One of President Obama’s priorities in 2015 was to kickstart the housing boom once again and, as the Federal Housing Administration lowered mortgage insurance premiums today, first-time home buyers got an excellent reason to buy a home this year.
Last week Friday the report from the National Association of Realtors showed that, while existing home sales were up, they were lower than expectations and in fact, with a 3.1% fall in 2014, it was the first time in four years that there was a year-over-year drop in home sales.
There was a bit more unfortunate news in the report as well, coming from Lawrence Yun, the NAR’s chief economist. He said that “Housing costs, both rents and home prices, continue to outpace wages and are burdensome for potential buyers trying to save for a down payment while looking for available homes in their price range.”
In other words, the cost of renting as well as the cost of a new home are both beyond the means of the average American. In fact, in 2014, fewer than 30% of existing home sales were first time buyers. One of the reasons is that prices for many consumer goods keep rising but wages aren’t. “Right now a lot of young adults are still living with their parents,” says Jed Kolko, Chief Economics at Trulia, adding that “When they move out, they will rent first before they buy.”
New rates put in place by the FHA have reduced insurance premiums by half a percentage point, something that should save $900 a year for FHA borrowers. The mandatory annual mortgage insurance rate for people who take out a 30 year mortgage and put down less than 5% has dropped from 1.35% to .85%. For those who put down 5% or more on their FHA insured loan, they’ll get a rate of .80% instead of the former 1.30%.
Joining the FHA are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who both announce that new guidelines would be adopted for down payments, including offering qualified buyers the opportunity to get a mortgage loan with a 3% down payment.
The question remains however whether these programs are going to be enough to really give the housing market a kick in the pants. Kolko says that “The housing market isn’t quite yet back to normal,” adding that “Sales prices are getting closer to normal, but there are some parts of the housing recovery but still have a ways to go.” He was quick to note that, while housing is definitely important to the overall economy of the United States, as of yet it wasn’t doing its part to give back to our overall economic growth.
In other words America, get out there and buy a home if you love your country (or something along those lines).