The Real Estate News Brief: New Conforming Loan Limits, Surge in Tappable Equity, Building Inspections with Drones


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In this Real Estate News Brief for the week ending December 11th, 2021... new FHFA conforming loans limits, tappable equity at a record high, and where drones may be used to inspect buildings.

Hi, I'm Kathy Fettke and this is Real Estate News for Investors. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a review.

Economic News

We begin with economic news from this past week, including a report that shows inflation has hit a 39-year-high. The government reported a .8% increase in consumer prices last month. That puts the yearly rate at 6.8% which is more than 3 times the Federal Reserve’s 2% target. Higher prices for gas, motor vehicles, housing, and food account for most of the increase. The Fed expects inflation to fall below the 3% level by the end of next year. Some economists expect it to take longer. (1)

The latest unemployment report shows that initial claims dropped to just 184,000. That’s the lowest level since 1969. The government adjusts the numbers for seasonal employment so they may be skewed somewhat, but as MarketWatch reports, they are extremely low and economists expect them to go even lower as the economy continues to strengthen. There’s also a worker shortage so many employers are hesitant to let people go. (2)

Even if they aren’t firing workers, there’s been a surge in the number of people leaving or switching jobs. As MarketWatch reports, almost 39 million people have quit their jobs this year. That includes a record 4.4 million in September. Economists expect the year to end with a record-high quits rate. Some are calling this trend “The Great Resignation.” (3)

Consumer sentiment turned positive in December, although many Americans are still worried about inflation. The University of Michigan index rose to 70.4. That’s up three points from the November reading, but down about 10 points from a year ago. (4)

Mortgage Rates

Mortgage rates are still close to the 3% level. Freddie Mac says the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was down one basis point to 3.1% last week. The 15-year was also down one point, to 2.38%. (5)

In other news making headlines…

Conforming Loan Limits Move Higher

The Federal Housing Finance Agency released final figures on conforming loan limits for 2022. For most of the nation, the maximum amount will be $647,200.

The maximum moves above the baseline amount for more expensive areas like the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York City, and others. The highest amount rises to almost a million dollars in those pricier locations, to $970,800. That’s 150% above the baseline amount. (6)

New Record High for Housing Prices

Home prices are a moving target and continue to move higher although price growth has slowed down a bit. Redfin says the median home sale price rose to a new high during the four-week period that ended on December 5th. It says the median price is now $360,250. That’s 14% higher than it was a year earlier, and 30% higher from December of 2019. (7)

The average sale-to-list price ratio was 100.5%. That means the average home sold at .5% over it’s listing price. That’s only the average. In 43% of the transactions, homes sold for more than the listing price. In 31% of the sales, sellers accepted an offer within one week of the homes hitting the market.

Tappable Equity Surges

Skyrocketing prices are giving property owners a lot of equity. Black Knight says total U.S. home equity was up $250 billion in the third quarter to a total of $9.4 trillion. That’s 32% higher than the same time last year. AND it’s almost 90% higher than it was right before the housing market collapsed into the Great Recession. (8)

Black Knight’s data and analytics president Ben Graboske says: “That works out to nearly $178,000 available in tappable equity to the average homeowner with a mortgage before hitting a maximum combined loan-to-value ratio of 80%.”

Average mortgage debt is now down to 45.2% thanks to higher prices. That’s giving consumers and investors more tappable equity that can be used for other purposes such as home improvements or the purchase of investment properties.

Building Inspections with Drones?

Drones could be the next great tool for New York building inspectors. They usually perform their inspections using binoculars and cameras from the street, and sometimes from the roofs of other buildings. Construction Dive reports that the city may soon authorize the use of drones for those inspections. (9)

Officials say they could “yield more detailed results and greater safety, as well as greater efficiency and documentation.”

That’s it for today. Check the show notes for links. And please remember to hit the subscribe button, and leave a review!

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Thanks for listening. I'm Kathy Fettke.


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