November 16, 2021 – It Is Still COVID. Don’t look now, but the pandemic has started to wane once again.


Economic Commentary

It is Still COVID. Don’t look now, but the pandemic has started to wane once again. After cases fell throughout the spring and early summer, the Delta variant pushed cases from a low of just over 10,000 per day to a high of almost 200,000 per day by early September. Now cases have fallen to around 20,000 per day by the end of October. Is the pandemic on a trajectory to end, or are we on the verge of another winter surge?

We certainly had such a surge last winter, but we did not have just about 60% of the population vaccinated with booster shots and child doses now approved. Thus, absent the appearance of another variant, we may very well not face the same type of surge this winter. Obviously, that would be good news for America and certainly it would be good news for the economy as well.

A winter in which we are able to continue the economic recovery would be welcome. Of vital importance would be help to fix the supply chain issues because there is apparently plenty of latent demand out there. If everyone could find the home, car or supplies they wanted, it is likely that the economy would pick-up perhaps without the same upward pressure on inflation. We are almost half-way through the fourth quarter of the year and we need to be growing faster than the 2.0% rate the preliminary estimate indicated for the third quarter. The key variable continues to be COVID. Let’s hope for a surge-free winter. 

Weekly Interest Rate Overview

The Markets. Mortgage rates fell back below 3.00% in the past week before rising sharply after release of the inflation data.  For the week ending November 11, 30-year rates fell to 2.98%% from 3.09% the week before.  In addition, 15-year loans decreased to 2.27% and the average for five-year ARMs eased to 2.53%. A year ago, 30-year fixed rates averaged 2.84%, less than .25% lower than today. Attributed to Sam Khater, Chief Economist, Freddie Mac – “Despite the re-acceleration of economic growth, the recent bond rally drove mortgage rates down for the second consecutive week. These low mortgage rates, combined with the tailwind of first-time homebuyers entering the market, means that purchase demand will remain strong into next year. However, affordability pressures continue to be an ongoing concern for homebuyers.” Note: Rates indicated do not include fees and points and are provided for evidence of trends only. They should not be used for comparison purposes.

Real Estate News

Over the past year, U.S. home prices are up a record 19.8% according to CoreLogic. You don’t need to be an economist to know that the current level of growth—which is faster than the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis—isn’t sustainable. But where will this historically competitive housing market go next? According to the latest forecast put out by Fannie Mae, median home prices are expected to rise 7.9% between the fourth quarter of 2021 and the fourth quarter of 2022. While that would mark a slowing from the extreme price growth we’ve seen this year, it would still represent strong growth by historical standards. (On average, U.S. home prices have climbed 4.1% on an annual basis since 1987.) So, put another way: The housing market, at least in the eyes of Fannie Mae, is set to return to a normal-ish level of price appreciation. Fannie Mae also expects mortgage rates to climb next year, with the average 30-year fixed rate rising from 3.1% to 3.4%. But the downward pressure on prices from rising rates, the government-sponsored enterprise says, won’t be enough to actually pull prices down. “Mortgage rates may rise in response to the tighter environment, but we expect the severe shortage of homes for sale to remain the primary driver of strong house price appreciation through at least 2022, limiting interest rate effects on home sales and home prices,” wrote Doug Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae, in its latest 2022 outlook. Source: Fortune

More Americans are desiring bigger homes since the pandemic—and builders are responding. The share of new single-family homes with four or more bedrooms posted a sharp uptick, unlike in recent years, the National Association of Home Builders reports on its Eye on Housing blog. The share of single-family homes started with four bedrooms or more rose from 42.6% in 2019 to 45.2% in 2020. “These developments are linked to changes in the makeup of home buyers from the previous years,” Litic Murali reports on NAHB’s Eye on Housing blog. “In 2020, the detrimental economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, a low-interest-rate environment in the U.S., and low housing supply together drove prices up, leaving some prospective first-time home buyers out of the market. Successful buyers were generally looking for more space.” The need for more space also may be growing as Americans embrace multigenerational living. About 16% of buyers have opted for a multigenerational home since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to 11% the previous year, according to 2020 data from the National Association of REALTORS®. NAR’s data shows the most common reason for a multigenerational home this year was to care for and spend more time with older parents, followed by cost savings and the ability to pool several incomes. However, as homes get larger, lots sizes are shrinking. An analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau by StorageCafe shows that the median home size is now about 2,260 square feet—up from 2,170 square feet in 2010. The median lot size, however, on a new home has decreased nearly 18% (10,500 square feet in 2010 to 8,700 square feet in 2020). Source: NAMB

A new study aims to put into perspective the impact curb appeal can have in a home sale. An Oct. 13 study by shows property values can decrease by up to 30% due to poor landscaping alone. The website surveyed 1,250 real estate professionals for its study. Seventy-eight percent of real estate professionals say poor landscaping and hardscaping negatively affect a home’s value. “Landscaping provides potential buyers with a first impression of your home,” Kimo Quance, owner of the Kimo Quance Group in Santee, Calif., told “When they observe a neglected lawn, or a home without any additional curb appeal, potential buyers immediately get the idea that the home was not well-maintained. They set a value of the home in their mind based on that, and it’s usually not a good price. On the other hand, a neat, clean lawn puts the buyer’s mind at ease.” More than half of real estate professionals surveyed—59%—said trees are the landscaping element that can add the most value to a home’s property. They believe that even adding one healthy tree can increase a property’s value greatly. “A tree is one of the most natural and interesting ways to add color, texture, and contrast to any home’s yard,” David North, a real estate broker in Redmond, Wash., told “The natural beauty of a tree can be especially powerful when it distinguishes one property from others, whether by different shape, color, or size. But the location of the tree is important, he says, adding that trees should be planted where they can provide shade, privacy, and even noise protection. Hardscaping is important too, respondents say. Hardscaping refers to non-living aspects in an outdoor design, such as structural and decorative elements like decks and outdoor kitchens. Forty percent of real estate professionals surveyed said poor hardscaping has a very negative impact on a home’s value, while 38% say it only somewhat does. Source:

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