The housing markets in Arizona and California have undergone some very positive changes over the last couple of years. Here’s a roundup of some of the real estate and mortgage industry trends that are relevant to homeowners here in the great southwest this fall:

Equity levels for homeowners have risen steadily

According to a reports published by Case-Shiller and other bureaus, median home prices have risen over 6% per year for the last few years here in the southwest.

As a result of this trend, the majority of homeowners now have more equity in their homes than they did when they first purchased their properties. This is good news for those who are considering a mortgage refinance, because positive equity is typically one of the key requirements for refinancing.

Mortgage rates are still in the 4% range, on average

During the middle of September, the average rate for a 30-year mortgage loan sank to its lowest point of 2017. They have ticked upward a bit, but rates are still hovering in the 4% range.

This brings even more good news for homeowners who are thinking about purchasing or refinancing. Buyers can now secure a lower rate and save some money over the long term.

Rates are predicted to rise gradually over the coming months.

Buyers and owners should also know that the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) and Freddie Mac both expect mortgage rates to rise gradually through the end of 2017 and into 2018. The MBA recently updated its finance forecast for the U.S. economy, predicting that the average rate for a 30-year home loan would rise over .25% at the end of 2017.

If these forecasts prove to be accurate, it means that buying or refinancing now might be a good idea.

Higher debt-to-income ratios now allowed for some borrowers

As I’ve mentioned previously, Fannie Mae (one of the two government-sponsored enterprises that buy mortgage loans from lenders) announced it would allow higher debt-to-income limits for borrowers seeking a home loan.

Fannie Mae raised its debt-to-income ratio limit from o5% to 50%. This change will affect homeowners and home buyers alike, particularly those who have relatively high debt levels from student loans, credit cards, and other sources.

It looks like there will be a seller’s market for a while

The points listed previously are for those who are thinking of purchasing or refinancing their homes. Here’s a final point for those who are thinking about selling:

Due to strong demand and limited inventory, local housing markets across the southwest will likely continue to favor sellers over buyers.

This has been the case for the last couple of years, and it seems as though the trend will continue into 2018.

As with most real estate trends, this one is driven by supply and demand. Major cities across the southwest are experiencing very low inventory levels right now, below a two-month supply in some cases. (A “balanced” real estate market has five to six months of supply, according to experts.)

As a result, homeowners are generally able to sell quickly and for full market value — if not more.

Bottom line: A lot has changed in the real estate market, and there have been several key developments within the mortgage industry as well. Many of these trends bode well for homeowners, particularly those who are thinking about a refinance.