Is this the end of record-low mortgage rates?

Plus, meet the “smart cooler” that babysits your Walmart deliveries

Jan 14, 2021 | Current events | Spending Habits
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When “a new low” is actually good news

If you’re dream-scrolling Zillow right now, recent mortgage news will make that “2 BR/1.5 BA plus bonus room” feel almost within reach. Sixteen times in 2020, mortgage interest rates hit historic lows, continuing into 2021. Last week, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate dropped to 2.65% compared to 3.64% a year ago — saving eligible homeowners an average of $316 monthly.

As of this week, though, rates are finally inching back up as homebuying FOMO reaches a fever pitch. Thanks to healthy demand and what sellers view as greater buying power fueled by low rates, home prices are also on the rise — up 14% last month YOY, bringing the national median price to $320,714. Yep, it’s a seller’s market. So the age-old advice stands: “The best time to buy is when you’re ready.”

In the epic battle between millennials and boomers…

Gen Xers are largely absent — probably because they’re busy buying houses. The median age of homebuyers in 2020 was 47 years old, the same as it was the year before. Way back in 1981? It was a fresh-faced 31 years old.

How real estate agents worsened the wealth gap

Axios has published a five-part series about systemic racism in the housing market, taking a deep dive into decades of collusion between federal and state governments and real estate agents through redlining and racial covenants. The National Association of Realtors released a public apology last November owning up to the role it played.

These policies and practices created a persistent wealth gap that’s more like a chasm between BIPOC and white Americans: today, 42% of Black Americans own a home, with an average of $67,000 of equity, compared to 72% of whites, with an average of $130,000 of equity. Due to these generational barriers to home ownership, people of color are much more likely to be renters...and pay higher rent for similar housing.

Next up, Walmart and chill?

The nation’s largest grocery retailer is test-driving a new way to babysit your home-delivery perishables. Walmart is launching a pilot program this spring (in its HQ town of Bentonville, Arkansas) that will let couriers drop off grocery deliveries in temp-controlled “smart coolers.” These HomeValet boxes can be installed on porches, doorsteps, or anywhere outside near a power outlet. Thanks to its internet access, the box will unlock when the driver approaches. Pretty cool feature — for when we start leaving the house again in 2021.