Saturday, February 7, 2015

2015 Remodeling Cost vs. Value: Less Is More

Smaller replacement projects, particularly those that enhance curb appeal, remain the most cost effective way for sellers to improve value.

With home price gains slowing in most parts of the country, sellers will be looking for ways to get top dollar for their listing. Cleaning and staging make a big difference. But for some sellers—such as investors seeking to bring a property up to neighborhood standards before the sale—remodeling work may be the ticket.
 As the 2015 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report makes clear, large-scale jobs aren’t likely to return sellers their full cost. But there are improvements worth doing in anticipation of an upcoming sale. Some will return almost 100 percent of their cost. Others may not have as great a payback, but they can improve the market position of the property in relation to the competition. (Think about the impact of beautiful kitchen photos on online home shoppers.) In addition, several pricier projects can provide owners with a few years of enjoyment while still offering a decent payback down the road.
As a general rule:
  • Simpler, lower-cost projects tend to return greater value. The national average cost for a steel door replacement was $1,230, for example. That’s the least expensive project on the list, and it ranks highest on the payback scale, returning 101.8 percent nationally on average. In fact, in 43 of the 102 markets surveyed, REALTORS® said the new door would recoup more than 100 percent of its cost. Other projects expected to top 100 percent payback in multiple markets: the midrange garage door replacement, the upscale garage door replacement, the midrange wood window replacement, and the minor kitchen remodel. Notice a pattern? With the exception of the kitchen job, they’re all replacement projects. In general, replacements cost less and provide a bigger payback than remodels or additions.
  • First impressions are important. The replacements that offer the greatest payback are the ones that are most obvious to buyers when they first view a house in person or online, such as new door or garage door. Siding replacement also provides great value at resale—particularly this year’s one new project, manufactured stone veneer,  which is expected to recoup 92.2 percent of its cost nationally on average.
  • Kitchens still offer the most remodeling bang for the buck. The only remodeling job breaking into the top 10 in terms of payback is the minor kitchen remodel with a national average cost of $19,226 and a national average payback of 79.3 percent.
Top 5 projects nationally in terms of cost recouped:
1. Entry door replacement (101.8%)
2. Manufactured stone veneer (92.2%)
3. Garage door replacement (88.5%)
4. Siding replacement, fiber cement (84.3%)
5. Garage door replacement (82.5%)
  • Expect bigger payoffs in the West. In addition to reporting national averages, Remodeling magazine breaks down Cost vs. Value data by Census region. In the Pacific region—which includes Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington—six projects are expected to top 100 percent payback. The nearest competitor is the East South Central region—Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee—where two projects are expected to top 100 percent payback.
Just how much sellers can expect to recoup from home improvements depends on the job and the region of the country they live in. There are also factors that vary from house to house and sale to sale, such as what updates are typical for the neighborhood, the quality of the work, and how important the improvement is to a particular buyer. And while you can’t apply this data directly to any specific house or neighborhood, you can use the Cost vs. Value Report as a starting point in discussions with buyers and sellers about the cost and value of remodeling.

What Is the Cost vs. Value Report?
The Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, produced by Remodeling magazine in cooperation with the National Association of REALTORS® and REALTOR® Magazine, provides estimated costs for 36 midrange or upscale home-improvement projects, along with the percentage of cost that owners can expect to recoup when they sell. Projects range from a new garage door to a master suite addition.
Project costs for the 102 markets surveyed for the 2015 report were provided by RemodelMax, a publisher of estimating tools for remodelers, using Clear Estimates remodeling software. NAR members provided the expected value of the projects at resale.
To learn more and see all 36 projects broken down by region and market area, visit Remodeling at CostvsValue.com.
Remodeling magazine's 2015 Cost vs. Value Report, ©2015 by Hanley Wood LLC. Republication or re-dissemination of the Report is expressly prohibited without written permission of Hanley Wood, LLC. "Cost vs. Value" is a registered trademark of Hanley Wood LLC.


Report: Home Remodeling Is Surging 

 

Home owners are remodeling their homes at levels that haven’t been seen in decades. In fact, the home improvement business could reach record levels this year, according to a new report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

What’s behind the increase? Potential trade-up home buyers are fixing up their existing homes for sale, federal and state subsidies are increasing the desire for energy-efficient upgrades, and landlords are sprucing up their properties to justify raising rents, the report notes. A strengthening job market is also helping to lead more home owners to take on home remodeling projects, following years of delaying projects.
Spending on discretionary home improvement projects jumped by nearly $6 billion between 2011 and 2013 -- the first rise since 2007, according to the report.
Some areas of the country are seeing even greater rises in home improvement expenditures. Washington, D.C., and Boston home owners are spending nearly $5,000 a year on average for remodeling; Las Vegas home owners are spending about $1,700, according to the report.
The top remodeling projects continue to target the kitchen and adding a new bathroom, but baby boomers also are increasingly retrofitting their homes for better accessibility and with age-in-place features. Also, more home owners are tackling home projects centered on energy efficient upgrades, such as for windows and heating and cooling systems.
Source: “Remodeling Helps Lift Housing Industry,” CNBC (Jan. 29, 2015)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Inventory Problems Stall Home Sales

Pending home sales dropped in December, despite interest rates being at the lowest levels in more than a year, the National Association of REALTOR® reports. All regions across the country posted declines in December.
In December, pending home sales nationally fell 3.7 percent month-over-month. Still, NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, remained about 6 percent above year-over-year levels for the fourth consecutive month.
Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says that inventory problems mixed with slightly higher home prices attributed to December’s decline in contract signings.
Total inventory dropped in December for the first time in 16 months, which left homebuyers with fewer choices of homes for-sale.
“With interest rates at lows not seen since early 2013, the strength in existing-sales in upcoming months will largely depend on the willingness of current home owners to realize their equity gains from the past couple years and trade up,” Yun says. “More jobs, increasing consumer confidence, less expensive mortgage insurance, and new low down payment programs coming into the marketplace will likely lead to more demand from first-time buyers.”
Regional Look
Across the country, here’s how pending-home sales fared in December:
  • Northeast: posted the largest decline of any other region, dropping 7.5 percent in December month-over-month. Pending home sales, however, remain 6.3 percent above year ago levels.
  • Midwest: decreased 2.8 percent in December, but remains 1.9 percent above December 2013.
  • South: decreased 2.6 percent in December, but pending-home sales are 8.6 percent above the prior December’s levels.
  • West: declined 4.6 percent in December, but pending-home sales are 6.3 percent above a year ago.
Source: National Association of REALTORS®

Home Ownership Rate Falls to 20-Year Low

The U.S. home ownership rate posted declines across all four regions of the U.S. in the fourth quarter, plunging to its lowest level since the third quarter of 1994. But a sharp rebound in household formation during the quarter has more economists optimistic that a turnaround in the home ownership rate is on the horizon.
The home ownership rate fell from 64.3 percent in the third quarter to 63.9 percent in the fourth quarter, reaching a 20-month low, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. In 2004, the home ownership rate peaked at 69.4 percent.
While the home ownership rate fell, however, household formation more than quadrupled during the fourth quarter to 1.7 million from 356,000 a year ago. The gains were mostly driven by renter households, the Commerce Department reported.
Still, housing analysts are optimistic from signs that household formation is picking up, particularly as the labor market strengthens too and credit requirements for qualifying for a mortgage are loosened up. Economists are expecting a rise in first-time buyers and a regain of momentum in housing this year.
"The combination of a high share of young adults living in the parental home, falling mortgage rates, and loosening credit means that the outlook for household formation is strengthening," says Paul Diggle, a property economist at Capital Economics in London. "That's one of the reasons why we are optimistic about the prospects for homebuilding over the next few years."
Many economists are predicting that the home ownership rate will stabilize in the coming quarters.
"The decade-long decline in the share of the population who own their home may now be drawing to an end," Diggle told Reuters News. "Wage growth may soon accelerate, helping young households to make the leap into home ownership. The survey evidence certainly suggests that owning a home remains part of most people's perception of the American dream."
Source: “U.S. Home Ownership Hits 20-Year Low, But New Households Growing,” Reuters (Jan. 29, 2015)

Mortgage Rates Up for the First Time This Year

Fixed-rate mortgages reversed course this week, inching up, following weeks of declines, Freddie Mac reports in its weekly mortgage market survey. Still, mortgage rates remained near historical lows with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage well-below 4 percent this week and the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage remaining under 3 percent.
"Mortgage rates ticked up this week for the first time in 2015 following positive home sales reports,” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist. New-home sales jumped 11.6 percent in December, beating market expectations, while existing-home sales rose 2.4 percent to an annual rate of 5.04 million homes in December.
Freddie Mac reports the following national averages with mortgage rates for the week ending Jan. 29:
  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.66 percent, with an average 0.6 point, increasing from last week’s 3.63 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.32 percent.
15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 2.98 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 2.93 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.40 percent.
  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 2.86 percent, with an average 0.4 point, rising from last week’s 2.83 percent average. Last year at this time, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.12 percent.
  • 1-year ARMs: averaged 2.38 percent, with an average 0.4 point, rising from last week’s 2.37 percent average. A year ago, 1-year ARMs averaged 2.55 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Software that narrows the home search one variable at a time


Last week's Star Tribune featured an article on NorthstarMLS' newest core service offering, True Lifestyle Cost (TLC). The article describes how agents can use TLC to help their home-buying clients make better decisions and discover the true cost of home ownership.

Click here to read the article