The Boston area real estate outlook includes an update on what millennials have been doing lately. In recent years, millennials have been largely thought of as a generation of renters. They’ve unfairly received this moniker because of a number of factors, none the least of which is that home prices throughout the U.S. have consistently grown faster than wages. However, an improved and lowered cost of living combined with better job growth and rising incomes has led and will lead to many millennials beginning to buy houses.
According to real estate market research findings, last year nearly half of the total number of homebuyers were first-timers – and the majority of those were younger Americans aged 18 to 35 – millennials, by definition. All indications are for 2017 the percentage of millennials entering the housing market will continue to increase.
During the third quarter of 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that home ownership was at 63.5%, slightly higher than the second quarter in which the 62.9% home participation rate was the lowest in 51 years.
Let’s examine four areas in the Boston area real estate outlook designed to attract millennials as they enter the home-buying market.
More and better amenities.
Millennials have come to expect and appreciate added extras in the apartment complexes in which they were living. It’s natural for them to want to have some of the same perks in the home or neighborhood in which they are thinking of moving. Examples are having larger bandwidth capabilities for social media and streaming music and videos and equipping homes with programmable thermostats and built-in USB outlets.
More search technology.
Millennials have also relied heavily on available resources in this information age. Today’s prospective homeowner almost always begins his search online. As such, they will continue to expect to be able to perform a variety of services remotely – either via an app or some other process – allowing them to negotiate and sign documents without leaving their homes or jobs.
Greater full-service offerings.
Given the number of millennials entering the housing market, the traditional role of a real estate agent is starting to change. The information age has provided consumers with a wealth of information about homes for sale. The missing piece seems to be how to aggregate or compile that information. Many real estate firms have chosen to provide better full-service offerings by not only assisting in finding or selling a home, but in addition, putting the client in contact with contractors or others to make the moving process smooth and easy for all involved.
Say goodbye to the “hard sell.”
With the focus more on full-service, as mentioned above, one of the changes in the Boston area real estate outlook will likely be that real estate agents will be able to concentrate less on the actual sales process and more on building relationships with their clients. Some real estate firms actually have prospective clients – both buyers and sellers – meet with a customer service manager first before they’re assigned to an agent. The firms report that this first point of customer interaction enables the prospective buyer or seller to do their fact-finding from a completely impartial source – without feeling like they were being “sold” anything. It’s more of an information exchange designed to make their prospective clients feel at ease in the early stages of the process.
As the Boston area real estate outlook continues to evolve and more millennials and other prospective purchasers enter the home buying arena, more changes are likely to occur. New homes currently under construction will probably have more open areas where families can be together in the same room enjoying the same activity, but yet be able to stay connected to their friends and others via their smartphones or tablets. In addition, homes will likely be built with smart-car garages equipped with electrical outlets for hybrid automobiles. Energy-efficient homes will become the norm as builders will attempt to woo millennials interested in being more environmentally conscious and more focused on sustainable, clean energy solutions.
The challenges in the Boston area real estate outlook continue to be basic housing shortcomings we’ve heard and read much about in the last 18-24 months. The number of available affordable housing units for sale still continues to lag behind normal levels. With this low inventory comes the added pressures of existing homeowners who would have normally been ready to sell and move up into a bigger, better or newer home, who have decided not to sell – simply because there are fewer homes available for them to choose from, too. Added to that dilemma is the continued rise in home prices. Most experts expect home prices across the U.S. to increase between 4.50% to 5.5% during 2017. So, the homes that are available for purchase will likely be more expensive than ever – the limited supply will probably continue to fuel what will be a seller’s market.
In addition, interest rates – mortgage rates in particular – are expected to rise during 2017. We’ve seen a slight uptick in rates since the presidential election, as a result of the growth of the stock market. Analysts say interest rates will continue to rise throughout 2017, but longer-term mortgage rates will probably not exceed 4.5%. While those rates are higher than the near-record rates of the previous 12-18 months, comparatively speaking an interest rate of even 4.5% to 5% is still a very good, affordable way to borrow money for the purchase of a home.
Despite the challenges on the horizon of the Boston area real estate outlook, 2017 looks like it has the potential to be a good year. The coming spring selling season will be the first test. If that’s successful, it could set the stage for a continued optimistic feeling on which the rest of the year will be based.
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