Redfin: Sheltering in place disrupts US housing sales, new listings in March

The number of homes sold in March fell 9% month over month, while new property listings decreased more than 10%, reversing months of record-setting growth, according to a Redfin report.

The U.S. median home sale price remained on trend in March increasing 3.3% month over month and 7.1% year over year to $303,200 due in part to loan processing time gaps.

“The apparent home price strength in March,” the report notes, reflects the fact that most of the homes sold during the month went under contract in February, before the shutdown. Comparatively, data show the asking price growth slowed from 8% in mid-March to flat year over year as of mid-April, suggesting the effect of the shutdown on home sale prices will show in the end of April and May data.

Both buyers and sellers backed away as the COVID-19 pandemic turned into a national shutdown in mid-March, slowing down after at least eight months of continued housing market growth. The fallout likely will be more dramatic by the end of April, the first fully stalled month.

The March home sales decline marked from February market “the largest decline since at least January 2012, when Redfin began tracking the statistic. All the markets with the biggest declines in home sales from a year ago were in New York State: -18.5% Rochester, -18.3% New York and -17.3% Nassau.

By the end of March, shelter in place laws disrupted real estate activities across the country, said Redfin lead economist Taylor Marr. ”Right now, sellers need to decide if they’ll list their home for sale among all the economic uncertainty.”

In March new listings in dropped 10.8% from a year earlier, “by far the largest decline on record,” yet the decline may be even more severe going forward.The number of homes for sale fell 20% in recent weeks, further down from the 13% monthly decline in March. There were fewer homes for sale last month than any time since at least January 2012.

“Home prices have so far held better than anyone expected,” Marr said. Millions of unemployment claims, on the other hand, make it increasingly difficult to get a mortgage, and could limit buyer demand, he explained. “How the market shapes up through the rest of spring will depend heavily on unemployment and the availability of credit.”

None of the 85 largest metro areas Redfin tracks saw a year-over-year decline in the median sale price. In addition, homes that sold in March spent seven fewer days on market compared to the prior year. The typical home went under contract in 43 days, compared to 50 days in March 2019, showing demand is strong.

Lendingtree Survey: 63% of engaged couples delayed weddings due to COVID-19

Wedding season is one of the many activities disrupted by the pandemic. An online survey of currently engaged to be married couples found 63% postponed their wedding, and in doing so incurred losses.

Up to 56% of those who changed their wedding plans on average lost more than $3,300 primarily due to nonrefundable deposits, payments and fees.

The LendingTree survey of 920 engaged Americans fielded from April 6-10, 2020, also found only 22% decided to move forward with their original plans, while 8% opted for a courthouse marriage or elopement.

Not everyone was empathetic to the frustrated couples. Four in ten engaged couples had to deal with backlash from friends and family, whether they decided to postpone or not. The survey found, those who opted to push back the date heard more complaints than those who stuck with their plans.

Travel restrictions put honeymoon plans on pause as well. One in four canceled or postponed their honeymoon and by doing so 42% lost money.

Those who postponed the wedding however, were able to keep most of their original vendors, as 66% could keep their photographer, 59% the cake bakers, and more than half managed to keep their ceremony and reception venues.

EasyKnock opens nonprofit to help prevent homelessness

Residential sale-leaseback fintech, EasyKnock has establishedThe Stay Mission, a nonprofit dedicated to helping struggling homeowners and families at risk of being evicted or having their home foreclosed.     

“Due to this pandemic, more and more Americans are behind on their mortgage or rent payments and struggling to keep a roof over their heads,” said Jarred Kessler, CEO and founder of EasyKnock. “Through the launch of our nonprofit, we hope to do our part to ease the burden on American homeowners.”

Many homeowners may face short term and long term financial hardships despite state and federal relief measures, mortgage forbearance or late fee waivers, the fintech said in a release.

EasyKnock’s MoveAbility program was created to serve “as a bridge product for homeowners planning to move in the near-term,” by providing immediate cash for the value of their home. It enables homeowners to sell the property for cash on hand avoiding the need for a rushed move, and offering them the flexibility to either buy back their house, or move at any time.

Founded in 2016, the company has headquarters in New York City and Charlotte, North Carolina and operates in all 50 states.

Tech News

Optimal Blue launches secondary mortgage market, data assessment tool

Plano, Texas based, mortgage data fintech Optimal Blue has launched Market Analytics, a new tool that offers secondary market participants insights into origination market trends, volume, and product performance.

Powered by MicrosoftPowerBI, Market Analytics is part of Optimal’s Marketplace Platform, which facilitates a broad set of secondary market interactions. It connects originators, investors and other mortgage lending parties processing more than $750 billion of transactions annually, according to the company website.

The Optimal Blue platform “sits atop a sea of unique mortgage data” that can be used to track in real-time changes in key metrics such as rate spreads, loan volume, and home prices, explained Scott Happ, CEO of Optimal Blue. Mortgage rate lock data is collected daily “from one-third of all mortgages completed each year in the United States.”

Benchmarking, valuation & performance – tools offer access to proprietary, primary mortgage market rate lock data nationwide users can use to assess trends that drive the performance of mortgage backed security (MBS) assets. As well as to build and modify MBS and mortgage servicing rights (MRS) portfolio models, including prepayment and valuation.

Market research information – enables users to analyze mortgage data by city, metro area, county, state, business channel, or institution type, toidentify geographies and demographics best suitable for their products and services.

Proprietary forecasting – forthe housing and mortgage lending markets, offers users macroeconomic level assessments on existing homes sales, prices, indices, refinancing, interest rates and volume.

Market Analytics uses raw market data to deliver several customized data visualization options. Optimal Blue’s Market Data License clients also have access to the same raw data and can integrate it with their internal statistics to create customized visualizations. In addition toMarket Analytics and Market Data License, the fintech’s Data & Analytics Products include Competitive Analytics, Enterprise Analytics, Enterprise Data License, and the Optimal Blue’s Mortgage Market Indices. 

IndiSoft launches portal that helps servicers with COVID-19 loss mitigation

IndiSoft’s The Homeowner Connect (THOC) helps servicers communicate effectively with borrowers who need loss mitigation help during the COVID-19 crisis. The platform brings HUD certified non-profit housing counselors and consumers together on one platform for servicers, and it can be implemented in a matter of hours. IndiSoft upgraded the platform previously branded as Hope LoanPort (HLP), and now features the integration of IndiSoft’s HUD-certified case management system (CMS). THOC helps servicers collect the necessary information to convert COVID-19 forbearance to loan modifications, short sales and other loss mitigation options. With rising unemployment rates due to COVID-19, there has been a steep uptick in calls to servicers. This has led servicers and housing advocacy counselors to call for the collaborative portal again.

Ocrolus and FormFree partner to provide paystub and W-2 income validation

Ocrolus and FormFree just announced a partnership that allows lenders to validate paystubs and W-2s submitted by borrowers in PDF or photo formats. FormFree’s Passport now includes API calls to Ocrolus, so Passport can ingest data from paystubs submitted in PDF or cell phone photo format. Passport can also pull income data directly from payroll providers with a consumer’s permission.

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