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Existing Home Sales Rise As Home Inventory Shrinks

February 28, 2013 Leave a comment

Existing Home Sales Numbers ReleasedHome sales rose for the 11th consecutive month according to the National Association of REALTORS® Existing Home Sales Report for January.

This is the first time this has occurred since the period between July of 2005 and May of 2006.

National Average Home Price Up Over 12% Annually

The national average home price in January was $173,600, which is 12.3 percent higher than for January 2012. 

Calculated on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis, Existing Home Sales data is compiled using completed sales of single family homes, condominium units and co-ops.

January’s existing home sales rose by 0.4 percent to 4.92 million sales nationally as compared to December’s revised annual rate of 4.90 million sales nationally.

National sales of existing homes increased by 9.1 percent as compared to January 2012.

Regional Home Sales Support Housing Recovery

Regional home sales for January suggest more good news for housing markets. Seasonally- adjusted annual home sales rose in all regions of the U.S. except in the West, while median home prices rose for all regions.

Northeast: Home sales were up by 4.8 percent in January to 650,000 sales, which is 12.1 percent more homes sold than for January 2012. The median home price rose by 2.4 percent from January 2012 to $230,500.

Midwest: Annual home sales in January increased by 3.6 percent to 1.16 million; this is 17.2 percent higher than for January 2012. The median home price in the Midwest rose to $131,800, an increase of 8.6 percent as compared to January 2012.

South: Home sales were up by 1 percent to 1.96 million sales in January; this represents a 14.0 percent increase in annual sales as compared to one year ago. The average home price for the South was $152,100, an increase of 13.4 percent over January 2012.

West: Home sales fell by 5.7 percent to an annual rate of $1.15 million. This represents a 5.7 percent decrease in sales from one year ago. The median home price in January was $239,800 and was 26.6 percent above the region’s median sale price for January 2012.

A falling inventory of homes for sale may be holding back buyers; the inventory of homes for sale fell to a 4.2 month supply from December’s 4.5 month supply of homes. A 6-month supply of homes is considered average.

Home Prices May Rise Quickly

While the spring home buying season will likely see more homes come on the market , economists caution that home prices could rise faster than expected due to increasing demand. A seller’s market could be in the making.

Mortgage rates also appear to be rising; now may be your best time for gaining the advantage of relatively low home prices and mortgage rates.

Is Downsizing The Next Big Trend In Homes?

February 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Z Glass Micro Dwelling by Tumbleweed Tiny House CompanyThe real estate market has started to recover from the downturn over the last few years in many areas of the country, and more people are thinking about buying a new place to live.

With this new energy in home buying, an interesting trend seems to be developing.  

Instead of going for larger homes, which was an overwhelming trend in years past, many people are choosing micro-dwellings.

What is a micro-dwelling?

There are a number of different styles of micro dwellings being built.  This is a relatively new concept for homes in the United States and individual creativity abounds in this space.

The most common factor in micro-dwellings are their size. They tend to be less than 500 square feet of living space.

Some densely populated metropolitan areas like San Francisco and New York City are planning apartments as small as approximately 300 square feet!

Think this shrinking of real estate space applies only to multi-family dwellings?

Think again. You can also find tiny single-family homes — some of which are even portable.

If you’re still not convinced, read on to discover a few of the factors drawing buyers to smaller living spaces.

A lower price tag – The cost of these homes can be significantly less than that of standard homes, which means you may not have a large mortgage over your head for the next 30 years.

More free time – A smaller house means less cleaning. Who isn’t on board with that idea?

Less clutter – If your home is less than 500 square feet, you have to get rid of everything you don’t absolutely need.

Mobility – Many of these tiny homes are equipped with wheels or built-on trailers, so moving is no longer the stressful and expensive undertaking it used to be. Simply close the door and go!

Smaller is greener – It makes sense that if your home is smaller, you will automatically reduce your energy consumption, which means more money in your pocket every month and a smaller carbon footprint.

Micro-living might not be for everyone.  It does offer an option for those who are just starting out, those who love to travel, or those nearing retirement.

And even if you don’t opt for the smallest living space, reducing energy usage and saving money are ideas most anyone can take to the bank.

Photo Credit: Tumbleweed Tiny Homes

Fed Considers Future of Quantitative Easing

February 26, 2013 Leave a comment

Fed Minutes ReleasedThe Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) released minutes from its January meeting last Wednesday, as it generally does three weeks following the most recent meeting.  

The FOMC is a committee within the Federal Reserve System tasked with overseeing the purchase and sale of US Treasury securities by the Fed.

The Federal Reserve makes key decisions regarding interest rates and looks to this committee for advice on how and when to take action.

The Future Of Quantitative Easing

One of the main topices that Fed leaders discussed was the future of its ongoing program of quantitative easing (QE).

Currently, the Fed plans to continue its monthly purchase of treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities (MBS) with the objective of keeping the inflation rate at or below 2 percent.

The Fed plans to phase out quantitative easing when the national unemployment rate reaches 6.5 percent.

Fed leaders opposed to current quantitative easing brought up concerns about risk exposure to the Fed as it continues acquiring large quantities of bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

Other concerns included the potential for negative impact on financial markets if the Fed sustains its current policy of quantitative easing.

The Risk Of Inflation Creates Pause

Inflationary risks were also cited as a reason for re-evaluating the current policy for quantitative easing.

As the fed continues to purchase more and more mortgage-backed securities to keep interest rates down, a higher potential risk for inflationary pressure results.

Rising inflation rates would cause mortgage rates to worsen.

FOMC members concerned about current policy for quantitative easing suggested that the Fed should prepare to vary the timing of its purchases according to economic conditions rather than committing to scheduled purchases of specific amounts of bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

The next Federal Open Market Committee meeting is scheduled for March 19-20, 2013.

 

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week: February 25th, 2013

February 25, 2013 Leave a comment

What's Ahead This WeekA quiet past week in economic news caused mortgage rates to worsen slightly.

This week, however, will be packed with economic reports which may have an impact on interest rates going forward.

Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by 3 basis points from 3.53 percent to 3.56 percent with borrowers paying 0.8 in discount points and all of their closing costs.

The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was unchanged from last week at 2.77 percent with borrowers paying 0.8 in discount points and all of their closing costs.

In other economic news, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for January fell slightly to 0.0 percent as compared to Wall Street expectations of 0.1 percent and December’s reading of 0.1 percent.

The Core CPI, which measures consumer prices exclusive of volatile food and energy sectors, was 0.3 percent for January and surpassed analyst expectations of 0.2 percent and December’s reading of 0.1 percent.

Inflation Remains Low

These readings remain well below the 2.5 percent inflation level cited by the Fed as cause for concern.

According to the Department of Commerce, Housing Starts for January fell to 890,000 from December’s 954,000 and below Wall Street projections of 910,000.

These seasonally adjusted and annualized numbers are obtained from a sample of 844 builders selected from 17,000 newly permitted building sites.

Falling construction rates could further affect low supplies of homes reported in some areas; as demand for homes increase, home prices and mortgage rates can be expected to rise.

Full Economic Calendar This Week

This week’s economic news schedule is full; Treasury auctions are scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. New Home Sales will be released Tuesday.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is set to testify before Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wednesday’s news includes the Pending Home Sales Index and Durable Orders.

Thursday’s news includes the preliminary GDP report for Q4 2012, the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index, and weekly jobless claims.

Friday brings Personal Income and Core Personal Expenditures (CPE).

Consumer Sentiment, the ISM Index and Construction Spending round out the week’s economic news.

Will You Need Private Mortgage Insurance on Your Mortgage Loan?

February 22, 2013 Leave a comment

Private Mortgage Insurance

 

Have you heard the term Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) when looking to finance real estate?

You may be wondering what PMI is and how you know when you need to purchase it.

These answers can be hard to find among all the real estate jargon you might be hearing lately.

Below is the short version of what you need to know.

What is Private Mortgage Insurance?

Private Mortgage Insurance is an insurance premium required by some lenders to offset the risk of a borrower defaulting on their home loan.

When you put down less than 20 percent of the real estate’s purchase price, the lender will generally require that PMI is added to the loan.

It is usually added into the monthly mortgage payment until the equity position in the real estate reaches 20 percent. However, there may be other options available in your area.

Under the current law, PMI will be canceled automatically when you reach 22 percent equity in your home, if you are current on your payments.

If you aren’t current, the lender may not be required to cancel the mortgage insurance because the loan is considered high-risk.

After getting caught up on your payments, the PMI will likely be cancelled. Any money that you have overpaid must be refunded to you within 45 days.

What if Your Real Estate Increases in Value?

With a conventional loan, it may take as many as 15 years of a 30-year loan to pay your balance down 20 percent making the minimum monthly payment.

But, if property values in your area rise, you might be able to cancel the PMI sooner.

Some lenders may be willing to consider the new value of your home to determine the equity in your home.

You may, however, be responsible for any fees, like an appraisal, that are incurred to assess the new value of your property.

In the end, private mortgage insurance is likely a good option if you can’t afford a down payment of 20 percent of the purchase price.

Now May Be A Very Good Time To Take Action

With all of the activity happening the housing market, now may be the best time for you to purchase your new home. 

A smart next move would be speaking with a qualified home financing professional to learn which programs and down payment options are available in the area. 

3 Common Myths About Real Estate Short Sales

February 21, 2013 Leave a comment

3 Common Short Sale MythsThere is a lot of misleading and incorrect information about real estate short sales.

Many people don’t have a clear understanding of the purpose of short sales or how they actually work.

Essentially, a short sale is when one sells their home for less than the balance remaining on the mortgage attached to the property.

The proceeds from the sale are used to repay a pre-negotiated portion of the balance to settle the debt.

A short sale can be a solution for homeowners who really need to sell their home but owe more on the mortgage than the home is worth.

Understanding the short sale process can help make the most out of a real estate sale.

Here are some common myths and why they are false:

A short sale damages one’s credit record as much as foreclosure

In many cases a short sale is less damaging to your credit record than a foreclosure. Some lenders may think that the short seller acted in a more responsible manner than simply walking away from the property.

Although the amount paid may have been less than the mortgage balance outstanding, the loan was settled with the lender. Opting for foreclosure is often seen as a lack of responsibility.

To qualify for a short sale one must be behind on payments

This might have been true in the past, but it’s not anymore.

You just need to be able to prove that you are in financial hardship, which could be due to death in the family, divorce, job loss, mortgage rate hike or even loss of property value.

After a short sale you can’t buy again for five to seven years

This may be true in some cases, but not all. In certain situations the waiting period can be reduced as low as two or three years before you are allowed to purchase another home.

It would be wise to speak with licensed real estate professional or home financing specialist to get the most current options in the marketplace.

Pass it on

These are just a few examples of commonly believed short sale myths. A clear understanding of the short sale and the benefits it  can provide is important for financially strapped homeowners.

Feel free to pass this important information on to someone that you feel would benefit from it.

 

 

Strong Builder Confidence May Signal Good Time To Buy New Homes

February 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Home Builder Confidence Strong

Many times real estate market experts point to the feelings of the nation’s home builders as a bell-weather signalling the health of the housing sector.

This month’s reading indicates that home builders are feeling pretty good.

The National Association of Home Builders / Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) for February changed by one point to 46 as compared to 47 for January’s reading. 

Over the last four months, HMI readings have stayed within a three-point range between 45 and 47, indicating a plateau after rising from 25 to 45 in 2012.

Housing Market Index Near Highest Levels Since 2006

The good news is that February’s reading remains near the HMI’s highest level since April 2006, when the HMI reading reached 51.

Some builders may be taking a wait-and-see stance in their confidence as high national unemployment rates and rising costs for building materials impact home buying ability and home prices.

Regional factors influencing builder confidence include difficulties in finding building sites and labor required for building new homes.

3 Important Categories Affect The Home Builders Index

The HMI is a seasonally-adjusted index comprised of three survey categories of home builder confidence.

Readings above 50 indicate that more builders are finding conditions good than bad within each category and overall:

  • Builder confidence in current new single-family home sales fell by one point to 51 in February, but sustained a positive rating.
  • Builder confidence in new single-family home sales over the next six months achieved a reading of 50 in February, up from 49 in January.
  • Builder confidence in foot-traffic in new single-family homes fell by four points from 36 in January to 32 in February.

February results for four regional categories consist of 3-month moving averages for new home sales: the Northeast gained 3 points to 39, The West gained 4 points to 55, the Midwest fell 2 points to 48 and the South fell by 2 points to 47.

With demand for homes increasing, home prices and mortgage rates are likely to rise during spring and summer as warmer weather brings out more potential buyers.

Check with your real estate and mortgage professional for the most updated market details in your area. 

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