Investors Optimistic Despite Federal Skepticism

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Reserve (the Fed) reduced the Federal Funds rate to near zero, which is the rate that the Fed charges banks for loans. Its lowest, and current, point was 0.09%. For comparison, it was at 1.55% in the beginning of 2020. Typically, the 10-year Treasury Note interest rate follows suit. However, the relationship is indirect, so we could see anomalies — which is what has happened.

The T-note rate correlates strongly with investors’ economic certainty, as T-notes are an extremely safe investment. In times of uncertainty, the rate drops as more people are buying T-notes. In more certain times, investors instead move their money to less secure investments with a higher return. While it did decrease from 1.76% to 0.62% in the first half of 2020, it bounced back in the second half. At 1.08%, it is still below the Jan 2020 rate, but is continuing to climb. The Feds meanwhile have no intention of changing the Federal Funds rate until 2023, at which point the T-note rate is virtually guaranteed to go up.

What does all this mean? Well, we can say for sure that the Fed’s decision to keep the Federal Funds rate at 0.09% means they aren’t hopeful for a recovery until 2023. There are a few possibilities as to what the increasing T-note rate means. It could be that investors are too hopeful about less secure investments, and they’ll experience losses. Maybe the Fed is being overly cautious, and the economy is actually about to start recovering soon. Or it could be that investors realized in the first half that they have been largely unaffected by the economic recession, and don’t particularly care that the overall economy is in a slump.

Photo by Mathieu Stern on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/the-federal-reserves-impact-on-mortgage-rates/76551/

Remodeled Killingsworth House Back on Market

If you know architects, you may know Edward Killingsworth, a US architect who lived in Long Beach. One of the houses he designed still sits at 2 Laguna Place. The estate of the original owners sold it in 2018 with the original design for $2.6 million.

It’s no longer fully Killingsworth, as the new owners have remodeled it, but it retains some quintessential Killingsworth features: plenty of glass, floating stairs, stone countertops, and perhaps most importantly post-and-beam ceilings. It’s been updated with top-of-the-line new appliances and modernized master suite and bathrooms. There’s even an elevator. The new additions bring the price tag up to $5.179 million.

More: https://lbpost.com/news/place/real-estate/ed-killingsworth-on-the-beach-home-he-designed-on-the-peninsula-is-on-the-market-for-5-179-million

Industrial Sector Clear Winner in Pandemic-Era Real Estate

Real estate was halted only briefly as a result of pandemic lockdowns, but real estate is not the only aspect of the economy. Not all sectors were equally affected, so real estate won’t recover at the same rate for each sector. Retail was hit the hardest, with many businesses closing temporarily during lockdowns and some being entirely replaced by e-commerce. Success of retail is somewhat difficult to measure from a real estate perspective, but one obvious statistic is vacancy rate, which increased to 6.2% in Greater Los Angeles. It’s since dropped slightly to 5.9%, though restaurants still seem to be faring better than other retail establishments even with weakened restrictions.

Offices are essentially treading water after a steep dropoff. Many businesses have already recognized the need to transition to fully or mostly work-from-home, and already have plans in the works for how they’re going to adapt. Though they’ve certainly experienced losses, it’s unlikely to get much worse for them.

The residential market is still a flurry of activity, albeit predominantly from buyers trying to get a competitive edge. With how low inventory is, it’s inevitable that some of them will fail. Competition favors higher-income buyers, who were also less affected by the recession to begin with, so they haven’t experienced any pull to slow down. Nevertheless, it’s still clearly a seller-controlled market, and sellers don’t want to sell right now.

Meanwhile, the industrial sector has actually experienced gains. Contrary to brick-and-mortar retail, consumers don’t need to go anywhere to pull products out of warehouses. They just buy everything online. Currently, the industrial sector’s biggest roadblock is not having enough land to build even more warehouses to keep up with demand.

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More: https://lbbusinessjournal.com/less-office-space-more-e-commerce-warehouses-lockdown-continues-to-dictate-real-estate-market

Aerospace Industry Adapted to Pandemic Shutdowns

The lockdowns from the pandemic negatively affected several industries. With most flights being cancelled, you’d expect the aerospace industry to have suffered quite a bit. In reality, their employment numbers rose 6% during the shutdowns. How? They adapted, beginning to focus more on space technology and even on pandemic relief engineering.

Several aerospace companies aided the coronavirus relief effort by designing and manufacturing ventilators, face helmets, and face shields. These include Virgin Orbit, Virgin Galactic, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Some focused more on the booming space industry. All in all, aerospace lost 1400 jobs but gained 3000.

Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash

More: https://lbbusinessjournal.com/in-spite-of-pandemic-shutdowns-report-finds-aerospace-added-jobs-this-yearPublished February 25, 2021

Homeownership Stats Illuminate Wealth Divide

It’s a well-known fact that Black and Latinx people tend to struggle economically more than whites and Asians in the US. The wealth gap may be larger than you think, though. Examining homeownership statistics demonstrates just how significant the difference is.

California’s housing affordability for Latinx people is 20% for single-family homes and 33% for townhomes or condos. Blacks fare even worse, at 19% and 30% respectively. By contrast, 38% of whites and 43% of Asians can afford an SFR in California, and 51% of whites and 56% of Asians can afford a condo or townhouse. Part of the problem is California’s high prices, but while affordability at the national level is higher for everyone, the disparity remains about the same, and possibly larger. 62% of whites and 70% of Asians can afford a home in the US. Only 51% of Latinx people and 42% of Blacks are able to.

Within California, the disparity is smallest in San Bernardino County, which is also the most affordable for Black and Latinx households at 46% and 54% respectively. The difference between Latinx and white households is only 3%. It’s not the most affordable for white and Asian households, though — those are actually Fresno County at 61% for whites and Kern County at 68% for Asians. The least affordable county for Blacks is San Francisco County at 8%, and for Latinx households it’s Santa Clara County at 11%.

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More:https://www.car.org/aboutus/mediacenter/newsreleases/2021releases/haibyethnicity

Increasing Competition Extends Home Search Time

Demand is so high compared to supply that many prospective buyers are finding competition to be a larger impediment to purchasing a home than lacking funds, even in the midst of a recession. In January 2021, 56% of prospective buyers had bidding wars. This number is up 4% from the prior month. Getting outbid is the primary reason that 40% of prospective home buyers’ searches have dragged on. Only a year ago, just 19% cited this as the primary reason, with 44% saying it was high prices that drove them out of contention. Prices don’t seem to be as much of an issue now, as buyers are willing to overpay in order to get their chance at slim inventory while mortgage rates are still low.

That 56% nationwide doesn’t tell the whole story, though. Competition is much fiercer in some areas. San Diego, San Francisco Bay, Denver, and Seattle all had numbers over 70%. Even beyond that is Salt Lake City, where a whopping 90% of offers had competition.

Photo by Heather Gill on Unsplash

More: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/12/bidding-wars-for-homes-are-off-the-charts-as-listings-fall-to-record-low.html

Credit Scores Went Up in 2020 Despite Recession

In many cases, a recession results in credit scores dropping as more people are forced to temporarily rely on credit to make routine payments. This is just one of the many ways that the current recession bucks the trends. Lockdowns, work-from-home, moratoriums, and federal relief packages have all resulted in people spending less and recouping more of their losses than their normally would during a recession. As a result, people are less reliant on credit and their credit scores go up.

The two credit scoring services lenders use the most are FICO and VantageScore. Generally, one’s FICO score is slightly higher than their VantageScore, since FICO requires a full six months of credit history to calculate a score and therefore counts fewer people. Both systems range from 300 to 850, with a FICO score of at least 660 or VantageScore of at least 670 being considered good credit. At the start of 2020, the average FICO score was 703. This increased to 711 by October 2020. Average VantageScore also went up from 686 to 690 from 2019 to 2020. VantageScore reports indicate that subprime scores — those below 600 — decreased by about 3% between January and November 2020, while prime and super prime scores went up. Near prime scores remained about the same.

Unfortunately, some of this is just delaying the inevitable. Some of those who did take out loans during the pandemic were able to negotiate deferring their payments, which also had the effect of protecting their credit scores. Once federal protections end, which will occur 120 days after the coronavirus emergency declaration is lifted, some people aren’t going to be able to repay their deferred loans. That’s going to result in credit scores plummeting.

More: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/a-pandemic-paradox-american-credit-scores-continue-to-rise-as-economy-struggles-heres-why-11613487767

Is 3D Printing the Future of Construction?

New York construction company SQ4D may have the latest and greatest in construction technology. They’ve used a giant 3D printer to print houses from the bottom up out of concrete, right on the site. Their first demo house, as a proof of ability, was in Calverston, New York. The next one is already up for sale, despite not having been built yet. The 1400 square foot house will be located in Riverhead, New York and is listed at $299,000.

This isn’t just some publicity stunt. 3D printing has some real benefits. Most notably, construction is significantly shorter. SQ4D’s first house took just eight days to build — and that includes the planning process. The actual construction? 48 hours. Making the process this quick must incur significant expenses, right? Well, no, it was actually cheaper according to SQ4D. The transportation and labor costs associated with traditional construction mean that 3D printing is about 30% less expensive. The new method has been met with some skepticism, though. No one is sure exactly how this will affect the construction industry, as skilled tradesmen may suddenly find themselves replaced with printers.

Photo by Mahrous Houses on Unsplash

More: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-tech-3d-printed-house-idUSKBN2AG2CA

The Healthiest Big Cities in the United States

WalletHub, normally a personal finance website, has released data of a somewhat different nature. They’ve decided to rank 182 of the most populated US cities according to various indicators of health. The categories measured are health care, food, fitness, and green space. On a scale from 0 to 100, the top scoring city averaged across all categories was San Francisco, CA, with a score of 69.11. The lowest score was 23.39, given to Brownsville, TX.

Half of the top 10 cities are on the west coast, with 3 of them being in California. Two through ten are Seattle, WA, Portland, OR, San Diego, CA, Honolulu, HI, Washington, DC, Austin, TX, Irvine, CA, Portland, ME, and Denver, CO. In addition to being #1 overall, San Francisco also takes the number 1 spot for two categories, food and green space. Top rank for the health care and fitness belong to South Burlington, VT, and Scottsdale, AZ, respectively. These cities are also in the top 20 overall, though South Burlington ranks rather low in green space.

Photo by pina messina on Unsplash

See the full chart here: https://wallethub.com/edu/healthiest-cities/31072

Buyer Demand Driving Construction Up

Low mortgage rates have resulted in increased buyer demand, and shifting preferences in home features are specifically increasing the demand for new constructions. With sellers waiting out the pandemic, there aren’t many existing homes available for sale. In addition, they don’t always have the features that the new generation of buyers is looking for, such as home offices, larger spaces, and outdoor amenities.

Chief economist Robert Dietz of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) predicts a 5% increase in construction starts by the end of 2021. Even so, buyer demand is expected to continue to outpace construction, so sales of existing homes will likely also increase. Builders are going to have trouble keeping up, not only due to lack of time or labor, but also because of increasing costs. The cost of lumber has gone up 169% since April 2020, the month after lockdowns started. Construction companies also report significant issues with obtaining timely approval and navigating new construction ordinances.

Photo by Kevin Grieve on Unsplash

More: https://magazine.realtor/daily-news/2021/02/10/new-home-buying-rush-likely-to-continue-in-2021