Listing Courtesy of COLDWELL BANKER RESORT REALTY - R
Rehoboth Beach's economy, like all others, is largely dependent upon consumers doing what consumers are supposed to do: buy! Why they make their decision to behave or not is every bit as complicated as you would suppose. It’s the product of how their own careers are faring; how the greater economy (and the economy in Rehoboth Beach) are doing; even how the world economy is behaving—or seems likely to behave anytime soon.
In all of this, the hard facts about how the economy is actually doing are not just backward-looking, they’re also slow to arrive. Worse yet to those who think numbers should mean something definite, the numbers are frequently recalculated later. The latest ‘jobs’ numbers or the ‘housing starts’ numbers, when they are announced, are often accompanied by a statement that the previous quarters number has been "revised to" x. If you are a local business person who makes projections based on the best information available, that wouldn’t be the new number—it would be the previous, now revised number: very old information.
There is one way around this, though, and that’s fortunate. Everybody has the same reliability and timeliness problems, yet have to have some basis for making discretionary spending decisions. The usual solution is to rely upon measurements not of the actual economy’s activity now or in the past, but of what most people expect that activity to be in the future.
Yes, that kind of measurement is ‘soft’—opinion, rather than hard data. But if those expectations are widely publicized, they affect what actually comes to pass. If consumers are bullish on the future, well, that’s reassuring news! Rehoboth Beach businesses are encouraged to stock their shelves. People are more likely to list their Rehoboth Beach homes for sale. The local economy looks better and better! On the other hand, if consumers are depressed about the future, caution will prevail. Businesses will hold off on new hires and trim their inventories. You can’t be too careful, after all. To some degree, consumer expectations often become self-fulfilling prophesies.
That’s why latest consumer confidence reports are the best news for the future of the economy we’ve heard for some time. Last week, Reuters ran the headline, "U.S. Consumer Sentiment at Eight-Year High"; the Business Insider, "Consumer Confidence Crushes Expectations." Reuters attributed the burst of citizen optimism to "improved prospects for jobs and wages, and on lower gasoline prices…"
The University of Michigan co-sponsors the index upon which the numbers are based, which showed December’s reading of consumer sentiment at 93.8, "the highest reading since January 2007." That was a full 4 points above the median that had been previously forecast by 70 economists. It was also 5 points higher than the final reading for November.
If the Rehoboth Beach economy perks up as anticipated, area real estate watchers should expect a noticeable uptick in activity—particularly if mortgage interest rates stay low, and inflation remains a non-factor (the same survey pegged consumer inflation expectations at 2.9%). If you are an Rehoboth Beach homeowner or prospective buyer with an equally upbeat outlook, it’s good reason to give me a call to discuss how your plans dovetail with a rebounding market!
If anyone involved in Sussex County real estate were to try to pick a word to characterize the mortgage industry as a whole, “sentimental” wouldn’t be among them. Especially over the past several years, “frustrated” might be apt, or “hog-tied.” Mortgage issuers been hampered by tough rules developed in reaction to the sub-prime mortgage mess. They certainly wanted to issue more mortgages, if only for their own profitability, but until recently, the lending guidelines made that difficult.
In any case, this is an industry that relies on hard facts and statistics to govern lending decisions. Mortgage industry leaders are therefore not inclined to be overly optimistic, overly pessimistic—nor are they prone to exaggeration in their public pronouncements.
So when the powers-that-be at Fannie Mae come out each quarter with their Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey, the “sentiment” is not the Cry Me a River or You Are the Sunshine of My Life variety. This “sentiment” describes how real estate lenders (presumably including some Sussex County mortgage companies) feel about mortgage business prospects in the coming months. The actual report has a remarkable record of a lack of sentiment: it’s usually pretty much on target.
So it is that when the 2015 first quarter Survey appeared last month (this is one real estate report whose ‘first quarter’ paper actually appears in the first quarter), it sounded another positive note in the assemblage of springtime real estate projections. The summary talked about “an improving outlook among mortgage lenders” because those surveyed “expect mortgage demand…to grow over the next three months.” The hard number was 71% having that expectation, which wouldn’t be surprising, given our entry into the busy spring selling season. The optimism drew more from the fact that this is a substantial improvement compared with the same quarter 2014 (71% vs. the previous 59%).
If the growth they anticipate holds true for our own market, it wouldn’t just indicate improving activity for Sussex County home buyers and sellers. After what they viewed as an “uneven” 2014, Fannie Mae’s Chief Economist Doug Duncan said the results were “consistent with our view that an improving economy, strengthening employment, and increasing consumer confidence” pointed to the more cheerful outlook.
Also cheerful was the picture mortgage issuers expected for their own well-being. A year ago, lenders who thought their profitability would increase were in the extreme minority: 21%. This year, the size of the optimistic group doubled.
Local mortgage applicants could find good news in one more of the reasons for the expectation for mortgage demand to grow over the next three months. The report talked about how last year’s credit tightening was continuing to “trend down.” And there at the top was the headline which mentioned “Gradual Credit Easing.” For anyone who had found it hard to qualify under last year’s rules, that’s very welcome news.
If you will be buying or selling anytime soon, I hope you’ll give me a call: the sentiment here is also the green light kind!