Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Chicago's Mortgage Choice - March 31, 2015 Real Estate Report - A Crucial Employment Report

Every month the employment report is very, very important. The creation of jobs not only tells us how the economy is performing, the report also tells us how the economy will be performing in the future. When we create a significant number of jobs, we know that these jobs will create more jobs because those who have become employed will spend more money on a variety of goods. This week, we feel that the March employment report is even more important than usual. Why? For one, after the creation of almost 300,000 jobs per month over the past six months, we know that the Federal Reserve Board is getting closer to raising short-term interest rates. Any number close to 300,000 this month may move the Fed to a tipping point. In their most recent meeting the Fed removed the word patience from their guidance but at the same time, indicated that they will not be "impatient." Secondly, we are looking at another number besides the number of jobs created. We are looking at those who have removed themselves from the labor force as a result of the recession. If some of these folks start coming back into the labor force, the unemployment rate could increase or at least stay the same even with a significant number of jobs created. If the economy produces a plethora of jobs and the unemployment number stays steady or rises, this would actually be good news. It means that our economic recovery is finally starting to reach mainstream America. The low labor force participation rate is one reason the Fed has been able to hold off raising rates for so long into the recovery. It is also one reason that wages have not risen as jobs have been created. Hopefully, this will soon change. Keith Stewart 773-529-7000

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Chicago's Mortgage Choice - March 17, 2015 Real Estate Trends - We Call a Bottom

It is not often that we go out on a limb and make a prediction about the future. That is because one of our favorite sayings is -- you can't predict the future. However, sometimes we just can't resist. What bottom are we predicting? The rate of home ownership in America. It has been falling for nearly a decade and in the fourth quarter of 2014, it hit the lowest level in over two decades at 63.9 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors. The peak for the home ownership rate was just under 70% during the real estate boom. Why is it going up from here? There is a plethora of reasons. For one, it is getting easier to own a home because credit standards are lower. Secondly, the cost of renting keeps going up and it just makes more economic sense to own. When renting is more expensive than owning, before the benefits of tax deductions and the forced savings of principal reduction are taken into account, then the economic message can't be ignored. The most important reason? The time is right. More jobs are being created and that means the rate of household formation is increasing. A report recently issued by the Lusk Center For Real Estate at the University of Southern California indicates that we are now at pre-recessions levels of household formulations. That means that the Millennials are moving out and they will need places to live. The first quarter of 2015 statistics have not been released yet, but we think we are at or near the bottom and the rate of ownership will rise from here unless there is a major intervening economic variable. Keith Stewart 773-529-7000

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Chicago's Mortgage Choice - March 3, 2015 Real Estate Trends - Is it Spring & Jobs Report Time Already?

It sure doesn't feel like spring on the east coast. However, our calendar tells us that it is March and this week we have two important events -- Daylight Saving Time starts this week, which means we must turn our clocks forward and we have another jobs report being released. It seems like we just had a jobs report to comment on, but we must remember that February is a short month. The jobs data has been so strong lately, our guess is that projections are starting to creep up. There was a time not long ago in which 200,000 jobs added was considered a fantastic month. Now 200,000 may be considered a disappointment. If we continue to add jobs at the rate of 250,000 per month, it is possible that the Federal Reserve Board will raise short term rates more quickly than anticipated. Evidence the fact that rates moved up significantly during the week of the last jobs report. The move was not enough to shake the markets nor enough to deter consumers from purchasing homes. However, that does not mean another strong report could not move rates up another notch. The real estate data released in the past week was not especially strong with existing sales slightly lower than expectations and new home sales slightly higher than expectations. Even though the data was not strong, the numbers continued to be improved on a year-over-year basis -- thus the market is moving in the right direction and the very strong pending home sales numbers released on Friday confirms that assessment. Keith Stewart 773-529-7000