Weekly Mortgage and Real Estate Report – Week of February 13, 2017

ECONOMIC COMMENTARY
The Barrage of Executive OrdersAs we indicated previously, we are not about to speculate as to what might happen as a result of the policies of the new Administration. There is still a tremendous road to be laid. However, we can say that the President has moved quickly to issue a barrage of Executive Orders during his first weeks in office. Some of these are merely presages of actions to come, such as the promise to dismantle the Dodd-Frank Act, and for those we will continue to wait for the eventual results. In addition, it may take quite some time for these actions to come to fruition and even longer for the results to be realized.

However, some of these orders are implementing policies and already are affecting the markets and economy. The one that stands out as an example is the travel restrictions or ban (whichever name you prefer) applied to several countries. Certainly, the lives of many individuals are affected by this action. But so are businesses and even schools. Foreign countries provide teachers for our schools and students from these countries attend these schools. And some industries, such as the medical and tech sectors, depend upon foreign workers. The next question is–could the new policy or a similar one affect economic growth negatively?

The fate of the ban rests in the courts as we write this commentary. If it is reinstated, there could be some negative consequences in the short-run. If the restrictions are expanded or extended, these negative consequences would continue or grow. On the other hand, if the restrictions are reinstated and then are eased as our country examines the targeted countries’ vetting procedures, the effect could be minimalized. Thus, even though this was an example of an Executive Order which was implemented immediately and has caused a wide-ranging reaction from many, we still don’t know of the extent of the long-term influences it might have on our economy. Of course, if it does not overcome the court challenge, the analysis will be moot.

REAL ESTATE NEWS
  Existing-home sales finished out 2016 as the best year since the housing boom days, the National Association of Realtors® reported. Total existing-home sales – which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condos, and co-ops – closed 2016 at 5.45 million sales, surpassing 2015 (5.25 million). It was the highest total for existing-home sales since 2006 (6.48 million), NAR reported. “Solid job creation throughout 2016 and exceptionally low interest rates translated into a good year for the housing market,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “However, higher rates and home prices combined with record low inventory levels stunted sales in much of the country in December. In addition, the median existing-home price for all housing types in December was $232,200, up 4 percent from a year ago, and all-cash sales comprised 21 percent of transactions in December, down from 24 percent last year. Distressed sales were down from 8 percent a year ago. Source: NARReports from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University and the National Association of Home Builders forecast a strong and stable market for home improvement and repair in 2017. The Joint Center’s Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity projects annual growth in home improvement and repair expenditures will remain elevated throughout 2017 with spending levels ending the year up 6.7 percent at $317 billion, on par with the 6.9 percent growth estimated for 2016. Chris Herbert, Managing Director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies, said home remodeling and repair should see sustained momentum in 2017. “Growth in home prices is continuing at a healthy pace and encouraging homeowners to make remodeling investments,” Herbert said. “Home sales are remaining on an upward trajectory, as well, and this coupled with continued growth in remodeling permit activity suggests another strong year for home improvements.” Abbe Will, Research Analyst in the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center, said spending in 2014 and 2015 was not quite as robust as their model estimated, growing 11.3 percent over these two years compared to 14.3 percent as estimated. Source: Mortgage Bankers Association

Perhaps you are living on a fixed income and need some extra money to pay the bills. Maybe you need some help with daily chores. Or perhaps you simply yearn for companionship. If any of those scenarios seems to fit, it might be time to consider a roommate: someone with whom to share your house — and perhaps your life. House-sharing among empty nesters, retirees and other aging adults certainly isn’t a new phenomenon. But with something like 10,000 people a day turning 65, it is definitely on the rise, says Wendi Burkhardt. She’s the co-founder and CEO of Silvernest, a Boulder, Colorado-based online matching service that helps seniors find compatible housemates. Proof: In the 12 months since Silvernest’s launch, the service has signed up 10,000 clients, the majority of whom are 50 to 75 years old. The client list includes would-be landlords, who pay $29.99 to use the site for three months, as well as wannabe roomies, who pay the same amount to cover their application fee and the cost of various background checks. People considering a roommate can use a matching service like Silvernest, or they can save a few bucks by going it alone. But be forewarned: Choosing someone to share your house with is much harder than picking out a ripe melon or the proper exterior paint.Source: Lew Sichelman Uexpress

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