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Millennials are poised to become the nation's largest living generation this year. As they grow as a percentage of the population, more of them will reach the age at which Americans historically have gotten married. And many baby-boomer parents are probably eagerly anticipating the big day when their son or daughter walks down the aisle (and the grandkids that will follow.)

But, according to new research, millennials are not showing many signs of interest in getting hitched as they get older, and, as a result, the marriage rate is expected to fall by next year to its lowest level to date.

That is a finding by Demographic Intelligence, a forecasting firm with a strong track record. “Millennials are such a big generation, we’re going to have more people of prime marriage age in the next five years than we’ve had at any time in U.S. history. For that alone, we’d expect an uptick in marriage rates,” said Sam Sturgeon, president of Demographic Intelligence. “That’s not happening.”

In the firm's new U.S. Wedding Forecast, compiled from demographic data, Google searches and a host of other variables, Sturgeon projects that by 2016, the marriage rate will fall to 6.7 per 1,000 people, a historic low. That includes people getting married for the second or third time.

In 1867, the first year for which national marriage statistics were recorded, the marriage rate was 9.6 per 1,000 Americans. It peaked in 1946 at 16.4 per 1,000 as men were returning from World War II, and it bounced around from 8.5 in 1960 to a high of 10.8 in the mid-1980s. Starting in the 1990s, it began a long and, in the 1990s, precipitous drop.

In fact, in 1984, when baby boomers were at prime marrying age, a total of 2.48 million marriages were recorded, the highest number the country had seen. In 2013, the most recent year for which there is data, the number of marriages had dropped to 2.13 million.

“We won’t get anywhere close to that high number of marriages again,” Sturgeon said.

Demographers cite several reasons reason for the  massive generational shift in marriage trends.

1) Millennials continue to delay marriage because of economics, education and preference. In 1960, fewer than 8 percent of women and 13 percent of men married for the first time at age 30 or older, University of Maryland sociologist Philip Cohen has calculated. Now, nearly one-third of women and more than 40 percent of men who marry for the first time are 30 or older.

Cohen, who has tracked falling marriage rates around the world, has projected that, if the current pattern continues, the marriage rate will hit zero in 2042.

2) The United States continues to become more secular and less religious. The Pew Research Center reported recently that the share of Americans who describe themselves as Christians dropped from 78 percent to 71 percent between 2007 and 2014, while the number of atheists, agnostics or those of no faith grew from 16 percent to 23 percent.

3) Millennials have alternatives. In the past, living together or having children “out of wedlock” was met with severe social stigma, but no longer. Cohabitation rates are on the rise — 48 percent of women interviewed between 2006 and 2010 for the National Survey of Family Growth cohabitated with a partner as a first union, compared with 34 percent in 1995.

Births to unmarried women also are on the rise. Forty-one percent of all births are now to unmarried women, 2.5 times as high as was reported in 1980 and 19 times as high as in 1940.

source:  Washington Post


Home buyers may soon face more stringent underwriting standards and even higher interest rates when applying for a mortgage to purchase a home that falls within a homeowner association, the lending industry warns.   

The threat comes from mortgage industry officials who are warning areas with state laws that give community associations "super-priority liens" on homes in which owners have failed to pay their assessments. Super-priority liens grants a homeowner association the right to initiate foreclosures as well as get the proceeds from the sale of the delinquent home ahead of the first-lien position, which is typically held by a mortgage lender. Twenty-two states, plus the District of Columbia, have authority for super liens, The Los Angeles Times reports.

David Stevens, president of the Mortgage Bankers Association, warned that in states with super liens where lender and investor interests can be erased, buyers may start to face higher loan fees, more stringent downpayment requirements, as well as time-consuming reviews of the homeowner association’s finances. Some lenders also have said that they will reconsider whether to do business in communities that have super liens.

Homeowner associations argue for "super-priority liens," however, saying that the assessments or dues they collect are essential to maintain a community and when owners fail to make payments, the shortfall then must be made up by the rest of the owners via often higher assessments. The situation has played out in states like Nevada, Florida, and other states that in the aftermath of the housing crisis saw large numbers of defaulting home owners on their assessments and led to communities with tight finances.

Community association leaders say that they've been left with no other choice to initiate their own foreclosures on home owners because in some cases the lenders who owned the mortgages on the defaulted homes would not pay the assessments once the owners had moved out. Lenders "dragged their feet on foreclosures for years, delaying the process that would give them legal and financial responsibility" to pay assessments on properties they basically owned, according to the Community Association Institute, which represents 33,000 member associations and managers nationwide.

More state legislatures are granting homeowner associations the right to initiate foreclosures after providing notice to lenders and loan servicers.

However, mortgage lenders say that it comes at the price of their own collateral interests in the homes. For example, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled last fall that the lender's lien can be erased when homeowner associations foreclosure on delinquent units after providing notice and giving lenders the opportunity to pay the delinquent assessments.

Nearly 67 million Americans live in communities governed by homeowner associations.

source:  Los Angeles Times 


Studies have suggested that staged homes sell faster, and as such, more sellers may be willing to give it a try.

So what are some staging ideas for sprucing up a property? Thomas Rouse, a design producer at “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” offered the following tips in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal.

1. Paint: A fresh coat of paint in a neutral palette can be an inexpensive upgrade with big impact.

2. Have furniture but don’t clutter: Don’t leave rooms empty because potential buyers may struggle to visualize what all you can do with the space. Also, Rouse suggests avoiding furniture with patterns, which can be distracting.

3. TV artwork: Mount a flat-screen TV to a wall and have a slideshow playing on it with images of nature, Rouse suggests.

4. Fill the walls: Don’t leave walls bare, which can make a home feel cold, according to Rouse. Hang photography, framed artwork, and mirrors to spice up the walls.

5. Flower displays: Have fresh-cut flowers in simple glass vases displayed on the dining room table and in other places in the home to bring more life to a space, Rouse says.

6. Gender-neutral bedrooms: Keep bedroom colors neutral and have simple bedding — preferably in white — to make a room feel fresh, Rouse says.

source:  Wall Street Journal


A study by mortgage giant Fannie Mae showed that 90 percent of renters aspire to be home owners one day, and the top reason behind that desire is for the sense of gaining greater control over their living arrangements. 

The survey revealed the following top reasons why renters want to own: 

  • “Control over what you do with your living space”: 84% of renters said this was their main desire for owning;
  • “Having a sense of privacy and security”: 80%
  • “Having the best investment plan”: 78%
  • “Having a good place for family or to raise your children”: 78%
  • “Living in a nicer home”: 71%
  • “Building wealth”: 70%
  • “Saving for retirement”: 69%

In the survey, renters identified the following reasons for why they are renting: 

  • “Living within your budget”: 57% 
  • “Having less stress”: 52%
  • “Making the best decision given the current economic climate”: 50%



About 1.5 million new housing units are needed each year to accommodate the rising population, writes Lawrence Yun, the chief economist of the National Association of REALTORS® at the Economists’ Outlook blog. Yet, housing starts have averaged about 766,000 per year for the past seven years.

“These multiple years of undersupply compared to what is needed is the reason why much of the country is experiencing a housing shortage with few inventory of homes for sale and falling apartment vacancy rates,” Yun notes. “Consequently, rents and home prices are rising by at least twice as fast as wage growth.”

Yun says that builders need to ramp up construction soon or the housing shortage will worsen. “Housing affordability will take a hit as a result,” he says.

The U.S. has about 4 million births each year and about 2 million deaths each year – which means an annual population gain of about 2 million. Also, immigration is making up another half million to one million each year, which brings the U.S. population up by about 3 million each year. 

source:  National Association of REALTORS® Economists’ Outlook blog


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed a lawsuit against Nationwide Biweekly Administration Inc., Loan Payment Administration LLC, and its owner on Monday, alleging the companies misrepresented the interest savings consumers stand to gain by participating in a biweekly mortgage payment program.

Nationwide Biweekly Administration is an Ohio-based company that transmits funds from consumers to their mortgage servicers. Loan Payment Administration LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Nationwide.

Nationwide’s product called “Interest Minimizer” allows consumers to make half of their monthly mortgage payment every two weeks, which results in the consumers making one additional monthly payment per year. Nationwide charges consumers a setup fee of $995 to enroll in the program. It also charges consumers between $84 and $101 in payment processing fees each year they remain enrolled in the program. The company touts throughout its marketing that the program will help home owners save money.

However, the CFPB’s lawsuit alleges that the company mislead consumers about the cost of the program. CFPB claims that Nationwide has collected about $49 million in setup fees between 2011 and 2014 through the program. CFPB also alleges that the company knows that consumers will end up paying more in fees than they will save in interest for the first several years in the program.

On average, a consumer in Nationwide’s program in 2013 had a 30-year mortgage for about $160,000 with an interest rate of 4.125 percent. According to CFPB’s lawsuit, average borrowers with such loan terms would then have to stay in the program for nine years in order to recoup the fees of more than $1,200 that they would have paid to Nationwide to be part of the program. 

Through the lawsuit, CFPB is seeking compensation for affected consumers as well as an injunction against the companies and owner.

“These companies and their owner, Daniel Lipsky, took advantage of consumers with false promises of savings on their mortgage,” says CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Home owners deserve accurate information in the financial marketplace. Today we are taking action to end these illegal and deceptive practices, and to hold these companies accountable for their actions.” 

source:  Consumer Financial Protection Bureau


Home owners who want to stay put are looking into remodeling their homes with universal design features to turn their homes into “forever homes” that they won’t have to leave in the future as they age, says Steven Mark, senior design consultant with Marrokal Design & Remodeling. Home owners are making decisions and remodeling their homes to age-in-place long before they need the universal design features too, Mark says. Mark assists home owners in planning for future needs with accessibility in homes.

He says the top trends in “forever homes” are wider entry ways, showers that are wheelchair accessible, and grab bars placed in bathroom showers. For home owners building new, Mark says having wider hallways from the beginning can be a smart choice. “It doesn’t cost any more money, but if there’s ever a wheelchair in the house, the [home owners] will be glad that there are just a couple more inches on every single doorway in the house.”

Installing an elevator is also becoming a more common solution for multi-level homes, Mark says.

"A lot of times what I'll do in my designs is prepare for a future elevator. I can take a closet downstairs and a closet upstairs and that will be the shaft for the elevator," says Mark.

source:  Realty Times


Defaults on reverse mortgages are hitting record highs and these loans are being blamed for turning seniors out of their homes.

Home owners who are 62 and older can apply for reverse mortgages to borrow money against the equity in their homes. The loans don’t have to be repaid until the home owner moves out or dies. Reverse mortgages are seen as a way for home owners to use the equity in their homes for retirement. But the home owners still have to pay property taxes, maintenance, and insurance on the home.

Some housing experts warn that lenders are advertising the loans to seniors as “free money” that can be used to fund fancy vacations but not detailing all the risks associated with these types of loans.

For example, several widows across the country have stepped forward saying they are facing foreclosure and eviction following their spouse’s death because they weren’t included on the reverse mortgage deed. The widows say they have no claims to live in the home unless they purchase it outright following their spouse’s death, The New York Times reports.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has worked on improving the disclosure of reverse mortgages and the hidden risks, as well as more supervision of lenders who issue these loans.

source:  New York Times


Nearly 1.6 million of loans were originated on single-family homes and condos in the first quarter, up 17 percent from a year ago, according to RealtyTrac's the first quarter 2015 U.S. Residential Loan Origination Report. Of those nearly 1.6 million loan originations, almost 472,000 were purchase loan originations, up less than 1 percent from a year ago. The rest of the loans were from refinance applications.

"A dip in interest rates early in the year combined with lowered mortgage insurance premiums for FHA loans breathed some life back into the refinancing market in the first quarter," says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. "Meanwhile the purchase loan market remained largely missing in action despite tepid growth from a year ago. The prime buying season still remains ahead, providing some hope that first-time home buyers and other traditional buyers relying on traditional financing will come out in the woodwork in greater numbers in the coming months."

The following metro areas (with populations of at least 500,000) saw the largest increases in purchase loan originations from a year ago:

  1. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fla.: up 72%
  2. Dayton, Ohio: up 62%
  3. Toledo, Ohio: up 36%
  4. Tampa, Fla.: up 32%
  5. Kansas City, Mo.: up 32%
  6. Salt Lake City: up 18%
  7. Orlando, Fla.: up 17%
  8. Atlanta: up 15%
  9. Jacksonville, Fla.: up 14%
  10. St. Louis, Mo.: up 13%
  11. Miami: up 13%
  12. Phoenix: up 13%

source:  RealtyTrac


eventy percent of millennials who do not yet own a home expect to become home owners by 2020, and most expect to use the money they have saved for a down payment, according to a survey of 1,270 members of Gen Y aged 19 to 36 conducted by the Urban Land Institute.

The report finds that contrary to popular belief, the majority of millennials are not settling into downtowns of large cities but are living in less centrally located, more affordable neighborhoods. Also, they're "making ends meet with jobs for which many feel overqualified and living with parents or roommates to save money," according to the report. "Still, despite their current lifestyle constraints, most are optimistic about the odds for improving their housing and financial circumstances in the years ahead."

Gen Y consists of nearly 79 million people and is the largest generation in U.S. history, even larger than the Baby Boomers.

The survey found that many millennials are still renting, paying a median rent of $925, with the majority living in city neighborhoods or in the suburbs and only 13 percent living in or near downtowns. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed are still living at home with their parents or other family members.

Millennials say they prefer to live in neighborhoods with urban characteristics, such as those that feature walkability, transportation alternatives, and easy access to shopping and entertainment.

"Gen Yers want to live where it's easy to have fun with friends and family, whether in the suburbs or closer in," says Leanne Lachman, president of Lachman Associates LLC in New York City, who wrote the report. "Their desire for an urban lifestyle suggests that the current trend of urbanizing suburbs will present lucrative opportunities for the development community for decades to come. This is a generation that places a high value on work-life balance and flexibility. They will switch housing and jobs as frequently as necessary to improve their quality of life."

The survey found that 45 percent of Millennial respondents moved at least twice in the past three years – "which reflects the high mobility of the generation," the report notes.

About 26 percent of the millennials surveyed currently own homes, with the majority of those falling between the ages of 31 to 36 years of age. Of those who do own, less than half (46 percent) say they purchased a home because they believe that owning is a good long-term investment; 41 percent said it offers stability; and 40 percent said they wanted more privacy and space. Sixty-two percent say they're very satisfied with home ownership, and 64 percent listed the stability and safety of their neighborhood as the most positive feature of their home’s location, according to the report.

source:  Urban Land Institute