Report: Home Prices Increase In January

House prices in the United States rose 5.2 percent in January over a year earlier, continuing a string of strong housing economic reports from early this year. The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s House Price Index also showed house prices increased 0.3 percent over the previous month. “U.S. house prices continued to increase at a moderate pace in January,” said Dr. Lynn Fisher, Deputy Director of the Division of Research and Statistics at FHFA. “Transactions in January were unlikely to reflect much, if any, influence from the COVID-19 outbreak. House prices in the Pacific and South Atlantic regions grew somewhat faster over the year ending in January 2020 than observed the same time a year ago.” As for regionally, seasonally adjusted…

Are Realtors Essential? Wisconsin Says OK, Others Say No

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued a “safer at home” order that prohibits non-essential travel and closes non-essential businesses for a month, effective Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. Unlike other states, such as California, Pennsylvania and Washington state, real estate offices are permitted to continue operating under Gov. Evers’ orders, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association. The different approaches reflects the differences among states in other industries as well, including construction. “Under the order, real estate brokerage services and most services related to real estate transactions are currently allowed to continue during the duration of the executive order,” WRA said. “However, you’re not required to provide these services during the order. If you decide to provide these services, you must continue to maintain social distancing…

Big Yearly Jump In Single-Family Home Sales In February

Sales of new single-family houses came in at a seasonally adjusted rate of 765,000 for February – down from January but significantly higher than a year earlier. The report from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development showed the February numbers were 4.4 percent below January. They also were 14.3 percent above the January 2019 estimate of 669,000. “New home sales are yet another housing indication that show what a bring start we had to 2020,” realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale said. “With both supply and demand reduced as a result of the COVID-19 disruption, we can expect that we’ll see fewer sales in the short run. The open question is how long this will…

iBuyer Fallout: Zillow Pauses Home Buying

Zillow announced Monday that it is suspending buying homes as part of its iBuyer program across the country amid orders to end all non-essential businesses. The company will continue to market and sell homes through Zillow Offers, but will pause making offers to sellers to “protect the safety and health of its employees, customers and partners.” “Our top priority is ensuring the safety and health of our employees, customers, and partners. Given the concerns for public safety and rapid developments by governments that restrict local real estate activities, we determined it was prudent to pause our home buying to preserve our capital,” Zillow Group CEO Rich Barton said. “We plan to restore Zillow Offers full operations once health concerns pass…

Fannie, Freddie Offer Inspection And Employment Verification Flexibility

Building on an already busy day in the mortgage industry, the Federal Housing Finance Agency ordered Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ease appraisal and employment verification requirements for the next two months. Fannie and Freddie will use alternatives to reduce the need for appraisers to inspect the inside of homes at a time when an increasing number of states have issued shelter-in-place directives or ordered the closing of non-essential businesses. This will allow for purchases and homes to be refinanced as the nation deals with the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, lenders may now obtain employment verification by email from an employer, a recent year-to-date paystub from the borrower or a bank statement showing a recent payroll deposit. This is instead…

Report: Foreclosures Hit Record Lows In February

Black Knight on Monday released an early look at February mortgage performance statistics in the United States, reflecting the health of industry in the last days before the coronavirus pandemic swept the nation. Black Knight’s data showed: Foreclosure starts fell 25 percent from January 2020 and 20 percent from the year prior, hitting their lowest level on record since Black Knight began publicly reporting the numbers in January 2000.The national foreclosure rate falling to 0.45 percent in February, the lowest it’s been since 2005 and within one basis point of an all-time low.Delinquencies were up slightly from January, but remain more than 15 percent below last year’s levelsPrepayment activity rose by nearly 8 percent month-over-month as early 2020 rate declines…

Is Construction Non-Essential? It Depends On Where You Live

As pleas to stay home to stop the spread of the coronavirus grow louder, construction workers and developers find themselves in a new and uncertain territory.  State and local orders directed at whether and how construction workers can continue building are untested and vary dramatically.  Pennsylvania imposed a strict ban on all business activities that are not deemed “life-sustaining,” including construction in all forms. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s “stay-at-home” order excludes construction workers. New York Gov. Cuomo mandated that 75 percent of the non-essential workforce work from home to further reduce density across the state to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio said he will “continue to consider how to handle this” and pointed to…

Mortgage Lender CEO Says “Everyone’s Winning Right Now” Amid Pandemic

On the same day the government announced 281,000 Americans filed jobless claims last week amid the coronavirus pandemic, United Wholesale Mortgage President and Chief Executive Officer Mat Ishbia declared “Everyone’s winning right now” in the mortgage market. Ishbia, in an interview with Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME), lashed out at critics Thursday for spreading “crazy rumors, crazy things” about his business, saying “things here at UWM have never been better.” “I’m sure my competitors and other people in the industry, retail people, would love for UWM to not be strong and love for something to be behind the veil besides that UWM is going to be here for the long term helping brokers dominate,” Ishbia said. See also: Ishbia says UWM avoids…

Before The Pandemic: Existing-Home Sales Jumped In February

Americans went on a home-buying spree in the month before the coronavirus slammed the brakes on the economy. Existing-home sales jumped 6.5 percent to 5.77 million in February over the month before – which is also a 7.2 percent increase over a year ago, according to the monthly sales report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). “February’s sales of over 5 million homes were the strongest since February 2007,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “I would attribute that to the incredibly low mortgage rates and the steady release of a sizable pent-up housing demand that was built over recent years.” The median existing-home price for all housing types in February was $270,100, up 8 percent from February 2019 ($250,100)…

Real Estate Offices Included In Pa Governor’s Shuttering Of Businesses

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday shuttered all real estate agent and brokers’ offices in the state as part of a sweeping edict to all “non life-sustaining” businesses to close. The order covers “lessors of real estate,” “real estate agents and brokers,” and “activities related to real estate,” including open houses and settlements. It also includes residential construction.  “To protect the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians, we need to take more aggressive mitigation actions,” said Gov. Wolf. “This virus is an invisible danger that could be present everywhere. We need to act with the strength we use against any other severe threat. And we need to act now before the illness spreads more widely.” The governor posted a five-page yes/no…