Why Some Housing Markets Seem To Be Cooling Down While Others Heat Up

Burned by a hot housing market, some frustrated home buyers may have hoped that sky-high listing prices are finally coming down to earth. Well, they are – sort of. It just depends on where you live.

To better understand the housing affordability situation, Fortune magazine reached out to Moody’s Analytics to get access to its latest proprietary housing analysis. Researchers at the financial intelligence firm calculated how home prices are likely to shift in 414 regional housing markets between the fourth quarter of 2022 and the fourth quarter of 2024.

Among the nation’s 414 largest housing markets, the Moody’s Analytics forecast model predicts that 210 markets are on the verge of seeing home prices decline over the coming two years and 204 markets are poised to see home prices rise over the coming two years.

The prospect of a big drop in house prices is becoming more and more likely as home sellers give in to the mounting pressure on affordability posed by June’s rapid mortgage rate hike.

Nationwide, home prices increased 18.3% year over year in June 2022, compared with June 2021, marking the 125th consecutive month of year-over-year increases, according to CoreLogic, a data analytics provider. Though annual appreciation was still strong, it slowed from the previous month for the second consecutive month, reflecting reduced buyer demand in part due to higher mortgage rates and worries about a slowing economy.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, points out that the housing markets that have experienced price gains may find themselves at a pivotal moment.

“What I can say is that those markets that boomed were driven by strong local job creations and from new residents moving into those regions, including as retirees,” he said. “So, for places like Phoenix, Tampa and Boise, you may or may not see any meaningful price decline. They could also be primed for even more price gains.”

Yun added, “I cannot say, given such an extraordinary price growth in a short duration. But even if there were to be a price decline in these markets, it would not do any local economic damage given the strong housing wealth conditions of many local homeowners who had purchased many years ago. Even some renters may want to jump back into buying if there was a price decline.”

He said he would be more concerned about housing markets being able to weather the storm where job growth is not occurring and where they are losing remote workers to other locations.

“For white-collar workers earning high salaries, remote work is a huge financial boon,” said Redfin senior economist Sheharyar Bokhari. “It enables them to move from a tech center like San Francisco to a more affordable part of the country like Boise or Salt Lake City, get more home for their money and save some for a rainy day. It can have the opposite effect on locals in those destinations–especially renters–who are watching from the sidelines as home prices skyrocket while their income stays mostly the same.”

“Partly because of soaring home prices, Phoenix and Miami have some of the highest inflation rates in the country,” added Bokhari. “That will eventually diminish the financial advantage of moving to these places for out-of-towners. High inflation also cuts into budgets for locals, who are spending more on things like food and fuel and saving less for an eventual down payment.”

Home prices shot up over twice as fast as home buyer incomes in Boise, Idaho, rising 53% to $485,000 from December 2019 to December 2021, according to a Redfin analysis of mortgage data. Prices rose 48% in Austin, Texas and Cape Coral, Florida.

While local incomes rose and home prices skyrocketed in 2021, housing markets in many of those pandemic boomtowns are faltering as high mortgage rates and unsustainable price growth tame demand.

Redfin reports that Boise, Austin, Cape Coral, Phoenix, North Port, Florida and Tacoma, Washington are among the 20 housing markets that cooled the fastest in the first half of 2022. And Boise, Cape Coral, North Port, West Palm Beach, Miami, Stockton, California and Salt Lake City are among the 25 housing markets most susceptible to home-price declines if the U.S. enters a recession. But although they are susceptible to a recession-driven downturn, these places are unlikely to see housing market crashes because home buyers there have relatively high incomes.

“People are still moving in from California and they still have enough money to buy nice homes in desirable neighborhoods, sometimes with all cash,” said Austin Redfin agent Gabriel Recio. “But the days of homes selling for 25% over asking price with multiple offers are over. Buyers are no longer as eager now that mortgage rates are up and there’s buzz in the air about the slowing housing market. Local buyers–and even buyers coming from out of town–now have a chance to take their time and buy a home at asking price or even under asking price.”

Selma Hepp, interim lead of the Office of the Chief Economist at CoreLogic, sees the markets that Moody’s model predicts will experience the biggest drop in house prices as the same markets that CoreLogic’s market condition indicators model shows as exceedingly overvalued. “These markets have seen considerable home price appreciation over what local income suggests would be affordable,” said Hepp. “Thus, pulling of home buyer demand, due to higher rates and perception of overvaluation, as more new construction becomes available may lead to price discounts and resultant price declines.

Also, these markets have seen considerable in-migration from other states, mostly in the Northeast, and Baby Boomers retiring. Those incoming buyers may now look at other locations where they perceive prices as more affordable, which would dampen demand and may lead to some price discounting on the part of builders.”

Mortgage rates may be historically low, but so is home buyer morale these days, says George Ratiu, Realtor.com’s manager of economic research. He said the big issue at the moment is that real estate markets are moving through a reset transition, away from the chaotic pace of 2020-2021, following a sharp increase in mortgage rates in the first half of 2022, which compounded home prices breaking new records.

“The rising costs of borrowing have created an affordability ceiling for many buyers, who are finding that their incomes are no longer sufficient to cover much higher potential mortgage payments,” said Ratiu. “As a result, with demand cooling considerably, the number of homes for sale are sitting longer on the market and motivated homeowners are resorting to price cuts to close deals.”

In June, Realtor.com’s inventory data showed that about 15% of listed homes showed price reductions, double the share from last year. These trends are particularly visible in metropolitan areas that have seen an influx of residents and capital over the past couple of years, especially in the Sun Belt. Markets like Austin, Texas; Raleigh, North Carolina; Phoenix; the Lakeland-Winter Haven metro area in Florida; and Stockton, California are posting some of the highest gains in the number of homes for sale with price cuts.

Ratiu said, “Many of these markets experienced strong price appreciation during the pandemic, but with inflation eating away at most people’s incomes, the ability to keep paying more has disappeared. As wages fall behind prices, and with rates significantly higher than a year ago, we can expect these markets to continue to see adjustments in sales and prices through the remainder of 2022 and into next year.”

Susan Wachter, the Albert Sussman professor of real estate and professor of finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, said Moody’s prediction of price declines points to overpriced housing markets based on income.

“That is how these markets differ,” she explained. “Some of the markets are supply constrained. Some like those in parts of Florida are less so. It is reasonable to expect that markets with elevated prices based on historical ratios will be at risk in a growth slowdown. What is not addressed here, is what happens after income growth slows or declines, that is, in recovery. What is missing in this calculus is the identification of amenity-rich supply constrained markets where price rises will likely pick up in the aftermath of a recession. With long-term income increases, these markets are destined to be hot again.”

I am an award-winning journalist and former real estate editor at the Chicago Tribune, where I was cited for excellence for my work in launching and editing real estate

Source: Why Some Housing Markets Seem To Be Cooling Down While Others Heat Up

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Housing Market Enters Into Recession Here’s What To Expect Next

The housing cycle—which began its upward climb in 2011—has officially turned over. Simply put: We’ve moved into a housing recession.

On Tuesday, we learned that homebuilders broke ground on 982,000 single-family homes in June. That’s down 19% since February, and down 16% from the same month in 2021. While it’s hardly a “blow out,” it’s clear builders are cutting back. Historically speaking, that’s exactly what happens when a housing cycle turns over: As existing home inventory—which builders compete against—begins to spike, homebuilders start to cut back.

“Peak euphoria is behind us. We are giving back some of the euphoria [home] pricing that was rolling over every housing market,” says Rick Palacios Jr., head of research at John Burns Real Estate Consulting. Existing home inventory will continue to rise, and homebuilding will continue to slow. At least that’s the view at John Burns Real Estate Consulting, which does consulting work for both builders and investors. As it does, the ongoing housing recession (i.e. a contracting housing market) could push home prices lower in bubbly regional housing markets.

Indeed, many bubbly markets, Palacios says, are barreling toward price cuts in both 2023 and 2024. That includes markets like Phoenix, Nashville, West Palm Beach, Las Vegas, and Austin. In Boise, Palacios says, home prices could go negative on a year-over-year basis as soon as December. “Builders are already [deciding] to not pour slabs in certain markets. Which is the technical trigger for a start for a home. In certain markets it will feel like [a housing bust],” Palacios says.

Soon after mortgage rates spiked this spring, the housing market slipped into a “housing correction.” It’s easy to see how those higher rates priced out many would-be buyers. If a borrower in December took out a $500,000 mortgage at a 3.1% rate, they’d owe a monthly principal and interest payment of $2,135. If a borrower took out a $500,000 mortgage at today’s average 30-year fixed mortgage rate (5.51%), they’d get a $2,839 payment.

While this housing recession has hit markets coast to coast, it’s hardly even. It’s delivering a particularly hard blow to housing markets in the Mountain West, West Coast, and Southwest. Just look at the shift in inventory levels: Over the past six months, housing inventory has spiked 247% in Denver compared to just 18% in Pittsburgh. Not too far behind Denver are Austin (220%); Colorado Springs (195%); Stockton, Calif. (175%); and Boise (161%).

What’s going on? These Western housing markets also happen to be among the most “overvalued” markets in the country. As the pandemic housing boom raged over the past two years, many of those markets—which were more constrained supply-wise—saw staggering home price appreciation. In Boise, home prices jumped 53% over the past two years. That took home prices there well beyond what economic fundamentals in the market would historically support. In fact, Moody’s Analytics deems it the most “overvalued” market in the country.

Over the coming year, Moody’s Analytics expects significantly “overvalued” housing markets like Boise and Austin to see home prices fall 5% to 10%. Nationally, Moody’s Analytics expects year-over-year home price growth to be at 0%. However, if a recession hits, Moody’s Analytics predicts significantly “overvalued” housing markets could see home prices drop by 15% to 20% while national home prices would fall by around 5%.

There’s another reason bubbly markets like Austin and Phoenix are contracting faster: investors. Investors poured into the U.S. housing market over the past two years. There were small players like Airbnb hosts and mom-and-pop landlords. Home flippers returned. There were also institutional types like Blackstone and iBuyer players like Zillow. Their favorite locales? Hot housing markets throughout the Mountain West, Southwest, and Southeast.

However, as housing markets in those boomtowns begin to contract, investors are the first ones who run for the exits.

“Investors sometimes move in a herd. If Phoenix real estate isn’t the cool investment anymore in 2022, it could have a big and quick impact on home sales. If a lot of investors decide to sell…yikes,” John Wake, an independent real estate analyst based in Phoenix, told Fortune.

Earlier this year, the Federal Reserve flipped from quantitative easing (i.e. buying bonds) to quantitative tightening (i.e. selling bonds). Immediately, financial markets pushed up both the 10-year Treasury and mortgage rates. That’s exactly what the Fed wanted: If mortgage rates rose, it would cause the pandemic housing boom—which helped fuel higher inflation—to fizzle out.

“I’d say if you are a homebuyer, somebody or a young person looking to buy a home, you need a bit of a reset. We need to get back to a place where supply and demand are back together and where inflation is down low again, and mortgage rates are low again,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell told reporters in June.

According to Palacios, that Fed housing “reset” actually means “falling home prices.” While the Fed didn’t directly say it, Palacios says many in the industry believe that’s exactly what’s coming next.

That ongoing housing contraction coupled with a determined Fed, Palacios says, is the perfect recipe for a recession. Historically speaking, Fed-induced recessions begin in rate-sensitive sectors like housing. It usually goes something like this: Spiking mortgage rates quickly translate into fewer home sales. Then inventory rises sharply and homebuilders scale back. Next, demand for both commodities and durable goods falls. Of course, a housing recession also brings with it layoffs.

“The lesson learned in reading [Paul] Volcker’s piece, that’s where [the Fed] messed up [in the 1970s]. If you have this red-light, green-light mentality around inflation, then you’re going to allow the psychology of inflation to get out in front of you…If you listen to the Fed over the last month or so, that’s what they’re so freaked out about,” Palacios says.

Source: Housing market enters into recession—here’s what to expect next | Fortune

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An Economist Calls For Homeowner Celebration Over High Inflation

Justin Wolfers, a professor of economics at the University of Michigan, recently posted something on Twitter that stirred the collective pot:

“Lemme ask one of those tone deaf economist questions that annoy almost everyone. Today, many families learned that the amount they owe on their mortgage has declined—in real terms—by 9.1% over the past year. Why do we hear so little about this? Why don’t we see folks celebrating?”

Some other economists agreed with him, at least in terms of how people think of economics. Many non-economists quickly came in to explain their thought processes—that the points, while technically correct, were out of context and touch.

Essentially, the critics made two points as accurately as Wolfers and company related the technicalities. People are set upon from all quarters, not just housing. And the U.S. is becoming a country, not of poverty, but entrenched poorness. That is, in the sense of “small in worth” or “less than adequate” by the Merriam-Webster definition.

It is true that as inflation increases, the monetary value of a loan with terms that established lower interest rates decreases in favor of the borrower, at least while inflation is running hot. If the total remaining on the mortgage, including interest and principal, is $X, then over the last year it’s now 9.1% less expensive because the value of the dollars is falling. The mortgage likely has no inflation escalation rider.

Now, that mortgage only remains 9.1% less expensive if there is no deflation. You do get a savings even if inflation drops to a lower rate, because the value of what a dollar can buy continues to drop. As it does pretty much every year anyway. This is one of the advantages of owning a home. The amount you own drops because there is some degree of inflation in virtually every year, as, unless you have an adjustable-rate mortgage (a bad idea in the long run that might make sense in specific circumstances in the immediate future), you’ll locked in at the level of cheaper dollars.

There’s nothing new with that and it’s how a lot of people build wealth over time. Then they, in theory, pass that property down to their children, who now have greater wealth that, in theory, can get passed down in turn, and so on. The growth of wealth becomes a multi-generational process. The longer you’re around, the greater an advantage you have.

There are two other ways you build value as a homeowner. One is, on the whole, there will be some appreciation in value over time. That comes without additional payments. The other is one of those “you get a benefit because you’re not doing something else that would cost more” kind of financial planning arguments. If you don’t own, you’re a renter and the amount you pay climbs each year. If you do own, then there’s an annual additional amount you don’t have to pay, which is a savings.

That doesn’t mean that homeowners don’t pay more every year because there’s more to owning a house than the payment. Taxes, utilities, maintenance and repair, upgrades, and so on see regularly rising costs. Still, this remains a case that things could be much worse, and you are ahead in some significant ways.

So, why aren’t people dancing in the street? The first reason the critics note is that housing, while a significant cost, isn’t the only place where people are hit. For many years, important areas of living have endured significantly higher increases than income in real terms after inflation. Healthcare, childcare, education, energy (both electric and heating and cooling), all drive up everyday expenses. They leave pay increases in the dusty plains of personal financial ledgers. Personal savings rates are dropping; credit card debt has again reached new heights.

One reason you don’t see conga lines in the street is because people are anxious about the economy and their position in it. Consumer sentiment is up a touch from June, as the newest University of Michigan polling shows, but that’s still down massively from a year earlier. If a patient is in bed with a serious illness and a doctor tells them that they don’t have an additional one, they might be glad to hear it and yet not be in a position to leap to their feet.

The second criticism is even stronger, in a social sense. If housing ownership is at about 65% in the country, should people clap for joy as they see a third of the country having to struggle much harder? When many who are not in a position to own homes are their children or nieces and nephews or kids of friends or younger people they work with? You can be thankful that you weren’t part of a massive traffic accident and yet reluctant to outwardly rejoice so as not to rub others’ noses in the dirt.

My credits include Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times Magazine, Zenger News, NBC News, CBS Moneywatch, Technology Review, The Fiscal Times, and…

Source: An Economist Calls For Homeowner Celebration Over High Inflation

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If You Have More Than $1,000 in Your Checking Account, Make These 5 Moves

You’ve done it. You’ve built up a little cushion in your bank account — $1,000! It feels good, right? Those days of checking your account balance in a panic are behind you.Congrats! You’re on the right path. Now it’s time to think about some longer-term goals. What do you want to accomplish next with your money? Do you need to save more? Do you want to buy a home someday? Invest?What’s the next step you should take? What are some specific things you can do to take your finances to the next level?

We’ve got some ideas for you:

1. You Can Cancel Your Car Insurance

Did you know you can save some serious money just by switching car insurance companies?Its true — rates are at historic lows, and you could be paying way less for the same coverage. All you need to do is look for it.But don’t waste your time hopping around to different insurance companies.

Use a website called EverQuote  to see all your options at once.EverQuote is the largest online marketplace for insurance in the US, so you’ll get the top options from more than 175 different carriers handed right to you.Take a couple of minutes to answer some questions  about yourself and your driving record. With this information, EverQuote will be able to give you the top recommendations for car insurance. In just a few minutes, you could save up to $610 a year.

2. Give Your Family $1M

Have you thought about what would happen to your family after you die? How will they pay the mortgage? Send the kids to school?We know; it’s not fun to think about. But getting a life insurance policy is one of the most important things you can do if you have people who depend on you.A company called Insure.com can help you get a policy for as little as $10 a month — and in just two minutes.

Maybe you’ve considered it before, but it felt like an expensive hassle — or like something you only need to do when you’re older. But the truth is, even if you’re young and healthy, it’s often smart to lock in a cheaper policy now. Rates tend to go up as you age.Insure.com will show you quotes from different companies so you can compare and find the right policy for you. You never have to leave the house or take a medical exam. You don’t even have to speak to a human if you don’t want to.Take two minutes to answer a few quick questions to make sure you protect the ones you love.

3. Invest in Famous Art (Even if You’re Not a Millionaire)

Here’s the deal: If you’re not investing in contemporary art, you might be missing out on an asset whose prices have outpaced the S&P by 164% from 1995 to 2020. (FYI, the S&P tracks 500 of the largest companies in the stock market) Monets, right?

But a company called Masterworks lets normal people like us invest in multimillion-dollar works of art — something typically only available to the super rich. You don’t need hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a masterpiece outright; with Masterworks, you can invest in multimillion dollar paintings with only $1,000. Investing in contemporary art is a long-term strategy, so patience pays off here — literally. But once your piece of art sells, you get your share of the potential profits.

4. Stop Overpaying at Amazon

Wouldn’t it be nice if you got an alert when you’re shopping online at Amazon or Target and are about to overpay? Just add it to your browser for free, and before you check out, it’ll check other websites, including Walmart, eBay and others to see if your item is available for cheaper. Plus, you can get coupon codes, set up price-drop alerts and even see the item’s price history.

Let’s say you’re shopping for a new TV, and you assume you’ve found the best price. Here’s when you’ll get a pop up letting you know if that exact TV is available elsewhere for cheaper. If there are any available coupon codes, they’ll also automatically be applied to your order.

In the last year, this has saved people $160 million.

5. Ask This Website to Help Pay Off Your Credit Cards

No, like… the whole bill. All of it.

While you’re stressing out over your debt, your credit card company is getting rich off those insane interest rates. But a website called Fiona  could help you pay off that bill as soon as tomorrow.

Here’s how it works: Fiona can match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every credit card balance you have. The benefit? You’re left with just one bill to pay every month, and because the interest rate is so much lower, you can get out of debt so much faster. Plus, no credit card payment this month.

Fiona can help you borrow up to $250,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 2.49%.

Fiona won’t make you stand in line or call a bank. And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online . It takes just two minutes, and it could save you thousands of dollars. Totally worth it. All that credit card debt — and the anxiety that comes with it — could be gone by tomorrow.

By The Penny Hoarder Staff

Source: If You Have More Than $1,000 in Your Checking Account, Make These 5 Moves – The Penny Hoarder

Creating a budget is an important financial step that can help you get your finances in order and track how much money comes in and out of your bank account every month. While it may seem like a lot of work to create a budget, there are numerous online resources and apps that can help you. Plus, once you have one, the majority of the work is done, and you can tweak it as your spending habits or income change. After you create a budget, it’s important to stick to it. Regularly check-in with your budgeting goals so you don’t spend more than you can afford to repay.

And if you share expenses with someone else, make sure you both have access to the budget and hold each other accountable. Establishing a good credit score is key to qualifying for the best financial products, like credit cards and loans. Plus, the higher your credit score, the better terms you’ll receive, which can save you thousands of dollars in interest in the long-run (we always recommend you pay your balance on time and in full each month). One of the catches of building credit is you need to have some credit history in order to qualify for a credit card, but it’s hard to qualify for a card without any credit history. One option is to become an authorized user on a family member or friend’s credit card.

You could also consider applying for a secured card, which works the same as a regular credit card, but you’re required to put down a deposit (typically $200). There are also a few options that can help you raise your credit score without a credit card, like *Experian Boost™. This is a free feature that lets you link positive payment history for monthly utility, phone and Netflix bills, potentially boosting your FICO® score. Once you have a credit card, the easiest way to improve your credit score is to regularly use the card, be mindful to spend within your means, make sure you pay at least the minimum on time every month and pay in full whenever possible. Check out more tips to improve your credit score.

One of the best steps you can take in your 20s is to establish an emergency fund to cover any unexpected expenses that may arise, such as medical bills or car repairs. The money in your emergency fund can help you avoid taking out a loan or carrying a balance on a credit card, which can save you money on interest charges. When you set up an emergency fund, consider keeping the money in a high-yield savings account, like Marcus by Goldman Sachs High Yield Online Savings or Ally Online Savings Account. These online accounts only allow you withdraw money up to six times a month without penalty, which might help reduce the temptation to withdraw money for non-emergencies.

Experts generally recommend putting three to six months of expenses into an emergency fund, but amid the coronavirus pandemic and high unemployment rates, some financial experts are offering more realistic advice about how much people should try to save. Instead, you should focus on saving as much as you can afford, after covering necessary bills. It’s OK to start with a smaller goal. Saving $20 a week (roughly $3 a day) adds up to $1,000 in a year, which is a good cushion to get you started. It’s never too soon to start saving for retirement, and the earlier you start putting money toward your future, the more it can grow. When you get your first full-time job, your employer may offer a retirement account, such as 401(k), that you can open and deposit a percentage of every paycheck into each pay period.

Many employers also match your contributions up to a certain percentage, which is a great way to maximize savings. As a general rule of thumb, opt to save at least a percentage that is equal to your employer’s match. So if they match up to 6% of your contribution each paycheck, choose to transfer 6% or more to your 401(k) every pay period.

While employer-sponsored retirement accounts are helpful, you don’t have to wait until you have a full-time job to start saving for retirement. Roth IRAs are a great alternative to a 401(k), and you can set up recurring transfers from every paycheck so you never have a chance to miss the money. If you have student loan or credit card debt, you should make paying it off a priority in your 20s. Owing money to a lender has the potential to hurt your credit by increasing your utilization rate (the percentage of credit you use), which can result in a lower credit score.

Lenders may also consider you a high-risk borrower if you have a large amount of debt, which may reduce your chances of qualifying for other financial products. And beyond affecting your credit score and qualification chances, you’ll wind up paying a lot of money in interest charges the longer you carry debt. Take the time to make a clear debt repayment plan and stick to it. After you create a budget, consider how much money you can put toward your debt every month. Some experts recommend that 20% of your take-home pay should be earmarked for debt repayment and savings. If you want to pay your debt down faster, you might divert more of your income toward that goal.

You can also consider debt consolidation if you have balances spread across numerous cards. Debt consolidation can help you minimize the number of accounts you need to pay each month and sometimes offer lower interest charges than a credit card. While you’re in your 20s, consider ways you can build good money habits and be proactive with your finances. Get into the habit of regularly checking your different account balances. Avoid paying unnecessary monthly fees by switching to a no-fee checking account, like the Capital One 360 Checking® Account, or earning a competitive interest rate with a high-yield savings account like Marcus by Goldman Sachs High Yield Online Savings.

Make sure to spend within your means and avoid racking up unnecessary credit card debt and paying high interest charges. You can also consider optimizing the credit card(s) you use and opening a card that has rewards tailored to your spending habits. There are hundreds of cards offering bonus rewards on groceries, gas, dining out, travel and more. You may also want to consider a simple flat-rate cash-back card that earns you the same amount of rewards on every purchase, such as the Citi® Double Cash Card (2% cash back: 1% on all eligible purchases and an additional 1% after you pay your credit card bill).

In addition to saving money and earning rewards, you should be proactive and monitor any changes to your credit history. Spotting fraud early can save you time and money in the long run, but it’s not easy to do on your own. Signing up for a credit monitoring service can provide you with an early notice of potential fraud, so you can take steps to protect your personal information. There are a lot of services to choose from, so Select ranked the best free and paid credit monitoring services, so you can make an informed decision before you sign up. IdentityForce® UltraSecure and UltraSecure+Credit services rank as our top picks if you plan on paying for a service, providing alerts for changes to your credit reports from all three credit bureaus, as well as up to $1 million in identity theft insurance.

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Are You In a Loving Relationship or Are You Just Poor?

At this point, it’s not novel to point out that we’re socialized from childhood to prize monogamous relationships above all else. It’s an idea deeply embedded in our culture, from books to films to music. But we seldom pause to consider the real extent to which this is baked into the very fabric of our society.

It’s not just a cultural thing: it’s why one-bed flats are usually designed to accommodate two, with rent prices intended to be divided in half. It’s why seats on buses and trains come in pairs. It’s why packs of food so often ‘serve two’. It’s why gyms and Spotify offer discounted memberships for couples.

There are numerous material benefits to monogamy, such as the Married Couple’s Allowance, the option to take out a joint mortgage on a house, or the fact landlords are more likely to choose couples as tenants. As author and psychotherapist Sasha Roseneil writes in the Guardian, compulsory monogamy “operates through laws and policies that assume and privilege coupledom, with myriad economic impacts in terms of access to welfare benefits, pensions, inheritance and housing.”

Aaron, 21, has experienced this firsthand. “I used to live with my girlfriend, but we split up and she moved out which has made paying bills really stressful and hard for me,” he says, noting “food and subscriptions like Netflix and Spotify” as particularly costly expenses. “The cost of living crisis has made this even more difficult – especially with food shopping.”

Essentially, society isn’t built for single people, and as a result it’s expensive to be single. Research backs this up: according to Ocean Finance, the UK’s singles spend on average £630 more per month than their coupled counterparts. On top of this, a 2019 report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that people living alone are more likely to be renting and feel less financially secure than childless couples.

The cost of being single has now been compounded by rising inflation and the ongoing cost of living crisis. Of course, the current crisis is impacting everyone – regardless of whether they’re in a relationship or not – and it’s unquestionably hitting the poor the hardest. But as an estimated 35 per cent of the UK’s population are single, this is an issue which affects millions of people.

24-year-old Sophie is in a similar situation to Aaron. She lists “rent, food, and bills” as the main costs she struggles to cover. “If you’re single you get a council tax discount, but it’s really not a lot at all. My council tax is still over £100 a month,” she says. “But the one thing that’s impacted me the most is my rent went up by quite a lot in April. It went up by over £100.”

She adds that she has to fork out nearly £400 a month to pay her building’s service charge. “Whether it’s one person in a flat or four people, you still have to pay the same service charge for building maintenance and stuff like that,” she says. “And I’m just one person.” According to Ocean Finance, housing is the most expensive outgoing for single people, with a single person paying an average of £674 a month on rent while a person in a couple pays £433.

“I have a full-time job and spend most of my free time doing freelance work just to make up the money,” Sophie adds.

The current cost of living crisis is even forcing some people to stay in relationships they’re unhappy in. “I’ve been with my partner for around two years and lived with him for just over a year. It’s been fairly up and down, as we realised around a year ago that it’s more platonic. We’re not really any more than friends, and that’s mutual,” Holly*, 26, tells me.

At present, Holly is living in a two-bed flat with her partner and a mutual friend of theirs. “I recently moved to a new job that has halved my previous salary, and it means that if he leaves the room I share with him then I can no longer afford the room,” she says. “The extra costs would be terrible. Bristol is incredibly expensive and my salary isn’t up to scratch. Splitting up would mean splitting everything in half would no longer be an option.”

“The couple norm continues to exert a strong and far from benign influence on people’s lives” – Sasha Roseneil

In her Guardian article, Roseneil stresses that “the couple norm continues to exert a strong and far from benign influence on people’s lives.” This much is clear from Aaron, Sophie, and Holly’s testimonies: evidently, despite the progress made by feminist and LGBTQ+ movements in recent years, we’re still penalised by society for living outside the couple norm.

Still – it’s worth noting that despite the financial benefits of being in a couple, Holly admits that it’s not worth the emotional strain when your relationship is on its last legs. “I’ve realised this isn’t healthy for either of us. It’s quite clear it’s getting to the end of the relationship,” she says. “I spoke to him about it last night, so the process of moving out is likely just around the corner.”

However, this doesn’t negate the fact that being single is still a financial burden. Although Holly is keen to move on from her relationship, she’s still not sure how she’s going to afford to pay her rent. Obviously, monogamous couples are not a social ill in and of themselves. But the ways in which compulsory monogamy is perpetuated in society evidently are a problem, and a problem which is being exacerbated by the ongoing cost of living crisis.

Unfortunately, regulating rents or increasing taxes are actions beyond the power of most individuals – but that doesn’t mean we can’t challenge compulsory monogamy in our everyday lives. There’s so much to be gained by shelving the concept of ‘soulmates’ and nurturing other types of connection in our lives – whether you’re in a relationship or not. Ultimately, it’s only by chipping away at the status quo can we hope for a future where we’re all financially stable and independent.

By: Serena Smith

Source: Are you in a loving relationship or are you just poor? | Dazed

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