Posted in Housing Analysis

Home Builder Confidence Moves To 6-Year High

NAHB Housing Market IndexAs home prices rise, so does home builder confidence.

Tuesday, the National Association of Homebuilders reported its monthly Housing Market Index (HMI) at 41, a one-tick improvement from September and the highest HMI value since June 2006 — a span of 77 months.

The Housing Market Index is a homebuilder confidence indicator. When it reads 50 or better, the HMI suggests favorable conditions for home builders nationwide. Readings below 50 suggest unfavorable conditions for builders.

The HMI has not crossed 50 since April 2006 but the index has been making a run since last year, nearly tripling since the 14 reading of last year’s September.

In addition, builder confidence has climbed for six straight months.

For Manhantten buyers of new construction, the Housing Market Index may help to set market expectations for the rest of 2012, and into early-2013. This is because the NAHB Housing Market Index is constructed as a composite survey, measuring builder sentiment in three specific areas — current home sales, future home sales, and buyer foot traffic.

What’s good for builders, though, may not be good for buyers.

When builders expect business to improve, they may be less willing to make concessions on price or product, holding home prices high and removing seasonal sales incentives.

This month, home builders are seeing strength in each of the three surveyed areas :

  • Current Single-Family Sales : 42 (Unchanged from September)
  • Projected Single-Family Sales : 51 (Unchanged from September)
  • Buyer Foot Traffic : 35 (+5 from September)

All three values are at multi-year highs but it’s the level of foot traffic that may concern today’s home buyers. Builders report foot traffic through model units to be at the highest rate since mid-last decade. This, combined with a shrinking supply of homes for sale, has contributed to a rise in new home sale prices and suggests even higher home prices in 2013.

Like most of the U.S. housing market, new construction appears to have bottomed in October 2011. One year later, the market looks stronger.

Posted in Personal Finance

Buyers Win 6.6 Percent Increase In Purchasing Power

Purchasing Power 2010-2012

Mortgage rates in New York continue to troll near all-time lows, boosting the purchasing power of home buyers statewide.

According to Freddie Mac’s most recent Primary Mortgage Market survey, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage is now 3.39 percent nationwide, just three ticks off an all-time low. At the start of last quarter, 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates averaged 3.62 percent.

One year ago, they averaged 4.12%.

When mortgage rates are falling, they present Manhantten home buyers with interesting options. Because of lower rates, buyers can choose to tighten their household budgets, buying an ideal home but paying less to own it each month. Or, for buyers who shop for homes by “monthly payment”, falling mortgage rates put more homes with affordability’s reach.

As a real-life example, for a buyer whose monthly principal + interest mortgage payment is limited to $1,000 per month, and whom opts for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, as compared to January of this year, the maximum property purchase price has climbed 6.6%, or $14,000 in list price.

Consider this comparison:

  • January 2012 : A payment of $1,000 afforded a maximum loan size of $211,756
  • October 2012 : A payment of $1,000 affords a maximum loan size of $225,771

The 6.6 percent increase in affordability outpaces this year’s rise in home prices and is one reason why the U.S. housing market is improving. Slowly and steadily, the U.S. economy is improving and “good deals” in housing are becoming harder to find. In addition, because homeownership is now less expensive than renting in many U.S. cities, home demand among buyers continues to rise.

For today’s home buyer, market conditions appear ripe. Mortgage rates are near all-time lows, low-downpayment mortgage program remain plentiful, and home values have been rising since late-2011. Within 6 months, rates may be up and homes prices, too. Purchasing power would decline, decreasing home affordability nationwide.

The best “deals” in housing, therefore, may be the ones you find today.

Posted in Mortgage Rates

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : October 15, 2012

Freddie Mac mortgage ratesMortgage markets improved slightly last week. With a dearth of new U.S. economic data due for release, investors turned their collective attention to the Europe, China, and the Middle East.

U.S. mortgage rates fell slightly in the holiday-shortened week.

The combination of civil protests, economic slowdowns, and growing political tensions caused investors to dump risky assets in favor of the relative safety provided by the U.S. mortgage bond market.

According to Freddie Mac, the average conforming 30-year fixed rate mortgage is now 3.39% nationwide for borrowers willing to pay 0.7 discount points plus a full set of closing costs. 0.7 discount points is a one-time closing cost equal to 0.7 percent of the borrowed loan size.

As an illustration, a bank’s charge of 0.7 discount points on a $100,000 mortgage would cost $700 to the borrower.

Freddie Mac also reported the average conforming 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rate at 2.70% nationwide with an accompanying 0.6 discount points plus closing costs. Loans with zero discount points carry a higher mortgage rate average.

This week, data returns to Wall Street as a series of housing reports are slated for release, in addition to inflationary reports such Tuesday’s Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The week begins with Retail Sales, released at 8:30 AM ET Monday. On a strong figure, mortgage rates in Manhantten are expected to climb. This is because Retail Sales data is closely tied to consumer spending and consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy. 

A growing economy tends to pull mortgage rates higher.

Tuesday’s CPI may do the same.

Inflation erodes the value of a mortgage bond so when inflation pressures grow, demand for mortgage bonds fall which, in turn, causes mortgage rates to rise. If CPI is higher-than-expected, mortgage rates will likely rise.

Then, there’s a flurry of housing data. The Housing Market Index (Tuesday), Housing Starts (Wednesday) and Existing Home Sales (Friday) all hit this week. Strength in housing may lead mortgage rates higher, harming home affordability for today’s home buyers.

At today’s mortgage rates, every 1/8% increase raises monthly mortgage payments roughly $7 per $100,000 borrowed. 

Posted in Housing Analysis

Florida Takes Top Foreclosure Slot For September 2012

Foreclosures : September 2012

Foreclosure volume continues to slip.

According to foreclosure-tracking firm RealtyTrac, in September, the number of foreclosure filings nationwide fell 7 percent from the month prior, and fell 16 percent from September 2011.

RealtyTrac defines a “foreclosure filing” as any of the following foreclosure-related events : (1) A default notice on a home; (2) A scheduled auction for a home; or, (3) A bank repossession of a home.

September’s 180,427 foreclosure filings mark the lowest monthly total in more than 5 years. It’s a signal that the U.S. housing market is in recovery, while also reflecting the success with which banks and homeowners have found alternatives to the foreclosure process, including the short sale.

Based on data from the National Association of REALTORS®, short sales now account for 45 percent of “distressed” home sales nationwide/ As recently as April, the percentage of short sales was just 39 percent.

Other noteworthy statistics from the September 2012 foreclosure report include :

  • Default Notices fell 12% between August and September 2012
  • In Q3 2012, quarterly foreclosure filings fell for the 9th straight quarter 
  • The average time to foreclose on a home rose to 382 days nationwide, the highest since early-2007

In addition, in September, Florida posted the top foreclosure rate nationwide for the first time since April 2005.

Foreclosure starts moved higher in the Sunshine State for the 11th straight month and bank repossessions are now up 23 percent as compared to September 2011. 1 in every 318 Florida homes received some form of foreclosure filing last month.

The national average was 1 in 730.

Whether you’re a first-time home buyer or an experienced one, homes in various stages of foreclosure have allure. They tend to be sold cheaply as compared to non-distressed properties, for example. However, buyers should look beyond just the “list price”. Foreclosed homes are often sold as-is which means that homes may be defective and uninhabitable.

This would render the home un-lendable, too, for buyers using bank financing.

If you plan to buy a foreclosed property in Manhantten , therefore, be sure to engage an experienced real estate professional. The internet can teach about “how to buy a home”, but when it comes to writing contracts and inspecting homes for defects, you’ll want to have an experienced agent on your side.

Posted in Personal Finance

Tips To Close Your Home Loan Faster, With Fewer Hassles

Close faster on your mortgageWith mortgage rates at all-time lows, purchase and refinance activity is climbing.

Home sales are at their highest levels since May 2010 as home buyers take advantage of favorable economic conditions. Home prices are low, household income is rising, and rents are up in many U.S. cities.

Low rates have stoked mortgage refinance applications throughout New York , too.

Last week, with 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates slipping to 3.36% nationwide, on average, more U.S. homeowners were in search of a refinance than during any one-week period since April 2009.

With loan volume high, banks are nearing their respective capacities for underwriting and approving home loans. As a mortgage applicant, therefore, you’ll want to make sure that you’re taking whatever steps necessary to ensure that your home loan closes on-time, and without hassle.

You most important responsibility? Be responsive to your lender.

When asked for paperwork and/or supporting documentation, providing a 24-hour turnaround can keep your loan “top of mind” with your underwriter. This is important because underwriters are people and, sometimes, people “forget”. The fewer times that an underwriter has to “relearn” your file and its nuances, the better your chances for a speedy approval.

A secondary benefit to being responsive to your lender is that you’ll be less likely to miss your rate lock deadline which, too often, is a costly proposition for a borrower. Even if the mortgage market has improved since your original lock date, your lender may assess rate-lock extension fees equal to up to one-half percent of your loan size.

Other tips to ensure an on-time closing include :

  1. Disclose everything upfront. Your lender will find out anyway, so don’t under-disclose important facts.
  2. Be accessible. Your lender will often want to contact you by phone or email. Don’t lose days playing “phone tag”.
  3. When required, schedule your appraisal for as soon as possible. It’s easy to lose days to this part of the process.

And, lastly, don’t challenge an underwriter’s request for “more paperwork”. Lenders want to see as little paper as possible. They don’t ask for information that’s not required to approve your loan.

Mortgage volume is expected to remain high through the end of 2012 and into 2013. Follow these steps to help close your loan on time, and with few headaches. 

Posted in Housing Analysis

103 Metro Areas On The “Improving” U.S. Markets List

NAHB Improving Market Index

It’s not just the housing market that’s improving nationwide — it’s the economy overall.

The number of U.S. metropolitan areas showing “measurable and sustained growth” climbed to 103 this month. The data is measured by the Improving Markets Index, a monthly metric from the National Association of Homebuilders.

The Improving Market Index is meant to identify which U.S. markets are experiencing broad economic growth — not just growth in terms of housing.

The index’s conclusions are based on three data series — each collected separately; each from a different division of the U.S. government; and, each tied to specific local economic conditions.

Those three data series are :

  1. Employment Statistics (from the Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  2. Home Price Growth (from Freddie Mac)
  3. Single-Family Housing Growth (from the Census Bureau)

After collating the data, the National Association of Homebuilders evaluates the reports as a group for each specific major metropolitan area.

A metropolitan area can be cited as “improving” only if the following two conditions are met. One, all three data series show expansion and/or growth as compared to 30 days prior; and, two, none of the data series have “bottomed” within the last six months.

As a result of its methodology, the Improving Market Index specifically passes over short-term growth bursts in a market, isolating for areas with long-term, sustainable growth instead.

Furthermore, “improving” cities may be more apt to outperform other U.S. cities in the months and years ahead, rendering them ideal for relocating buyers from Westchester in search of long-term employment and income opportunities, as well as real estate investors in want of healthy, stable markets.

33 states are represented in the October Improving Market Index, plus the District of Columbia. 11 new areas were added to the list as compared to September and just 7 dropped off.

The newly-added areas include State College, Pennsylvania and Raleigh, North Carolina. Cities falling off the list for October include Lakeland, Florida.

The complete Improving Markets Index is available for download at the NAHB website.

Posted in Mortgage Rates

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : October 9, 2012

Rates rising on economyMortgage markets worsened last week for the first time in a month as the U.S. economy showed signs of improvement, and the Eurozone stepped closer to launching its $500 billion euro rescue fund.

Conforming mortgage rates in New York rose last week on the whole — even though Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey proclaimed that they fell

This occurred because Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage rate survey is conducted between Monday and Tuesday each week and, last week, mortgage rates were lower when the week began. Through Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, however, they rose.

According to the Freddie Mac survey, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage slipped to 3.36 percent nationwide last week, while the 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 2.69 percent. Both rates required 0.6 discount points and both marked all-time lows.

As this week begins, to gain access to the same 3.36% and 2.69% mortgage rates from last week, Bronx mortgage applicants should expect to pay more closing costs and/or higher discount points.

Improving U.S. employment data is partially to blame.

Friday morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its September Non-Farm Payrolls report. More commonly called “the jobs report”, the monthly issuance details changes in U.S. employment by sector and reports on the national Unemployment Rate.

In September, accounting for upward revisions to data from July and August, 200,000 net new jobs were created — far exceeding Wall Street’s estimates for 120,000 net new jobs created. Furthermore, the Unemployment Rate unexpectedly dropped to 7.8%.

Jobs are considered a keystone in the U.S. economic recovery. As a result, when the jobs numbers hit Friday, mortgage rates worsened, building on momentum built earlier in the week as Greece moved steps closer to accepting aid from the Eurozone.

In general, since 2010, weakness in the Eurozone has helped push U.S. mortgage rates lower. As Europe regains its footing, therefore, domestic mortgage rates are expected to rise.

This week, in a holiday-shortened week, there will be little new data to move mortgage rates. The Federal Reserve’s Beige Book is released Wednesday and some key inflation data is due for Friday release. Beyond that, mortgage rates will continue to take cues from the Eurozone.

Mortgage rates remain near all-time lows.

Posted in Federal Reserve

Fed Minutes Detail QE3 Discussion; Mortgage Rates Down

Fed Minutes September 2012The minutes from the Federal Reserve’s September Federal Open Market Committee meeting were released Thursday.

The Fed Minutes detail the discussions and debates which shaped the central banker’s launch of its third round of qualitative easing since 2008. The minutes also give Wall Street insight into future monetary policy.

At 6,987 words, the Fed Minutes provides a level of detail that was unavailable via the FOMC’s post-meeting press release, a documen that, by contrast, ran 562 words.

Despite its large word count, there was very little that was new or surprising in the Fed Minutes, though. This is because, since the Fed’s last meeting, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has publicly clarified and re-iterated the Fed’s positions on employment, housing and inflation.

The minutes provide a strong backdrop to his comments, however.

For example, with respect to the jobs market, Fed members deemed employment “disappointing”, noting that growth in payrolls has been slower in 2012 as compared to 2011, and that the expansion rate of today’s job market is too slow to make significant progress against the national unemployment rate.

The Fed Minutes also included the following notes :

  • On housing : Further improvement is occurring, albeit from a “depressed level”
  • On inflation : Risks appear “tilted to the downside”, but energy costs pose risks
  • On Europe : A “slight improvement”, but still a risk to global economic activity

Of greatest interest to home buyers in Manhantten and rate-shopping refinancers, though, was the Fed’s discussion of its QE3 program. The program was introduced to help suppress mortgage rates nationwide which, the Fed believes, will make “broader financial conditions” more accommodative.

The Fed plans to purchase $40 billion in mortgage-backed bonds monthly for a “considerable” period of time after the U.S. economy has already shown signs of full recovery and, since the launch of QE3, 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates are down 19 basis points to 3.36% nationwide, on average.

The next Federal Open Market Committee meeting is scheduled for October 23-24, 2012. 

Posted in The Economy

With Tomorrow’s Job Report Due, Mortgage Rates May Finally Rise

Estimated Non-Farm Payrolls September 2012

It’s a dangerous time for home buyers in Bronx to be without a locked mortgage rate.

Friday morning, at 8:30 AM ET, the government releases its Non-Farm Payrolls report for September. More well-known as “the jobs report”, Non-Farm Payrolls data has the power to move mortgage rates up or down.

Unfortunately, ahead of the release, we can’t know which.

Last year, job growth more than doubled between August and September. If this year shows that same growth, New Jersey mortgage rates are expected to rocket higher.

The connection between rising jobs and rising rates is a chain reaction-type link, and is often quite tight.

Jobs are a growth engine for the U.S. economy and mortgage rates are “made” based on future expectations for the U.S. economy. In general, when the economy is improving, it draws Wall Street into “risky” investments and away from “safe” ones.

Meanwhile, mortgage-backed bonds — especially those from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are considered to be among the safest investment assets available. Therefore, as the size of the U.S. workforce swells, and economic projections increase, Wall Street tends to divest itself of its mortgage bond holdings which, in turn, increases the supply of mortgage-backed bonds for sale.

With more supply, all things equal, mortgage bond prices fall and this causes mortgage rates to rise.

This is why the September jobs report is important to today’s home buyers and mortgage rate shoppers. A better-than-expected tally will result in higher mortgage rates. 

In August 2012, the government reported 96,000 net new jobs created — a sharp decrease from the month prior and a figure just shy of the metric’s six-month moving average. The Unemployment Rate fell one-tenth of one percent in August to 8.1%.

For September, economists expect to see 120,000 net new jobs created, and no change in the national Unemployment Rate.

Posted in Personal Finance

How To Help Your Home Appraise At Its Fair Market Value

Home values are rising in many U.S. markets. The S&P/Case-Shiller Index has home values up 1.2 percent as compared to last year, and the government’s Home Price Index shows an increase of 3.7 percent.

This has been partially evidenced by rising median home sales prices nationwide. Versus last year, the median sale price of a new construction home has climbed 17 percent, and the median sale price of an existing home sale is higher by 10 percent.

For home sellers, an improving market means the chance to net more proceeds from a home sale. Or does it?

In this 3-minute piece from NBC’s The Today Show, we hear about the home appraisal process and how it may be limiting the number of home sales nationwide, plus the prices at which homes are selling. 

The interview includes several key insights into the home appraisal process :

  • In a rising housing market, a home’s appraised home value may be lower than its “true” market value
  • Short sales and foreclosures can make a negative impact on a home’s appraised value
  • Consolidation in the appraisal industry has lowered product quality and may be harming valuations

One key take-away from the video is that home owners in Manhantten should provide their home appraisers with as much relevant information as possible — especially information which may not be publicly-available. This includes records of recent “all-cash” sales of comparable homes which were never formally listed for sale.

One in three purchase agreements are canceled because of appraisal issues, according to the interview. Take steps to make sure yours is not among them.