2022 South Bay Real Estate Wrap

We’re taking a little different approach with this post. Because it’s not only the end of the month, but the end of the year, we’re doing a quick summary of the monthly data, followed by some more detailed discussion of how the individual areas have fared over the past year. We’ll even try some crystal gazing while we walk through the annual data for each neighborhood.

This is a great place to bring in our At A Glance table. It displays in just a few numbers how all the areas of the LA South Bay are doing compared to last month, and compared to this same month last year.

Looking at December vs November, once again the percentage of unsold homes has increased and the number of homes sold below last month’s median price has also marginally increased. More importantly, on a year over year basis the amount of red ink is even greater. Losses in number of sales and in the value of those sales is clearly growing.

Despite all the negative numbers, there may be a light in the future. For the past couple weeks we have observed a softening in the mortgage interest rates. If that turns out to be more than a mid-winter teaser rate, this spring may shine a bit brighter than previously anticipated. We’re not holding our breath though. Recent speeches from Federal Reserve Bank leaders have stated a clear intent to “hold the line” on driving down inflation with mortgage interest rate increases.

Beach Cities Home Sales Down 47%

Compared to 2021, fewer homes have been sold in the Beach Cities every month of 2022 than the same month the previous year. January started the trend with a decline of 28% versus the number of homes sold in 2021. That difference continued to increase all year. By December sales were 47% lower than the previous December.

As the interest rates climbed, the number of home sales dropped. Looking at the total sales volume for the year, 35% fewer homes were sold in the Beach area during 2022, than were sold in 2021. Of course, 2020 and 2021 were the highly erratic pandemic years. So, looking into sales at the Beach for the last few years we find the number of homes sold has already dropped 21% below the number sold during 2019, our last normal economic year. Effectively, the Covid-19 pandemic created. Then erased any gains of the past three years at the Beach.

Homes sold in: 2019 – 1572 (market normal)
2020 – 1572 (market direction down six months, up six months)
2021 – 1910 (market direction down two months, up ten months)
2022 – 1242 (market direction down twelve months)

While the Beach Cities suffered the largest drop in sales volume for 2022, the South Bay as a whole has also dropped below the sales figures for 2019.

Sales Volume Down Across the Board

All areas started the 2022 year down from the prior month and down from the same month in the prior year. February results were mixed with the Harbor and Palos Verdes areas showing stronger results. March sales jumped up as buyers realized the rising interest rates were about to price them out of the market. From April on, sales volume across the South Bay was trending down on a year over year basis.

In sheer number of sales, the Harbor area fell the farthest. In 2021 annual sales 5292 homes were sold in the Harbor cities, while in 2022 the number dropped to 4017. That amounted to only a 24% decrease compared to the 35% annual collapse in the Beach areas.

On a month to prior month measure, sales declined six months out of nine across the South Bay. Occasionally one or two areas would post a positive sales month, but in the end, 2022 showed a 26% drop in sales volume from 2021 across the South Bay.

Sales Dollars Diving

With the number of sales dropping in a range of 25% to 50% it’s not a surprise to discover the total dollar value of those sales has taken a dive. As the chart below shows, the first quarter of the year was generally positive, then reality set in and the buyers started walking away. The rest of the year was little more than a measure of the recession.

Monthly revenue in the Harbor area alone dropped $200 million between March and December. The Beach cities and the Palos Verdes area lost about $150 million a month in sales value. Inland area sales for the same period are off approximately $75 million.

One should consider these declines in the context of the pandemic. Early on, while much of the world was in lockdown, the government flooded the citizenry with easy money, hoping to keep the economy afloat. Mortgage interest rates were already at the bottom because the economy was just recovering from the last recession. The result was a real estate boom starting in summer of 2021, which continued until March of 2022.

The housing market is now in the “bust” part of the cycle and we anticipate it to last through 2023. Gross sales across the South Bay jumped up from $8 billion in 2019 to $12 billion in 2021. That’s clearly unsustainable, especially from the perspective of a Federal Reserve System which is looking for 2% growth. So far the market decline has taken back about 23% of that $4 billion bubble.

Median Price Is Slipping

There is a lull between when buyers stop buying and prices start dropping. Most sellers need to see headlines about the market change before they make a price reduction. Median prices started to slide in August at the Beach and on PV Hill. The year ended with most areas having experienced multiple monthly declines in the median price. Despite that, median prices still exceeded those of 2021 by roughly 7%.

Comparing 2022 to 2019 better shows the inflation factor. Generally speaking the South Bay ended the year with median prices 30%-35% higher than they were in 2019.

The Palos Verdes market is comparatively small, thus is typically volatile on a monthly basis. The yellow line on the chart above shows the range of high and low median prices. Since mid-year the median price has drifted down and merged into the downward trend.

Year End Versus 2019

We’ve been comparing 2022 to 2019 all year because real estate sales during the height of the pandemic were so out of the ordinary, regular year over year comparisons yielded untenable results. The chart below depicts the current year total sales for the South Bay compared to sales from 2019.

Tracking the blue line, one can see where sales dropped below 2019 values in August, recovered in September, then slipped below again for the fourth quarter of the year. December sales didn’t fall quite as far as projected, but still came in about $200 million less than December of 2019.

The end of the year reflected accumulated sales of approximately $9.3 billion. That would mean 2022 total dollar sales come in at $1.3 billion above the $8 billion total dollar value sold in 2019. Across the South Bay that was an 18% increase.

Broken out by community, we found total dollars sold in the Beach cities to be 4% above 2019, followed by the Inland area with a 20% increase. Harbor came in next with a 21% increase and the PV Hill with a 35% increase.

We expect both sales volume and median price to continue declining through most, if not all, of 2023. By mid-year of 2024 there should be evidence of the beginnings of a recovery.

Disclosures:

The areas are:
Beach: includes the cities of El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach;
PV Hill: includes the cities of Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills and Rolling Hills Estates;
Harbor: includes the cities of San Pedro, Long Beach, Wilmington, Harbor City and Carson;
Inland: includes the cities of Torrance, Gardena and Lomita.

Photo by T Narr on Unsplash

Homebuyers Under-Informed About Mortgage Options

Buying a home is a major life decision. Because of this, it’s important that prospective homebuyers take the time to research the best option for them. Unfortunately, that tends not to happen with mortgage loans. Only about 13% of prospective buyers spend at least a month researching lenders. By contrast, 28% spend just as much time researching cars, and 23% vacation options.

One major reason is that they’re simply not well informed. 30% of prospective buyers believe that their credit score will take a major hit if they shop around, the most common reason cited for not shopping around. This is not accurate, as it’s only getting a pre-approval that reduces your credit score, not consulting with lenders. You can submit as many applications as you want within a 45 day period and your credit score will only drop once. 15% also believe that all lenders use the exact same rate, so there’s no reason to get a second quote, which is definitely not the case.

Photo by Windows on Unsplash

More: https://zillow.mediaroom.com/2022-11-18-Prospective-home-buyers-spend-about-as-much-time-researching-new-TVs-as-they-do-mortgage-lenders

Don’t Be Afraid To Be Selective With Mortgage Loans

The terms of mortgage loans have a lot more variance than one might expect. It’s well known that the average interest rate is just that, an average, but there would be no competition if that were the sole factor. Be sure to get lots of estimates, comparing both different types of loans at the same institution as well as the same type of loan at different institutions.

Make sure you understand the terms clearly, especially because some loans have hidden costs. These can include fees for printing documents or prepayment penalties, among others. Not all lenders have these, nor necessarily for all loans, so shop around. It’s also important to know the rate lock period, so you can be sure that the rate will still be valid by the time you finalize getting the loan. Some costs may even be negotiable, such as loan closing fees and interest rate.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Qualified Vs Non-Qualified Mortgage Loans

Before you get a mortgage loan, ask yourself whether you want a qualified mortgage (QM) or non-qualified mortgage (Non-QM). You may be wondering under what circumstances you’d want your mortgage to not be qualified. Well, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Non-QMs don’t conform to the regulations set forth by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), but they’re actually entirely legal — the government simply can’t guarantee consumer protections.

So what are these protections, and why might you want to risk going without them? A QM loan cannot last longer than 30 years, cannot have prepayment penalties, cannot be a balloon loan, and should not have negative amortization. It requires a process for verifying several sources of information, including but not limited to bank statements and income. Because of this, it’s often more difficult to qualify for a QM loan. Therefore, someone who can’t qualify for a QM, such as many gig workers, may risk a non-QM loan. Investors, especially foreign investors, also frequently opt for non-QM loans that only require payments on interest. It’s also possible that you want to go for a longer-term loan, which would come with smaller payments, albeit a higher total amount paid once the loan is fully paid off. In any case, you probably want to ask a professional to explain the terms and risks of any loan you are considering taking, whether qualified or not.

Photo by Tim van der Kuip on Unsplash

Benefits of a VA Home Loan

One of the offerings of the Department of Veterans Affairs is mortgage loans. Of course, this is limited to current or past members of the US military. With this restriction comes a few significant benefits if you qualify. VA loans have perks for both low-income and high-income homebuyers.

If you have the money to buy a more expensive home as long as you can get a loan, VA loans may have you covered. There are jumbo loans available which can even exceed $1 million. This may be a good bet even if you are not currently a high-income earner, as long as you are purchasing investment property. This is because there is no minimum down payment for VA loans; you can borrow up to 100% of the home’s value. You don’t even need to worry about private mortgage insurance (PMI), which is required for conventional loans with a down payment under 20%, but not for VA loans regardless of your down payment amount. If your investments pay off, or you start earning more money, you can also pay off the loan faster. VA loans have no penalty for accelerating payments.

Photo by Jessica Radanavong on Unsplash

ARM Rate Will Exceed FRM Rate by 2023

Due to the Fed increasing benchmark rates, the rates of fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) and adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) are both continuing to increase at a rapid rate. The current average 30-year FRM rate is 6.70%, and it’s 5.96% for ARMs, as of Sept 30th.

It’s normal for FRM rates to be higher than ARM rates, but that may not be the case soon, because of the reasons for the rapidly increasing rates. The ARM rates are directly tied to the benchmark rates — as the benchmark rates increase, the ARM rates will also increase proportionally. While FRM rates are also increasing, it’s not directly because of the increasing benchmark rate. FRM rates are actually tied to bond market rates. However, since the FRM rates are already increasing much faster than bond market rates, they can’t sustainably go much higher, while ARM rates don’t have that restriction and are quickly catching up.

Photo by Sasun Bughdaryan on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/current-market-rates/3832/

Mortgage Rates Stabilizing After Sharp Rise

As a result of the Federal Reserve’s decision to increase benchmark rates, both fixed and adjustable rate mortgages have been increasing. Rates are now beginning to reach a stable point. Of course, the rates are in constant flux, but the fluctuations are starting to level out. This doesn’t mean a reversal of the recent increases; the 30-year FRM rate is levelling at somewhere around 5.5%, which is still relatively high in comparison to recent years.

What it does mean is that the uncertainty regarding rates is decreasing. With this, the popularity of ARMs will drop, as uncertainty is their primary drawback. They had experienced a surge of popularity while FRM rates were similarly unstable, since FRM rates tend to be higher than ARM rates during the same time period. This is despite the fact that ARM rates also drastically increased between July 2021 and July 2022, from 2.48% to 4.30%.

Photo by MOHD AZRIN on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/current-market-rates/3832/

California Mortgage Payments Now Significantly Above Rent Costs

Conventional wisdom is that it’s more financially sound to buy a house than rent, if you can afford to do so. However, this may not be entirely true anymore. While house prices and rent prices are both increasing, house prices are increasing at a much higher rate. The gap between mortgage payments and rental payments increased from $25 in April 2021 to over $800 a year later. This difference is the highest in over 20 years. Unless you’re planning to live there for over thirty years, you’re probably better off renting. Importantly, this is based on a down payment of 5%, which is significantly lower than the commonly recommended 20%, but many buyers may not be able to afford a 20% down payment.

This won’t be permanent, but it could last several years. Home price growth has already started to lessen, but interest rates are high right now. Prices aren’t expected to be at a low until around 2025. Increased construction could aid in further reducing home prices. Given that we’re seeing the the beginnings of another recession, though, that probably won’t happen until a couple years after prices bottom out. Even after a return to normality, California is still going to have a lot of renters. With many lower-income workers permanently priced out of buying, the state has consistently had the first or second lowest homeownership rate of any state, frequently swapping places with New York.

Photo by Esperanza Doronila on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/california-homeownership-priced-out-in-the-buy-vs-rent-question/84763/

Why Interest Rates May Be Higher Than Expected

When getting a mortgage loan, that money generally comes from a bank. But it’s important to realize that a bank isn’t just an impersonal repository of money. Banks are businesses, and as such, they’re always looking for profit. This extends to deciding your interest rate, which is nearly always not the best rate you could get.

One of the ways banks pull a profit is by looking to the future of interest rates. They will frequently take an expected future average rate rather than the current average rate if they expect rates will rise soon. They get slightly ahead of the game this way. The other reason rates are often higher is not entirely within the bank’s control, although it is partially a result of their actions. A common method of reducing risk is for a bank to sell debt to an investor. This also frees up capital for the bank. But it introduces an additional party also looking for a profit, and the bank may need to make concessions for the deal to go through. Increasing interest rates is a way to recoup these losses.

Photo by Nick Pampoukidis on Unsplash

Commercial Mortgages Skyrocketed in Q1 2022

Commercial real estate has been struggling in recent years, just as many other sectors of the economy have been struggling. However, one advantage that most commercial buyers have over residential buyers is that they’re more willing to take on debt because their living expenses are likely a lower percentage of their income. As a result, loan originations for commercial properties increased dramatically in the first quarter of 2022.

As can be expected, the effect is greatest in the areas either least affected or most in demand as a result of the 2020 recession. These include hotels, industrial, retail, and healthcare. Loan originations for hotels increased a whopping 359% from 2021. Mortgages for the industrial sector also increased over 100%, by 145%. Increases in retail and healthcare were also significant at 88% and 81% respectively. Lesser increases were noted for multi-family dwellings at 57% and offices at 30%, but these still increased, not decreased. However, one should note that the available data isn’t entirely up to date. Mortgage rates have increased significantly since Q1, so despite the fact that they’re starting to slip back down just now, there may have already been a downward trend in commercial loan originations that we haven’t noticed yet.

Photo by Francesca Saraco on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/californias-commercial-property-shortage-is-making-investors-desperate/

Mortgage Rates Dipping After Recent Upward Trend

Primarily as a result of actions by the Federal Reserve, mortgage rates have been trending upward since January. The rates peaked in June, and have now begun their decline in July. ARM rates are currently more volatile than FRM rates, and may continue to flip-flop, but they are still lower than FRM rates.

The 30-year FRM rate peaked at around 5.7% in late June. It’s since dropped slightly to 5.3% as of the first week of July. The 15-year fixed rate followed a very similar trend line, albeit at a lower peak rate of just under 5%. This is normal; the 15-year rate has always trended lower than the 30-year rate. The ARM rate was 4.34% at its highest in June, and has now dipped below 4%.

Photo by Adam Nowakowski on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/current-market-rates/

LA South Bay Real Estate: May 2022

Number of Homes Sold

The number of homes sold in the South Bay has declined from last month, and has declined from last year. The quantities are actually rather dramatic given that May is typically a time of increasing sales. The drops range from -7% to -17% lower than April sales of this year, and from -17% to -25% below May of last year.

With over half the year remaining, mortgage interest rates have doubled, currently sitting around 6%. The hike in interest rates has so far reduced the average buying power by about -25%. Coupled with home price increases estimated to have risen 38% since the start of the pandemic, the immediate future of real estate looks dismal.

202205_sales_vol_chart

Inflated consumer prices are also blocking potential home buyers as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) climbs toward a 10% annual hike. There’s little chance of saving for a down payment when the price of everything on the shopping list is going up..

Retirement accounts are often a source of down payment funds. As of this writing the major stock market indices are all down: Dow Jones Industrial Average, -16%; S&P 500, -22%; Nasdaq Composite, -31%. Forecasts are growing for a Fed-induced recession that may begin as soon as this fall. Some potential buyers may see borrowing from their retirement fund to purchase a property as a means to preserve the capital during a recession. Others may not be in a position to do that.

Median Price Sold

May prices delivered a mixed message. The Palos Verdes Peninsula, which had seen two months of decline from a temporarily high median price, headed back up again. The Beach cities continued a steady climb, and the Inland area showed a modest price increase after having dropped 1% in April.

However, the Harbor area, which is as large as the other three areas combined, took a -6% hit to prices. We anticipate the Harbor and Inland areas, which comprise the bulk of the traditional middle class family homes in South Bay, to be the first to react to the economic stress.

Typically, the recession cycle starts with a slowing of sales. As properties languish on the market, sellers begin to reduce prices. One after another, median sales prices will drop until the price reduction offsets the impact to buyers. At that point, buyers will begin to support the reduced purchase prices and we can see growth in the market.

Experts differ in their estimates of how long this cycle will take, and when we can expect the market bottom. There are some predicting a rapid fall based on the speed with which the Federal Reserve Bank (Fed) is reacting. The June meeting of the Fed ended with a .75% hike in the prime rate, and a promise to raise it at least another .75% before the end of the year. While that could slow the economy as early as the beginning of 2023, more conservative minds suggest the end of 2023 for a turn-around.

Area Sales Dollars

The total sales dollars tell the truest story. While sales are slowing and median prices are beginning to slow, the combination shows up here.

Everywhere except the Beach is showing reductions in total sales on a month to month basis, and on a year over year basis. The declines are small to date, with year over year ranging from -1% to -10% in May. Month to month changes ranged from +2% at the Beach to -19% in the Harbor area.

202205_monthly_sales_$_chart

These early numbers follow the general pattern we’ve seen in recent recessions, whereby entry level homes are the first impacted and the last to recover. We anticipate the Harbor area to lead the charge down, followed by the Inland area. Recent years have shown the Beach to be the strongest growth area, so we expect the recession to hit there last, following declines on the Hill.

The nature of the impending recession is still uncertain. Some pundits are saying that at least initially we should expect “stagflation,” that odd environment we first encountered back in the 1990s when prices of everything continued to climb, along with job layoffs and massive unemployment. Other forecasters suggest that because the international economy is roiling with continuing high tariffs (courtesy of the last administration) and new monetary sanctions daily (courtesy of the current administration), this particular recession may last much longer than normal.

In Summary

As the table below shows, the majority of the negative impact for May happened in the quantity of housing units sold. With one exception, prices continued to escalate. We believe this is temporary and likely to change before the end of the year. The -6% drop in median price at the Harbor presages the direction of home pricing as inventory grows and listings stagnate.

Approximately 3 out of 4 listings coming across our desk recently have been either Price Reduction or Back On Market. That means property is staying on the market longer. The Average Days On Market (DOM) for May ranged from 10 days on the PV Hill to 14 days in the Harbor area. As recently as this winter we were still seeing multiple offers on the first day the property was available.

Another measure of the market condition is how far the average sales price declines in the first 30 days on market. We did a quick look for May and came up with these statistics. Thirty days after the original listing, the price had dropped from the original: at the Beach, -9%; the Harbor -6%; PV Hill -18%; Inland -5%. As of May, we’re also seeing property that has been on the market for several months, with several price reductions.

Notable Properties

The high and low sales for May were not terribly dramatic. A Manhattan Hill section home and a downtown Long Beach condominium. Thay are simply very big, and very small.

High Sale

Located at 812 5th St, this Manhattan Beach hill section home was originally listed at $10.5M and sold for $8,980,000 after 34 days active on the market. The home offers six bedrooms and seven full bathrooms in 5576 sq ft. Amenities included ocean view, pool, spa, custom waterfall & fire features, a full basement with recreation/media room, home theater, storage, a temperature-controlled wine cellar, and private guest quarters.

Low Sale

Measuring barely 381 sq ft, the studio condo at 819 E 4th St #25 sold for $215,000 in one day. Located in the vibrant East Village of Downtown Long Beach this tiny home offers a remodelled kitchen and bathroom. The unit sits on the second floor, overlooking the intersection of 4th and Alimitos and within walking distance of many downtown shops, clubs and eateries.

Main photo by Kostiantyn Li on Unsplash

New Loan Program Aimed At Helping First-Time Homebuyers

The California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) has introduced a new loan program called the Forgivable Equity Builder Loan. It comes with some heavy restrictions — only first-time homebuyers are eligible, and it only covers up to 10% of the purchase price. This is because it’s a supplementary loan that can only be taken out in combination with a CalFHA first mortgage. The good news is that this loan has an interest rate of zero percent, and is also forgivable if you occupy the residence continually for five years. However, standard interest rates apply to the CalFHA first mortgage.

The program also requires borrowers to complete a course on homebuyer education and obtain a certificate of completion. This course does require a one-time fee of $99 if taken online, or a variable-rate fee if taken in person. You must also occupy the new home as your primary residence, as well as meet income requirements. The property must be a single-family residence or manufactured home. This can include condominiums if they meet the requirements for the CalFHA first mortgage, or ADUs in some cases.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

More: https://www.calhfa.ca.gov/homebuyer/programs/forgivable.htm

Mortgage Rates Approaching 5%

After a period of low mortgage rates, they’re going back up quickly. That is the expected effect of current Fed policy, but we may hit 5% faster than expected, possibly as early as next month. As of the beginning of April, the average 30-year fixed rate was 4.59%. If they do hit 5%, it would be highest rate in the past decade, though they did get close in November of 2018 at 4.94%.

The increasing rates are definitely going to slow down the real estate market. That may be a good thing for the market, given how hot it’s been, but it’s definitely not good for buyers. Demand isn’t going to disappear completely, though. And the effect is probably mostly psychological. Historically speaking, 5% isn’t a particularly high rate. It’s just that rates have been trending downward for quite some time, so it isn’t going to be familiar territory for the new generations of buyers.

Photo by Library of Congress on Unsplash

More: https://www.marketwatch.com/picks/inevitable-in-the-very-near-future-4-economists-and-real-estate-pros-on-exactly-when-mortgage-rates-will-hit-5-01648838969

How Refinancing Can Help Pay Off Your Loan Faster

There are two main reasons to refinance your home. One is to reduce your monthly payments in order to free up cash, and the other is to pay off the loan more quickly. But refinancing doesn’t just simply do this automatically; you have to choose a new mortgage with terms that work for you. Figure out what your goal is and pick the right mortgage.

Reducing your interest rate is the surest way to free up cash, but it can also simply be used to pay off the loan faster. With a lower interest rate, a greater percentage of the principal is reduced each time you make a payment. However, this only works if you can qualify for a lower interest rate. If you don’t qualify normally, consider reducing the length of the mortgage. This will probably result in higher monthly payments, but will also likely allow you to qualify for a lower rate, and almost certainly allow you to pay off the mortgage faster as long as you make the payments. If you have plenty of cash on hand and just want to save money in the long run, consider replacing your mortgage with one that allows you to make larger payments on your principal. This is more costly in the short term, but would allow you to pay off the loan early and thus spend less on interest, reducing the overall cost.

Photo by Morgan Housel on Unsplash

Preapproval Doesn’t Lock Mortgage Rates

Many people are blindsided by rising mortgage rates after getting a preapproval, thinking that the preapproval has locked their rate. It hasn’t. The first opportunity to lock your mortgage rate happens when your final loan application is approved, though you don’t even have to lock it until shortly before closing on a purchase, if you think rates will go down. In addition, the lock period is not indefinite. It usually lasts anywhere from 15 to 60 days, and it could definitely take longer than that to find a home.

There are ways to mitigate the issues presented by shifting mortgage rates. Rates don’t tend to change much during a typical closing period, but you want to lock early when rates are rising and late when rates are falling. Consider budgeting for a loan lower than your preapproved amount in order to account for fluctuations in mortgage rates. Different lenders also have different locking policies. Make sure to shop around and ask about lock periods, renewing options for locked rates, and the possibility of locking out rising rates but not falling rates.

Photo by olieman.eth on Unsplash

More: https://themortgagereports.com/89634/can-my-rate-rise-after-preapproval

Mortgage Rates to Transition to New Benchmark

The most commonly used benchmark rate to determine mortgage rates has long been the LIBOR, or London Inter-Bank Offered Rate. However, this has some issues. The LIBOR is not tied to actual transactions. Because of this, bankers that have influence on the LIBOR can simply manipulate the rate to their benefit. This occurred in the 2008 recession, where the LIBOR was kept artificially low to encourage people to borrow money. The financial world has finally decided LIBOR won’t cut it as a benchmark, and it’s being phased out.

Financial institutions won’t be forced to stop using the LIBOR, but if they do use it, they will be required to include at least one rate that isn’t LIBOR-based as a backup. They will have until the end of 2021 to comply. The front runner for a backup rate in the US is the SOFR, or Secured Overnight Financing Rate. This rate is administered by the New York Fed. It’s not subject to the same manipulation that LIBOR is because it does take into account actual completed transactions. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac already swapped from LIBOR to SOFR in 2020.

Photo by Ash _ Ismail on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/libor-phase-out-begins-on-december-31-2021-are-you-ready/81002/

August 2021 Real Estate – A Good Market by Any Measure

Sales Volume Down

Back in 2019 the first eight months of the year saw 5,706 homes sold. During the same period in 2020, in the early response to Covid-19, sales dropped off by 12% to 5,003. As the market came out of the Covid doldrums in 2021, sales took a dramatic 57% jump. It’s most easily seen looking at the sales volume for the Harbor area in March on the chart below.

Part of that jump was the approximately 700 sales which didn’t happen in 2020. We don’t know how many of those “deferred” transactions have jumped back into the market. As of August the South Bay sales were at 6845, a 20% increase over the 2019 sales for this point in the year.

Seeing that a huge part of the March increase came in Harbor home sales tells part of the tale. The biggest piece of that market in recent months has been entry level or first time home buyers. Closely following are investors in small income properties.

Stories from the street imply that the growth in ADU additions and conversions has had an out size impact on that market as well. Both homeowners and landlords benefit from having additional living spaces.

For right now, the pandemic appears to be fading, which would tend to boost sales. Similarly, the low mortgage interest rates continue to support the market. At the same time we’re moving into fall and winter, when sales typically slow. August showed just a hint of a seasonal downward movement. September should be a directional indicator.

Sales Prices Up

That jump in sales volume was accompanied by a bigger jump in the median price of the homes selling. Pent up demand and low interest rates combined to create bidding wars and drive median prices up. As of the end of August, the median price of a home at the Beach was $1.7M. That number was $1.5M in 2019 and $1.4M in 2020.

Median prices on Palos Verdes trended about the same at roughly $100K more per unit.The Inland cities and the Harbor area both showed mosest increases in the $50K neighborhood.

Area Sales Dollars Slowing

The monthly sales value of homes sold across the Los Angeles South Bay for August declined in all areas except the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

Compared to July, the number of sales on the Hill increased 8% in August, with a 2% increase in median price. That translated into a $150M increase in monthly sales since the first of the year.

Activity in the Inland cities has been stable for three months already, having risen about $50K per month since the first of January.

Monthly sales at the Beach and in the Harbor area pulled back for a second month in succession. Looking at the blue line for the Beach, we see a sharp drop in July which softened considerably in August. The Harbor area shows a steady decline over the same period.

As of August monthly sales totaled ~$150M higher than the beginning of the year at the Beach. During the same period monthly sales totals were up ~100M. As we move into the fall and winter season these numbers should slow somewhat.

Statistics – by Month, by Year

Interestingly, the number of homes sold in the Beach cities was unchanged from July, while the median price increased 6% at the same time.

There were 175 homes sold in both months. So how did Beach homes grow from a median price of $1.6M to a median price of $1.7M in one month? In July, 27 of those properties sold below $1M. In August, only 20 sales closed escrow for under $1M. The entire market simply moved up, pushing the median price up $100K in one month.

On a month to month basis, prices are holding or increasing across the board. At the same time we’re seeing slowing or flat sales everwhere but Palos Verdes. Continued slowing for the season is to be expected.

There’s still a lot of buyer traffic at open houses, but sales volume is slowing and buyers are showing price resistance. There’s also some chatter out there about what’s beginning to look like inflation in the real estate market. My crystal ball is showing a slow steady ride through the next month. It’s all cloudy after that.

Mortgage Rate Surpasses 3%

While mortgage rates are certainly not high, we can no longer safely call them low. The average rate for a 30-year fixed conforming loan is considered low when it’s below 3%. They’ve been slowly increasing. In the first half of August, it barely qualified at 2.99%. Now, the number sits at 3.06%.

As a result of increasing mortgage rates, demand for refinances has also decreased, dropping by 5% as soon as the rate passed 3%. Applications for purchase loans are less sensitive than refinance applications, and dropped only 1%. Despite the decreases in number of mortgage applications, the total dollar volume is still high, as a result of high prices fueled by heavy competition.

Photo by Mathieu Stern on Unsplash

More: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/18/mortgage-rates-hit-highest-level-in-a-month-and-weekly-demand-drops.html

Mortgages Keep Market Competitive Despite Lack of Job Recovery

2020 saw a large increase in mortgage originations, particularly refinances, as a result of low interest rates. It was expected that this would start to fall off in 2021, since interest rates are starting to go back up. However, they’re still low enough that refinances continue to be common. The statistics are a bit misleading for purchases, though. Low inventory is boosting home prices, accounting for a significant part of the increase in loan origination dollar amount even beyond increasing the number of loans originated.

Something is still missing, though. Even though much fewer loans are delinquent now than in 2020, the share of them that are over 90 days delinquent is increasing. This is because people continue to tread water through moratoriums, but aren’t earning any money. Jobs still haven’t recovered from 2020. Foreclosure moratoriums and forbearance programs are going to end eventually, and that’s going to be a problem for some people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic and haven’t been able to find work yet. If home prices continue to rise without an actual jobs solution, these stopgap measures are going to be the proverbial dam that causes the market to crash when it breaks.

Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/mortgage-originations-will-2021-shatter-2020s-record/77747/