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NEWS

Are lenders ready to rumble?

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Could lenders’ pain be your gain if you’re shopping for a home mortgage? Maybe. Though it hasn’t been in the headlines, some mortgage companies are having a challenging year. Inside Mortgage Finance, a trade publication, reports loan originations “tanked” during the first 3 months of 2018, hitting their lowest level in 3 years.

Possibly as a result, competition for new home-purchase loan applications is on the upswing. One bellwether: LendingTree, the popular online marketplace where banks and mortgage companies compete for borrowers’ business reports that shoppers for home loans are receiving significantly more offers on average through its lender network compared with a year ago.

Another indicator: Lenders appear to be offering slightly more attractive deals. The Mortgage Bankers Association’s mortgage credit availability index—which monitors credit score requirements, down payments and other key underwriting terms at major lenders—improved by 1.9% for conventional (non-government) mortgages in April. This suggests posted mortgage terms were slightly more favorable to consumers than they had been previously.

Spring sprang forward…and so did home prices.

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It was a tough spring for Los Angeles home buyers. With fewer than usual houses on the market to choose from, prices bested an all-time record in April, according to a report out this week from real estate tracker CoreLogic.

That made 3 months in a row in which the region’s price record had been broken, and homes are now selling for well above prices seen in the buildup to the 2007 mortgage crisis. In April, the median price was $590,000—close to a 1% gain and 7.3 percent higher than the same time last year.

Price bumps seen across Southern California are likely driven by a lack of supply in the housing market, according to CoreLogic. That’s reflected in the fact that far fewer homes than normal are selling in the area. In L.A. County, for instance, home sales in April were down more than 8% since a year earlier.

Is your home the best medicine?

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Your home may speak volumes about your state of mind. According to Charles Schwab’s Modern Wealth Index (out this week), owning a home qualifies as an expense that makes for “a rich daily life” in the minds of nearly 50% of those surveyed; it was the highest-scoring expenditure following “spending time with my family” and “taking time for myself,” on the contentedness scale.

Other key data from the study about how Americans define wealth: Respondents concluded that the average amount needed to be financially comfortable in America is $1.4 million, while being rich was defined by anyone who’d amassed a net worth of about $2.4 million.

In general, most Americans think of the idea of wealth as providing “less stressors” in life. Considering 60% of those surveyed said they lived paycheck-to-paycheck (and 87% of those were renters), there seems to be a direct link between the peace of mind respondents prize and growing their bank account balances. According to the study, owning a home or homes—to bring them contentment and financial security—is a “significant part of experiencing a high quality of life.”

Wanna buy a house? #Me Too

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It’s the gender gap you don’t hear about: Single women are buying homes and condos at what may be more than twice the rate of single males, and the trend appears to be accelerating. Single women accounted for 18% of home purchases last year compared with 7% by single males, according to survey data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). This makes single women the second-largest segment in the entire home-purchase marketplace (behind married couples).

Home builders have picked up on the trend and are designing homes and subdivisions to appeal to women’s preferences—lighter-feeling materials, open floor plans (especially kitchens), and amped-up elements of security.

Single female purchasers tend to be more likely to see buying a home as an investment, according to the NAR study. Single women pay slightly more on their purchase on average than single men—$185,000 compared with $175,000—and are more likely to have children under 18 in their households. Rising rents appear to be a hotter button for single women than for men. 23% percent of single women cited rising rents as a “trigger” motivation behind a home purchase, well above the 16% average for all recent buyers.

Does who slept where really matter?

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For some buyers, the desire to either get close to the rich and/or famous drives interest to luxury real estate listings when a “name” has lived there, currently lives there, or has endorsed a property in some way (sometimes by just viewing a home they are considering buying).
 
But does the Fame Effect translate to an increased sales price or shorter sales timeline? Not always, says a report out this week from the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing. The report says that when a property is priced right, some previous or current owner attachment might help it stand out from the competition so that the right buyer sees it that may not otherwise have done so. “Media feeds on the concept of ‘who slept where,’ so agents for such properties could see a runaway train of attention that they can’t otherwise create.”
 
Out this week (pictured and hot-linked here), the former home of “Brave New World” author Aldous Huxley and his wife, Laura, a noted musician. Huxley’s international standing as a writer and thinker has long drawn interest to his Hollywood Hills home, which has only been offered for sale once since his family’s ownership. It was the site of legendary gatherings when he lived there, as well as recent ones, including a group of his fans from San Francisco who held a book reading on the terrace. Huxley’s other claim to international fame, a fledgling L.A. band, The Doors, named themselves after one of his books, “The Doors of Perception.”