If the first month of the new decade is any indication of what we can expect from the real estate market in 2020, then it will be another solid year of activity. The Consumer Confidence Index climbed to a five-month high this month while the average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage dropped to the second-lowest level in three years, according to Freddie Mac This Week in Real Estate. Below are a few highlights from the fourth week of January that influence our business:
Homeownership Rate Reaches Six-Year High. According to the Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancy Survey (HVS), the U.S. homeownership rate increased to 65.1% in the fourth quarter of 2019. This is 0.5 percentage points higher than the previous quarter reading of 64.8% and the highest the rate has been since the last quarter of 2013. Decreasing mortgage interest rates have helped support the recent improvement in homeownership, along with housing affordability and sales of previously owned homes, which reached a two-year high at the end of 2019. The number of homeowner households has been climbing since the third quarter of 2015, while the number of renter households has been on a downward trend. This implies that the transition from renting to owning has been a powerful driver of the net increase in households.
Consumer Confidence Running High at the Start of 2020, Hits Biggest Peak in 5 Months. Americans began 2020 with the most confidence in the economy since last summer, buoyed by an interim trade deal with China, a soaring stock market and the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years. The closely followed index of consumer confidence climbed to a five-month high of 131.6 in January from a revised 128.2 in the prior month. It was the strongest reading since last August, the Conference Board reported Tuesday. The unemployment rate at the end of 2019 was 3.5%, the lowest level since the late 1960s.
Mortgage Rates Fall to the Second-Lowest Level in Three Years. This week, the average U.S. fixed rate for a 30-year mortgage averaged 3.51%, dropping to the second-lowest level in three years. The pace is now 95 basis points below the 4.46% rate of the same week last year, according to the Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey. “This week’s mortgage rates were the second-lowest in three years, supporting homebuyer demand and leading to higher refinancing activity,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Borrowers who take advantage of these low rates can improve their cash flow by lowering their monthly mortgage payments, giving them more money to spend or save.”
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