Archive for September, 2011

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30
September

Pending Home Sales graphDespite the lowest mortgage rates of all-time, home buyers are slowing the pace at which they’re buying homes.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, on a seasonally-adjusted basis, the Pending Home Sales Index fell 1 percent in August.

The Pending Home Sales Index measures homes under contract, but not yet sold, nationwide. In this respect, the Pending Home Sales Index is a forward-looking housing market indicator; a predictor of future home sales.

It’s one of the few national indices that “looks ahead” to future market conditions. Most housing data, by contrast, describes past events.

On a regional basis, only the South Region showed improvement in August’s Pending Home Sales Index report : 

  • Northeast Region: -5.8%
  • Midwest Region : -3.7%
  • South Region : +2.6%
  • West Region : -2.4%

That said, even the value of regional data can be questioned. Like all things in real estate, the number of homes going under contract will vary on the local level.

For example, in the Northeast Region where pending home sales slipped in August, there are close to a dozen states. Some of those states performed better than others, and there is no doubt that cities and towns exist in the region in which pending home sales actually climbed.

As a national/regional report, the Pending Home Sales Index cannot show local market data and, for that reason, it’s somewhat irrelevant to everyday buyers and sellers in San Diego. If you’re in the market to buy or sell a home today, it’s your local housing market data that matters to you. 

We watch the Pending Home Sales Index because it paints a broad picture of housing nationwide. To get local market conditions, though, you’ll want to talk with a local real estate professional.

Category : Housing Analysis | Blog
27
September

Existing Home Sales Aug 2010 - Aug 2011

Are home resales rebounding?

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, Existing Home Sales rose 8 percent in August from the month prior, and 19 percent as compared to August of last year.

“Existing homes” are homes that are previously owned; ones that cannot be considered new construction.

A total of 5.0 million existing homes were sold last month on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. This is slightly better than the 12-month home resale average, a statistic partially powered by “distressed sales”. Distressed homes — homes in various stages of foreclosures or sold via short sale – accounted for 31 percent of all home resales in August.

At the current rate of sales, the national home resale inventory would be depleted in 8.5 months. This pace is a full month faster as compared to July, and the lowest home supply reading since March 2011.  

Other noteworthy facts from the August Existing Home Sales report :

  • There are currently 3.58 million existing homes for sale nationwide
  • 29 percent of home buyers paid cash in August
  • Real estate investors bought 22% of homes in August, up from 18% in July

Home prices throughout San Diego are based on Supply and Demand and, at least right now, it appears the supply is dropping. Furthermore, with mortgage rates at all-time lows, it’s reasonable to expect demand to pick up. These two conditions should lead home prices higher.

If you’re shopping for a home right now, recognize the trends and work them to your advantage. It may be “cheapest” to buy now.

Category : Housing Analysis | Blog
21
September

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishWednesday, the Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its current target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

The vote was 7-3 — the second straight meeting at which the FOMC adjourned with as many 3 dissenters. Prior to that last meeting, there hadn’t been 3 FOMC dissenters since 1992.

In its press release, the Federal Reserve presented a dour outlook for the U.S. economy, noting that since its last meeting in August:

  1. Economic growth “remains slow”
  2. Unemployment rates “remain elevated”
  3. The housing sector “remains depressed”

The Fed also said that there are “significant downside risks” to the economic outlook, tied to strains in the global financial markets.  

The news wasn’t all bad, however.

The Fed noted that business investment in equipment and software continues to expand, and that inflationary pressures on the economy appear to have stabilized. The Fed then re-iterated its plan to leave the Fed Funds Rate in its current range near 0.000 percent “at least until mid-2013″. This means that Prime Rate — the rate to which credit card rates and lines of credits are often tied — should remain unchanged at 3.250 for at least another 2 years.

Furthermore, as expected, the Federal Reserve launched a market stimulus plan aimed at lowering long-term interest rates. The Fed will sell $400 billion in Treasury securities with a maturity of 3 years or less, and use the proceeds to buy the same with maturity between 6 and 30 years.

Mortgage market reaction to the FOMC statement has been positive this afternoon. Mortgage rates in CA are improving, but note that Wall Street sentiment can shift quickly — especially in a market that’s as uncertain as this one.

If today’s mortgage rates and payments fit your household budget, consider locking in a rate. Rates can change swiftly.

The FOMC’s next meeting is a 2-day affair, scheduled for November 1-2, 2011.

Category : Federal Reserve | Blog
21
September

Comparing 30-year fixed to Fed Funds Rate (1990-2011)

The Federal Open Market Committee adjourns from a two-day, scheduled meeting today, the sixth of 8 scheduled meetings this year, and the seventh Fed meeting overall.

The FOMC is a designated, 12-person committee within the Federal Reserve, led by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. The FOMC is the voting members for the country’s monetary policy. Among its other responsibilities, the FOMC sets the Fed Funds Rate, the overnight rate at which banks borrow money from each other.

Note that the “Fed Funds Rate” is different from “mortgage rates”. Mortgage rates are not set by the Fed. Rather, they are based on the price of mortgage-backed bonds, a security traded among investors.

As the chart at top illustrates, the Fed Funds Rate and conforming mortgage rates in San Diego have little correlation. Since 1990, the two benchmark rates have been separated by as much as 5.29 percent, and have been as close as 0.52 percent.

Today, the separation between the Fed Funds Rate and the national average for a standard, 30-year fixed rate mortgage is roughly 4 percent. This spread will change, however, beginning 2:15 PM ET Wednesday. That’s when the FOMC adjourns from its meeting and releases its public statement to the markets.

There is no doubt that the Fed will leave the Fed Funds Rate in its current target range of 0.000-0.250%; Fed Chairman Bernanke plans to leave the benchmark rate as-is until at least mid-2013. However, the Fed is expected to add new support for markets.

Unfortunately, there are few clues about how the Fed will support markets, and there is no consensus opinion regarding the size of the said support. As a result, mortgage rates should be bouncy today. First, they’ll be volatile ahead of the Fed’s statement. Then, they’ll be volatile post-Fed statement.

Even if the Fed does nothing, mortgage rates will change. This is because Wall Street is prepping for an announcement and — no matter what the Fed says or does — investors will want to react accordingly.

When mortgage markets are volatile, the safest move is to lock your mortgage rate in. There too much risk to float.

Category : Federal Reserve | Blog
15
September

Foreclosure Change August 2010-2011

On an annual basis, foreclosure filings fell last month. As compared to August 2010, last month’s foreclosure filings dropped 33 percent. ”Foreclosure filing” is a catch-all term, comprising default notices; scheduled auctions; and bank repossessions.

The study was published by foreclosure-tracking firm RealtyTrac and this month’s report reveals a slowing rate of foreclosure within each of the Top 10 most foreclosure-heavy states.

All news is not good, however. 

On a monthly basis, foreclosure filings spiked, led by a surge in default notices. Default notices made their biggest one-month jump since August 2007 on the way to a 9-month high last month. Default notices are the first step in the foreclosure process so this jump may foreshadow a large number of bank repossessions as foreclosures “make their way through the process“.

It’s also noteworthy that just 6 states housed half of the nation’s bank repossessions last month.

  • California : 18 percent of bank repossessions
  • Florida : 8 percent of bank repossessions
  • Georgia : 7 percent of bank repossessions
  • Michigan : 6 percent of bank repossessions
  • Texas : 6 percent of bank repossessions
  • Arizona : 6 percent of bank repossessions

As a home buyer in San Diego , foreclosures can save you money. The National Association of REALTORS® reports that distressed homes sell with typical discounts of 20 percent versus comparable, non-distressed homes. However, buying a home from a bank is a different process from buying a home from a “person”. Contract negotiations are different and it can take months to finally close on a foreclosed home.

If you’re buying a foreclosed, therefore, enlist the help of a professional real estate agent. Real estate agents can help you navigate the sometimes-complicated world of foreclosures, and help you come out ahead.

Category : Housing Analysis | Blog
13
September

ARM adjustments creeping higher

For the first time in a year, homeowners with adjusting mortgages are facing rising mortgage rates. The interest rate by which many adjustable-rate mortgages adjust has climbed to its highest level since September 2010, and looks poised to reach higher.

This is because of the formula by which adjustable-rate mortgage adjust.

Each year, when due for a reset, an adjustable-rate mortgage’s rate changes to the sum of fixed number known as a “margin”, and a variable figure known as an “index”. For conforming mortgages, the margin is typically set to 2.250 percent; the index is often equal to the 12-month LIBOR.

LIBOR stands for the London Interbank Offered Rate. It’s a rate at which banks lend to each other overnight.

Expressed as a math formula, the adjusting ARM formula reads :

(New Mortgage Rate) = (2.250 percent) + (Current 1-Year LIBOR)

LIBOR has been rising lately, which explains why ARMs are adjusting higher as compared to earlier this year. There has been considerable stress on the financial sector and LIBOR reflects the uncertainty that bankers feel for the sector. 

LIBOR last spiked after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 amid global financial fears. Analysts expect LIBOR to rise into 2012 because of bubbling concerns in the Eurozone.

Despite LIBOR’s rise, though, most adjusting, conforming ARMs are still resetting near 3 percent. For this reason, homeowners with ARMs in CA may want to consider letting their respective loans adjust with the market.

This is because an adjusting mortgage rate near 3 percent may be better than what’s available with a “fresh loan” — even as 5-year ARMs rates make new all-time lows. Unlike a straight refinance to lower rates, an adjusting loan requires no closing costs, requires no appraisal, and requires no verifications.

So, if you have an adjustable-rate mortgage that’s set to reset this season, don’t rush to refinance it. Talk to your lender and uncover your options. Your best course of action may be to stay the course.

Category : Mortgage Rates | Blog
9
September

Home Opportunity inde 2005-2011Home affordability slipped slightly last quarter, dragged down by rising mortgage rates and recovering home prices in CA and nationwide.

The National Association of Home Builders reports a Q2 2011 Home Opportunity Index reading of 72.6. This means that nearly 3 of 4 homes sold last quarter were affordable to households earning the national median income of $64,200.

Q2 2011 marks the 10th straight quarter — dating back to 2009 — in which the index surpassed 70.

Prior to 2009, the index had never crossed 70 even one time.

However, we must remember that the Home Affordability Index is a national survey. From region-to-region, and town-to-town, home affordability varied.

In the Midwest, for example, affordability was highest. 14 of the 15 most affordable markets nationwide were spread throughout Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Indiana. Only Syracuse (#9) cracked the list from other regions.

The top 5 most affordable cities in Q2 2011 were:

  1. Kokomo, IN (95.8%)
  2. Wheeling, WV (94.7%)
  3. Lansing, MI; East Lansing, MI (94.4%)
  4. Bay City, MI (94.3%)
  5. Youngstown, OH; Warren, OH; Boardman, OH (93.7%)

By contrast, the Northeast Region and Southern California ranked as the least affordable markets. Led by the New York-White Plains, NY-Wayne, NJ area, 7 of the 10 least affordable areas were in New York, New Jersey, and California. For the 13th consecutive quarter the New York metro area was ranked “Least Affordable”.

Just 25.2 percent of homes were affordable to households earning the area median income there.

The rankings for all 225 metro areas are available for download on the NAHB website.

Category : Housing Analysis | Blog
7
September

Net new jobs, rolling average

The U.S. economy is no longer adding new jobs.

Last Friday, in its monthly Non-Farm Payrolls report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the U.S. economy added exactly zero new jobs in August as the national Unemployment Rate held steady at 9.1 percent.

Despite the “zero” reading, the jobs figures were in the red. This is because the BLS issued revisions to its June and July figures that adjusted the two months of data down by 58,000 jobs.

Economists had expected a monthly reading of +75,000. Their estimates missed.

The weaker-than-expected jobs data fueled a stock market sell-off that pushed stocks down 2.5% and spurred a bond market rally. 

Mortgage bonds — the securities on which mortgage rates in San Diego are based — improved Friday ahead of Labor Day Weekend, and carried that momentum into Monday. While the U.S. markets were closed, global investors snapped up “safe” assets in fear of a second wave of financial crises. Already this year, markets have grappled with sovereign debt concerns in Greece and Portugal.

Now, Italy is facing similar international scrutiny, forcing markets to question the health of the Eurozone.

Concerns like these tend to benefit home buyers and mortgage rate shoppers and that’s exactly what we’re seeing.

Mortgage rates are falling this week. Rates may reverse quickly, however.

Later this month, the Federal Reserve and White House are each expected to add stimulus to the U.S. economy. If they do, it may push investors back into risky assets including equities at the expense of safe securities. This would spark a bond market sell-off and send rates higher.

Possibly by a lot.

Therefore, if you’re currently looking for home or comparing rates between lenders, consider executing sooner rather than later. Mortgage rates are low today, but low rates may not last. And when rates reverse higher, it will likely happen fast.

Category : The Economy | Blog
2
September

Case-Shiller Changes May to June 2011

Has housing turned the corner for good?

The June 2011 Case-Shiller Index reading posted strong numbers across the board, with each of the index’s 20 tracked markets showing home price improvement from May.

Some markets — Chicago and Minneapolis — rose as much as 3.2 percent.

The rise in values is nothing about which to get overly excited, however. The Case-Shiller Index is just re-reporting what multiple data sets have already shown about the summer housing market; that it was stronger than the spring market, and that a recovery is underway, but occurring locally, at different rates.

For example, the June 2011 Case-Shiller Index shows the following :

  • Denver, Dallas, Washington D.C., and the “California Cities” bottomed in 2009. Each has shown steady improvement since.
  • None of the Case-Shiller cities showed negative growth between May and June 2011.
  • 12 of Case-Shiller’s tracked cities have improved over 3 consecutive months.

In isolation, these statistics appear promising, but it’s important to remember that the Case-Shiller Index is a backward-looking data set, focusing on just a portion of the national housing economy.

As an illustration, the Case-Shiller Index’s “national report” only includes data from 20 cities nationwide. They’re not the 20 biggest cities, either. Smaller metropolitan areas such as Minneapolis (#48) and Tampa (#51) are included.

Larger ones including Houston (#4), Philadelphia (#5) and San Jose (#10) are not.

In addition, the Case-Shiller index fails to track sales of condominiums, multi-unit homes and new construction. In some markets, including Chicago, these excluded home type can represent a large share of the overall market.

The Case-Shiller Index is a fine data set for policy makers and economists. It describes the broader housing market and shows long-term trends. For the individual home buyer in San Diego , however, it’s much less useful. More than “broad data”, you want focused data that’s current and relevant.

The best place for data like that is a local real estate agent.

Category : Housing Analysis | Blog
1
September

Non-Farm Payrolls (Sep 2009 - est. Aug 2011)

If you’re shopping for a mortgage rate, today may be a good day to lock one down. That’s because Friday morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its Non-Farm Payrolls report for August 2011.

The “jobs report” tends to have a big influence on mortgage bonds and mortgage rates in San Diego.

The jobs report is a monthly issuance, providing sector-by-sector analysis of the U.S. workforce. It also report the national Unemployment Rate.

Wall Street expects the August Non-Farm Payrolls data to show 75,000 jobs created in August, down from 117,000 in July; and it expects that the Unemployment Rate will remain unchanged at 9.1%.

The jobs report’s connection to mortgage markets is straight-forward — as jobs go, so goes the economy. This is because when the number of working Americans rises :

  1. Consumer spending gets a boost
  2. Government tax collection gets a boost
  3. Household savings gets a boost

These are each good turns in a recovering economy.

For today’s rate shoppers and home buyers, though, it won’t be the actual number of jobs created that matter as much as how close that jobs figure is to Wall Street’s expectations. If the number of jobs created exceeds the 75,000 estimate, look for mortgage rates to rise.

Conversely, if job creation falls short of 75,000 in August, mortgage rates are expected to rise.

Home affordability remains at all-time lows and mortgage rates do, too. If you’ve been wondering whether now is the right time to lock a rate, you can remove some risk by locking ahead of Friday’s Non-Farm Payrolls release.

The report will be released at 8:30 AM ET.

Category : The Economy | Blog