Builders Outlook on Housing Market – Positive

builder-outlook-positiveThe National Association of Homebuilders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index dropped two points to 55 from September’s revised reading of 57. Builder concerns over labor costs and availability and economic uncertainty related to the federal government shutdown were noted as factors contributing to the lower reading for October.

Key Points Noted In Octobers HMI included:

  • Builder confidence remains above 50, which indicates that more builders have a positive outlook on housing market conditions than those with negative sentiment.
  • The October HMI cites pent-up buyer demand in markets throughout the US as a positive influence on October’s reading.
  • A spike in mortgage rates lowered builder confidence, but the Federal Reserve’s decision not to change its quantitative easing program eased fears about rapidly rising mortgage rates.
  • The federal government shutdown, along with builder and consumer concerns about the national debt ceiling also contributed to a dip in homebuilder confidence.
  • National HMI results are comprised of homebuilder ratings of three factors. Homebuilders rated current market conditions at 58, which was two points lower than September’s reading.
  • Builder outlook for market conditions over the next six months fell by two points to October’s reading of 62. The lowest reading came in at 44 for buyer foot traffic. This reading was also two points lower than the September reading.

Regional HMI Results Mixed

Readings for regional homebuilder confidence varied for October:

Northeast: The reading for October fell three points to 38. Concerns over the government shutdown were felt here.

Midwest: Up by one point for October at 64, the Midwestern region posted the only gain for October.

South: The October reading for the Southern region was unchanged at 56.

West: The West lost one point on its HMI for October. Lack of available homes and developed land for building likely contributed to this reading.

NAHB Projects Single And MultiFamily Housing Starts

The NAHB estimated that starts for single and multi-family housing units for September will fall between 875,000 and 900,000 on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. Single-family housing starts are expected to range between 620,000 and 630,000 for September.

NAHB produced this estimate in lieu of the US Department of Commerce report on housing starts that was delayed due to the federal government shutdown. NAHB also reported continued volatility in multi-family housing construction.

A continuation of the government shutdown will almost certainly create ongoing consequences for housing and mortgage lending.

How to Tackle PMI – Private Mortgage Insurance

how-to-tackle-pmiYou may have heard the term Private Mortgage Insurance when looking to finance real estate. What is PMI, and how do you know when you need to purchase it?

The answer can be hard to find among all the real estate jargon you’re hearing lately. Below is the short version of what you need to know.
What Is Private Mortgage Insurance?

PMI is an extra insurance required by some lenders to offset their risk of you defaulting on your home loan. When you put down less than 20 percent of the real estate’s value, your lender may tell you that you have to buy PMI.

It is usually added into your monthly mortgage payment until the equity in your real estate reaches 20 percent.

Under the current law, the PMI will be canceled automatically at 22 percent equity, if you are current on your payments. If you aren’t current, the lender does not have to cancel the insurance because the loan is high-risk.

After getting caught up on your payments, the PMI will 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 down 20 percent. 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 be responsible for any fees, like an appraisal, that occur.

You’ll have to weigh the costs of the appraisal against the savings of the PMI premium. In most cases, you’ll find that the added expense is worth it. Private mortgage insurance is a good thing if you can’t afford to pay 20 percent of the cost of your real estate as down payment.

Are you a first-time homebuyer? Now is the best time for you to make the investment. Call your trusted mortgage professional to find out why.

Nail The Final Walkthrough Before Closing

final-walkthrough-checklist-real-estateBy the time you get to the final walkthrough on your property, the home buying process is almost complete. However, it is still important to pay close attention to this final step, as it will be crucial in the success of your home purchase.

The final walkthrough is your last opportunity to ensure that everything in the home is in working order and that there are no potential problems waiting for you when you take over ownership of the property.

While conducting a final walkthrough of the property, give yourself enough time to look carefully at everything and not be rushed. You are looking for any new issues that might have arisen since the last time you viewed the home.

Once you close on the purchase the previous owners will not be obligated for fixing any damage. For this reason, you should schedule your walkthrough approximately 24 hours before closing on a home.

What You Should Look For?
When you are performing your walkthrough, here are some of the important issues that you should be watching out for:
Are all major appliances in working condition? Do they all have their warranties and owner’s manuals?

Do all of the light switches and outlets work?

Have any of the fixtures or appliances gone missing, even though the seller agreed to leave them behind?

If you have agreed on any repairs, has the seller had these repairs completed?

Are there any signs of damage (i.e. scratched walls or floors) as a result of the previous owner moving out?

Do all of the water faucets and toilets function as they should?

Check the exterior of the house, especially if there has been a storm or strong winds since your last visit.

Did the previous owner leave any garbage, extra furniture or unwanted items behind?

What To Do If You Spot A Problem?

If you find a problem when you are going through your walkthrough, there are a few options of what you can do. If the issue is very serious, you might choose to walk away from the deal completely. However, if the issue is not that significant you might decide that it is not worth losing your dream home over.

You could simply pay for the repair yourself, or postpone the closing until the seller fixes the problem. If the repair was agreed upon during the negotiations, you have a legal recourse.

To find out more about buying property, feel free to contact your trusted real estate professional.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week of 10-21-13

mortgage-news-checkupMany of the economic and housing reports typically scheduled were delayed by the federal government shutdown.

The National Association of Homebuilders Wells Fargo Housing Market Index for October was released Wednesday with a reading of 55, lower than the projected 58 and previous month’s revised reading of 57. The original reading for September was 58, which was the highest measure of builder confidence since 2005.

NAHB cited concerns over mortgage rates and the federal government shutdown and its consequences as reasons for homebuilder confidence slipping.

While the NAHB HMI reading was lower than last month, it remains in positive territory as any reading over 50 indicates that more home builders are confident about housing market conditions than those who are not.

Pent-up demand for homes is fueling home builder confidence, which grew by 34 percent over the past year and exceeded the rate of home construction growth.

NAHB Releases Housing Starts Data For September
The Census Bureau was unable to release data on housing starts for September. NAHB released a report estimating September housing starts would be approximately 900,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis.

Single family home construction is expanding while multi-family home construction remains volatile. The NAHB report estimates single-family housing starts for September at between 620,000 and 630,000 homes annually.

Fed Beige Book: Residential Real Estate Improved, 4 Districts Report Slower Growth
The Fed released its ”Beige Book” survey of its 12 banking districts on Wednesday. eight districts reported little or no change in economic conditions and 4 districts reported slower economic growth for September and October.

Real estate and home construction were improved, although several Fed districts reported concerns over rising mortgage rates. The Beige Book report was based on data gathered October 7, one week after the government shutdown began.

Mortgage Rates, Weekly Jobless Claims Jump
Freddie Mac reported increases in average mortgage rates; the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.28 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.70 percent.This was five basis points higher than the previous week.

The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 3.33 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 3.07 percent. Discount points for both 15 year mortgages and 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages were unchanged at 0.70 percent and 0.40 percent respectively.

Weekly jobless claims reported on Thursday rose from the prior week. 358,000 new jobless claims were filed as compared to the expected number of 335,000. During the prior week, 373,000 new jobless claims were filed. The latest data was from the week of October 7, the second week the government was shut down.

What‘s Ahead: Delayed Government Data Expected
Some federal agencies have given dates for releasing data delayed by the shutdown. These included Nonfarm Payrolls and the Unemployment rate for September, which are set for release October 22. The Consumer Price Index and Core CPI for September are scheduled for October 30.

Helpful Tips On Giving Your Mudroom A Makeover

remodeling your mud roomFrom crunched-up leaves stuck to bottoms of shoes to bulky coats shed as soon as kids walk through the door, mudrooms are ideal for keeping outdoor dirt, wet clothing and outerwear from being strewn throughout your home.

Mudrooms not only keep the rest of your house clean, but they also designate a spot for those last-minute grabs, such as coats, umbrellas and purses, when you’re running out the door.

These rooms are great catchalls. However, an organized mudroom can make your life and those hectic mornings much less stressful. Below are smart tips for getting your mudroom ready this fall.

1. Put In Seating
After shedding outer layers, the next thing anyone wants to do after coming inside on a cold, wet day is to take off their mucky shoes. So make sure there is a built-in bench or convenient chair for people to sit down and tend to their tootsies. Whether taking off or putting on shoes, it makes life a little more comfortable.

2. Install A Sink
A mudroom is supposed to be the catchall for everything dirty from the outdoors. With this in mind, a sink for washing off the grime and mud makes sense. Then you can clean your clothing in the contained space without having to haul them to the kitchen sink or laundry room.

3. Create Cubbies
Even though this space is designated as a drop-off point before entering the main living space, you don’t want everything just thrown into one big confusing pile. Create individual cubbies for every person in your household. Each cubby should contain a shelf for purses and backpacks, hooks for coats and a low place for shoes.

4. Splurge On A Boot Warmer
While electric boot warmers can be a little expensive, you will definitely think it’s worth the money when it’s freezing outside and your shoes are damp. Electric boot warmers heat your shoes on pegs and dry them out at the same time. They also work well on gloves.

Fall is a mudroom’s busy season; so get it in shape with the tips above. With all the coats hanging on their hooks, shoes in their cubbies and dirt contained to this designated space, your life will be a little more organized and much less stressful!

5 Cool Ideas For Green Home Remodeling

remodeling-greenEvery home seems to have a never-ending remodeling list. As you consider tackling your next project, it usually pays off if you also think about helping the environment.

Green remodeling can last longer, utilize recycled materials and typically end up saving you money in the long run. Below are several environment-friendly ideas that will have your neighbors green with envy.

1. Rain Gardens

Rain gardens are a shallow depressions in your yard planted with native shrubs and flowers. When there is a large rainfall, all the water rushes along roadways picking up dirt and pollutants along their way to drainage systems and eventually rivers and streams.

Rain gardens catch water run-off, which reduces the street flooding and makes for cleaner water sources.

2. Reclaimed Hardwoods

Using reclaimed wood is all of the rage right now – and it’s easy to see why. Reclaimed wood helps the environment by being recycled and repurposed from other structures. Turning an old barn into your new hardwood floors not only saves trees and looks great, but is an interesting conversation point.

3. Paper Covers Rock

Most kitchen remodels usually include the discussion of to go with granite or quartz countertops. However compressed paper or glass surfaces are actually better for the environment. Instead of harvesting natural resources, you’ll be recycling resources that have already been used.

4. One Shower Head

It’s tempting to use multiple showerheads and powerfully flushing toilets. However, reducing your water usage saves you money. Install low-flow water fixtures and limit yourself to just one fantastic showerhead in each bathroom. You’ll help the earth and your pocketbook by saving water.

5. Passive Solar Design

Solar panels are a great way to trap the sun’s energy and reduce your utility bills. However, if you’re not ready to directly tap into the grid, then there are ways you can remodel your home using passive solar design. Concrete floors and thick concrete, brick or plaster walls soak up the suns rays during the day and release them at night when the temperature drops.

Going green doesn’t have to hamper your lifestyle or your home’s design. With the five green remodeling ideas above, you’ll add value to your home, help the environment and put money back in your bank account.

4 Quick Tips On Becoming A Young Real Estate Investor

become-a-real-estate-investorInvesting in property at a young age seems like a bit of a daunting prospect sometimes. Most young people don’t have a lot of disposable income, often have poor credit and perhaps even student loans.

When you are in your early 20s, you are not likely thinking about investing in property and are probably focusing on other things. However, investing in property at a young age can bring you a lot of advantages.

It requires a different approach and style and you might be the only one of your peers who is doing so, but you will definitely reap the benefits later on in life. When you invest long-term, you will start building your financial independence.

Some might believe that it is impossible for a young person to start investing so early in life, but investing in your 20s is completely possible.
You are not “too busy”, in fact you will find that you have even less spare time as your responsibilities grow when you get older. You will need a little bit of money to get started, but often you can purchase your first property with as little as 3.5% down.

If you want to get started early, here are some tips that will help you along the way:
Get into very good saving habits from a young age by putting aside your money from first jobs. When you want to take out a mortgage, you will typically need to be able to show savings of 3% of your purchase price.

Maintain a clean credit history and pay all of your bills on time in order to build a great credit rating, so that you can obtain a mortgage with a good rate.

Make the most of technology and social media to learn more about investing in property and to find the best opportunities. You have a wealth of information on investing, all at your fingertips.

Find an older mentor – someone with successful experience who can give you tips on how to choose the right investment.

Another main advantage to investing when you are young is that if anything goes wrong, you will have more time to make mistakes and still recover without affecting your retirement. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain, so why not get started?

Case Shiller Price Index Shows An Annual Growth Rate Of Home Prices

house-values-improving-2013Home prices were still gaining in July, but for 15 of 20 cities included the S&P Case-Shiller 10 and 20-city Home Price Indices, the pace of increasing home prices is slowing down. National home prices rose by 1.80 percent in July as compared to 2.20 percent in June.
Home prices grew by 0.60 percent from June to July on a seasonally-adjusted basis. This was the lowest month-to-month gain since September 2012.

David Blitzer, index committee chairman of S&P Dow Jones Indices, said that higher mortgage rates are hitting the housing market. Mr. Blitzer noted that mortgage rates rose by more than a percentage point between May and the Federal Reserve’s statement last week.
The Fed was widely expected to reduce its monthly bond purchases from $85 billion to $75 billion, but the Fed decided not to reduce its bond purchases as the economy has not recovered sufficiently.

Mortgage Rates Fall
High home prices and unemployment are making it difficult for first-time and moderate income buyers to compete; buyers sitting on the sidelines are eventually expected to add to the demand for homes.

Mortgage rates fell after the Fed’s announcement, but Mr. Blitzer said that the drop in mortgage rates would likely have a temporary impact on housing. He said that the rate of increase [in home prices] may have peaked.

Conditions contributing to the run-up in home prices include a shortage of available homes and pent-up demand among home buyers. As of July, home prices for the Case-Shiller 20-city index increased by 12.40 percent year-over-year; this was the highest annual rate of increase since home prices peaked in 2006.

Home prices in the Case-Shiller 10-city index increased by 12.30 percent annually. In spite of the rapid price gains, July home prices remained 21 percent below their pre-recession peak.

Home prices in all 20 cities included in the 10 and 20 city indices increased on a month-to-month basis, with home prices increasing by 1.80 percent for the 20 city index and by 1.80 percent for the 10 city index.

Home Prices Show Strong Recovery
Las Vegas, Nevada had the highest annual gain in home prices for July with a 28 percent increase. Las Vegas was one of the cities hardest hit by the recession. Annual home prices for San Francisco, California rose by 25 percent, and New York City had the lowest annual growth rate for home prices at 3.50 percent.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, released its home prices report for properties securing mortgage loans owned or backed by Fannie and Freddie. The annual growth rate for home prices was 8.80 percent as of July, but remains 9.60 percent lower than the peak growth rate reported in April 2007.

Highest Existing Home Sales Since February 2007

existing-homes-sales-improvingSales of existing homes reached their highest volume in almost six years in August. The National Association of REALTORS reported Thursday that sales of existing homes rose 1.70 percent in August to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.48 million existing homes sold.

This was the highest number of existing home sales since February of 2007.

August’s results exceeded estimates of 5.20 existing homes sold, which was based on July’s unrevised reading of 5.39 million existing homes sold.

The NAR also reported that the national median home price increased to $212,100 in August. This represents a year-over-year increase of 14.70 percent and was the largest annual increase in the national median home price since October 2005.

Sales concentrated in areas with higher home prices contributed to this significant increase in the national median home price.

Homebuyers Increase Despite Higher Home Rates

The reading for existing home sales in August suggests that homebuyers are not shying away from higher home loan rates; it may also indicate that the recent shortage of existing homes for sale is beginning to ease.

August’s higher number of existing home sales was attributed to home buyers anxious to lock in lower loan rates in an environment of rising mortgage rates. Also, economists had expected the Federal Reserve to begin reducing its monthly securities purchases, which did not happen.

Had the Fed tapered its securities purchases, long-term interest rates including mortgage rates, would likely have continued rising. The Fed may have decided not to reduce its monthly securities purchase in an effort to slow rising mortgage rates.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage has increased by more than one percentage point since May. Home buyers may respond to rising mortgage rates by delaying their home purchase to see if mortgage rates will fall, or they may rush to buy a home before rates go higher.

Mortgage Rates Affect Home Buyers In Three Ways:

1. As rates increase, monthly house payments also rise, which can impact affordability for first-time and moderate income buyers.

2. National unemployment rates remain higher than the Federal Reserve’s target rate of 6.50 percent. While home prices are increasing and other facets of the economy are showing improvement, jobless claims remain higher than average.

3. Mortgage credit requirements are strict; this keeps some would-be buyers from qualifying for a home loan.

These factors are offset by high demand for homes and short supplies of available homes and developed lots in some areas.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – 9.30.13

mortgage-rates-this-week2Last week brought a variety of housing related news. Highlights included the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index for July, which showed a 12.40 percent year-over-year increase in national home prices. This was up from 12.10 percent in June.

The FHFA Housing Price Index reading traces home prices on properties securing mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The year-over-year reading for July showed an increase of 8.80 percent as compared to a year-over-year reading of 7.80 percent in June.

Rising mortgage rates and rising home prices have caused some buyers to leave the market, while others are jumping in before mortgage rates move higher. Pent-up demand for homes and short supplies of homes for sale are expected to sustain buyer interest and home prices.
The Consumer Confidence Index for September fell to 79.70 percent for September as compared to August’s reading of 81.80 percent, but was slightly higher than the expected reading of 79.50 percent.

Sales Of New Homes Surpass Expectactions
Sales of 421,000 new homes in August surpassed expectations of 420,000 sales and the revised number of 390,000 sales of new homes in July. A short supply of existing homes for sale is attracting buyers to new homes.

Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey provided good news as average mortgage rates fell. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.32 percent as compared to last week’s 4.50 percent.

The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.37 percent as compared to last week’s reading of 3.54 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was 3.07 percent, which was four basis points lower than last week. Discount points were unchanged at 0.50 percent.

Pending home sales fell by 1.60 percent in August as compared to July; the National Association of REALTOR cites higher home prices and mortgage rates along with depleted supplies of available homes as reasons for fewer signed contracts in August.

The West reported a drop of 1.60 percent in pending sales and the Midwest reported 1.40 percent fewer pending sales in August. The Northeast came out ahead with 4.00 percent more pending home sales in August.

Weekly jobless claims were reported at 305,000 new jobless claims as compared to expectations of 327,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 310.000. The Federal Reserve recently cited the national unemployment rate of over seven percent as a clear indication that employment levels are not recovering quickly.

Next Week’s Economic News
While few housing and mortgage related reports are set for release next week, the calendar should provide indications of overall economic conditions. On Tuesday, Construction Spending for August will be released. Wednesday brings the ADP employment report for September. This report tracks private sector jobs.

Thursday brings Freddie Mac’s PMMS report of average mortgage rates and the weekly jobless claims report.
The federal Non-farm Payrolls and National Unemployment Reports for September are set for release on Friday.