The American Dream has become the American Pipe Dream for many wannabe homeowners. Here’s why.

One year ago, if the buyer of a $200,000 house borrowed 80 percent of that amount at 3.9 percent, the monthly payment for principal and interest would have been $755. Today, that same house would cost $218,600, a jump of 9.3 percent. And an 80 percent loan would have an interest rate of 4.6 percent, for a payment of $897 a month – a 19 percent increase.

“That’s the crux of the affordability crisis today,” says Frank Nothaft, chief economist at housing data firm CoreLogic, who provided the above example. “That’s the exact same house. Nothing’s changed but the price and interest rate.”

And Nothaft believes it’s going to get worse before it gets better. He sees loan rates rising to 5.1 percent by the end of the year – “their highest level in a decade” – and house prices going up 6 percent year-over-year.


Some 67,000 jobs were created in the energy-efficiency field last year. That’s nearly half of the energy jobs created in 2017, according to the latest federal figures.

It brings the total workforce in the energy-efficiency sector to about 2.25 million, according to the Department of Energy’s Energy and Employment Report – more than a third of the 6.5 million people employed in the entire energy sector.

The report also said that there are more total jobs in efficiency than the 1.9 million employed in the entire electric power generation and fuel sectors, combined. That includes all jobs relating to extraction, production and power generation relating to coal, oil, gas, renewables, nuclear and advanced/low-emission natural gas fuels.

One reason for the increase is the huge 75 percent jump in the construction of “net-zero” homes between 2016 and 2017, according to a new report from research and marketing firm Parks Associates. Net-zero houses use the same amount of energy that they produce – or even less. Often, these places return power to the grid instead of taking it.

So far, nearly half of all net-zero houses have been built in California, which has set a goal of achieving statewide net-zero energy by 2020, just 18 short months from now. Other states have adopted similar top-down approaches to incentivize net-zero adoption, but low energy costs are a barrier to generating demand, said the Parks report.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking to buy an existing house that’s energy efficient, you could be on your own in finding one. While interest in energy savings is strong among resale buyers, only 40 percent of agents responding to a survey by the National Association of Realtors say their local multiple listing services have so-called “green” data fields.

Fifteen percent reported that their MLSs don’t carry such information, and a shocking 46 percent had no clue whether that information is published or not. At the same time, though, 40 percent said that listings certified as green spent neither more nor less time on the market.


Here are a few tidbits from the recent National Association of Real Estate Editors conference in Las Vegas.

  • Forty percent of all house-hunters have been shopping for seven months or longer, all to no avail. “The market is so tight and there are so many multiple-bids,” said Rick Sharga of Carrington Mortgage Holdings in Irvine, California, “that [buyers] settle for what’s available.”
  • According to Brian Simmons of Ask a Lender, a site that connects borrowers with mortgage professionals in their area, some buyers are such introverts that they “dream, shop, apply and close online without ever speaking with a live person.”
  • In an era where technology is changing the way the real estate market works, David Mele of said people “would be surprised how many agents aren’t very technology-savvy.”
  • There are more solutions to solving the down-payment issue than most realize, according to Rob Chrane of Down Payment Resource, an outfit that tracks some 2,500 assistance programs and helps buyers find them. “If it’s not free money,” he said of what’s available, “it’s the free use of money.”

A buyer who qualifies for assistance can typically receive $10,000 worth of help. But because one form of aid can often be layered atop another, Chrane said the amount could be substantially higher. In one case he knows of, a borrower qualified for six types of financial help.


Lew Sichelman has been covering real estate for more than 50 years. He is a regular contributor to numerous shelter magazines and housing and housing-finance industry publications. Readers can contact him at