New Year, More News! January 2019’s Real Estate News Recap

From everyone at HomeLight, Happy New Year! 2019 started off strong (and chilly; are you doing OK Chicago?) as the world stepped away from the holiday cookies and back into reality.

We’re fighting crowds at the gym, keeping to those resolutions, and per usual scouring the internet for the latest housing news every month, so that you don’t have to!

From forecasts to shutdowns, January presented a mixed bag of the good and the bad and real estate was no exception. So, with 11 more months to go, here’s hoping that the rest of the year isn’t quite so chaotic.

Let’s dive right into the top stories:

1. Closed for business

We just (barely) survived the longest government shutdown in history, which came in at a solid 35 days. 420,000 federal workers (including 51,000 TSA officers) still worked without pay during this period, while the impact rippled throughout the economy and, yes, even the real estate market.

But, before you rejoice—USA Today, Will there be another government shutdown? Republicans and Democrats don’t want another ‘kick of the mule’:  “The White House and congressional leaders struck a deal to reopen the government through Feb. 15. The agreement contained no new money for a border wall, but it did call for a bipartisan conference committee to spend the next three weeks negotiating ways to secure the southern border.”

MSNBC, Calculating the cost of the 35-day government shutdown. Short summary: about $11 billion.

Not only did the Shutdown cut paychecks, but also disrupted the entire economy, including the real estate market.

Courthouse that may impact real estate market because of government shutdown.
Source: (Katie Moum / Unsplash)

+ Market Watch, Real-estate agents say government shutdown is impacting the housing market: “The survey did find 9% of agents said they were impacted because a federal government employee opted not to buy. But there are other factors at work as well: some 17%, for instance, reported a closing delay due to a USDA loan, 13% reporting a delay due to IRS income verification and 9% reported a closing delay due to a hang up for their FHA loan, all showing the outsized role the federal government plays in the housing market.”

+ Bankrate, How the government shutdown is disrupting mortgage, real estate transactions.

+ Realtor.com, Mortgage Rates Hit a 9-Month Low as Government Shutdown Is Already Biting the Housing Market.

If you’re selling your house this season, we suggest talking to a top real estate to navigate the impact of the shutdown (if any) in your market.

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2. Reading the real estate tea leaves

Sans government shutdown, analysts forecast 2019 as the year to put up that for-sale sign. So, if selling has been at the back of your mind for a while, strike now while the market is still in your favor. How do we know? HomeLight dug into real estate market research and found 10 reasons you’ll benefit from the 2019 seller’s market.

+ HomeLight, Strike While the Market’s Still Hot! 10 Data-Backed Reasons to Sell Your House in 2019: “2019 will remain a seller’s market, but judging by the housing predictions for the coming year, it won’t last forever. If selling your home has been on your radar and it’s the right financial move, take advantage of the low interest rates and high property values now.”

Infographic showing real estate mortgage survey.
Source: (Freddie Mac)

We’re not the only one preaching the word—WaPo, Experts weigh in on what the 2019 housing market will bring: “In their forecasts for 2019, real estate experts anticipate the housing market slowing down, but not stalling, with prices and mortgage rates moderating.

‘If mortgage rates trend sideways next year, as we anticipate, and home price appreciation continues to moderate, improving affordability should breathe some life into the housing market,’ said Doug G. Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae.”

+ REALTOR Mag, Have You Noticed? The Housing Market Is Starting to Look Brighter: “‘The good news here for sellers is that—with interest rates down and slowing prices—more prospective buyers should be encouraged to get off the sidelines, shop around, and consider making offers,’ writes Kenneth Harney, a syndicated real estate columnist for The Washington Post.”

3. Location, location, location

Ever wonder how real estate markets fare in each city? We do… all the time. With data on millions of transactions, we break it down by state, then city, helping sellers find top agents in each area and the best times to sell or buy. So, if you’re curious about city trends for 2019…

+ Lending Tree, Cities Where Homeowners Stay Put the Longest: “Whatever the reason, many homeowners have opted to stay in place, but how long they choose to do so varies by location. We set out to assess the variation in the 50 largest cities in America. On average, homeowners have been in their houses for about 7 years, with a high of 7.54 years in Pittsburgh to a low of 6.36 in Las Vegas. The difference may not seem like much, but our research reveals a significant difference in home price appreciation that is related to the average tenure.”

For buyers— Market Watch, This is the best place to buy a home in the U.S.: “You might want to relocate to Virginia Beach, Va. The metropolitan area ranked as the No. 1 home buyer market in the country…In Virginia Beach, homes on average sold for 3% below their list price, likely because homes were on the market for 51 days longer than the national average.”

+ Housing Wire, These 3 U.S. cities make list of world’s 10 least affordable housing markets. Hint: think West Coast.

+ Realtor.com, What Slowdown? The 10 Markets Where Home Prices Are Unstoppable.

4. Most expensive house in American history? Bring Back MTV Cribs!

Ken Griffin, an American investor and multi-billionaire, just purchased the most expensive home ever sold for $238 million New York penthouse. This is a whole lot of cash to us non-billionaires, but for Griffin, it feels like another weekend purchase. Including this penthouse, Griffin spent $362 million in one week!

+ CNBC, Billionaire Ken Griffin buys New York penthouse for $238 million, the most expensive US home ever sold: “The deal is the largest in Griffin’s recent $700 million global real estate shopping spree, believed to be the largest ever for a U.S. billionaire. Over the past few years, the founder and CEO of Citadel has purchased the most expensive homes in Chicago, Miami and New York.

He has spent more than $200 million to buy land in Palm Beach, Florida, for a home he plans to build there. And this week, news broke that he purchased a $122 million property in London, which was the most expensive sale in that city in a decade.”

+ Housing Wire, Billionaire snatches up America’s most expensive house in real estate spending spree.

5. Reporting live from HomeLight!

This month, HomeLight released its very own Best of HomeLight Awards: “Each year, HomeLight awards agents at both the local and national levels for excellence in 5 distinct categories. Winners of the Best of HomeLight Award represent the top performing agents working in America today.”

In other news, HomeLight announced that we are an official partner of U.S. Figure Skating! We were there for #USChamps19 when Nathan Chen won his third gold and Alysa Liu became the youngest U.S. Figure Skating champion. She is also the first American woman to land three triple Axels in a competition!

ICYMI, the “HomeLight Scoring Insight” feature on NBC and NBCSN gave the inside scoop on how judges score all those fancy jumps, spins, and the numbers behind the premier skating event. Think we’re suckers for numbers and data? Well, guilty as charged!

u.s. figure skating homelight
Source: (U.S. Figure Skating)

6. Put your money where your mouth is

Tech giant Microsoft has pledged $500 million to their home base Seattle, Washington, in an effort to solve the city’s affordable housing crisis.

Forbes, Microsoft Tries To Solve Affordable Housing With $500 Million Trust: “Microsoft is trying to build a more inclusive Seattle with a $500 million cash injection into the city’s affordable housing projects. The tech giant created a $475 million trust fund to support the creation of middle-income housing along with a $25 million donation to address homelessness.”

+ Vox, Microsoft’s $500 million plan to fix Seattle’s housing problem, explained.

Microsoft isn’t the only company dabbling in philanthropy. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is donating $1 billion of his own fortune the homelessness organizations cross the U.S. Airbnb has also donated $5 million toward homelessness in San Francisco.

+ Geek Wire, Can Big Tech solve the housing crisis? The politics of private companies taking on public issues: “Big tech companies are stepping in to help solve the housing crunch in the face of mounting frustration from their communities, where big increases in home prices and homelessness are often a side effect of economic growth.”

Their efforts are met with both excitement and skepticism, but only time can tell if their cash donations will alleviate the housing issues they helped create.

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