within this group, they had the second largest share of single female buyers at 22 percent. Their primary reasons for purchasing a home, more than other generations, were the desire to live closer to friends and family (25 percent), followed by retirement (15 percent).

Combined, Older Boomers owned the highest share of investment (nine percent) and vacation (seven percent) properties. Equal to the Silent Generation, Older Boomers were the most likely to purchase homes in a small town (27 percent) and in a rural area (11 percent).

Compared to other buyers, they moved the greatest distances at a median of 30 miles. Older Boomers were the least likely to purchase homes for the quality of school districts or convenience to schools. Rather, they purchased homes for the quality of the neighborhood and for convenience to friends and family. This age group found commuting costs as well as windows, doors, and siding installation equally important. Overall, Older Boomers were very likely not to make compromises on the home when they purchased (47 percent), citing that they were never moving and it was their forever home (27 percent).

In their home search process, Older Boomers were very likely to drive by homes and neighborhoods and they were the least likely to find the paperwork a difficult step. Older Boomers were the most satisfied with the home buying process at 93 percent.

Older Boomers’ income was below the median income of all buyers ($88,800) at just $80,700 and they purchased homes at a median price of $239,200. Older Boomers were the most likely to use the proceeds from the sale of a primary residence as the source of their downpayment (56 percent) and from an IRA account (five percent). They were the largest group of home buyers to save for a downpayment for more than two years (30 percent).

Older Boomers were the third largest share of home sellers at 22 percent in 2017. The median age for an Older Boomer seller was 67 years. They had the second lowest median income at $80,700. They were the most likely to sell to be closer to friends and family (28 percent) and for retirement (19 percent), and at a median distance of 39 miles from the home they recently purchased. They were also very likely to sell when they wanted to (94 percent). They receive the highest equity at 46 percent and second highest dollar value at $86,000.

April 2018 Housing Affordability Index

At the national level, housing affordability is down from last month and down from a year ago. Mortgage rates rose to 4.66 percent this April, up 13.4 percent compared to 4.11 percent a year ago.

  • Housing affordability declined from a year ago in April moving the index down 8.8 percent from 159.8 to 145.8. The median sales price for a single family home sold in April in the US was $259,900 up 5.5 percent from a year ago.
  • Nationally, mortgage rates were up 55 basis point from one year ago (one percentage point equals 100 basis points), while median family incomes rose 2.8 percent.

  • Regionally, the West recorded the biggest increase in home prices at 6.4 percent. The South had an increase of 5.0 percent while the Midwest had a gain of 4.1 percent. The Northeast had the smallest incline in price of 2.5 percent.
  • Regionally, all four regions saw a decline in affordability from a year ago. The West had the biggest drop in affordability of 9.4 percent. The South and the Midwest both had a decline of 8.0 percent. The Northeast had the smallest drop of 5.4 percent.
  • On a monthly basis, affordability is down from last month in all four regions. The West had a decline of 0.8 percent followed by the Northeast with a dip of 2.0 percent. The South had a drop of 2.6 percent followed by the Midwest, which had the biggest; dip in affordability of 6.0 percent.
  • Despite month-to-month changes, the most affordable region was the Midwest, with an index value of 183.6. The least affordable region remained the West where the index was 104.6. For comparison, the index was 147.9 in the South, and 160.2 in the Northeast.

  • Mortgage applications are currently up 4.1 percent. Consumer confidence remains strong. Home prices are up 5.5 percent while median family incomes are only growing 2.8 percent. New home construction is being held back by increased material cost and labor shortage.
  • What does housing affordability look like in your market? View the full data release here.
  • The Housing Affordability Index calculation assumes a 20 percent down payment and a 25 percent qualifying ratio (principal and interest payment to income). See further details on the methodology and assumptions behind the calculation here.

Housing Shortage Tracker

Home prices around the country are continuing to surge—and they are not likely to slow down any time soon. In the last three years, the national median home price has increased about 20 percent, with annual gains of six percent on average. Meanwhile, in some areas, home prices are hitting warp speeds. Seattle and Denver metro areas have experienced about 40 percent price gains in the last three years.

Lack of housing inventory is considered the main reason that drives up home prices. Although new home construction has picked up, it is still not enough to accommodate the increased housing demand. Recently, the pace of permit issuance has been only about half the peak level in 2005. Furthermore, the unemployment rate has dropped below 4 percent due to a strong economy. As more people enter back into the work place the demand for housing is expected to increase as Americans set their sights on homeownership.

NAR identifies the metro areas with the highest deficit of homes. The Monthly Housing Shortage Tracker is an index, which compares how many permits are issued relative to the number of new jobs. The higher the index the higher the housing shortage in the area since it shows that more jobs have been created than homes. Based on the historical average, two permits are issued for every new job. However, the highest value for the index in April was 13.6 in the San Jose, CA metro area. This means that for every 14 new jobs a single-family unit is permitted. In contrast, a single-family unit is permitted for every new job in Sarasota, FL metro area.

The “usual suspects” are at the top of the list. It is noteworthy that, among the top ten metro areas with the highest housing shortage, seven are located in California.

The visualization below allows you to see how many permits are issued for every new job for 178 metro areas. Click on a metro area on the map and see the number of permits issued and new jobs created in the last three years.

So, what should be done? Here is a very simple answer: build more homes. There is strong demand for housing, but not enough supply. That leads to rising home prices. By increasing the supply of housing price growth will ease. However, building too few homes may be the most significant factor, but not the only one. The vast majority of houses coming on to the market are not newly-built, but existing homes. In the meantime, the number of residents age 65 and over grew from 35.0 million in 2000, to 49.2 million in 2016, accounting for 12.4 percent and 15.2 percent of total population, respectively. The median age is increasing in most areas of the country. This means that the average homeowner has become less likely to move and therefore fewer existing homes will be put on the market.  So, while building more homes will help housing shortage, other factors, including an aging population, will make a return to “normal” housing inventory levels difficult to reach in the near-term.

In Which States Did Properties Sell Most Quickly in April 2018?

Amid strong demand and tight supply, REALTORS® reported that properties that sold in April 2018 were typically on the market for 26 days, down from 29 days compared to the same month last year, according to the  April 2018 REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey.[1] The median days on market have been broadly on a downtrend since 2011 when the properties typically were on the market for three months from May 2011, when this question was first asked in the RCI Survey, through March 2012.

During the February–April 2018, properties typically sold within one month in the District of Columbia and in 23 states led by Washington (21 days), Utah (21), Nevada (22), California (22), and Colorado (22), Oregon (24), Kansas (24), and Indiana (24).

 

Amid fewer listings for sale in many areas, properties continued to sell at a faster pace in many metro areas, based on the days the properties were listed on Realtor.com. Properties sold most quickly in California, Washington, Utah, and Colorado, particularly in the metro areas of Jose-Sunnyvale-Sta. Clara, CA (19 days), San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA (24 days), Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue (25 days), Salt Lake, UT (28 days), Ogden-Clearfield, UT (29 days), Colorado Springs, CO (30 days), Midland, TX (30 days), Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA (30 days), Denver-Aurora-Lakewood (31days), and Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC- MD-VA-WV (31 days).

Use the data visualization below to view the median number days properties were listed on Realtor.com in April 2018.[2]


[1] In generating the median days on market at the state level, NAR uses data for the last three surveys to have close to 30 observations. Small states such as AK, ND, SD, MT, VT, WY, WV, DE, and D.C., may have fewer than 30 observations.

[2] To access Realtor.com data, go to https://www.realtor.com/research/data/.

 

REALTORS® Report Continued Lack of Homes for Sale in April 2018

In a monthly survey of REALTORS®, respondents are asked “Compared to the same month last year, how would you rate the past month’s traffic in neighborhood(s) or area(s) where you make most of your sales?” Respondents rate seller traffic as “Stronger” (100), “Stable” (50), or “Weaker” (0) and the responses are compiled into a diffusion index. An index greater than 50 means that more respondents reported “stronger” than “weaker” conditions.

The chart below shows seller traffic conditions in February–April 2018 compared to conditions one year ago, according to the  April 2018 REALTORS® Confidence Index SurveyREALTORS® reported that seller traffic conditions were “weak” in April 2018 compared to one year ago in 29 states, which includes states such as Washington, California, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Ohio, Tennessee, New York and Massachusetts where buyer traffic has increased compared to one year ago.  In states such as Florida and Texas, REALTORS® reported that buyer traffic was stronger but seller traffic has not increased compared to one year ago.[1]

The supply of homes for sale continues to fall behind the housing demand. Nationally, the REALTORS® Seller Traffic Index registered at 45 in April 2018, while the REALTORS® Buyer Traffic Index was at 74. An index greater than 50 means that more respondents reported “stronger” than “weaker” conditions.

Supply remains low in many areas. For example, in San Jose-Sunnyvale-Sta. Clara, listings are down nearly 20 percent from one year ago, as well as in Bakersfield, CA (-27%), Fresno (-21%), and San Francisco-Oakland (-6.4%). However, listings are up in areas such as Sta. Rosa (49%), Sacramento-Roseville-Arden Arcade (13%) and Napa Valley (15%).

 

Use the data visualization below to view the change in active listings on Realtor.com in April 2018 from one year ago. Metro areas with lower listings are depicted in orange.

 

 


[1] In generating the indices, NAR uses data for the last three surveys to have close to 30 observations. Small states such as AK, ND, SD, MT, VT, WY, WV, DE, and D.C., may have fewer than 30 observations. For graphical purposes, index values from 25.01 to 45 are labeled “Weak,” values of 45.01 to 55 are labeled “Stable,” values of 55.01 to 75 are labeled “Strong,” and values greater than 75 are labeled “Very Strong.”

 

No Breakout in Home Sales Despite Good Economy

The economy is quite strong. Job gains for 91 consecutive months have brought the unemployment rate to its lowest level since the year 2000. The latest unemployment rate of 3.8% in May corresponds to 155 million Americans with jobs and only 6.1 million without one and still searching. A very rare event is occurring in the economy as well: the total number of job openings exceed the number of unemployed today. Theoretically, the unemployment rate could be zero, if those unemployed had the required skill sets and were willing to move the locations where there are job openings. At the depths of the recession 8 years ago, there were over 15 million people unemployed and only 2 million job openings.

The tight job market is forcing employers to compete aggressively over the sparse number of those still without a job or by trying to recruit workers away from other firms.  The average hourly wage rate reached $22.59, which is an increase of 2.8%, the strongest gain in nearly a decade. The retail trade sector is offering one of the bigger wage bumps by way of a 4.4% gain to an average hourly pay of $15.93. For business owners with HELP WANTED sign on the window, keep this in mind. The wages of construction workers are also outpacing the average pay growth with a 3.6% gain to reach $27.50 per hour.

In addition to the wage growth, the total net worth of the country has been successively hitting new highs with each passing quarter. Right before the Great Recession, the total net worth of all households combined was $66 trillion. It then plunged to $55 trillion as home values and the stock market corrected. Today, net worth is likely to have surpassed $100 trillion (it was $98.7 trillion at the end of 2017) as both home prices and the stock market are essentially setting new highs.

 

Read the full article here.