Rental Prices Hit Another Record High, but There Is Some Good News for Renters

Rental Prices Hit Another Record High, but There Is Some Good News for Renters

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May was a mixed bag for renters.

On one hand, rental prices across the nation hit a new record high—for the 15th month in a row, according to a recent Realtor.com® report. Rents climbed 15.5% annually in May, to hit a median of $1,849 in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. Rents were up 26.6% over the past two years. (Metros include the main city and surrounding towns, suburbs, and smaller urban areas.)

However, as punishing as those higher rents are, the percentage by which they increased fell as price growth slowed. While this latest hike is still brutal, it’s lower than the 16.5% rise seen in April and the nearly 17% jump in March.

(Realtor.com recently revised its rental data report methodology. Our findings are based on all studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments and private rentals such as condos, townhomes, and single-family homes listed on Realtor.com in May.)

“After a long period of accelerating rental price growth, we’re seeing rental growth start to taper off over the last five months,” says Joel Berner, senior economic research analyst at Realtor.com. “The pace was unsustainable. That’s a natural limit to what [landlords] can reasonably charge.”

Rents have surged as a result of the rental—as well as for-sale—housing shortage. There are simply more people looking for places to live than there are properties for them. Builders slowed down putting up new units during the Great Recession and then struggled to rev back up—during a time when there were more millennials, a larger generation than the preceding one, seeking homes.

The rental pool also grew as those who would have become homeowners haven’t been successful in the for-sale market as a lack of homes for sale and an influx of investors have led to record-high prices, heated bidding wars, and mind-bending offers over asking prices. That’s forced many to continue renting.

Plus, the eviction moratoriums during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic halted many landlords from raising rents too much. Now that they’re mostly over, landlords can make up for the hikes they didn’t make.

“We’re going to see rents continue to level off,” predicts Berner. “Hopefully the worst of that is behind us.”

Ironically, studios are experiencing the largest price gains. Nationally, rents for the no-bedroom units, which are generally smaller spaces without dedicated bedrooms with doors that can be closed, shot up 16.9% year over year, to a median of $1,530 a month in May. One-bedroom units rose 15.2%, to a median of $1,708, while two-bedroom units were 14.8% more expensive, at a median of $2,076.

“Studios have been driving the rent growth,” says Berner. “Studio renters are generally younger and more mobile. When their financial situations get better or worse, they can move in with parents or roommates” or into a larger place.

Geographically, Miami is continuing to notch the highest rental price increases. Rents soared 45.8% in May compared with just a year earlier. It cost a median of $2,843 a month to rent a unit in The Magic City. The high prices are due to the proliferation of luxury, high-rise condos that builders put up on the water in the area.

Three of the five metros seeing the highest price growth were in Florida. The top five largest rent hikes were in Orlando, FL, at 28.4%; Providence, RI, at 23.8%; San Diego, at 22.7%; and Tampa, FL, at 22.4%.

“People are really interested in these Sun Belt metros. These warm areas are getting a ton of interest from people in other parts of the country,” says Berner. “That’s leading to higher prices because there aren’t enough places to buy or to rent.”

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‘Shock to the System’: Higher Mortgage Rates Slam the Brakes on the Housing Market

'Shock to the System': Higher Mortgage Rates Slam the Brakes on the Housing Market

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Surging mortgage interest rates are slamming the brakes on the housing market.

Higher mortgage rates, which climbed past 6% last week, are likely to eventually douse the relentless escalation of home prices. But their most immediate impact will be to force many buyers to put their dreams on hold as the cost of homeownership slips out of their financial reach.

“Whenever you get mortgage rates moving up that fast, it’s just a shock to the system. It almost paralyzes potential homebuyers,” says Rick Palacios, director of research at John Burns Real Estate. “They have to reset things so fast. Do they want to buy? Can they buy?”

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, buyers have struggled to keep up with double-digit home price increases and out-of-control bidding wars. Now, rents are also making substantial leaps, inflation stubbornly persists, gas prices are high, the stock and crypto markets are taking a beating, and the prospect of another recession is looking increasingly likely.

And the housing market is feeling the burn.

Fewer buyers are submitting mortgage applications: about 15.6% less than a year ago, according to Mortgage Bankers Association data. The number of home sales has been falling since February, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Builders are also signaling that they’re nervous about the economy and are slowing down new home construction. The number of housing starts dropped 14.4% from April to May, according to government data.

“The declines for single-family starts and declines for homebuilder sentiment are clearly flashing recession warnings,” says Rob Dietz, chief economist of the National Association of Home Builders.

“Housing is a leading sector [of the economy]. It will typically decline before the rest of the economy, and we’re seeing evidence of that now,” says Dietz. “It’s going to be the first one to show weakness, and it’s going to be the first sector to show a rebound.”

And with the U.S. Federal Reserve expected to continue hiking its short-term interest rates in its quest to tame inflation, mortgage rates aren’t expected to go back to 3%, like they were this time last year. Mortgage rates are different from the Fed’s own rate, but they typically follow the same trajectory. The Fed’s rate is likely to keep going up this year until inflation begins dropping. This is making many folks nervous that another recession is imminent.

The average mortgage rate jumped up more than a half-point, to 5.78% in the week ending June 16, according to Freddie Mac. However, this was an average of rates through the week. In the past few days, lenders were offering rates above 6% for these 30-year fixed-rate loans.

“It’s pretty eye-popping just how drastically things have changed from a year ago,” says Realtor.com® Chief Economist Danielle Hale. “For home shoppers, it is a completely different ballgame than it was a year ago.”

Mortgage payments today are 65% larger than they were just a year ago—when homebuyers were already grappling with the steep run-up in prices. That means homebuyers today would be paying 65% more to own the same house due to higher home prices and mortgage rates. (The calculation assumes buyers are putting down 20% on a median-priced home and does not include property taxes, insurance costs, or homeowners association fees.)

“It’s huge,” says Hale of the increase. “People are freaking out about inflation being up 8.6%. Inflation for homebuyers is up significantly higher.”

Will home prices finally fall?

Most real estate economists believe home price growth will slow down or even flatten—but prices won’t come down.

The theory is simply that there are just too few houses on the market and too many people who want them. For example, millennials are a much larger generation than the preceding one. But builders didn’t put up enough homes to accommodate them as construction slowed dramatically during the Great Recession when there were more homes than buyers.

“There’s been this belief that because supply and demand have been so far out of whack in the housing market, home prices are invincible—meaning they could never correct,” says Ali Wolf, chief economist of real estate consultancy Zonda.

Ironically, home prices are expected to jump even higher in the short term as buyers scramble to lock in a deal on a property before rates go up even more. However, once that bump subsides, the days of double-digit price growth are likely over. Many buyers simply can’t afford the higher costs.

In the last year alone, about 18 million households can no longer qualify for a mortgage due to the higher rates. Others have been forced to consider much cheaper homes.

Builders have already begun cutting prices, especially in communities geared toward first-time buyers on budgets.

“It’s crystal-clear that prices are adjusting,” says Palacios of John Burns Consulting.

Unlike many housing experts, he expects home prices to fall by a few percentage points. This is unlike the Great Recession when prices crashed. This time around, Palacios expects prices will still be higher than they were in 2020 before the pandemic.

Construction is expected to slow down, worsening the housing shortage

Despite a shortage of about 1 million homes, the frantic pace of new construction is expected to slow, continuing into next year.

Buyers are now not just grappling with higher rates but also persistent inflation and pricier rents, the new prospect of layoffs, and fears of a recession. Even wealthier buyers have likely been hurt by the thrashing in the financial markets. That results in lower demand for new homes, and builders still have stark memories of the housing crash, when newly constructed homes sat empty. So they are less likely to put up a slew of them now.

The downside: This means the nation won’t climb out of its housing shortage anytime soon.

“Builders are growing concerned about the future, and they’re trying to position their businesses accordingly,” says Hale of Realtor.com.

The likelihood of another recession is growing

All this bad news in the economy, plus the Fed’s determination to continue increasing its rates, is raising the odds of a recession.

“The nail is pretty much in the coffin that we’re likely heading into a recession in 2023, perhaps even before. There are too many things going on,” says Palacios. “Historically just one or two of them would tip us into a recession.”

Some high-profile companies have already announced layoffs. Elon Musk‘s Tesla plans to cut its workforce by 10%, or roughly 10,000 workers. Cryptocurrency platform Coinbase let go of 18% of its staff. Carvana’s parting ways with about 2,500 workers.

“The economy has been on fire, and the Fed is trying to douse some of those flames to get inflation under control. That means we’re going to see some adjustments,” says Hale. “The pace of layoffs is not alarming at this point, but it is rising.”

Many economists believe the downturn will be brief. They don’t anticipate another wave of foreclosures as many homeowners will be able to find new jobs. Or they can still sell their homes, many for a profit.

However, it might make some potential homebuyers nervous about making what could be the largest purchase of their lives—and locking in a 30-year loan when the security of their jobs is uncertain. Many still remember the pain of the Great Recession.

While the layoffs will be painful, the recession isn’t expected to be catastrophic. While the unemployment rate could rise from 3.6% in May, it’s not expected to hit anything near the peak of the Great Recession at 10% in late 2009. It’s also significantly less than what it was at the start of the pandemic in spring 2020 when unemployment reached nearly 15%.

“I still believe that this recession will not be as severe or as concentrated in the housing market as the last recession,” says Zonda’s Wolf. “But recessions still come with pain, and we may see an environment where home prices do come down a little bit.”

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Why Do the Obamas Need a 2,500-Gallon Propane Tank at Their Martha’s Vineyard Estate? It’s Not What You Think 

Why Do the Obamas Need a 2,500 Gallon Propane Tank For Their Martha’s Vineyard Mansion? It’s Not What You Think

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Recently, a small notice in the local Martha’s Vineyard Times noted that approval had been granted for a “2,500-gallon commercial propane tank” at the address of the vacation home owned by former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama.

The item set off some powerful reactions among the conspiracy-minded and even had us wondering why the Obamas would need that much gas.

The former president’s chief antagonists at Fox News even dedicated a segment to the proposed propane purchase with a chyron that expressed possible apocalyptic intentions.

Apocalypse Bunker
Apocalypse bunker?

Fox News

However, the reality is far less dire. Here’s what we learned after talking to propane gas experts.

Why do the Obamas need a 2,500-gallon propane tank?

Actually, they don’t. The permit the Obamas requested is for three separate tanks, not a single massive tank, according to Snopes.

This means that for the nearly 30-acre property in Edgartown, MA, those tanks might be spread out and used for more than one structure, or for multiple uses.

Also, their request might exceed what they actually end up installing. The announcement in the local news noted that the “private-residence propane tank is typically a fraction of the quantity being requested.”

As for the mansion on the property, there is plenty of need for power.

The Obamas purchased the property from Boston Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck in 2019 for $11.8 million. At the time, the nearly 7,000-square-foot, seven-bedroom mansion came with a chef’s kitchen, multiple fireplaces, two guest wings, as well as a main bedroom with a fireplace and private sundeck.

The photos below show how the mansion appeared prior to the Obamas’ purchase.

Living room with a fireplace

Realtor.com

Chef’s kitchen

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Sunroom

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Bedroom suite

Realtor.com

The picturesque property is situated on Edgartown Great Pond and comes with a pool, hot tub, barn, boat house, outdoor shower, and two-car garage.

Deck with a hot tub

Realtor.com

Pool

Realtor.com

The former president also has fuel needs beyond what you’d see with a regular single-family home.

The Obamas must account for any power consumed by their Secret Service detail, who are likely set up in a separate facility on the scenic grounds.

And then there’s the need to supply fuel for sumptuous outdoor living, which includes the heated pool, hot tub, any outdoor fire pits, and the barbecue.

The Obamas’ 30-acre property

Realtor.com

Could the Obamas be preppers?

Well, if by “preppers” you mean being prepared for a lot of house guests, then yes.

But the tank size didn’t strike propane experts as uncommon for a property with multiple buildings with indoor and outdoor gas needs.

“Given the size of the property, we have several accounts that have that exact configuration,” says Rich Muellerleile, president and owner of Star Gas Products, which services the Hudson Valley area of New York.

Some of his high-end clients have even exceeded the Obamas when it comes to propane procurement, Muellerleile says. “They’ll have two, three, four 1,000-gallon tanks for their house. And then they’ll have a separate tank for the generator or a separate tank for the pool heater.”

The former president had made plans last year for a 60th birthday bash with an invite list in the hundreds. Although that bash was ultimately scrapped for a smaller affair, the Martha’s Vineyard home must be prepared for future parties.

So what could they be using all that gas for?

The proposed three tanks might be powering everything from the water heater to the kitchen stove, and indoor heat as well as gas fireplaces. Then there’s the outdoor grill, fire pits, and heated pool and spa.

There’s probably enough propane to accommodate a generator as a backup power source. If that’s the case, the Obamas aren’t alone in having this foresight.

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred a “huge uptick” of interest in the industry, says Bryan Cordill, director of residential and commercial development for the Propane Education Research Council.

Cordill was also clear on one other factor. Employing a backup generator powered by propane makes sense, especially in a region prone to severe weather.

“The grid has increasingly become unstable, and we’ve seen increasingly more backup generators installed.”

Is propane a green choice?

The Obamas also faced criticism that they didn’t opt for an eco-friendly power source like, say, solar panels.

But with propane, the homeowners are making “a climate-favorable decision” says Cordill.

“Propane is cleaner than grid electricity in many states, including Massachusetts. Using propane to fuel energy-dense applications in homes produces fewer emissions than if they had been powered by electricity.”

Any heat the Obamas are receiving for their choice in fuel is misplaced, he adds.

“The exciting news is that, while Massachusetts has added intermittent renewable solar resources to its electric grid, we have seen renewable propane delivered into New England, lowering emissions even further,” Cordill says. “Clean and renewable energy like propane accelerates decarbonization today and into the future.”

The post Why Do the Obamas Need a 2,500-Gallon Propane Tank at Their Martha’s Vineyard Estate? It’s Not What You Think  appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

The 10 Most Stressful DIY Projects You’ll Regret Trying

The 10 Most Stressful DIY Projects You'll Regret Trying

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With rising inflation nibbling away at our pocketbooks, it makes sense that many Americans might be tightening their tool belts around the house and dabbling in a bit more DIY projects.

Yet alas, many of these intrepid homeowners end up mired in a stressful and frustrating mess.

At least, those are the latest findings of a recent survey by home services site Angi, which analyzed more than 150,000 posts on Twitter containing the term “DIY.” From there, Angi then fed these tweets through a TensiStrength tool to estimate their stress levels, and to determine which DIY jobs caused the most mental anguish of all.

Curious about which particular home projects will make you toss your wrench, grab your phone, and rage-tweet that you’d wished you’d hired a pro instead? Here’s a look at the 10 most stressful DIY projects you might want to avoid.

Most stressful DIY projects

  1. Unclogging drains
  2. Fixing a leaky pipe
  3. Unclogging a toilet
  4. Fixing a dishwasher
  5. Cleaning a gutter
  6. Fixing a leaky tap
  7. Repairing gutters
  8. Repairing doors
  9. Fixing a washing machine
  10. Fixing a patchy lawn

“The biggest thing that stands out in this list is that 8 out of 10 of these projects involve water, which makes sense since you need water for so many daily tasks like laundry, cooking, and cleaning,” says Tony Mariotti, a real estate broker and founder of RubyHome in Los Angeles. “And with the potential for water damage, the stakes—and stress levels—are raised.”

Khari Washington, a real estate agent at 1st United Realty & Mortgage in Riverside, CA, agrees, noting that “fixing clogs and making repairs are essential for a livable home. Plus they aren’t fun, creative, or planned, which adds to the stress level.”

Plus, anything gloopy or sticky in a drain or gutter is just gross—and might require some special equipment to fix that you might not have on hand. Per Mariotti, you need an auger to fix a clog the right way, but most folks don’t own one.

“Pouring Drano in will help a minor clog, which isn’t a tweetable event, but a severe or intractable clog might rise to this level,” he points out.

The overall takeaway? “DIY projects can be intimidating, especially if you’re not handy by nature,” says Jeanine Boiko, a DIY pro who learned the ropes by watching YouTube videos but would be the first to say it was not always easy going.

And the least stressful DIY jobs around the house? Not surprisingly, they’re mostly cosmetic fixes that beautify the home.

Least stressful DIY projects

  1. Putting up a shelf
  2. Upholstering
  3. Fixing a drawer
  4. Fitting a carpet
  5. Laying a patio
  6. Repairing the deck
  7. Fixing a chair
  8. Tiling a bathroom
  9. Fixing a light
  10. Removing carpet

Tile, carpet, and furniture are big themes on this list, since the stakes are a bit lower and the time frame doesn’t need to be as rushed. Plus, repairs involving chairs, drawers, and lights are tasks you can easily save to do on the weekend.

“Hanging a shelf isn’t a necessary job, and it can be done when you have a moment in your schedule,” says Washington. “Plus it won’t affect your home’s habitability.”

Where Americans are most stressed about DIY projects

Geography plays a role in DIY stress levels, too. According to the report, Indiana suffers the most DIY angst, with 21.4% of tweets in this area exhibiting stress over the task at hand. Right behind the Hoosier State is Rhode Island and then Mississippi. Other top offenders are Maine, Wyoming, and Colorado, which gave some real estate pros pause.

“I’m surprised by the DIY stress in Wyoming and Colorado as I always picture people who live there as hardy and self-reliant—plus they sit right next to Utah and Idaho, some of the least stressed states for DIYers,” says Mariotti.

Older housing stock in certain areas might also play a role, as it leads to more frequent repairs. That is apparently the case with Pittsburgh, a city that is cursed with the highest levels of DIY-related stress of all.

Most stressed-out cities for DIY projects

  1. Pittsburgh, PA
  2. Fresno, CA
  3. Santa Clarita, CA
  4. Saint Paul, MN
  5. New Orleans, LA
  6. Stockton, CA
  7. Kansas City, MO
  8. Cincinnati, OH
  9. Virginia Beach, VA
  10. Anchorage, AK

Washington noticed that his own area of Riverside County in California doesn’t have the stress levels that some of the tonier California locations do: “There are a lot of blue-collar workers here, and they tend to be handier so that probably explains it.”

Least stressed-out cities for DIY

  1. Honolulu, HI
  2. Tulsa, OK
  3. Tampa, FL
  4. Madison, WI
  5. Raleigh, NC
  6. Fremont, CA
  7. Riverside, CA
  8. Plano, TX
  9. Irvine, CA
  10. Orlando, FL

On the other hand, there are very few angry tweets related to DIY jobs coming from the Aloha State, which might be due to Honolulu’s easy-breezy life in general. When you can head to the beach to surf after work, that broken door jamb just doesn’t loom all that large.

The post The 10 Most Stressful DIY Projects You’ll Regret Trying appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

No Way! A Jaw-Dropping Look at How Inflation Has Jacked Up the Cost of Renovating a Home Today

No Way! A Jaw-Dropping Look at How Inflation Has Jacked Up the Cost of Renovating a Home Today

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Runaway inflation is making everything more expensive right now, including home renovation.

A 2022 Houzz & Home Survey of 70,000 U.S. respondents has found that homeowners plan to spend a whopping $15,000 this year to rehab their houses. That’s a four-year high and a 50% jump over the $10,000 shelled out over the previous three years.

This spending spike is most evident among the newest homebuyers who’ve purchased property in the past year. In fact, Houzz staff economist Marine Sargsyan notes that these recent homebuyers “spend significantly more on renovations than the national median.”

How much more? Brace yourself: It’s double the norm at nearly $30,000.

Yet clearly, no matter how painful the price, homeowners are sucking it up for the sake of making their place more livable. In fact, this survey found that more than half of respondents (55%) are planning to renovate this year whatever the cost.

“Homeowners are clearly committed to investing in their homes despite heightened product and material costs driven by supply chain disruptions,” notes Sargsyan. Other reasons she cites include limited and aging housing stock and older generations opting to upgrade their homes into retirement.

“Since housing demand has been through the roof, lots of people had to purchase homes that weren’t ideal and then renovate them to meet their needs,” explains Khari Washington, a real estate broker at 1st United Realty & Mortgage in Riverside, CA.

Yet one bright spot is that rising real estate prices have given homeowners who are trading up or down from an existing home more equity to tap to fund these projects.

“The real estate market has been so hot of late that rising prices have given some homeowners more equity to make these upgrades,” says Tony Mariotti, a real estate agent and founder of RubyHome in Los Angeles.

Here’s a closer look at the home improvements they’re splurging on most today.

Kitchens still come first

Photo by Form + Field 

The kitchen reigns supreme when renovating right now, with homeowners spending a dramatic 25% more in this space than in 2021. While this makes sense given how much time we spend cooking here, it makes financial sense, too.

“Kitchens have the best return on investment,” Washington notes.

Little rooms get some love

Photo by Sam Kachmar Architects 

Smaller spaces are also seeing an increase in spending, reports Sargsyan. They include guest baths (38%), laundry rooms (33%), and guest bedrooms (28%).

“In fact, recent homeowners took on nearly four interior rooms or systems at once, such as electrical or plumbing, and multiple exterior features like windows, doors, and roofing,” she adds.

But the home office renovation number isn’t impressive—just 18% of new homeowners are investing here.

“There are only so many jobs that allow folks to work from home, and making a home office doesn’t necessarily mean a renovation,” Washington explains.

Witness the thousands of us working at our kitchen counters right now!

Contractors and designers are in demand

Photo by Houzz

Electrical and plumbing expertise is a must when renovating, and the numbers in this report agree. The clear majority of homeowners relied on professionals in these fields (89%).

And since the newest homeowners are spending the most, they’re also hiring experts much more often (93% of the time versus 88% for short- and long-term homeowners).

Open floor plans just don’t seem to die

Photo by Selle Valley Construction, Inc.

It seems as if the open concept just won’t quit in American homes, with 29% of survey respondents reporting that they’re knocking down walls. One in six claimed a poor layout was the reason for renovating in the first place.

“People do like open space, but with housing prices climbing, buyers may have settled for homes with layouts they didn’t like,” says Washington. “And current homeowners have decided to stay in their existing houses and make them over into the format they want.”

Home security systems are through the roof

Photo by Ironwood Master Crafters

Safety is important in the home, which would explain the threefold increase since 2015 in outdoor security systems.

Mariotti also theorizes that the drop in prices of internet-enabled cameras and sensors means installing them is more affordable and attractive to cash-strapped homeowners today.

However, he adds, “I don’t personally believe they are much of a deterrent for thieves. Since once you’ve recorded a masked person taking your Amazon packages from your porch, then what?”

Still, peace of mind might be enough here as security systems prove quite popular, second only to lighting as the most frequently installed outdoor upgrade, according to the report.

The post No Way! A Jaw-Dropping Look at How Inflation Has Jacked Up the Cost of Renovating a Home Today appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

10 Surprising Gayborhoods Where LGBTQ Homebuyers Will Love To Live—and Can Afford

10 Surprising Gayborhoods Where LGBTQ Homebuyers Will Love to Live—and Can Afford It, Too

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Pride Month means it’s time to celebrate all things that encourage the dignity, equality, and increased recognition of the LGBTQ community. So go ahead and wave that big, beautiful rainbow flag—and, just maybe, zero in on a place to buy a great new home.

It’s also the perfect time to pause and recognize that while the United States has come a long way from the 1969 Stonewall riots, which sparked the modern gay rights movement, 2022 is on track to break the record for the number of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in states across the country, with at least 320 highly restrictive bills pending in state legislatures, according to the rights group Freedom for All Americans.

So, as we do each year, Realtor.com® searched for the most LGBTQ-friendly and affordable cities for homebuyers. We looked well past the big coastal cities famous for their thriving gay scenes—and wildly exorbitant home prices—like New York and San Fransisco. Instead, we set our sights on smaller cities that are gay-friendly and budget-friendly, where housing is still modestly priced and the overall community and laws are more welcoming and favorable to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals. All of these places have tons of fun things to do—and prices that are still (relatively) within reach.

“The more diverse a community is, the more inclusive it will be,” says Erin Morrison, president-elect of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, a trade organization. “You will also see communities with a lot of amenities being attractive to our community—the arts, sports, outdoor activities, and more.”

Even though same-sex married couples have a higher median household income than opposite-sex married couples ($107,200 vs. $96,930), fewer are homeowners for a variety of reasons, including housing discrimination.

To come up with our list, we looked at the median home list prices in the 100 largest cities across the nation in April. Then we looked at the states with the highest percentage of same-sex couples per 10,000 residents using U.S. Census Bureau data. We also factored in the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Ratings, where the LGBTQ advocacy group assesses equality in cities’ policies, laws, and services, and the statewide number of anti-LGBTQ laws introduced as tracked by Freedom for All Americans. And we made sure each city on our list hosts a Pride parade or festival each year. (We included only one city per state to ensure geographic diversity.)

So what are the real estate scenes like in the new LGBTQ meccas?

As we do each year, Realtor.com® searched for the most LGBTQ-friendly and affordable cities for homebuyers.

Realtor.com

1. Worcester, MA

Worcester, MA

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Median home list price: $350,000

The gay community in Worcester, about 40 miles west of Boston, is small but mighty. There is one gay bar, MB Lounge, and plenty of LGBTQ-friendly events like the Drag Brunch, queer dance parties, and a fashion show or two.

The city’s gay community is best known for Worcester Pride, a weeklong grand party thrown by the Queer Coalition of Greater Worcester in early September. The event features live music, pageants, and plenty of afterparties. And, for those who are looking for an even bigger gay scene, both Boston and Providence, RI, are not far away.

The nice thing is, in Worcester, buyers won’t be paying Boston prices when looking for housing. The median list price is about a third of Boston’s $989,000 median price tag. Yet in Worcester, buyers can get this quaint, 100-year-old house with three bedrooms, a bathroom, and a fully fenced backyard for $325,000.

2. Rochester, NY

Rochester, NY

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Median home list price: $140,000

Rochester, tucked between the shores of beautiful Lake Ontario and the Finger Lakes, was once home to civil rights champion Frederick Douglass, as well as women’s rights advocate Susan B. Anthony. So it should come as no surprise that this upstate city proudly holds a reputation of being an LGBTQ ally.

Rochester is home to the third-largest chapter of Out and Equal, which works on workplace equality. It’s also home to the country’s oldest continuously published LGBTQ newspaper, The Empty Closet.

And it’s not just gay history that Rochester is known for. This dynamic city has hosted the weeklong ROC Pride Fest since 1989, and the beloved Rochester Jazz Festival since 2002. Fun!

The Rust Belt city, home to one-time corporate giant Kodak, has long struggled as jobs vanished over the decades. This led to less demand for homes, which resulted in lower prices. And while home prices have risen lately, they’re still way lower than the nation’s median list price of $447,000 in May.

In Rochester, the center of the city’s gay neighborhood runs along the Park Avenue corridor, where buyers can grab this charming two-bedroom, one-bathroom abode located a few blocks off Park Avenue for $180,000.

3. Portland, OR

Portland, OR

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Median home list price: $550,000

“Portland has a huge queer population, so it isn’t surprising to me that it made the top,” says Rio Palomares, a real estate broker with Living Room Realty in Portland. “Portland has a small-town feel with a big focus on community—not just queer bars, but lots of different social groups. It holds space for lots of different identities.”

There is no shortage of gay bars with something for everyone—from laid-back Crush bar to the Eagle, a leather bar, home to the Oregon Bears. Portland also abounds with LGBTQ-friendly sports and recreation opportunities, including the Varsity Gay League, which organizes activities throughout the year such as kickball, soccer, yoga, strength training, and, yes, the occasional Mario Kart tournament.

Portland may be the most expensive city on our list, but home prices here are still substantially lower than other big cities on the coast—such as Seattle, with a median price tag of $850,000. That might explain why Palomares is working with many queer people looking to move to Portland from out of state.

“My clients have specifically shared with me that they are seeking a more welcoming and overall safer city to express themselves freely. Portland appears to fit the bill,” Palomares says.

4. Sacramento, CA

Sacramento, CA

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Median home list price: $515,000

It seems apropos that the main gayborhood in Sacramento is called Lavender Heights.

Located roughly 87 miles from America’s epicenter of gay culture (San Francisco), Sacramento has its own fair share of gay-friendly shops, restaurants, bars, and activities that draw a young and active crowd. It also has a reputation for being safe, fun, and welcoming. And buyers can find a home here for well under half of the price of San Francisco’s $1.29 million median home price tag in May, according to Realtor.com data.

It’s what led Austin Joyce to buy a house here in 2018.

“I fly a pride flag on the house 24/7, and I have neighbors that have stopped to comment that they love it,” he says. “The feeling that you are no different than anyone else around you is a profound feeling.”

Houses are still affordable for the Golden State, especially when considering Sacramento is a short drive to Lake Tahoe, world-class wineries, and plenty of active, outdoor pursuits

It’s the affordability that is now drawing homebuyers from out of state, says Marvin Hooker, a real estate agent with Radius Agent in Sacramento. He’s been working with a couple planning to leave Texas due to the anti-LGBTQ climate in Texas.

For $549,000, homebuyers can get this three-bedroom, two-bathroom house that comes with a backyard swimming pool.

5. Baltimore, MD

Baltimore, MD

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Median home list price: $200,000

It’s not surprising that the birthplace of director and queer culture icon John Waters made the list. Water, famous for movies such as “Pink Flamingos,” launched the career of one of the most famous drag queens of all time: Divine. Visitors to Baltimore can check out the three-story mural of Divine located in the Midtown-Belvedere neighborhood.

LGBTQ culture goes way back in Baltimore. The city’s first gay bar, Leon’s, first opened its doors during Prohibition and has attracted the LGBTQ crowd for years. When homosexuality was illegal and the bar hosted many closeted patrons, gay men used to identify one another by asking, “Are you a friend of Dorothy?

Charm City is not only gay-friendly, but it also happens to be one of the most affordable places on the list. The central hub of the city’s gay scene is in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, but there are other burgeoning communities as well. For just $199,000, homebuyers can pick up this four-bedroom, 2.5-bath stunner in the Charles Village neighborhood.

6. Hartford, CT

Hartford, CT

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Median home list price: $150,000

Following on the heels of its neighbor Massachusetts, Connecticut was the second state in the country to legalize gay marriage. Since then, it has been welcoming members of the LGBTQ community with open arms, especially in the capital city, Hartford.

There’s plenty to do here: Hartford is home to the nation’s oldest public art museum, Wadsworth Atheneum (housed in a very distinctive castlelike structure), and oldest publicly funded park, Bushnell Park (which hosts movie nights, music festivals, and a lovely, vintage 1914 carousel).

And don’t let its nickname fool you. More than just the “Insurance Capital of the World,” Hartford is home to an exciting music, theater, arts, and dining scene, and it’s quite the active gay community. The Hartford nightlife comes alive with dance parties, drag shows, karaoke nights, and theme parties at local bars like Chez Est and Favela Rooftop. The city also holds the OUT Connecticut LGBTQ Film Festival each year, presenting the best of films over nine days.

With its proximity to both Boston (1.5 hours) and New York City (2 hours), the location is attractive for those seeking more affordable housing. The median home list price was $1,585,000 in Manhattan and $989,000 in Boston in May, according to Realtor.com data.

For $169,000, buyers can get this charming two-bed, one-bath Colonial built in 1899.

7. Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas, NV

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Median home list price: $495,000

Las Vegas is the mecca of excess: gambling, drinking, dining, shopping, and glitz. It’s also home to a dynamic LGBTQ scene. Given Las Vegas’ devil-may-care, progressive attitude, it’s safe to say it’s a city where you can be you. Whoever that is.

Beyond the main drag of megahotels and resorts, there are lovely, normal suburban communities full of residents who take advantage of the beautiful parks, numerous museums, and nearby state and national parks like Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

“Las Vegas has the same thing to offer the LGBTQ community as it does everyone else: a low cost of living, world-class dining, shows, and nightclubs,” says Rich Crithfield, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.

Besides the can’t-miss Las Vegas Pride celebration each year in October, there are pool parties, dance parties, gay nights on the Strip, and many gay bars. Most of the clubs are located in an area known (lovingly) as the Fruit Loop.

“Most of my clients moving here from out of state have heard of our growing LGBTQ+ community, which is very attractive to them,” Crithfield says.

Homebuyers can get a lot for their money here, including this four-bed, 2.5-bath home for $410,000. Built in 2019, the 2,100-square-foot house has all the upgrades, including LED lighting, an open floor plan, and granite countertops.

8. Allentown, PA

Allentown, PA

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Median home list price: $250,000

Famous as the location for some of the first resistance to British Colonialism, Allentown also happens to be home to a large, diverse, and welcoming gay community.

Overall, the entire Lehigh Valley has many gay-friendly businesses that help to promote the area’s diversity, says Chris Troxell, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Real Estate in Allentown.

“Our downtown offers LGBTQ activities in many of the restaurants and bars at least twice a month, if not more,” Troxell says

The Bradbury-Sullivan LGBTQ Community Center, located in Allentown, produces the Lehigh Valley Pride, which attracts thousands of attendees. Bonus: appearances by drag superstars from “Ru Paul’s Drag Race.”

Troxell, who is also the co-founder of a nonprofit called Out in the Valley, says the Allentown area has so many things to offer the gay community. His group hosts quarterly events at local venues around town in an effort to make everyone “feel welcomed, loved, and have a sense of community.”

He adds that Allentown’s proximity to Philadelphia (with a higher median price tag of $286,250) and New York City, coupled with its extremely affordable housing, makes it a more desirable place to live.

9. Providence, RI

Providence, RI

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Median home list price: $325,000

Providence might have dropped from the No. 2 spot since last year, but it still has one of the nation’s most vibrant, welcoming, and proud scenes. Though diminutive in size, the lively college town (home to Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design) is home to countless gay bars, a thriving arts scene, and top-rated restaurants. It also has plenty of historical and architectural landmarks with nearly 1,000 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.

Residents are very proud of their city’s open-minded and welcoming attitude. In fact, Providence is the first U.S. state capital with an openly gay mayor, David Cicilline.

The centerpiece of the city’s annual Pride celebration, which can attract up to 100,000 people, is the famed Illuminated Night Parade featuring floats, performing artists, and marching bands.

All of that, and homebuyers can get their hands on this 1,200-square-foot, three-bed, one-bath charmer in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Providence, listed for $275,000. The home, built in 1930, features all of its original woodwork.

10. Dayton, OH

Dayton, OH

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Median home list price: $95,000

Dayton is one of a handful of Ohio cities that are “leading the way on LGBTQ inclusion in a difficult state,” according to the Human Rights Campaign.

While Ohio doesn’t have statewide, comprehensive laws that prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, Dayton is among the 35 localities that have enacted protections against discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Dayton also offers an energetic and flourishing gay scene with a plethora of clubs and nightclubs, an active LGBTQ-targeted outdoor recreation group, and plenty of arts and cultural events.

Dayton Pride is one of the region’s longest-running and largest LGBTQ events, a three-day celebration. Organizers say this year’s event is more important than ever as the Ohio Legislature considers its own version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, as well as a bill that would ban affirming mental and medical care for LGBTQ youth.

While Dayton’s LGBTQ community is located throughout the charming city, one of the more popular neighborhoods is the historic Oregon District, which happens to be listed on the National Register of Historic Districts. Here homebuyers can pick up this three-bed, 3.5-bath townhome for $350,000.

The post 10 Surprising Gayborhoods Where LGBTQ Homebuyers Will Love To Live—and Can Afford appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Maine’s Most Expensive Home Is This Week’s Most Popular Home

most popular home listings

Realtor.com

Now that summer is here, it makes sense that real estate watchers have turned their attention to Maine.

Maine is known for being frosty for over half the year, but the warmer weather reminds us of the magnificence of its natural beauty. And this week’s most popular home on Realtor.com® is about as magnificent as you can get in the far northeast corner of the country. The sprawling waterfront estate also happens to be the state’s most expensive home for sale.

Recently renovated “down to the studs,” the $10.5 million mansion sits on over 3 acres just outside Portland. Amazing views of the azure waters compelled clicks from all over the country as folks dreamed of a luxurious getaway.

You also clicked on a double A-frame home in Ohio, a private island on a lake in Missouri, and a fully furnished home on Florida’s Panhandle with sumptuous water vistas.

For a full look at this week’s 10 most popular homes, simply scroll on down.

10. 3943 Scarlet Gray Way Ln, Lawrenceburg, IN

Price: $879,900
Why it’s here: 
This ready-made retreat on a parcel of 8 acres is perfect for fishing, because it comes with a shared 4-acre pond.

The 4,078-square-foot, five-bedroom home was fully remodeled last year. Updates include a chef’s kitchen with quartz countertops, custom woodwork, and a finished basement with a kitchen. The oversized primary suite comes with a dual shower and copper tub.

Lawrenceburg, IN

Realtor.com


9. 1774 Page Cir, Fairmont, NC

Price: $90,000
Why it’s here: 
This bargain of a three-bedroom home sits on 2.5 acres.

Built in 1908, the 1,950-square-foot house features high ceilings and beautiful hardwood floors. The house, barn, and shed will need some TLC, but the views from the tranquil wraparound porch can’t be beat.

Fairmont, NC

Realtor.com


8. 2692 Wildflower Dr, Springfield, OH

Price: $225,000
Why it’s here:
This double A-frame home is in the middle of a total makeover.

A new owner will need to complete renovations on the four-bedroom home. Sitting on an acre lot, the residence features walls of windows and a primary suite with a cathedral ceiling and a fireplace.

Springfield, OH

Realtor.com


7. Cliff Dr Lot 19, Sunrise Beach, MO

Price: $1 million
Why it’s here:
It’s your chance to build the home of your dreams on your very own private island.

Located in the Lake of the Ozarks, the island is part of the Twin Islands and close to many popular restaurants and entertainment venues. The island features 880 feet of lakefront that has already been permitted for a dock.

Sunrise Beach, MO

Realtor.com


6. 6853 Old Richmond Rd, Danville, VA

Price: $229,000
Why it’s here: 
This 3-acre property comes with an antique farmhouse, storage buildings, a shop, chicken coops, and a tobacco cabin.

Built in 1882, the home has been updated over the decades, and now offers beautifully refinished floors, high ceilings, and exposed beams. A spacious primary suite has a fireplace, cathedral ceiling, and massive walk-in closet with a storage island.

Danville, VA

Realtor.com


5. 12707 Abbey Rd, Louisville, KY

Price: $385,000
Why it’s here:
Built in 2017, this four-bedroom home has abundant curb appeal.

You can take in the beautiful views from the wraparound porch or head out back and cool down in the above-ground pool.

The modern house features nine-foot ceilings, a two-story great room with an electric fireplace, and a primary suite on the first floor. For additional storage or space to tinker, there’s also a pole barn on the 2-acre lot.

Louisville, KY

Realtor.com


4. 705 Bellevue Ave, Dublin, GA

Price: $495,000
Why it’s here:
It’s a bargain mansion! This gorgeous home features plenty of modern updates to complement its historic and ornate details.

Built in 1907, the four-bedroom house offers 3,744 square feet of space, which includes a renovated kitchen with a butler’s pantry and a wet bar. There’s also a formal dining room, sitting room, and library.

Dublin, GA

Realtor.com


3. 1503 E Gulf Beach Dr, Saint George Island, FL

Price: $995,000
Why it’s here: 
This fully furnished waterfront home offered for under a million bucks has million-dollar views of the Florida coast.

The three-bedroom house also boasts a landscaped yard and a new front deck with stairs. A vaulted great room features bay views, and the first-floor primary suite has a screened-in porch. Each of the two bedrooms upstairs comes with a private deck.

Saint George Island, FL

Realtor.com


2. 3280 E 81st S, Idaho Falls, ID

Price: $850,000
Why it’s here: 
This century-old charmer sits on 3 acres with a mature orchard of apple, plum, apricot, and cherry trees.

Built in 1908, the six-bedroom home features two fireplaces, hardwoods, and built-ins for storage. Many updates have already been completed, but the listing states there are a few cosmetic projects the new owner can complete over time. Outside, there’s a gazebo, two covered porches, and a courtyard.

Idaho Falls, ID

Realtor.com


1. 153 Foreside Rd, Falmouth, ME

Price: $10,500,000
Why it’s here: 
It’s the most expensive home in Maine, and it just landed on the market this week. The luxury spread with sublime oceanfront views is located about 15 minutes from Portland and a couple of hours from Boston.

Measuring 13,307 square feet, the home comes with 10 bedrooms, most of them coming with a private balcony. Luxe amenities include an indoor diving pool and a chef’s kitchen with a seven-burner gas range. Three additional dwellings on the property offer revenue potential.

Falmouth, ME

Realtor.com

The post Maine’s Most Expensive Home Is This Week’s Most Popular Home appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Exclusive: Inside Ty Pennington’s Own Home Renovation Plans, Plus Dirt From ‘Battle on the Beach’

Exclusive: Inside Ty Pennington's Own Home Reno Plans, Plus Dirt from 'Battle on the Beach'

HGTV

Ty Pennington has been entertaining homeowners for decades. From shouting “Move that bus” on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” to his more recent series “Ty Breaker,” America’s favorite carpenter has lots of experience under his tool belt.

So it makes sense that these days, he’s taking a mentorship role on the hit HGTV show “Battle on the Beach,” which airs on Sundays.

This is his second season mentoring up-and-coming renovators, up against teams led by fellow reality TV hosts Alison Victoria and Taniya Nayak as they fix up identical beach homes in Surfside Beach, TX.

We checked in with Pennington to hear some behind-the-scenes dirt from this latest round of “Battle on the Beach.” We also learn which upgrades he’s been adding to his own home—which just might inspire you to follow in his footsteps.

The first season of ‘Battle on the Beach’ was a hit. What can we expect from the second season?

Things go horribly wrong. No, I’m kidding! I would say even from the get-go, we’re going bigger. The competition is fierce, the teams are really competitive. The battle is just really real this year.

I think what’s fun in design is you have so many surprises, sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes hideously ugly. But in the end, these houses turned out so amazing, really! I think everybody stepped it up and went to a whole new level. We shared a lot of tears, and the rooms definitely speak for themselves. I think every episode is going to be a shocker.

Once again, you’re mentoring an up-and-coming team. What’s that like, rather than doing the work yourself?

Being a mentor is really hard because I can’t just tell people what I want. I have to suggest what to do. But people [in the past] gave me a chance to show my creativity. So as a mentor, I wanted to do the same—taking the reins off and letting them run a little bit and seeing how we do, at the same time doing my best to keep the ship going in the right direction.

Ty Pennington and his mentees
Ty Pennington and his team of Jaqueline and Wally

HGTV

Are there any rookie mistakes that renovators should look out for, especially when doing a beach home?

You’ve got to remember the elements, especially if you’re doing anything on the exterior. Just know that the wind, the salt, and the water are going to corrode everything. Whatever you add on is going to look really different in a year.

So you’ve got to think about that because wear and tear is really big. That being said, with a beach home, sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most to me, you know, like a bucket of water to stick your feet in before you walk in the house to get all the sand off. It’s the little accent pieces that just make your home that special place.

Ty Pennington and his mentees
Pennington, Wally, and Jaqueline work on a kitchen and dining room design.

HGTV

Last season you were planning a red swimsuit ‘Baywatch’ moment with Taniya and Alison, and they left you hanging.

Yeah, Season 1, I found myself running down the beach by myself. And then this year they tell me, “OK, this year we’re making it happen.” I’m like, “Making what happen?” And they’re like, “We brought our red Speedos! Do you have yours?” I’m like, “Always!”

You’re doing projects of your own in Savannah and Atlanta. Do you have a favorite feature so far in either of the properties?

I would say with my house in Savannah, I love how we’ve turned it into sort of a villa, whether it’s a French or a Spanish or Italian sort of villa. It’s just so lovely. I think it’s important to sort of make your home a place that feels like you’re on vacation no matter if it’s one room or it’s the whole space.

I also am very excited about this project I’m doing in Atlanta. It’s in an old warehouse district, and we started rebuilding an old building. There’s really incredible old reclaimed floors that were part of an old furniture factory. So it’s interesting because it has all the modern feel of a luxury loft but using the materials and brick and really reclaimed flooring and arched windows. I just wanted to really get in that historic feel as well.

Ty Pennington and the judges
Season 2 judges Sarah and Bryan Baeumler walk through a newly renovated kitchen and dining room with Pennington.

HGTV

Do you have any tips for people who are renovating their own home and maybe don’t know where to start?

There are so many tips I could tell people—not to do this, spend your money on that, blah, blah, blah. But I would just say, if you’re going to renovate your home, make sure you spend your money on something that’s going to give you instant gratification, whether you make it feel like you’re in some European town or if it’s a new deck that brings you to the outdoors or it’s a new kitchen or a new bathroom.

Make sure it’s a place that’s really going to put a smile on your face and it’s something more than just a new roof or a new driveway. Make sure it’s something that really makes your home sort of a destination that you can’t wait to be in. I think that’s the one thing the last couple of years have taught us, is that our home should be a sanctuary. Turn your own place into that, and make it as special as you can.

The post Exclusive: Inside Ty Pennington’s Own Home Renovation Plans, Plus Dirt From ‘Battle on the Beach’ appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

How High Can Mortgage Rates Go? We’re About To Find Out

How High Can Mortgage Rates Go? We're About To Find Out

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Homebuyers received yet another shock this week as mortgage interest rates shot up suddenly. Rates blew well past 6% in a blow to buyers struggling with record-high and ever-increasing home prices.

The increases were in anticipation of the U.S. Federal Reserve raising its own short-term interest rates in its quest to tame inflation. The Fed hiked its own rates by 75 basis points (three-quarters of a percentage point) on Wednesday, the highest increase since 1994. While mortgage rates are distinct from the Fed’s short-term interest rates, they typically follow the same trajectory. So when the Fed’s rates jump, so do mortgage rates.

So how much can mortgage rates possibly rise? Mortgage interest rates hit 6.28% on Tuesday afternoon and then dipped to 6.22% on Wednesday, according to Mortgage News Daily. A week ago, rates hovered around the mid-5% range. (The outlet’s rates often vary from Freddie Mac’s weekly averages, which are released on Thursdays.)

“How high mortgage rates go depends on how high the Fed ultimately needs to raise its rates to fight inflation,” says Realtor.com® Chief Economist Danielle Hale. However, she believes mortgage rates could retreat a little once the smoke from the Fed’s announcement clears. “We’ve seen big jumps in rates before. Rates can change quickly.”

A year ago, rates were about 3 percentage points less, at 3.12%, taking some of the sting out of higher home prices, according to Mortgage News Daily. To put that difference into perspective, the increase tacks nearly $700 a month and more than $8,100 a year onto the mortgage payment of a median-priced home of $447,000. This adds up to an additional $244,000 over the life of a 30-year loan. (This assumes buyers put down 20% for a 30-year fixed-rate loan and does not include property taxes or insurance costs.)

About 18 million households, or 15% of all households, who could have qualified for a mortgage at the beginning of this year can no longer do so because of the higher rates, according to Nadia Evangelou, senior economist and director of forecasting at the National Association of Realtors®.

“Some of the buyers have reached their financial limits—and they’re out of the market,” she says.

Others are choosing less expensive homes or postponing their searches. The latter is particularly bitter for many first-time buyers, who are contending with fast-rising rental prices.

“For buyers who are financing [their homes], a lot of them are taking a step back at this point. Housing prices have gone up so much that they can’t afford it,” says James Lowen, a mortgage banker at Texana Bank in Raleigh, NC.

Despite the rate increases, home prices aren’t expected to fall. In fact, price growth might even stay strong, at least initially, as buyers stretch their budgets to lock in purchases before rates rise even more.

In addition, the number of homes for sale, while improving, is still woefully short of what’s needed to meet demand. Homes on the market are still receiving an average of about five offers each, according to NAR. This is also likely to keep prices high.

“Generally, when rates go up, buyers feel they have to move now,” says mortgage broker Rocke Andrews, of Lending Arizona in Tucson. “They’re like, ‘If I don’t buy a house now, I’ll never get a house and I’ll be stuck renting,’ [with rental prices] increasing faster than homebuying prices.”

Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist at Freddie Mac, pointed out that mortgage rates could be even higher. In 1981, they hit the mid-18% range. So 5% to 6% or so, “from a historic perspective, it’s not a high rate at all.”

What happens with mortgage rates will depend on how quickly the Fed gets inflation under control or if it needs to keep wrangling it by increasing mortgage rates. In the meantime, homebuyers will anxiously see how this plays out.

“It’s only going to get worse because the odds of rates decreasing is pretty slim,” says Lowen.

The post How High Can Mortgage Rates Go? We’re About To Find Out appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

U.S. Home Equity Hits Highest Level on Record—$27.8 Trillion

U.S. Home Equity Hits Highest Level on Record—$27.8 Trillion

Chona Kasinger for The Wall Street Journal

Americans have more equity in their homes than ever before.

Total U.S. home equity increased almost 20% in the first quarter to $27.8 trillion, a record high, according to the Federal Reserve.

The increase is another consequence of a red-hot housing market. Double-digit price gains have driven some would-be homeowners out of the market. At the same time, rising home values are boosting the finances of the Americans who already own them.

Still, rising rates have made it more expensive for homeowners to use that equity, the difference between the market value of a property and the mortgage balance.

About 60% of equity was withdrawn via cash-out refinances in 2021, according to mortgage-data firm Black Knight. Homeowners are likely to turn to home-equity lines of credit, said Andy Walden, vice president of enterprise research strategy at Black Knight. Borrowing costs on such products are more closely tied to the Fed’s benchmark rate, which has moved less than mortgage rates this year. The Fed is expected to raise rates again at its meeting this week.

With home-equity lines, borrowers pay interest on the amount of credit they use; with a cash-out refinance, the cash taken out of the home gets added to the outstanding mortgage, meaning the new rate is applied to a higher balance.

The amount of tappable equity increased by a record $1.2 trillion in the first quarter of 2022, to more than $11 trillion, according to Black Knight. Close to 75% of it belongs to borrowers with mortgage rates below 4%, the Black Knight data show. The rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.23% near the beginning of June, according to mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

Black Knight defines tappable equity as the amount homeowners can borrow while holding on to at least 20% of the home’s equity. Average tappable equity available to Americans with mortgages increased to a record $207,000 in the first three months of the year, according to Black Knight.

“There’s more tappable equity than there’s ever been, but it’s simply become more expensive to borrow against the equity in your home,” Mr. Walden said.

Home equity generally rises alongside home values over time. In the U.S., total equity fell by about 42% between 2005 and 2012, when millions of Americans ended up owing more on their mortgages than their homes were worth. Total equity has been increasing steadily since 2012, and the first quarter’s 20% jump is the largest since 2013.

The equity gains are expected to spark a record amount of home-improvement spending this year, according to CoreLogic Inc.

Steve English decided to take out a home-equity loan worth about $80,000 this spring to replace the roof and deck on his home in Eatonville, Wash. Mr. English had considered the home-improvement work a few years ago, when the deck would have cost about 40% less, he said, but he didn’t have enough equity to borrow against.

His home is worth more than $700,000, according to an appraisal done this year by his home-equity lender, Discover Home Loans. That is more than double the $325,000 he paid in 2016.

“The equity in my home has shot up in the past two years,” Mr. English said. “That definitely influenced my decision to tap it.”

The increase in equity provides another business opportunity for the mortgage industry, which is suffering a decline in volume from the blockbuster mortgage markets of 2020 and 2021.

Mortgage lenders this year are working to weather a sharp drop-off in the number of homeowners refinancing their loans, with demand drying up as interest rates rise.

The post U.S. Home Equity Hits Highest Level on Record—$27.8 Trillion appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.