Chaotic, exciting, unpredictable? Are these some of the words that come to mind as you try to describe the end of 2016 and the start of the New Year? It’s hard to know how the year will end but energy and movement in many directions are obvious. Anirban Basu, chief economist for a number of organizations around the country, believes chances have increased that the economy will either be unusually good or unusually bad this year.
What makes him feel this way? Donald Trump, newly elected president of the U.S., indicates the country will see a minimum of 3 percent economic growth. For perspective, from 2010 through 2016, economic growth varied from between 1.6 – 2.6%. At least for now, the equity markets are showing confidence in the administration’s pro-business agenda and the perceived ability to engineer a number of major policy initiatives. Economic data is upbeat and business confidence is surging.
How does all this translate for local conditions?
Monthly economic newsletter, Snapshot, reports a mostly positive forecast for Maryland this month. Employment figures are rising, household conditions remain stable and the housing sector continues to see improvements. Consumer confidence in the economy has been sustained by robust job gains and lower unemployment.
Across the state, the housing market has had a strong start. This is a relevant point and a strategic economic indicator because real estate transactions account for over 58 percent of local tax revenue in the state. As the first quarter of 2017 came to a close, home sales ended on a high note with nearly all jurisdictions recording positive numbers, according to Maryland Association of REALTORS®.
Getting down to county statistics, Frederick County data is staying true in terms of the traditionally slow month of February but with an otherwise strong start in January and a continuing positive trending in March. Solid increases are seen in total sold volume, median sold price, number of homes sold and a decline in the average number of days on the market before going under contract. These are all solid indicators of a stable market.
Washington County has had mixed reviews over a number of years. January statistics were stagnant but February data raised optimism with significant improvements in total sold volume, median sold price and number of homes sold. March, while solid, behaved a bit more sheepish. There was positive gain in median sold price and sharp decrease in the average days on market before going under contract.
Homeownership continues to be an important and sought after goal in the U.S. It provides stability and predictability to families and individuals whereas renting cannot. Homeownership endows an enhanced sense of security. It encourages a higher degree of care-taking of properties – something that benefits all surrounding property owners in terms of preserving values and the ability to have value appreciation that’s on par with overall market conditions. And it lends itself to positive self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment.
Mortgage rates are predicted to rise this year but so far the effort has been inconsistent. In historic terms interest rates continue at all-time lows and are currently hovering around 4 – 4.28%.
Assistance in getting started in homeownership is available in many places for those that need the boost and meet the qualifications. Starting with the state, Maryland has an informative guide for its diversity of programs. Read more about it here. Some of the benefits include loan assistance, grant assistance for down payment and closing costs, rate assistance, home credits and homebuying education, to mention a few.
New loan and assistance programs tailored to meet prospective buyer needs continue to surface each year. The choices can be confusing and overwhelming so it’s important to choose professionals to partner with that will keep your best interests a top priority. I am a REALTOR® with 20 years experience with condos, single family and town homes, new construction and land purchases. Life may be fast-paced but I still value relationships and I treat your business as if it were my own. I recommend only those lenders that will provide that same level of service and protection of your interests.
Inventory shortages will continue to frustrate some home seekers this year. With more millenials entering the market, there is an increase in the numbers of home shoppers, too. One of the keys to overcoming this problem is to be pre-qualified and ready to make an offer on a home should you find “the one.” Chances are it will not be around long enough for you to start the process once you find it. You should be prequalified and know the specific loan types you qualify for, know your price point and comfortable mortgage payment amount before you even start shopping.