Realty Reality | Urban Living
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Realty Reality



NeighborWorks America just released a rather fascinating study about national home buying trends. In its sixth annual survey, 92 percent of adults polled said home ownership is an important part of the American dream, but student debt is the predominant obstacle keeping people from purchasing a residence. Millennials and women said homeownership is quite far out of reach given their debt load. That's not surprising considering the survey also says "school-related debt has ballooned by 130 percent" since 2008, and that "student loans are towering at $1.5 trillion, comprising 42 percent of all consumer debt."

Let's break that down: 29 percent of women versus 23 percent of men surveyed are under student debt. Of those women, half "state their debt is a constant worry and 38 percent of debt-holding women personally know of someone who delayed home ownership because of their substantial financial liabilities." Minority females were found to have more debt than white women.

Buyers ask me all the time how much money they need to purchase a starter home and what first-time-buyer loans are available. There's not technically a "first-timer" loan. There are VA loans for veterans with no down payment required; FHA loans, which have a low down payment (say 3.5 percent); and conventional loans that also require zero down. If you have good credit, there are many loan options.

I heard Sam Khater, the chief economist for Freddie Mac, speak a few weeks ago. His presentation wasn't very encouraging: "We've had interest rate hikes in the past year and we're going to have more, which means inflation pressures are rising. We have low unemployment in the country but no strong wage growth, and housing affordability is rapidly declining in all major cities." He predicts we're heading for a recession around 2020 and that the housing market will slow next year, with price increases nationally averaging about 3.5 to 4 percent. But he believes housing prices will remain strong in the Intermountain West in 2019, with values going up in Utah, Nevada, Idaho and Wyoming. "Home ownership rates are dropping due to a chronic lack of supply of homes and condos to purchase," he said. "Plus, investor buyers aren't excited that virtually no one is building duplexes, tri- or four-plexes anymore." Look around downtown Salt Lake City—all those high-rise buildings going up are apartments for rent, not condos for sale. And I'll bet you haven't seen anyone build a duplex or four-plex in the past 10 years! n