Affordability is a huge topic right now. It seems like most real estate articles are talking about how insanely “hot” the market is and how much values have increased. But as much as the public eats up sensational headlines, we all know affordability is becoming an issue too for both buyers and renters. Today I hoped we could kick around some trends in the market when it comes to affordability. Anything to add?
Wage growth and values: One of the red flags over the past five years is having so much growth in home prices and rents without much wage growth. This is why we see some buyers technically affording the market, but at times they have several different jobs to help make ends meet. We also see multiple renters shacking up together to help afford higher rents.
Looking beyond single family detached homes: As values have increased, some buyers are starting to look beyond the single family detached market to something they might be able to afford. Other options include condos, halfplexes (attached unit), or even mobile homes. These properties represent affordability to many because they are often listed toward the bottom of the price spectrum. For reference, right now there are 27 mobile homes listed for less than $50,000 in Sacramento County (located in a mobile home park). I wouldn’t say the mobile market is “on fire” by any stretch, but I have heard more chatter about them lately, which is surely a sign of the times. I know, if you buy in a trailer park you’ll have to deal with “trailer trash” comments, though for some a mobile home is a viable financial option to help pay down debt and hopefully avoid some of the crazy rent increases lately. Ultimately let’s continue to keep an eye on what’s happening at the bottom of the market.
Unrealistic buyer expectations: My sense is some prospective buyers have unrealistic expectations about the type of house they can purchase in today’s market. For instance, I heard someone recently talk about wanting something under $300,000 that was modern, newer, eco-friendly, and located in Midtown. The truth is a property like that doesn’t exist right now in that price range in Midtown. But does it exist somewhere else? That’s the real question buyers need to ask. Coming to terms with locations you can and cannot afford is not always easy, but it is necessary for those who choose to buy.
Why tiny homes mostly don’t work: We see tiny homes on HGTV and like to think they are a viable option for many buyers or even a solution to the housing shortage, but they aren’t usually attached to the land, which means they don’t qualify for traditional financing. Of course you can obtain financing for a tiny home with an RV loan or personal loan, but that’s going to be more expensive. Even if you have the cash or financing to buy a tiny home, one of the bigger problems is the cost of land. We have to remember when a market increases in value, it’s mostly the land that is becoming more valuable. And when a market declines, it’s the land more than anything that loses value. The glimmer of hope though for tiny homes is that Fresno passed an ordinance last year that allows residents to put tiny homes on their property and consider them permanent residences instead of just temporary. This means for those who cannot afford higher prices in the single family detached market, this might be an option so long as they have access to land (maybe in a family member’s backyard). By the way, there is a 360 sq ft home listed for sale right now in the Elmhurst neighborhood of Sacramento.
Storage container homes: The market seems hungry for alternative housing as long as it’s affordable, though the unfortunate thing about this type of housing is it’s not necessarily inexpensive because of the cost to build and the problem of finding affordable land. It may still be possible though to build a storage container development on tiny lots at a reduced cost compared to stick-built new construction. We have seen some storage container commercial developments come to town, but it seems pretty quiet as of yet for residential units. Anyway, this reminds us there is space in the single family market for someone to “crack the code” or think outside the box to figure out a way to bring alternative housing at a lower cost than stick-built new construction. The image below comes from a local storage container company called TAYNR.
The squeeze on supply: Some buyers really are getting priced out of the market, though the truth is we might not feel the effect of missing buyers dropping out of the game because of the reality of having a housing shortage.
Creativity: It seems like every week I’m hearing about a new 0% down or 1% down loan. Thus as affordability vanishes for some, lenders are slowly helping buyers artificially afford higher prices by making their loan products less expensive. Lenders have so much power right now to shape the future of the market by what they do in coming time. Let’s remember another “creative” aspect of the market is seeing appraisal waivers become more common. I get there is a place for that, though let’s be cautious.
Questions: Would you ever buy a tiny home or a mobile home? What else are you seeing out there? Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your take.