The Real Estate News Brief: Higher Conforming Loan Limits, Self-Tour Option for Home Buyers, Eco-Friendly House Hunting


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In this Real Estate News Brief for the week ending October 9th, 2021... new conforming loan limits, self-touring option for home buyers, and a way to save gas when you’re house hunting.

Hi, I'm Kathy Fettke and this is Real Estate News for Investors. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a review.

Economic News

We begin with two economic reports, from this last week, on the job market. The one for unemployment shows that initial state claims were down 38,000 to 326,000. Economists say it’s a sign of a strengthening labor market. The unemployment numbers keep dropping and are getting closer to pre-pandemic levels, but we’re not quite there yet. Before the pandemic, initial state claims were in the low 200,000s. Ongoing benefits were also down 98,000 this last week, to a seasonally adjusted 2.71 million. (1)

The number of people collecting benefits from a total of eight state and federal programs dropped dramatically at the start of the month. They went from 11.3 million last month to just 4.17 million. That’s mostly due to the expiration of a special federal program to help people hurt by the pandemic.

The other job market report shows that 194,000 jobs were created in September. That’s far less than a Wall Street forecast for a half a million new jobs. MarketWatch says the numbers are falling short of expectations because of low employment at public schools. The official unemployment rate did drop almost a half a percentage point. It went from 5.2% in August to 4.8% last month. (2)

Mortgage Rates

Mortgage rates are teasing us again. After a brief rise above 3%, Freddie Mac says the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dipped down two basis points, to 2.99%. The 15-year was down five basis points to 2.23%. (3)

In other news making headlines…

Average Mortgage Amount Creeps Higher

Low mortgage rates can help offset higher home prices, but they aren’t totally preventing loan amounts from rising. The average amount that homeowners are borrowing has risen to $410,000. That’s according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. (4)

The MBA’s Joen Kan says: “Applications for larger loan amounts continue to outpace lower-balance loans.” In July, they had risen at an annual rate of 19%. There are more homes coming into the market right now, but inventory is still much tighter than it was a year ago, and that’s putting a lot of pressure on prices.

Higher Loan Limits for Pricier Homes

Two big lenders are responding to the need for larger loans by raising their conforming loan limit caps. PennyMac and United Wholesale Mortgage announced this last week, that they are raising their caps to $625,000. (5)

That’s about $75,000 more than the 2021 conforming loan limit of about 550,000 set by the FHFA. The FHFA is also expected to increase that amount for 2022, with an announcement sometime next month.

Redfin’s New Self-Tour Feature

Redfin is expanding it’s “Direct Access” program to 22 U.S. markets. This feature allows buyers to unlock vacant homes with the Redfin app, and tour those homes without an agent. This will give buyers a faster way to look at homes they might want to buy. (6)

ADT security is supplying the smart locks and sensors that allow buyers to enter the homes. They also keep track of who’s entering and exiting. Once the homes are sold, buyers can keep that equipment.

Redfin’s Bridget Frey says: “In this hot market, more than a third of homes are finding a buyer within the first week, and buyers are hustling to see new homes as quickly as possible.” Newly added markets for the self-touring feature include: Austin, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Orange County California.

Google Maps Intros New Eco-Friendly Tool

You might be able to save on gas as you tour all those homes by using Google Maps. The company has introduced a new eco-friendly tool that shows you which route is more fuel-efficient. (7)

When the fastest route and the most eco-friendly route have a similar ETA, Google Maps will default to the eco-friendly one. Fuel consumption is estimated according to the incline of the road, traffic congestion, and traffic patterns.

That’s it for today. Check the show notes for links. And please remember to hit the subscribe button, and leave a review!

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Thanks for listening. I'm Kathy Fettke.


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