Posted in Housing Analysis

Monthly Foreclosure Count Drops For 16th Straight Month

Foreclosures per Capita May 2011

Foreclosure rates are falling.

According to foreclosure-tracking firm RealtyTrac, monthly foreclosure filings fell 2 percent in May to just under 215,000 filings nationwide. A foreclosure filing is defined as any one of the following: a default notice, a scheduled auction, or a bank repossession.

On an annual basis, foreclosure counts have dropped over 16 consecutive months, dating back to January 2010.

Like all things in real estate, though, foreclosures are local. 6 states accounted for more than half of the country’s foreclosure filings in May. Those six states — California, Michigan, Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Texas — represent just 34% of the U.S. population.

But even on a per household basis, the figures remain disproportionate.

  • Top 10 Foreclosure States : 1 foreclosure per 357 households, on average
  • Bottom 10 Foreclosure States : 1 foreclosure per 8,764 households, on average

The nationwide foreclosure rate was 1 foreclosure per 605 households.

As a home buyer in Bronx , foreclosures matter. Distressed homes account for close to 40% of home resales and that’s because distressed properties often sell at steep discounts; in some markets, up to 20 percent less than a comparable, non-distressed home. Foreclosed homes can be a great “deal”, therefore, but only if you’ve done your homework. 

Buying a bank-repossessed home is different from buying from “people”. The contracts and negotiation process are different, and homes are sometimes sold with defects.

If you plan to purchase a New Jersey foreclosure, therefore, speak with a real estate professional first. With foreclosures, there’s a lot you can learn online, but when it comes time to submit an actual bid, you’ll want an experienced agent on your side.

Posted in The Economy

Mortgage Rates Surge On May Retail Sales Figures

Retail Sales historyThe jobs market is recovering slower than expected, and so is housing. But neither condition has slowed U.S. consumers.

According to the Census Bureau, Retail Sales rose for the 11th straight month in May. Excluding cars and auto parts, sales receipts climbed to $322 billion last month. It’s an all-time high and another example of the U.S. economy’s resiliency.

Wall Street didn’t expect such results. As a result, mortgage rates worsened Tuesday.

By a lot.

The connection between Retail Sales and mortgage rates can be fairly tight in a recovering economy. Retail Sales accounts for almost half of all U.S. consumer spending, and nearly one-third of the economy overall. The May report, therefore, showed the economy may be on more solid footing than economists expect.

Plus, lately, as the economy goes, so go mortgage rates in Westchester and nationwide. 

When the economy has shown signs of life, mortgage rates have increased. When the economy has shown signs of a slowdown, mortgage rates have dropped.

It’s why mortgage markets reacted the way they did Tuesday; May’s Retail Sales data was strong. The resultant surge in conforming mortgage rates — from market open to market close — turned into one of the year’s fiercest, raising average mortgage rates well off their 7-month lows established earlier this week.

At today’s rates, each 0.125 percent change in rates yields a payment difference of $7.50 per $100,000 borrowed. Yesterday, some product rates rose by as much as 0.250 percent. It put a dent in home affordability and household budgets.

With Retail Sales are up 8 percent from last year, therefore, and showing few signs of a slowdown, today may be a prudent date to lock a rate with your lender. As the economy continues to grow, rates are expected to rise.

Posted in Mortgage Rates

Is This The Start Of A Refi Boom? Mortgage Rates Fall For 8 Straight Weeks.

Freddie Mac mortgage rates 2010-2011

Mortgage rates are falling, falling, falling.

On a wave of uncertainty about Greece and its debt; and weaker-than-expected economic data at home, conforming 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates have fallen to levels not seen since December 2, 2010.

Mortgage rates have dropped 8 weeks in a row. Not even last year’s Refi Boom produced an 8-week winning streak. This season’s streak is historic.

The 30-year fixed rate mortgage now averages 4.49% nationally, down 42 basis points, or 0.42%, since early-April. For every $100,000 borrowed, that equates to a monthly savings of $25.24.

Adjustable-rate mortgages have shed even more, giving back 50 basis points since the streak began.

Because of low rates, it’s an excellent time to buy or refinance a home relative to just a few weeks ago. Note, though, that depending on where you live, you may find your quoted interest rates to be slightly higher or lower than what Freddie Mac reports in its survey. This is because the Freddie Mac figure is a national average.

Mortgage rates and fees vary by region:

  • Northeast : 4.49 with 0.6 points
  • Southeast : 4.52 with 0.8 points
  • North Central : 4.52 with 0.6 points
  • Southeast : 4.52 with 0.6 points
  • West : 4.45 with 0.8 points

You’ll notice that, in the West Region, rates tend to be low and fees tend to be high; in the North Central Region, the opposite is true. You should expect New York to have its own pricing norm within this region, too.

Is there a particular rate-and-fee setup that suits you best? The good news is that you can ask for it — no matter where you live.

If having the absolute lowest mortgage rate is more important to you than having the absolute lowest fees, ask your loan officer to structure your loan in the “West” style. Or, if low costs are more your style, ask for them.

Mortgage rates appears as if they’re headed lower but don’t forget how quickly markets can change. Once they do, mortgage rates in Manhantten should spike. Exploit today’s market while you still can.

Posted in Around The Home

20 Craft Projects To Spice Up Your Home

Home decoration projectsIf you have a flair for home decoration projects, Better Homes & Garden has some terrific ideas for you on its website.

Titled “Fast and Fabulous Decorating Projects”, the lifestyle company offers inspiration for 20 do-it-yourself art projects that can breathe life into old furniture, and add pop to your home.

Published in thumbnail format, the guide is quick-to-browse and long on ideas.

In addition, because many of the highlighted projects involve the re-purposing and/or the recycling of existing furniture and other home goods, not only do costs stay low, but it’s likely that you have the required project materials in your home already:

A sampling of the projects includes:

  • Making bathrooms more private using stenciled window patterns
  • Creating slip-covered, upholstered headboards
  • Disguising less-than-perfect cabinet/cupboard doors with prints
  • Transforming old mirrors and windows into functional message boards
  • Decoupaging retro posters to revitalize old furniture

The projects range in difficulty from basic to advanced. Some require nothing more than scissors and glue; others require advanced skills in woodworking and sewing. There’s something for everyone.

Posted in Mortgage Rates

Do You Know What Questions To Ask Your Lender?

A mortgage comes with many moving pieces and understanding them is the key getting a great deal. Unfortunately, studies show that few Americans have a firm grasp of how mortgages work — from mortgage types to mortgage fees.

In this back-to-basics interview on NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll learn some mortgage planning basics to help you get smarter with your next home loan in Manhantten or anywhere else — purchase or refinance.

Some of the topics covered include:

  • The mortgage applicants for whom adjustable-rate mortgages are a better choice than fixed-rate mortgages
  • Why you should include “How Good Is This Lender?”-type questions in the rate shopping process
  • What a pre-approval letter is good for, and what it is not good for

There is also one of the most simple explanations of “discount points” ever offered on network television.

The video runs 4-and-a-half minutes. For first-time buyers and experienced ones, it’s worth a watch. You’ll pick up some tips to use on your next mortgage.

Posted in Personal Finance

Moving To A New City? See How Much Your Cost Of Living Will Change.

Cost of Living varies from town to townIt’s a fact: It’s more expensive to live in some cities than others. Beyond just the costs of buying a home, different cities also carry a different Cost of Living. For households relocating from New Jersey and  across state lines, the change in “life costs” can be jarring.

Depending on where you live, everyday expenses — from groceries to gasoline — make a different-sized dent in a household budget. And now you can see in numbers by how much your expenses might change.

Visit’s Cost of Living Comparison Calculator

The Cost of Living Comparison calculator is as basic as it is thorough. The calculator asks just 3 questions —  (1) Where do you live now, (2) To what city are you moving, and (3) What is your salary — and uses your answers to produce a detailed, 60-item cost comparison between the two towns.

The city-to-city cost comparisons include:

  • Dry Cleaning Costs
  • Total Energy Costs
  • Beauty Salon Costs
  • Movie Costs
  • Dentist Visit Costs

The list also features a mortgage rate comparison, and a comparison of local home prices.

The Cost of Living calculator is based on data from the ACCRA. On the ACCRA website, a similar report sells for $5. At, the information is free.

Posted in Mortgage Guidelines

Temporary Conforming Loan Limits Expire September 30, 2011

Conforming Loan Limits lowered in 2011If you live in a high-cost area, keep an eye on your calendar. Effective October 1, 2011, temporary conforming loan limits will be lowered nationwide. Perhaps by as much as 14 percent.

These limits range up to $729,750 currently.

“Temporary loan limits” were enacted as part of the government’s 2008 economic stimulus package. At the time, the financial sector was entering its crisis and private mortgage lending had all but disappeared. Financing was scarce for both homeowners and home buyers for whom loan sizes exceeded Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s national $417,000 limit — even for those with excellent credit and income.

The issue was exacerbated in places like New York City where local home prices routinely topped $1 million. Buyers unable or unwilling to bring a substantial downpayment to closing (i.e. $600,000 or more) found themselves without financing.

The February 2008 package addressed this issue, using a math formula to change loan limits in Westchester and nationwide. The government assigned to each U.S. metropolitan area a temporary, new loan size limit equal to 25% greater than its respective median home sale price, not to fall below $417,000, and not to exceed $729,750.

Then, later that same year, the Housing and Recovery Act made “high-cost areas” permanent, but with a reduced 15% increase to median home prices, and loan sizes not to exceed $625,500.

These new limits take effect October 1, 2011 — one day after the temporary limits expire.

If you live in a high-cost area, therefore, take note. Mortgage rates may be low, but the amount of loan for which you qualify may be less than you expect, and you may find yourself ineligible.

Whether you’re planning a refinance or a purchase, keep an eye on the calendar.

The complete list of high-cost areas is available online.

Posted in Housing Analysis

“Homes Under Contract” Plunge 12 Percent In April

Pending Home Sales 2009-2011

Hurt by foul weather and a soft market, the Pending Home Sales Index plunged 12 percent in April.

The monthly index is published by the National Association of REALTORS® and measures the number of homes on which new contracts have been written. 

It’s the association’s lone “forward-looking” report; meant to predict future, closed home sales. 80% of homes under contract close within 2 months.

Therefore, if the April Pending Home Sales Index is accurate, we should expect home sales to decline through June and July.

On a regional basis, “pending homes” varied. The Northeast Region posted growth. None others did.

  • Northeast Region: +1.7% from March
  • Midwest Region : -10.4% from March
  • South Region : -17.2% from March
  • West Region : -8.9% from March

But even regional data remains too broad to be useful to everyday buyers and sellers in the Westchester market. Housing is local and that means that each block, of each street, in each city has its own market and economy. Grouping 9 states into a single “region” is neither helpful nor relevant.

That said, we can’t ignore the data in its entirety.

Housing is believed to be a key component in the nation’s economic recovery. Fewer home sales will retard growth, and slower growth leads mortgage rates down.

Home Affordability hit record-highs last quarter, and should do the same in this one. Homes now sell at discounts to prior prices and mortgage financing is cheap. Buyers tend to be drawn to favorable markets such as this, and that will pressure home prices higher.

If you’re in the market for a home today, conditions look good. Talk to your real estate agent to gauge your options.

Posted in Rankings

The 50 Most Expensive Small Towns In The United States

50 Most Expensive Small Towns In AmericaAccording to the National Association of REALTORS®, foreclosures and other “distressed properties” sell at discounts of 20 percent of more. Discounts of that size affect pricing in the broader housing market, too. It’s among the reasons why median home prices are dropping.

Not all markets are affected equally, however. In a recent BusinessWeek analysis, it was shown that one-third of the nation’s 50 most expensive small towns experienced a median price increase between 2010 and 2011.

Topped by Sagaponack, New York — a town of only 582 residents — each of the cities carries a median home price of more than $1,000,000, and a total population of 10,000 or less.

The list is dominated by New York and California, with 22 and 13 entrants, respectively. The rest of the towns are spread throughout the country, including Chilmark, MA (#28), Yarrow Point, WA (#29) and Belle Meade, TN (#48).

The complete Top 10 follows:

  1. Sagaponack :
    $3,406,640, -14.5%
    Jupiter Island, FL : $2,810,434 -11.3%
    Kings Point, NY : $2,379,905 +13.5%
    Los Altos Hills, CA : $2,161,255 -13.6%
    Water Mill, NY : $2,111,688 -10.0%
    Belvedere, CA :  $2,100,453 + 1.3%
    Rolling Hills, CA : $2,063,917 +7.3%
    Hidden Hills, CA : $1,871,182 +0.7%
    Sands Point, NY : $1,823,677 +9.0%
    Woodside, CA : $1,792,837 -15.7%

    $3,406,640, (-14.5% from 2010)

  2. Jupiter Island, FL : $2,810,434 (-11.3% from 2010)
  3. Kings Point, NY : $2,379,905 (+13.5% from 2010)
  4. Los Altos Hills, CA : $2,161,255 (-13.6% from 2010)
  5. Water Mill, NY : $2,111,688 (-10.0% from 2010)
  6. Belvedere, CA :  $2,100,453 (+1.3% from 2010)
  7. Rolling Hills, CA : $2,063,917 (+7.3% from 2010)
  8. Hidden Hills, CA : $1,871,182 (+0.7% from 2010)
  9. Sands Point, NY : $1,823,677 (+9.0% from 2010)
  10. Woodside, CA : $1,792,837 (-15.7% from 2010)

See the complete list at the BusinessWeek website.