Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Title Source Hosts Detroit Technology Conference “Data in the D”

Considering that Title Source is the largest independent provider of title insurance, property valuations and settlement services in the nation, it may come as a surprise to hear the company’s CEO, Jeff Eisenshtadt, state that title insurance is not the business they’re in.

“That might be the industry we’re in,” Eisenshtadt said. “But that’s not the business we’re in. We’re in the business of data, documents and dollars.”
The statement was made during Eisenshtadt’s opening address to attendees at Data in the D – a Detroit technology conference hosted by Title Source on September 18th. The event attracted over 130 registrants to the One Woodward Building in downtown Detroit, Michigan, where it was held. The guests were primarily college students, professors and IT professionals from a wide range of universities and businesses, all sharing a common interest in technology.

The conference’s central theme was big data – a term used in the IT world to describe the increasingly large and complex data sets that are being gathered and analyzed. Speakers delivered presentations on the importance of data analytics, growing trends associated with big data and predictions of what’s to come for the future.

Present among the event’s guests were numerous team members from within the Quicken Loans Family of Companies, including Title Source. Bryan Wang, leader of the Title Source Data Science team, spoke on the subject of his team’s work with data analytics and their role within the business.

“The conference was a great learning opportunity for our team members,” said Wang. “It fostered new ideas from highly trained experts, and inspired us to think differently and solve business problems in new ways.”
A large turnout, coupled with the positive feedback gathered from attendees after the conference, have opened the possibility for Title Source to turn Data in the D into an annual event.

“I look forward to the growing relationship between Title Source and academics,” said Wang. “Our connections to the academic community will provide the Data Science team with opportunities to continue leveraging the power of the latest big data analytics and improving business performance”

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Everything You Need to Know About the Fed Rate Hike

Last week's September meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) came and went without a previously forecast interest rate increase. For months, experts had anticipated the Federal Reserve's main monetary policy-making body would raise the federal funds rate at some point this year, with many betting on a September increase. But with only two more meetings for the FOMC scheduled this year, will we still see an increase in 2015?

What's Today's Rate Situation?

Today's federal funds rate — the short-term interest rate at which banks lend to each other — remains unchanged at a target of zero to 0.25 percent, following the FOMC meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyo., last week. Likewise, the effective federal funds rate — a weighted average of rates on brokered trades — has remained steady at 0.14 percent for some time.
In fact, rates have been at historic lows for years. Today's interest rate policy was first set in December of 2008, with the intent of stimulating the economy out of recession. By and large, that goal has been accomplished. At 5.1 percent, the unemployment rate is at a seven-year low. Household wealth climbed to record levels earlier this year and, despite a setback in August, the financial markets also set record highs.

Why Is an Increase Anticipated Now?

With household wealth and the stock market rising and unemployment falling, a quarter-point target rate increase remains a strong possibility, as it has for some time. In March, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen made headlines for the optimistic tone of that month's policy statement. The subtleties of the Fed's word choice were enough to warrant a clarification from Yellen that a rate hike wasn't imminent.
Yet it was this report that prompted markets to contemplate a post-recession monetary policy. Once the idea of a rate hike was on the table, Fed officials tied an increase to further economic improvements
By April, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta president Dennis Lockhart, a voting member of the FOMC, told reporters he believed the U.S. economy could pick up enough steam to warrant a June rate hike. However, as employment realities lagged behind expectations, June also came and went without an increase. So forecasters set their sights on a potential September increase.

So Why Didn't the Fed Take Action?

The summer of 2015 was marked by some positive economic developments. Besides growth for jobs and domestic financial markets, the housing sector is on track for its best annual home sales numbers in years.
However, a volatile week for the stock market at the end of August drew attention to international economic developments. In June, Fed officials had shrugged off the impact a Greek financial crisis would have for the U.S., yet as China's economy, the world's second largest, devalued its currency and reported a downturn in the third quarter, members of the Fed took notice.
A Market Watch report published just before the FOMC meeting revealed how some members were already backing away from a rate hike vote. Vice Chair Stanley Fischer, New York Fed president William Dudley, and San Francisco Fed president John Williams all voiced reservations. When the vote did come down, the Washington Post noted Richmond Fed president Jeffrey Lacker was the sole dissenting vote. Lacker had previously laid out his case for action without delay.
Still, Yellen didn't rule out an increase. Speaking to reporters after the vote, she said, "In light of the developments that we have seen and the impacts on financial markets, we want to take a little bit more time to evaluate the likely impacts on the United States."

What Are the Prospects of a 2015 Increase Now?

So if a rate hike is still possible, the next questions are how likely it is now, when it is likely to occur, and what it will take to get there. Williams, the San Francisco Fed president, was the first policy maker to offer public comments on the vote, calling it a "close call." He said China wasn't yet a "dire" situation and still believed an increase could come this year with a further improvement in the jobs sector.
Economic experts noted the mixed messaging, with Wells Fargo economist John Silvia telling Reuters the Fed's current stance made it seem like the "Tower of Babel." For her part, Yellen remarked that the scrutiny of each Fed official's public commentary was "an unfortunate state of affairs."

What Do Experts Say?

For top investors, the inaction has been frustrating. Troy Dixon, chief investment officer of the hedge fund Hollis Park Partners, told the Wall Street Journal that it would be difficult for Yellen to find the "demonstrative evidence" of economic progress before year's end that the Fed has said it wants to see before acting.
Hank Smith, chief investment officer with the Haverford Trust, Co., told the Journal the Fed has to "start the process at some point." He had hoped for a quarter-point increase. Smith was not very confident the Fed would act next year either, given that global concerns were cited. "Those global concerns aren't going away," he said.
Jack Bogle, founder of the Vanguard Group, told the Journal, "Life will go on. My reaction is: 'bra-vo.' They did the right thing." Bogle cited the economy's flat wage growth, saying it was "really depressing" and called for more "certainty" for the growth rate and jobs.

What Does a Rate Hike Mean for Real Estate and Mortgage Industries?

For the housing sector, it's worth remembering that the federal funds rate doesn't directly affect your mortgage rate or your home price. Mortgage rates are most closely related to the 10-year Treasury yield. Meanwhile, the federal funds rate has an impact on the bond market, which in turn affects Treasury yields.
If the Fed determines it is time to act, it can set a new target rate and buy up bonds, sending the bond prices down and yields — and mortgage rates — higher. Rising mortgage rates could subsequently affect loan approval rates, home sales and home prices.

How High Will Mortgage Rates Go?

The Washington Post noted Fed documents show a long-run median estimate federal funds rate of 3.5 percent — which would be achieved through a number of small increases over several years. While 3.5 is certainly more than zero, this is still a half-point below the historic average of four percent, and a fraction of the all-time high of 20 percent reached during the early 1980s.
For mortgage rates, such policy steps are likely to raise borrowers' interest rates incrementally over the next several years. In May, top economists from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) discussed how such increases might play out. Though the timetable is now likely off, due to no September rate hike, the MBA had forecast a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage rate of 5.3 percent by the end of 2016, which is notably above this year's rates that hovered around four percent.
For now, the federal funds rate — and for the most part, mortgage rates — remain unchanged after last week's FOMC meeting. A federal funds target rate increase could be decided at one of the group's two remaining 2015 meetings, in October or December, or the Fed could decide to wait longer. Only time, and the economy, can tell.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Why is Title Insurance Necessary During a Refinance?

If you're considering refinancing your home loan to take advantage of a lower rate or more favorable terms, it helps to know about the upfront costs. If you decide to refinance your home, even through the same lender that originated your current loan, you'll likely be expected to pay closing costs such as service fees, points, and title insurance fees.

What Is Title Insurance, Again?

Just what is title insurance? This can be a hard question to answer, even for people who've bought and sold several homes (and bought several title insurance policies along the way). This is partially because buying a home is a complex process. After a while, details of the purchase and its associated fees can start to blur together. Another reason is because title insurance differs from many other types of insurance.

When you purchase car insurance or health insurance, you're protecting yourself from a possible future negative event, like an accident or health problem. Car insurance requires the continuous payment of a premium to maintain coverage on the car, just as health insurance requires ongoing payment of a premium to protect against health issues. 

Title insurance works differently. When purchasing title insurance, you'll pay a one-time fee at closing for your title insurance policy. Compared to most other types of insurance, like auto and health, a title insurance policy comes at a significantly lower cost. That policy protects your investment, not from some future possible calamity, but from undiscovered past events which may otherwise jeopardize your ownership of the property. 

The title of your property is your proof of proper, legal ownership. With your home likely being one of the largest purchases you'll make in your lifetime, you certainly want to make sure you own the property you've paid for. 

This is where title insurance comes in. The two types of policies, the lender's policy and the owner's policy, provide protection to mortgage lenders and property owners, respectively, against unexpected problems affecting the title and ownership of the property.

Why Is It Necessary During a Refinance?

Title insurance protects a property investment at different points in the life of a property — when it's a new construction, when there is a property resale, and during refinance transactions. Each time a property changes hands, a new owner's policy can be purchased to protect the new owner's investment, but for transactions where a lender is involved, a title insurance lender's policy will always be required.

It's that last detail that explains why you'll need a new lender's policy with your home refinance. Rest assured, your lender isn't trying to pull one over on you. Even though it could be the same lender, the same property, and the same borrower (you) involved in the refinance as in the original loan, you must have title insurance to protect the lender's investment.

Whether it was six months or six years ago, a lot could have happened since you bought your home. New liens or legal judgements could have been placed on the property title and other title defects could have come to light. Your mortgage lender is able to protect its investment — and issue you a refinance loan — with much less risk, thanks to title insurance.

If you weren’t anticipating buying a new title insurance policy during refinancing, you’re not alone. Many homeowners are surprised by this requirement. That may have to do with common misunderstandings about what a home refinance is and isn't. A refinance loan isn't simply a revision to your initial loan agreement of either for a lower rate or different mortgage payment.

When you refinance your home, the original loan is paid off and a new refinance loan is originated. When the original loan is paid off, the original title insurance lender's policy goes with it. Without a new policy, the lender processing a refinance could be exposed to significant risk.

What About My Owner's Policy?

Here's the good news: If you purchased a title insurance owner's policy when you bought your home, that policy will remain in effect before, during, and after your refinance. These types of title insurance policies stay in force for as long as you or your heirs own the property. Unlike a lender's policy, your own title owner's policy doesn't just cover the value of your loan, it covers your whole investment in the property. So in case a title search doesn't turn up deed errors or omissions, examining records mistakes, forgeries, the existence of undisclosed heirs, or other problems, your owner's policy will still protect your property investment against these and other issues for as long as you own it.


While you may not have anticipated the added cost of a title insurance lender's policy when you decided to refinance, the purchase is a necessary requirement in order to complete your refinance. Refinance loans are new loans that require a new title insurance policy to protect the lender. Considering the significant amount of risk that would be assumed without a title insurance policy, the actual cost is significantly lower than you might expect. You may not have a choice about whether to purchase a new lender's policy, but you certainly can and should ask your lender about your options. You may even be able to save money depending on the refinance lender and title insurer you choose.

To get an even better understanding about the difference between a lender’s policy versus an owner’s policy of title insurance, click here.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Your Lifelong Journey Through Homeownership: A Natural Progression of Homebuying Over a Lifetime

For many, buying their first home feels like reaching the top of a mountain. To achieve homeownership in today's market requires financial savvy and the patience to see the homebuying process through to the end. Yet that initial homeownership isn't so much the end of a journey — in many ways it's just the beginning of a lifelong adventure.

The starter home you choose at 30 may not fit your needs at 45, or 65. As your family grows or your needs change, you may upgrade, buy a second home or downsize for retirement. For today's homebuyer, one size doesn't fit all.
So, what type of home is right for you, and when? In this post, we map out what your lifelong journey through homeownership might look like in today's marketplace.

The Starter Home

Starter homes aren't what they used to be. The average buyer is no longer a single-income, mid-twenties newlywed couple. A more accurate picture of the first-time buyer is older — 31 years old on average — and more financially secure — typically multiple income households with an average income of $64,400, according to the National Association of Realtors. While married couples still make up a majority of first-time homebuyers, a good portion — 46 percent — are singles or unmarried couples.

The reasons Americans are jumping into real estate with a first home are likewise evolving. For some, a starter home still represents a rite of passage and buying a piece of the American Dream. Others are thinking more about practical considerations. It's a divide confirmed by recent data.
The 18 to 34-year-old millennial demographic represents about a third of the homebuying market. These are the buyers chasing that American dream. A National Association of Realtors study found 68 percent of millennial buyers were first-time homebuyers, and many cited the desire to become homeowners as their primary reason for buying. For older first-time buyers, making the switch from renter to homeowner often had to do with a new job or a growing family.

A recent U.S. News & World Report article points out that buyers are likely to be in a starter home for five or more years, meaning those buyers should choose a home that won't be outgrown too quickly. PulteGroup, a national single-family home builder, told U.S. News & World Report their first-time buyers often want at least three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
If you're at the point in your life when it is time to consider a starter home, know that you may not be able to get every feature you want — though you should aim for a home that does meet your most important needs. Home builders aren't building as many entry-level homes these days, and housing stock is tight in some areas, so a first home may come with a higher price tag. According to Zillow, the current median sale price for homes in the U.S. is about $223,000.

The Trade-Up

By the time first-time buyers are ready to trade up for their next home, family and financial circumstances have often changed. Kids, pets, and in-laws may now be in the picture. The buyer looking to trade up likely has new, emerging priorities that will influence their next buying decision.

As Realtor.com notes, size, practicality, and location are key factors for buyers in this stage of life. They may want an additional bedroom or two, but shouldn't neglect other family-friendly spaces, such as playrooms or dens. Realtor.com points out that a growing family may need practical features, like a larger laundry room, more storage space, and outdoor areas for the kids. Lastly, school districts are likely to be a high priority, if not top priority, for this type of buyer. With such perks, a trade-up home of this nature is going to cost homebuyers a good bit more than their starter. Still, the trade-off is worth it for many

The Second Home

For some high-income or high-wealth homeowners, a second home may be the next stage in the homeownership journey. These buyers have met the basic needs of their family with a primary residence — now it's time to consider a vacation property for personal recreational use or an investment property that will serve as a longer-term investment.

By necessity, buyers of second homes are usually older and more financially secure than the average consumer. One survey puts the median age of second-home buyers at 42, and homeowners from age 40 to 60 are considered the primary customers in the second-home marketplace. The income for these buyers continues to rise, too — in the case of vacation-home buyers, the median was $94,000 in 2014 – an increase of $9,000 from the previous year. More than half of vacation-home buyers purchase their second home to use as a family retreat, according to a recent National Association of Realtors survey.

More than a third of investment-home buyers in 2014 planned to use their second home for rental income, according to the same survey. The South, with 37 percent of investment sales, was a popular place to buy, although it's likely these buyers were local. Investment home prices had a mean of $125,000 in 2014, and investment-home buyers were found to stick close to their primary residence, in contrast to the 200-mile distance of the median vacation-home buyer.

With price points that are well below the national average, the typical second home is likely to be smaller than a primary residence, and a prime location and turn-key condition are typically second-home buyers’ biggest concerns. Still, buyers typically don't expect to hold onto a second home much longer than a starter home. Survey respondents estimated six years for vacation homes and five for investment properties. 

The Retirement Home

At some point, keeping up with a larger home — or perhaps multiple properties — may lose its appeal. When that time comes, some homeowners may consider buying a home better suited for their retirement needs. Some buyers may downsize in their 50s, after the kids leave home, while others may wait until retirement. Still, others are part of a growing trend to upsize in their retirement years.

Buying a home at this stage of life comes with a unique set of challenges, as well as some exciting possibilities. Unlike a starter home, second home, or even trade-up home, a home you purchase in retirement will likely last much longer than five to 10 years. It may also be your final home purchase, meaning it's important to plan ahead.

Mobility may eventually be an issue for aging homeowners, making single-level homes with doorways and halls wide enough to accommodate a walker or wheelchair a high priority for retirees, according to U.S. News & World Report. And while some retirees and empty-nesters will want to downsize considerably, it's important to consider lifestyle.

Homebuyers who entertain frequently may want a home with space for parties or guests. Buyers may need an extra bedroom for visiting grandchildren, a boomerang kid, or their own aging parent. Indeed, multigenerational households have been on the rise. Nearly a quarter of millennials as well as a quarter of those over 85 live in multigenerational households, according to research by the Pew Research Center.

Location is also a key decision for a retirement home purchase. A recent Bankrate survey found three out of five respondents want to move to a new city or state in their retirement. The primary concern isn't always moving to closer to the children or grandkids, either. Some want a nicer home, while others expect to have more family living under their roof. Moving to a less expensive area can open up such possibilities without breaking the bank. AARP's recent list of top retirement destinations boasts housing markets across the country where prices hover just above $100,000 — well below the national home price average. 


Whether you're shopping for your first home or your fifth, each will be a new experience. Our housing needs are continuously evolving, just like our lives. While this may mean there's always something new to consider when it's time to purchase a new home, it certainly does keep things exciting. Much like life itself, homeownership is about the journey – not the destination.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Looking Up: Trends in the Commercial Real Estate Market

While the residential real estate market is just starting to find its stride, commercial real estate has been red hot in several areas across the country for the last several years. Despite its brisk pace, the market isn't showing signs of losing steam.

Things Are Big in Texas

Last year, Texas dominated the U.S. commercial real estate sector and signs point to the trend continuing. The Dallas Morning News said a North Texas boom across multiple commercial property sectors was responsible for putting the state in the top spot according to a report by NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association.
The state's direct commercial real estate expenditures totaled almost $42 billion in 2014. California, last year's second-best commercial market, didn't come close, racking up a mere $13 billion in commercial expenditures.

Texas also boasts a large workforce tied to the current boom. An estimated 776,000 Texas jobs were derived in whole or in part from commercial real estate in 2014. Nationwide, the NAIOP estimates that the industry supports about four million jobs.
The Lone Star market doesn't show signs of a slowdown in the near future. "It might be 2018 before we see another downturn," Walter Bialas, a research director with Dallas commercial real estate firm JLL, told the Dallas Morning News. "We are at a really good place in the market in North Texas." 

New York City on Track to Set Sales Record

Meanwhile, New York City is on pace to set a new commercial real estate sales record for 2015. New York Daily News says sales volume of land and existing buildings in the city is expected to top $75 billion this year, according to a report from the commercial brokerage Cushman & Wakefield. The previous record of $62.2 billion was set in 2007. 
Demand for properties in Brooklyn has been particularly high this year. The borough is on track for $9 billion worth of closed deals in 2015, up more than 30 percent over last year. Cushman & Wakefield's Bob Knakal told the paper that $4.3 million was the average price for a building in the second quarter, a price jump of 40 percent over the last year.
Manhattan's more saturated commercial market wasn't too far behind, with $8.53 billion in commercial deals expected this year. Prices have shot up as well – for 2015, the average has reached $665 per buildable square foot, compared to last year's average of $587 and a price of $446 per buildable square foot in 2013.

Fed Chair Eying Price Increases Closely

Such leapfrogging price increases haven't gone unnoticed. The latest pricing boom has caught the eye of Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who is watching matters closely.
Earlier this month, Yellen's semiannual report to Congress made note of the market's rapid commercial real estate price increases, reports the Dow Jones Business News. "Valuation pressures in commercial real estate are rising as commercial property prices continue to increase rapidly, and underwriting standards at banks and in commercial mortgage-backed securities have been loosening." Though the commercial market was identified as an area of concern, the wider U.S. economy is experiencing a moderation of risks to financial stability.

Wider Commercial Trends

For the wider commercial real estate market, the biggest moves are likely to take place in the rental, office, and retail sectors. Reis, the commercial real estate research organization, notes the national vacancy rate of 4.2 isn't expected to drop much by year's end. A still "insanely tight" vacancy rate of 4.8 is predicted by 2016, despite a "flurry of new buildings" expected to open to tenants in the second and third quarters.
The company's latest report also touches on millennial trends. Noting that while they haven't yet gotten on board with homeownership the same way previous generations did, reports do indicate rental vacancies in central business districts are lower than those in the suburbs. Reis suggests that as millennials begin to start families, they may still move to the suburbs just as their predecessors did. 
Office and retail sectors are also trending up, though at a slower average pace. Reis reports that office vacancies were down to 16.6 percent in the first quarter of 2015 while asking and effective rents were up by 0.9 percent and one percent, respectively. If economic growth hits predicted levels, the vacancy rate could dip even lower.
In the retail sector, vacancies were down to 10.1 percent, while asking and effective rates were up by 0.5 percent. New construction and big changes in the vacancy rate aren't expected in this sector, owing to the retail dominance of e-commerce. The trend looks set to continue.

Commercial Title Insurance Remains a Good Investment

With such a bustling commercial market, commercial title insurance continues to be a good investment for developers and buyers. Some issues affecting the sector can resemble those of the residential market, such as tax record errors or survey errors. However, there are also commercial title issues that are less commonly seen in the residential sector, such as:
     Expired powers of attorney

     Misinterpretation of wills or documents

     Deeds by unauthorized parties

With the volume of deals from the current commercial boom, developers and buyers may find themselves running into such issues more frequently. Title insurance remains a buyer’s best bet in minimizing or avoiding these risks altogether.

Click here to discover how Title Source National Commercial is the prime choice for title, escrow, appraisal and survey management needs.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Title Source takes on Trading Post Trail in Moon, PA

They say on a one year anniversary you should give the gift of paper. After a year of enthusiastic volunteering in Moon Township, PA, Title Source team members from the Coraopolis, PA office presented the Moon Township Board with a nice “piece of paper” – a check in the amount of $3,000.

The money was given as part of a sponsorship of the Olson Park Trading Post Trail. Since April, team members have been dedicating their time and toned muscles to the  Parks and Recreation Department of Moon Township through volunteer work at local parks. Raking, cleaning up debris and beautifying the land are just some of the many ways that they’ve been making a positive impact.

The money will be used to fund a nature camera and to keep up with trail improvements to provide the community with a cleaner, safer park area. The check was delivered by team leader Tricia Somerville and Vice President of Title Services Dan Studeny. Somerville had the following to say about making the donation:

“It was an honor to represent Pennsylvania team members as well as Title Source. We’ve put in many hours to create a beautiful, safe and litter-free environment. I am so proud to be a part of these community involvement efforts!”

To learn more about the Moon Parks and Recreation Department, click here.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Jobs, Affordability and Interest Rate Hikes: A Look at the 2015 Housing Market's Top Issues So Far

We're halfway through 2015 and the summer homebuying season is in full swing, which makes now a good time to reflect. The housing market has shown clear signs of improving, but affordability and inventory continue to be issues for some buyers. The latest jobs outlook was mixed; not all good, not all bad. Meanwhile, experts continue to debate how these factors and others will affect the prospect of a Fed interest rate hike. As we look ahead to the rest of the year, these are the stories that are likely to come up again and again, so it's worth taking a deeper look at where we are now.

Housing Market Shows Signs of Improving

In a report last month, Realtor.com wrote that the U.S. residential real estate market is on track for its best year since 2006. The article points to the creation of more than three million jobs over the last 12 months as evidence that the economy is seeing real improvement. Moreover, more than one-third of those jobs have reportedly gone to 25- to 34-year-olds, a demographic group that in America often corresponds with first-time buyers.

The Debt Challenge

However, high student loan debts are a new factor affecting those younger first-time buyers in a way traditional first-time buyers didn't have to deal with. The Wall Street Journal recently wrote that a new survey revealed that many Americans remain "financially and psychologically scarred" about their prospects for affording a home.
 The Affordability Challenge
The same article reported affordability to be a serious problem for 60 percent of the survey respondents. Half were reported to have made at least one sacrifice in the last three years, such as taking a second job, putting off saving for retirement, or racking up credit card debt in order to afford rent or mortgage payments.

The Inventory Challenge

One reason affordability remains a challenge for some homebuyers is the current lack of entry-level inventory. In a recent panel discussion, two real estate economists claimed many builders weren't building the type of homes buyers want.
Forbes reported that groundbreakings for May were on track for an annual rate of 1.036 million, yet a figure of 1.5 million groundbreakings this year is reportedly what is necessary to bring supply in line with demand.

Job Growth Is Helping the Housing Market

Speaking of supply and demand, one reason demand for new homes is up is thanks to improvements in the job market. The government's June jobs report was just released with a note of disappointment — a revised hiring estimate was brought down by 60,000 jobs, the labor force shrank as some job seekers left the market and wage stagnation continues to be an issue. However, FiveThirtyEight points out that the country has added jobs for 57 consecutive months, and while no jobs report has been perfect, it's been three years since the country has had a truly bad month for job growth.
Moreover, the outlook for future jobs growth continues to be viewed positively by experts. Doug Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae, told Forbes “The pickup in jobs is resulting in some increase in real incomes, so the demand side [for housing] is strengthening faster than the supply side.” Duncan said the country is on track to add two million new jobs this year.
Interest Rates Still Expected to Rise
An improving housing market paired with healthy job growth undoubtedly leads to one question: How soon will the Fed raise interest rates, and by how much? Much of the housing news coverage over the last few months has focused on this question. Despite a lot of coverage and predictions, the answer to that question remains elusive.
In the first quarter, Janet Yellen first raised the prospect of a rate increase sometime this year. Some of Yellen's Federal Reserve colleagues then weighed in with their opinions of how and when such increases should take place. Nearly all predictions were tied to strong job growth, which didn't materialize quite as expected.
The Employment Factor
June's mixed jobs report only added to earlier 2015 data suggesting that while employment was headed in the right direction, progress wasn't as sure-footed as projected. While an earlier prediction had the Fed raising rates in June, that didn't materialize due to less than stellar job reports. September was the revised prediction. Despite the June jobs report, Fed officials still predict a September rate increase.

International Economic Factors

Beyond U.S. employment concerns, wider macroeconomic factors are also in play. A declining dollar in April was part of the reason the Fed decided to put off a rate increase in June. However, experts at the time expected the dollar to still increase over time.
In Europe, a considerable amount of financial attention is going to the situation in Greece, where a default on an IMF payment at the end of June was followed by a historic "no"-vote referendum rejecting Greek creditors' austerity plan. However, Bloomberg reported ensuing declines were "muted."
"After five years, you have to believe a measure of the news from Greece is already built into the market,” said one investment strategist. “How many times can you be concerned about the same news? I think it loses its effectiveness over the near term.”


None of these stories for the first half of 2015 are finished. They're all still being written. We don't have clear answers on how much job growth we can expect and whether it will help home-buying affordability, and it looks as though interest rate hikes may be coming and the Greek crisis may yet add some further uncertainty to the plan.