Top trends in real estate for 2014

By Jeff Collins

The Orange County Register (MCT)

Published: Thursday, Jan. 9 2014 5:42 p.m. MST

In this Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, file photo, a home is for sale in Glenview, Ill. Freddie Mac reports on changes in average fixed mortgage rates for the last week of 2013 on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014.

Nam Y. Huh, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

Gabe Cole bought and sold 15 homes last year as part of his sideline as a house flipper.

This year, however, the Newport Beach, Calif., real estate broker anticipates his side business will slow down because foreclosures and short sales are drying up.

While 2013 was the year of get-in, get-out quick house flips, he expects to do more in-depth remodeling work on higher-priced properties in 2014. “Since there are fewer short sales and fewer foreclosures out there,” Cole said, “there’s less business to go around.”

Many economists agree. They predict 2014 will see more investors retrenching and more buyers putting roofs over their own heads. That’s not the only big change ahead. Home prices are expected to stabilize this year, while homebuilding will be more frenetic.

“The housing market has staged a spectacular recovery over the past year,” Cal State Fullerton economists Anil Puri and Mira Farka wrote in their 2014 economic forecast. “More recent data, however, point to a softening of these trends.”

Here are the top real estate trends we’re likely to see in 2014.

More Inventory

You can expect to see more people putting their homes up for sale this year, as rising prices bring new equity to underwater homeowners.

Other property owners also may take the opportunity to get their lives off hold and take advantage of higher home prices.

Donald and Stacy McCray are among them. Because of last year’s price gains, they believe now is the time to list their two-story Orange County, Calif., house so Donald McCray, a railroad conductor, can move closer to work in Los Angeles. They plan to put their home up for sale later this month.

“I’m hoping that, since interest rates are still low, it’s a better opportunity not only to sell, but to rebuy,” Donald McCray said.

Another factor: New home construction is expected to increase further this year, further boosting options for home shoppers.

New home sales to rise

Nationwide, forecasters expect the number of housing starts to range from 1.19 million to 1.25 million, up from 975,500 in 2013.

Builders are compensating for years of sub-par construction levels, said Robert Denk, an economist with the National Association of Home Builders. “There’s a huge construction deficit,” he said.

An increase in homebuilding means that new home sales should go up, too.

When construction levels fell, “buyers were forced into resale homes,” said Irvine, Calif., housing consultant Mark Boud. Many buyers prefer newer homes, which have the latest designs and are more energy-efficient.

“The reason (new home) sales will increase is we are supplying more product,” Boud said.

Mortgage rates to rise

Interest rates for 30-year, fixed mortgages likely will rise this year, averaging somewhere in the 4.9 percent to 5.3 percent range, forecasters say.

That’s still low historically, but well above rates for the past 2 1/2 years.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage had been solidly below 4 percent since late 2011. Last summer, it spiked to 4.5 percent.

The Federal Reserve’s decision last month to start reducing purchases of Treasury and mortgage-backed bonds likely will push up mortgage rates. But not wildly.

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