In times of economic hardship, most news tends to focus on the bad stuff: unemployment, consumer spending, consumer confidence, slow economic growth. This may be why a recent economic story in The New York Times caught my eye: “For Those With Jobs, a Recession With Benefits.”
The headline says it all – the silver lining. It seems obvious, but for those lucky enough to still be employed, these are great times to be a consumer.
Just look at interest rates for mortgages. If you’re employed and looking to buy a house, you’re part of a group of borrowers who will lock in rates so low even buyers from a few months ago would cry. 4.375% percent (APR 4.579%) on a 30-year fixed!! That is something to brag about. Even an $8,000 home buyer tax credit cannot beat the savings achieved on these borrowing costs.
Further tipping the scales in favor of today’s employed are wages. According to the NYT article, “The typical jobless person has been out of work six months. The typical worker has received a raise.” Since the start of the recession in December 2007, real average hourly pay has risen nearly 5 percent.
This is obviously bad news for those who have been out of work for some time. But again, the bright side: Rising wages are good news for housing. And while the market may not see a huge pop from this right away, higher wages at least provide confidence for those buyers who are in the market today, and those sellers who are hoping for a match.
Remember: Every home sale needs just one qualified buyer. Your pool of buyers starts to increase with every job that is secured.
A lifeboat for unemployed homeowners
But even amid bad times for the jobless, there was some good news out of Washington last week. The Obama Administration is prepping $3 billion in financial assistance to aid homeowners in the states most affected by unemployment.
The assistance program will send $2 billion in aid to state Housing Finance Agencies for programs for borrowers who are struggling to make payments due to job loss. Another $1 billion in aid will come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide up to 24 months of assistance to homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure.
So you see, it’s not all bad right now. Let’s hope it works!