I spoke in the Small And Solo Firm Practice Class at the University of Washington School of Law recently. The discussion was largely about my career path. I hope that more mentorship opportunities within the legal profession arise for younger attorneys.
The rent is just too darn high in these U.S. cities
By Adriana Belmonte,Yahoo Money
The cost of rent in the U.S., particularly in certain metro areas, is too darn high.
Nearly half of U.S. rental households are spending more than the recommended 30% of their income on rent, according to a report from Apartment List. (The national rate went from 49.5% in 2017 to 49.7% in 2018.)
And according to Apartment List, “in 19 of the nation’s 25 largest metros, a household earning the median renter income would be cost-burdened by the median rent. Of the 100 largest metros, the median renter would be burdened in 64 metros.”
Among the biggest metros in the U.S., Miami has the highest cost burden rate at 62.7% — this means that 62.7% of its renters are spending more than the recommended 30% on rent. Not far behind is New Orleans at 60.1% The two largest metros in the U.S. by population, New York and Los Angeles, are at 52.2% and 56.9% respectively. Given their size, NYC and LA house the highest number of cost-burdened individuals.
“Certainly, the worst offenders — places like Los Angeles, Boston, San Diego, Miami — these are places where it’s not always easy to build as many houses as you’d like, but also their economies have been very strong, so the increases in rental [costs] become an unfortunate byproduct of that,” Igor Popov, chief economist at Apartment List, told Yahoo Finance.
By state, Florida has the highest cost burden rate at 56.5%. Other high cost-burdened states include New York, New Jersey, California, Colorado, Louisiana, and Connecticut — notably places along the coasts.
“We’re seeing that especially coastal cities — where adding new housing is difficult but economies are booming — those are the places where affordability issues are stacking up the most,” Popov said. “With that said, it is a national problem so even cities that aren’t necessarily in the housing affordability debate every day still have a lot of renters who are struggling.”
Because of high rents in many of these cities, residents often turn to surrounding areas to reside for more financially feasible places to live. This is the case of Riverside, Calif., a city near Los Angeles, where the median rent accounts for approximately 36% of a person’s income.
“Riverside is actually seeing a lot of people who are migrating from the LA metro in search of more affordable options, but that demand is, in turn, driving up the price there as well,” Popov said.
‘I guess we went in the wrong direction’
Supply and demand wasn’t the only factor that affected the increase in rent-burdened households last year. Rental increases also outpaced wage growth in 2018, the first time since 2011.
“There’s a lot of factors for why that might be but on a very macro level, I think this economic expansion has been one that hasn’t [benefited] low-income households very well,” Popov said. “That shift was a bit surprising especially given that … we’ve seen a lot of high-income renters flooding in the rental market. In some ways, they’ve been padding the stats, so to speak, because they’ve come in and they’ve typically been able to afford their rentals, so they’ve made it look like things are getting better but this year, I guess we went in the wrong direction.”
From 2017 to 2018, there were nearly 300,000 more cost-burdened rental households throughout the U.S., which Popov described as “a big change in the number of people that have gone from being able to afford their housing to technically living in a place that they’re unable to afford.”
“You risk them moving away and that could both affect the economy and the economic diversity of a city when the renters move away, and you risk not being able to attract talent to grow the economy, and you risk not having basically that next generation being able to come and move to the city to keep it vibrant,” Popov said. “I think of this on a city-by-city basis and on that level, there are a lot of markets where maybe the flag isn’t being raised for the first time — maybe it’s been raised for a while.”
July 30, 2019 at 6:00 am
By Gene Balk
Seattle Times Columnist
Seattle rents are on the rise again, after a brief respite. And that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, because that’s what rents do around here — they go up, and they go up fast.
At the start of the decade, Seattle ranked just outside the Top 10 among big U.S. cities for the cost of rent and utilities. Now, we’re fourth. In fact, Seattle has become the nation’s most expensive big city for renters outside of California.
According to survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the median rent and utilities paid in the city of Seattle hit $1,555 in 2017, across all sizes and types of rental units. Among the 50 most populous U.S. cities, the only three where renters pay more are San Jose, San Francisco and San Diego.
The median rent is the midway point — half of all renters pay more, and half pay less.
The last time I wrote about this date, which was in 2014,, it was to report that Seattle had broken onto the list of Top 10 most expensive big cities for renters for the first time. That seemed like a big deal at the time, but it turns out, that was only the beginning of our ascent up the rankings.
Since then, we’ve knocked off a bunch of high-price cities, climbing past Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and even New York. Then, last year, we leapfrogged Boston to hit fourth place behind those three absurdly expensive Golden State locales. Can you imagine how high rents would be here if it didn’t drizzle for nine straight months a year?
And Seattle actually ranks ahead of San Diego as the third most-expensive city for renters if you only look at the costs for one-bedroom units, with a median of $1,455.
There are a lot of ways to measure rental costs, and the census data is very different from those reports that just look at market-rate apartments. The census data is based on surveys, and it presents a current snapshot of renters across the spectrum — from tenants in luxury units to those in older-stock housing, who are paying significantly less than market rate. It includes people in affordable and subsidized housing, and even people who get a break in their rent in exchange for doing work around the building.
In some cities, it also includes people living in rent-controlled and rent-stabilized apartments — not in Seattle, of course, since we don’t have any of those. But New York, for example, has more than 1 million such units, and San Francisco also has a substantial number. That’s part of the reason the census data for those two city’s median rents is lower than you might think.
Bringing rent control to Seattle is one of the signature issues for City Councilmember Kshama Sawant.
The census data represents what’s called “gross rent.” That means that the cost of utilities, if they are not covered by the landlord, are included in the dollar amount. This allows for a better comparison of the rental costs between units where the tenants have to pay the utilities separately and those where the utilities are folded into the rent.
In Seattle, at the start of the decade, the median rent and utilities was just $990. The increase of $565 by 2017 ranks second among the 50 largest cities, only behind San Jose, where the costs went up by $738.
Seattle also ranks second if you look at the increase in rents as a percent change — our 57% jump in rental costs since 2010 ranks just behind Denver’s 59%.
Rent and utilities have gone up in every big city, which isn’t surprising. But there are places it’s been much gentler for renters than in Seattle. In both Detroit and New Orleans, the increases have been less than 10% since the start of the decade. Virginia Beach, Memphis and Milwaukee are only a bit above 10%.
Many Seattle tenants have certainly been slapped with severe rent hikes, which has contributed to the city’s fast-rising median. But there’s another factor that’s probably more significant: We’ve had an unprecedented apartment construction boom that’s added thousands of high-priced new luxury units to our housing stock. Seattle has a higher precentage of new-construction apartments than any other big U.S. city.
Of course, rents wouldn’t be going up so fast in Seattle if incomes weren’t leading the way. The new class of renters in Seattle are higher income, and they can afford to pay more.
The Census Bureau also produces data that compares median rents and utilities with income, and it illustrates how the two have kept pace with each other. In 2017, the median rent in Seattle ate up 29% of household income. That’s basically unchanged from where it was in 2010.
And while rents are a lot lower in Miami or Detroit, for example, so are incomes. The median rent in those cities is nearly 40% of household income.
But that’s small consolation if you’re among the folks who don’t work in tech or some other high-paying industry, and you’re trying to make ends meet in Seattle. Census data shows that in nearly one out of five rental units in the city, at least half of the household income goes just to paying the rent and utilities.
Speaking At YGB Conference U.W. Law School
I was a panelist at the YGB Conference at U.W. Law School on Saturday, February 23rd. I was afforded the opportunity to speak with a group of high school students regarding my educational journey and career path and to have lunch with them. Their curiosity and intelligence made me very hopeful about the future.
Once again I was afforded the opportunity to speak in the Small and Solo Practice Class at the University of Washington School of Law, my alma mater. Interactivity and questions are on the upswing and this is welcome, because it means that students are increasingly engaged. The dynamic nature of the legal profession and the need for adaptability are frequent topics of discussion.
U.S. mortgage applications fell last week as home borrowing costs rose to their highest levels in more than seven years. The Market Composite index, which measures the volume of mortgage loan applications, fell 1.7% on a seasonally adjusted basis for the week ending October 5, according to a release from the Mortgage Bankers Association. Lower demand for mortgage refinances hampered mortgage lending, with refinance volume down 3% last week.
By Amanda Fung
A number of key reports on housing data released in recent days are on a downward trend. Both existing and new home sales in the U.S. were down in June, and their previous month’s results were revised lowered. The lackluster sales data caused homebuilder confidence to plummet to its lowest level in 10 months Wednesday.
“The housing market has been losing momentum for several months,” said Stifel Chief Economist Lindsey Piegza, referring to a slump in housing starts, building permits, and sales during the second quarter. “Housing is a solid gauge of the overall health of the economy; weakness in housing raises a large red flag regarding the sustainability of domestic growth heading into the second half of the year.”
The U.S. Commerce Department said the sale of new U.S. single-family homes in June fell 5.3% to a seasonally adjusted rate of 631,000 — an eight-month low — and the previous month’s results were revised lower. While new home sales only account for 10% of the market, the latest existing home sales results weren’t any better.
Existing home sales fell for the third straight month in June. Existing home sales slipped 0.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.38 million units last month, down 2.2% from June 2017, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). May’s sales pace was revised down to 5.41 million units from 5.43 million units.
“Existing home sales help drive other sectors of the economy including consumer confidence and spending, as well as construction and lending activity,” Piegza said.
“Chronically low inventory is choking sales,” said Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of Miller Samuel Inc., a real estate appraisal firm, adding that higher-cost housing markets such as New York City and San Francisco are seeing a slowdown in sales more so because of homebuyers’ uncertainty over the Trump administration’s federal tax reform.
Inventory levels have fallen for three consecutive years and for eight of the past 10 years, according to Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. At the current sales pace, it would take 4.3 months to exhaust the total inventory of homes for sale; six months is considered a balanced market.
“Throw in rising mortgage rates… that isn’t helpful in terms of sales activity,” Miller said. While the rate increases are currently nominal for Americans living paycheck to paycheck, it’s enough to sway a person’s decision to make that home purchase. On Thursday, the average rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.54% from 4.52%, a week earlier, according to mortgage buyer Freddie Mac, adding that long-term loan rates have been running at their highest levels in seven years.
“Affordability pressures are increasingly a concern in many markets, as the combination of continuous price gains and higher mortgage rates appear to be giving more prospective buyers a pause,” said Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sam Khater in a press statement.
The slow sales activity is particularly perplexing because spring tends to be the busiest time of year since it’s known as buying season. Moreover, the economy has been humming along: The U.S. economy grew by an annualized rate of 4.1% in the second quarter — the fastest growth since the third quarter of 2014.
The housing affordability crisis
The problem is wage growth. When you adjust for inflation, wages haven’t risen in a decade, experts note. As the lack of inventory drives home prices up, affordability becomes an issue. Wages aren’t keeping pace and consumers are priced out of markets by 6%-8% — depending on which home price index you look at, in terms of home values and wages, according to Piegza.
Median home prices in the U.S. have increased annually for 76 straight months (a little over 6.3 years), according to the NAR. In June, the median price of an existing home was $276,900, up 5.2% from the same time last year.
But experts expect prices to follow other housing data. “Home prices are the kaboose of the train,” Miller said. “You’ll’ see prices soften this year.”
We may already be seeing signs of prices leveling off. Standard & Poor’s said that its S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller national home price index posted a 6.4% annual gain in April, down from 6.5% from a month earlier. May results will be released July 31. Meanwhile, the FHFA House Price Index rose 0.2% in May, one-tenth of a percentage point less than expected, according to Bloomberg.
“While we’re not seeing the rug pulled out of the housing market, there are clear signs and a reason for caution,” Piegza said.
by Prashant Gopal and Shobhana Chandra
They were fed up with Seattle’s home bidding wars. They were only in their late 20s but had already lost two battles and were ready to renew with their landlord. Then, in May, their agent called.
The U.S. housing market — particularly in cutthroat areas like Seattle, Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas — appears to be headed for the broadest slowdown in years. Buyers are getting squeezed by rising mortgage rates and by prices climbing about twice as fast as incomes, and there’s only so far they can stretch.
“Home prices are plateauing,” said Ed Stansfield, chief property economist at Capital Economics Ltd. in London. “People are saying: Let’s just bide our time, there’s no great rush. If we wait six or nine months we’re not going to lose out on getting a foot on the ladder.” That means “we’re now looking at a period in which prices move more or less sideways, or increase no more quickly than growth in incomes, over the next few years.”
This new wariness was noticeable in the latest consumer-sentiment data from the University of Michigan. In its preliminary July survey, 65 percent of Americans said it’s a good time to buy a home, the lowest since 2008, when the economy was still in recession.
The US housing market has an inventory problem
What is more notable is the persistence of a trend that has come to define the U.S. housing market since it bottomed in 2012. And that is the lack of supply.
In April, the median existing home price rose 5.3% over the prior year, the 74th straight month there’s been an annual increase in the price of already-built homes, according to the data from the National Association of Realtors.
Additionally, the amount of homes for sale fell over the prior year for the 35th consecutive month to a total of 1.8 million.
At the current selling rate, which in April hit an annualized pace of 5.46 million, there are just 4 months of unsold inventory on the market and homes were for sale for just 26 days in April with 57% of homes sold remaining listed for less than a month.
“Inventory shortages are even worse than in recent years, and home prices keep climbing above what many home shoppers are able to afford,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR.
“What is available for sale is going under contract at a rapid pace. Since NAR began tracking this data in May 2011, the median days a listing was on the market was at an all-time low in April, and the share of homes sold in less than a month was at an all-time high.”
So while one of the most pervasive economic memes of the post-crisis period has been of the basement-dwelling millennial —with this week’s not doing the generation any favors— improvements in the labor market and wages haven’t been enough to overcome a housing market that is disadvantaging new entrants. Namely, millennials looking to own their first home.
“With mortgage rates and home prices continuing to climb, an increase in housing supply is absolutely crucial to keeping affordability conditions from further deterioration,” said Yun. “The current pace of price appreciation far above incomes is not sustainable in the long run.”
Tight supply, rising prices undercut on U.S. home sales
By Lucia Mutikani,Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. home sales unexpectedly fell in January, leading to the biggest year-on-year decline in more than three years, as a chronic shortage of houses lifted prices and kept first-time buyers out of the market.
The supply squeeze and rising mortgage interest rates are stoking fears of a lackluster spring selling season. The second straight monthly drop in home sales reported by National Association of Realtors on Wednesday added to weak retail sales and industrial production in January in suggesting slower economic growth in the first quarter.
“There may be some headwinds ahead for home resales with rising mortgage costs affecting how much the buyer can afford and this could put a damper on existing home sales and take some of the wind out of the economy’s sails,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York.
Existing home sales dropped 3.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.38 million units last month, with purchases declining in all four regions. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast home sales rising 0.9 percent to a rate of 5.60 million units in January.
Existing home sales, which account for about 90 percent of U.S. home sales, declined 4.8 percent on a year-on-year basis in January. That was the biggest year-on-year drop since August 2014. The weakness in home sales is largely a function of supply constraints rather than a lack of demand, which is being driven by a robust labor market.
The shortage of properties is concentrated at the lower end of the market. While the number of previously-owned homes on the market rose 4.1 percent to 1.52 million units in January, housing inventory was down 9.5 percent from a year ago.
That was also the lowest inventory for January on record. Supply has declined for 32 straight months on a year-on-year basis. At January’s sales pace, it would take 3.4 months to exhaust the current inventory, up from 3.2 months in December.
A six-to-seven-month supply is viewed as a healthy balance between supply and demand. The median house price increased 5.8 percent from a year ago to $240,500 in January, marking the 71st consecutive month of year-on-year price gains.
The PHLX housing index <.HGX> was trading higher, tracking a broadly firmer U.S. stock market. The dollar <.DXY> strengthened against a basket of currencies as yields on shorter-dated U.S. Treasuries rose.
ECONOMIC GROWTH RISK
“It looks likely that real residential investment will decline in the first quarter and we see downside risk to our forecast for 2.5 percent real GDP growth during the quarter,” said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan in New York.
The economy grew at a 2.6 percent annualized rate in the fourth quarter. Making housing expensive for some first-time home buyers, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose to an average of 4.38 percent last week, the highest level since April 2014, according to data from mortgage finance agency Freddie Mac. It was up from 4.32 percent in the prior week.
Mortgage rates are increasing in tandem with U.S. government bond yields on worries about rising inflation. In contrast, wage growth remains stuck below 3 percent on an annual basis despite the unemployment rate being at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent.
“We have hoped that the rise in rates motivates home buyers to act soon but the move in rates may have been so drastic that they are now waiting to see if rates start to make a move down,” said Brian Surgener, a senior vice president at BBMC Mortgage in Lombard, Illinois.
“Americans are not saving more and as home prices rise more of a down payment will be needed. So with more savings needed and payments increasing many home shoppers may be back on the fence until we see one of these trends turn around.”
A separate report from the Mortgage Bankers Association on Wednesday showed applications for loans to buy a home decreased 6 percent last week from a week earlier. There are also worries that caps on the deduction for mortgage interest following a recent overhaul of the tax code could hurt demand for houses.
First-time buyers accounted for 29 percent of transactions in January, down from 32 percent in December and 33 percent a year ago. Economists and realtors say a 40 percent share of first-time buyers is needed for a robust housing market.
Economists expect supply to remain tight this year, which together with pricey home loans could result in modest home sales growth in 2018.
But housing supply could improve in the coming months as government data last week showed the number of homes under construction surged to near a 10-1/2-year high in January. Single-family home completions were the highest since June 2008.
In January, houses typically stayed on the market for 42 days, up from 40 days in December and down from 50 days a year ago. Forty-three percent of homes sold in January were on the market for less than a month.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao and Chizu Nomiyama)