Why Housing Is on Track for a Good Year

Low mortgage rates and strong job growth are giving the housing market one of its best years in decades—even as overall economic growth has weakened—according to Freddie Mac’s monthly Outlook report for May. The report’s optimism is a change from the mortgage giant’s previous predictions when economists said the housing market likely would not perform as well as it did in 2016.

Read more: Yun: Home Sales on Pace to Hit 5.6M This Year

New-home sales in March were better than expected, and existing-home sales that month rose to the highest level since 2007. Now Freddie economists expect home sales to top 6 million in 2017. “Despite weak economic growth, housing got off to a good start in 2017 because low mortgage rates have given the spring homebuying season a pleasant surprise,” says Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Mortgage rates started March just above four percent and have mostly drifted lower since then, even falling below 4 percent. With home sales, housing starts, and home values up, 2017 is shaping up to be the best year for housing in over a decade.”

Also, unemployment in the U.S. is at 4.4 percent, the lowest rate since 2001.

Mortgage originations in the first quarter of this year totaled about $60 billion more than expected, mostly due to an uptick in refinances, according to Freddie. Mortgage originations in 2017 are expected to rise to more than $200 billion. In the first quarter of this year, 49 percent of refinancing borrowers took cash out. That also marks the highest share since the fourth quarter of 2008 but remains far below the peak of 89 percent in the third quarter of 2006.

Source: “Outlook: Housing Gets Off to a Good Start,” Freddie Mac (May 24, 2017) and “Freddie Mac Pulls a 180 in Housing Outlook,” Mortgage News Daily (May 25, 2017)

What Owners Want in Kitchen Remodels

Kitchen revamps tend to be one of the most popular home remodeling projects. About 10.2 million American households tackled a kitchen remodel or replacement work in 2015, according to a recent report from the National Kitchen & Bath Association. Homeowners tend to want new flooring, countertops, cabinets, sinks, and faucets in their kitchen remodel.

Also, "more homeowners are incorporating smart technology using the Amazon Echo or Google Home to connect to their appliances for cost savings, energy efficiency, and convenience," says Elle H-Millard, who specializes in kitchen and bathroom trends at the NKBA.

The majority of homeowners aren't spending big bucks on their renovations. Forty-one percent of homeowners’ work in their kitchen remodels was devoted to replacement projects costing less than $1,500. Twenty-two percent of respondents say they had minor remodeling done, between $1,500 to $5,000; 18 percent of homeowners had major remodels completed that cost between $5,000 to $10,000; and 19 percent completely remodeled their kitchens, spending more than $10,000.

Nearly 80 percent of homeowners who underwent a complete kitchen renovation spent on new appliances, according to the NKBA. Refrigerators were the top appliance replaced, followed by range ovens and dishwashers.

As for countertops, homeowners still largely prefer granite, followed by laminate at 23 percent and marble at 19 percent.

Homeowners still say they like wood flooring best too, but they weren't as likely to splurge on real hardwood flooring for their kitchen renovations, according to the NKBA’s survey. Laminate flooring was the most popular material in the kitchen at 32 percent, with ceramic and stone tiles following closely at 31 percent; both are often designed to mimic wood. Actual wood, meanwhile, was chosen by 18 percent of survey respondents.

"Wood has that timeless feel," says H-Millard. But "porcelain tile would be much more durable than wood, [and] laminate would be much more cost-effective."

Sinks were another popular area of kitchen renovations. Stainless steel is the most popular option at 72 percent, but 9 percent of homeowners opt for enameled cast-iron sinks.

Source: “Remodeling Your Kitchen? The Most Popular Appliances, Finishes, and Flooring,” realtor.com®

Home Insurance Myths

Most mortgage lenders require borrowers to purchase home insurance, but many buyers may be confused about what their policy covers. Realtor.com® recently highlighted several common myths consumers believe when it comes to home insurance.
Myth number one: All of a home's belongings are covered. "A homeowners insurance policy is not designed to cover everything," says Jeanne Salvatore, chief communications officer at the Insurance Information Institute. "Each policy clearly states what's covered and what's not." Personal valuables, for example, aren't typically covered by a basic policy. "If you have valuable art or fine jewelry inside your house, you might need a scheduled personal property policy to cover these items," says Laurie Pellouchoud, vice president at Allstate.
Myth number two: Coverage should be based on the market value of a home. Fifty-two percent of buyers believe they should purchase insurance coverage based on their home's market value, according to a survey by Insure.com. However, with most insurance policies, rates are based on the cost to rebuild the home, not the value of the property. "In most cases, you need less coverage than the market value of your house," Salvatore says.
Myth number three: Flood coverage is included in most standard policies. Flood coverage typically is not included in standard insurance policies. Homeowners who live in an area that is prone to flooding likely will be required to purchase a separate policy to protect themselves. Separate flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program and some private insurers. Even homeowners who live outside a flood zone may be wise to consider buying the extra protection against floods, experts say.
Source: 6 Home Insurance Myths That’ll Cost You Big-Time, realtor.com®