The Housing Scene by Lew Sichelman

Odd Lots: Survival Rates, Single Women, Fake Employers

It may never be too early to become a homeowner. But for some, it may be better to wait until they mature a tad.

That’s one of the findings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ recent National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. It tracked lifetime homeownership rates and how long individuals sustained ownership, covering the years from 1979 (when most participants were between the ages of 17 and 21) to 2016.

In contrast to the homeownership rate, which measures ownership at a specific point in time, the lifetime rate measures whether someone has been a homeowner at any point in his or her life. And concurrently, it can show how long people survive as owners once they take the plunge.

As economists at the National Association of Home Builders read the results, survival rates gradually improved as the studied cohort grew into their 30s.

Of those who became owners in 1980 at around age 23, only 53% were owners after eight years. But of those who joined the ranks in 1992, in their mid-30s, 88% were still owners eight years later.

Another observation from the NAHB: Most likely the result of the Great Recession, survival rates fell steeply between 2004 and 2012. Those who bought just prior to the downturn were most likely to fall by the wayside, because they bought at the top of the market and had little time to build equity before prices crashed.

As they say, timing is everything.

Single women may earn just 79 cents, on average, for every dollar earned by men. But they own more homes than single men, according to an analysis from online mortgage marketplace LendingTree.

In total, unmarried women own more than 1.5 million more homes than unwed men in America’s 50 largest metro areas: about 5.1 million homes to men’s 3.5 million. There isn’t a single Top 50 metro where men out-own women.

Women also take out more equity-conversion mortgages than men, and almost as many as married couples, according to data shared by the Department of Housing and Urban Development at a recent industry gathering.

Nearly 40% of such mortgages insured by the government last year were to multiple borrowers (likely married couples). But 38% went to single women -- most likely recent widows who found themselves short on cash.

Fannie Mae, the big secondary mortgage market entity that purchases loans from other lenders, now has a catalog of 65 fake outfits listed as employers on loan applications -- businesses whose existences could not be confirmed.

There are all sorts of tipoffs. One is that the occupation listed by the borrower does not credibly coincide with the borrower’s age or experience. Another is that the applicant has only been on the job for a short time.

Other red flags: Prior employment is listed as “student,” the starting salary appears high, the employer’s stated location can’t be ascertained, the templates of submitted pay stubs are strikingly similar to those of other fake employers, and the pay stubs lack such typical withholding items as health and medical insurance.

In one case, the would-be borrower said he’d been a student prior to his current job. But he claimed three years of work experience, and had only been at the job three months. In other instance, the applicant’s pay stub didn’t match previous stubs from the same employer.

Remember, boys and girls: It is a federal crime to prevaricate on an application for a mortgage.

Home-sellers last year nailed a gain of $65,000, a 13-year high, according to ATTOM Data Solutions’ end-of-year report.

Notice we didn’t use the word “profit” or the term “pocketed.” Because people probably didn’t do either.

The gain, as measured by the data analytics company, is based on the selling price minus the purchase price. It’s highly likely these folks spent some money from their own resources to improve their properties -- and that’s a debit, not a credit, on every homeowner’s scorecard. So is whatever they may have had to lay out at closing on behalf of the buyer.

Sure, we can “deduct” the cost of a kitchen or bath remodel, as well as some other expenses. But it’s still money out-of-pocket that has to come off the bottom line before figuring your profit, or return on investment.

That said, sellers last year still did better than the previous group, when the gain on the typical sale was “only” $58,100. One reason: People had been in their houses a wee bit longer than in 2018. Indeed, tenure last year -- 8.21 years -- was the longest since 2000.

According to a recent report from the CBC Mortgage Agency, families provide financial assistance on about a third of all purchase transactions in which the financing is insured by Uncle Sam.

But because minorities often don’t have the inter-generational wealth to help their family members, down payment assistance has become an effective tool for them to achieve ownership, a status they might not otherwise be able to afford.

A CBC study found that more than half of borrowers receiving assistance in the form of grants, silent second mortgages and the like were racial or ethnic minorities, and more than a third were the first in their families to buy a house.