ECONOMIC OPTIMISM SOARS

BUT WILL IT LAST?

According to the CNBC All-America Economic Survey, for the first time in at least 11 years, more than half of all survey respondents rated the economy as Good or Excellent.  Forty-one percent believe the economy will improve in 2018, and forty-two percent approve of President Trump’s job performance.  This poll was conducted by a Democratic firm and pollster, Hart Research – so this is not a firm with an agenda to make the economy and the president look “good”.

What is also interesting is that this poll was conducted December 10-13, during the tug-of-war debate about tax reform; so there is a certain amount of “uncertainty” that may have suppressed these numbers.  It is also worth noting that there has been a significant “talk” on the business-news channels that there are going to be two or three Fed rate-hikes in 2018.  This, one would think, should provide reason to be doubtful about the prospects of a strong economy.  However, the respondents to this poll by a Democratic pollster have feelings that are contrary to that presumption.  Why is that? What does it mean? (If anything.)

Our economy is good, or bad, because we believe it is.  So, what are some things that would contribute to our believing the economy is good/going to improve if:

  • There are multiple negative-news headlines,
  • Alleged lack of certainty in our economic prospects,
  • There aren’t enough positive-news headlines reported by the “Main Stream Media” (if you believe Fox News.)

Well, I submit to you that perhaps, people are making more money, becoming more gainfully employed, and more people are making more money.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, civilian worker compensation was up 2.5%, year over year, in the third quarter of 2017.  In the nonfarm business sector Output was up 4.1%, and hourly compensation was up 2.7%, in the third quarter of 2017. Nonfarm payroll employment was up 228,000 in November 2017. The unemployment rate has been trending downward and is at the lowest rate in 17 years – even in the wake of several hurricanes.   This has probably contributed to the fact that the Average FICO score is up to 700 from a recent low of 688 in 2005.  As consumers earn more money they pay more bills in a timely manner.

This economic data can be viewed against positive birth-rate trends.  The age range that has the largest number of home buyers is 30 to 34 years old.  If we look at the birth rates from 30 years ago we can see that the trend increased for several years. From 3.82 million in 1987 to 3.91 million, to 4.02 million, to 4.17 million before starting a downward trend.  This would indicate that there will be an increasing number of home-buyers in that demographic for several more years before leveling off and then declining.

A statistic that could be viewed as a negative is the fact that housing inventory is very tight across the country.  So in the absence of new construction (still at a 50 year low) we will continue to have a limited supply of product to sell.

So what does all of the above have to do with real estate and housing?  It bodes well for the housing industry and positively for property values.  In the coming years we are going to experience increasing demand, a sense of economic-optimism, increasing wages, an improved consumer-credit profile, and presumably higher employment.  So to extrapolate; there will be more buyers, with a better credit profile, earning more money from more jobs, chasing a limited supply of product (housing inventory).  Economics 101 taught me that a greater demand with a limited supply will drive prices up; and this is supported by empirical data.  THAT is good news for consumers looking to buy, those looking to sell, and the REALTORS® that consumers will work with to receive maximum value from the largest financial transaction of their life.

A Little Christmas Cheer

Secret Santa has brought your gift early this year.  A holiday recipe for finding the best deal on your home purchase this year: sauté •strong demand with •less competition from other listings marinate in •low interest rates and add a dash of •Holiday Season. The result?  The perfect blend for an Artisan deal.

The Holiday Season is upon us, and everyone’s mind is occupied with shopping, parties, sending out cards and wrapping gifts. But, all holiday shopping isn’t done on line, or at the mall, or at that swanky boutique…

In fact, there is a significant amount of home-buying that happens during the “holiday shopping season”.  Last year there were almost 1,000 Rhode Island houses that went Pending between November 15, 2016 and January 15, 2017!  This “shopping List” was valued at OVER $317 million …THAT is a lot of shopping!

Why is it good to go House Shopping during the Holiday Season???  Well to start, there is less competition from other buyers, so it is less likely that that there will be a “Bidding War” for your dream house – as has happened throughout the year with some houses in high demand areas.  The same holds true for putting your house on the market during the Holiday Season.  There are fewer active listings as the temperature drops; but according to the National Association of REALTORS, demand for houses remains strong through the Holiday Season.  Additionally, interest rates are still below 4% for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.  This is half of the historical average of 8% for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.

Strong demand, less competition from other listings, and low interest rates.  That is a holiday recipe for getting an excellent value on a home purchase.

While the average buyer has pushed the average price for a single-family home in Rhode Island almost to the $270,000 marker, there are houses that sell for a multiple of that as well.  In fact, Little Rhody, The Biggest Little State In The Union, has had its fair share of “celebrity” buyers too.  The most recent was the announced purchase of The Seafair by Jay Leno and his wife Mavis for $13.5 million.  This year it is the highest so far, and the highest since The Fairholme Estate in Newport sold for $16.1 million in 2016.  And get this, for $13.5 million, he didn’t even get the whole house! (He bought 4 condo units.)  So technically, since it was bought in parcels totaling $13,500,000, this year’s record stands at $11,650,000 for a single-family sale in Newport.

For the entire state of Rhode Island, Single Family sales greater than $1 million increased to 232 houses from 183 houses last year.  As for Condo sales over $1 million this year there were 16 in 2017, up from 10 last year.

There were five single-family sales greater than $5 million through November 30 of this year; which is the same as 2016.

If you have any questions about the real estate market in your area, the value of your house or any real estate questions whatsoever, call a REALTOR.  If you are going to engage in the largest financial transaction of your life you deserve the guidance of an experienced, ethical, real estate professional.

As of the publication of this Premier Issue of Real Estate Today, there are 80 properties priced over $1 million listed on RILiving.com – a really good place to do your Holiday Shopping.

Real estate deductions vital for homeowners, economy

Kudos to the Journal’s editorial board for highlighting the importance of staving off the elimination of state and local tax deductions in the pending tax-reform debate. As the Nov. 2 editorial (“State and local deductions at risk”) pointed out, many residents in high-tax states like Rhode Island would likely see an increase in taxes, not savings. Beyond that, however, there are other compelling reasons to maintain these deductions for citizens in all states, particularly those deductions that relate to real estate.

Sustainable home ownership is and always has been a way to achieve the American dream. According to a Federal Reserve survey of consumer finances, a typical homeowner’s net worth in 2013 was $195,400 while a renter’s was $5,400. Furthermore, with every home sale, money flows back into the local economy with the purchase of home-related goods and services, creating and sustaining jobs in the process. Make no mistake, housing is a huge economic driver.

With homeownership at an all-time low, not due to choice but due to barriers to entry, is it wise to take away incentives to home ownership? Not in the least.

The latest reports on tax reform indicate that the deductions for mortgage interest and real estate taxes, which were headed for the chopping block, could be saved after all. We should all ensure that outcome by doing our part in making sure our congressional delegation understands that a blow to homeownership is a blow to our residents and our economy.

Joseph Luca

The writer is president of the Rhode Island Association of Realtors.

Thinking About A Fixer Upper???

If you are thinking about buying an older house that needs “some work” or “TLC”, you need to have an honest conversation with yourself and any partners who may be involved. You do not want to get involved in a project that is beyond the scope of your abilities, your budget, or your tolerance for surprises…because all of these will probably be tested during the process of going from “old” to “new” and while the shows on cable seem to be fairly realistic to the average consumer, the average consumer does not have the purse strings of a TV network to catch any cost over-runs. In real life you cannot “edit out” all of the stressful scenes; you take that stress home to friends and family. This is a quick read and is worth the time. JoeLucaRealEstate.com Tel: 401-580-9797

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Copyright 2015 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®