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25
January

Interest rate difference between 30-year fixed and Fed Funds Rate 2000-2012

The Federal Open Market Committee adjourns from a scheduled 2-day meeting today, its first of 8 scheduled meetings this year.

The FOMC is a designated, rotating, 12-person committee within the Federal Reserve, led by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Members of the FOMC sub-committee are the voting members of the Federal Reserve; the ones that ultimately determine U.S. monetary policy.

The most well-known Federal Reserve monetary policy tool is the central bank’s Fed Funds Rate. The Fed Funds Rate is the prescribed interest rate at which banks borrow money from each other for a period of one night. 

The Fed Funds Rate can only be changed by FOMC vote.

For home buyers and would-be refinancing households in San Diego , it’s important to recognize that the Fed Funds Rate is an interest rate separate and distinct from “mortgage rates”. Mortgage rates are not voted upon by the Federal Reserve. Rather, mortgage rates are based on the price of mortgage-backed bonds, a security bought and sold among investors.

Historically, there is little correlation between the Fed Funds Rates and 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates throughout CA. Going back 20 years, the benchmark rates have been separated by as much as 5.29% and have been as near as 0.52%. 

The spread has even gone negative, most recently in 1979 and 1981 — a period marked by high inflation.

Today, the separation between the Fed Funds Rate and the average, 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate is roughly 3.60%. Beginning at 12:30 PM ET, however, that spread is expected to change. The FOMC will make its statement to the press at that time, and will release its quarterly forecast to the markets.

As Wall Street reacts to the Fed’s press release and projections, mortgage rates will move.

Investors expect the Fed to vote the Fed Funds Rate unchanged from its current range near 0.000 percent, but are unsure of how the Fed will characterize the U.S. economy. If the Fed speaks optimistically on the economy, stock markets should rise and mortgage bonds should fall, driving mortgage rates higher.

Conversely, if the Fed shows concern for future economic growth, mortgage rates should drop. Either way, today figures to be volatile one for mortgage markets. 

When mortgage markets get volatile, the safe play as a rate shopper is to lock your mortgage rate immediately. There too much risk in floating.

Category : Federal Reserve | Blog
24
January

Existing Home Supply 2011The housing market finished 2011 with strength, and is carrying measurable momentum into 2012. 

According to data from the National Association of REALTORS®, on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, December’s Existing Home Sales climbed by 120,00 units overall from the month prior on its way to an 11-month high.

An “existing home” is a home that’s been previously occupied; that cannot be considered new construction.

After 4.61 million existing homes were sold in December, there are now just 2.38 million homes for sale nationwide. The last time the national home supply was this sparse was March 2005.

At today’s sales pace, the complete, national home inventory would be exhausted in 6.2 months — the fastest pace since before the recession. A 6.0-month supply is believed to represent a market in balance. 

The December Existing Home Sales report contained noteworthy foreclosure and short sale statistics, too :

  • Foreclosures sold at an average discount of 22% to market value
  • Short sales sold at an average discount of 13% to market value
  • Together, foreclosures and short sales accounted for 32% of all home sales

Clearly, “distressed homes” remain a large part of the U.S. housing market.

Furthermore, in its report, the real estate trade group also noted that one-third of homes under contract to sell nationwide succumbed to contract failure last month. That’s up from 9% one year ago.

Contract failure occurs for a multitude of reasons, most notably homes appraising for less than the purchase price; the buyer’s failure to achieve a mortgage approval; and, insurmountable home inspection issues. December’s high failure rate underscores the importance of getting pre-approved as a buyer, and of buying homes in “good condition”.

For today’s home buyer in San Diego , December’s Existing Home Sales figures may be construed as a “buy signal”. Home supplies are dropping and buyer demand is rising. This is the basic recipe for higher home prices ahead.

If your 2012 plans call for buying a home, consider that home values throughout CA are expected to rise as the year progresses. The best values of the year may be the ones secured this winter.

Category : Housing Analysis | Blog
18
January

Annual Foreclosure Change, Top 10 States, December 2011

Foreclosure filings are fewer these days, according to foreclosure-tracking firm RealtyTrac.

In December 2011, the number of foreclosure filings nationwide fell 9 percent from the month prior. Not since November 2007 has foreclosure activity been this sparse across the country.

The drop does not appear to be seasonal, either. 

Last month’s foreclosure filings were down 20 percent from December 2010 with “foreclosure filing” defined to include any one of the following foreclosure-related events : (1) The serving of a default notice, (2) A scheduled home auction, or (3) A bank repossession. As a result of a unexpectedly strong year-end, 2011′s annual foreclosure rate was the lowest in 4 years.

One reason why the year may have closed so strongly is that Nevada, California, Michigan and Arizona — four states typically associated with high rates of foreclosures — each posted big drops in foreclosure filings between November and December, plus double-digit drops between December 2010 and December 2011.  

In fact, among the country’s top 10 states for foreclosure activity, nine showed an annual foreclosure filing reduction.

Only Delaware worsened.

It’s also noteworthy that just 4 states accounted for half of last month’s total foreclosure filings.

  • California : 25.8 percent of all foreclosure filings
  • Florida : 12.0 percent of all foreclosure filings
  • Michigan : 6.4 percent of all foreclosure filings
  • Illinois : 6.2 percent of all foreclosure filings

Foreclosures are heavily concentrated, in other words. By contrast, the last 1% of activity is spread across 14 states.

As a San Diego home buyer — first-timer or investor — foreclosures can be a great way to find value.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, distressed homes typically sell at “deep discounts“ as compared to like, non-distressed homes. However, when you buy a foreclosure home from a bank, it’s different from buying a home from a “person”. Purchase contract negotiations are different and months may pass before your closing is approved.

If you’re buying foreclosure, therefore, seek the help of a professional real estate agent. Real estate agents have experience working in the process-heavy world of foreclosures and can help you come out ahead.

Category : Housing Analysis | Blog
13
January

Will your home gain value over the next 12 months? Nobody can know for sure, of course, but should recent housing trends continue, there’s concrete cause for optimism.

The housing economy has suffered since 2007, knocking home values down nearly 20% nationwide. And while some areas have fared better as compared to others but, in general, home values are down. 

Mortgage rates are down, too, and that’s good news for buyers in San Diego. The combination of low rates and low prices has led home affordability to an all-time high. As you’ll hear in this 4-minute interview with NBC’s The Today Show, carrying a mortgage costs 25% less per month as compared to just 3 years ago.

Some other notes from the interview include :

  • There are more buyers out looking for homes today, which leads to more sales
  • The housing market is expected to get gradually better, month-by-month, in 2012
  • Foreclosures will continue to be a big part of the housing market

With housing supplies shrinking, buyers throughout CA may find their best “deals” today — before the Spring Buying Season begins in February.

However, we can’t forget that housing markets are local — not national. Each town and neighborhood has its own market drivers and prices where you live may have already started to climb.

For accurate, up-to-date data on the housing market, talk with a local real estate agent.

Category : Personal Finance | Blog
12
January

FOMC Minutes December 2011The Federal Reserve has released the minutes from its most recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting. The Fed Minutes are a detailed meeting recap; the companion piece to the more brief, more well-known press release.

As a comparison, the minutes of the last FOMC meeting contained 60 paragraphs and 7,027 words. The post-meeting press release was just 5 paragraphs and 382 words.

December’s Fed Minutes shows Fed members with a positive, cautious, take on the economy.

Recent data suggests that the U.S. economy is expanding, the Fed said, but “strains” in global financial markets pose “significant risks” to the downside. This tell us that the Fed believes its economy-stimulating programs are working, but that officials remained concerned by events in the Eurozone.

The U.S. economy could be impacted by fallout. 

Other meeting consensus included : 

  • On growth : The economy is expanding, despite slowing in “global economic growth”
  • On housing : Data suggests the “depressed” market “could be improving”
  • On inflation : Prices are stable, and remain within tolerance levels

The Fed’s analysis was of little surprise to Wall Street, and going forward, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke wants to keep it that way. The Fed Minutes contained a passage regarding market communication, and how the Fed will be more pro-active about it in the future. 

With the release of its minutes, in a section called “Market Policy Communications”, the Federal Reserve showed its plans to release 4 times annually its economic forecasts, and plans for the Fed Funds Rate. This signals in a shift in Federal Reserve transparency.

The Federal Reserve will begin including the forecast in its economic projections beginning after its next policy meeting, January 24-25, 2012.

Mortgage rates in CA were little changed after the release of the Fed Minutes.

Category : Federal Reserve | Blog
11
January

Retail Sales Growth (2008-2011)

Consumer spending continues to rise nationwide, fueled by jobs growth and a rosier outlook for the U.S. economy. Unfortunately for mortgage rate shoppers |*STATE in % STATE**|, it may also lead to higher mortgage rates later this week.

Thursday morning, the Census Bureau will release its U.S. Retail Sales data for December. The report is expected to show an 18th consecutive monthly increase, with analysts projecting sales volume higher by 0.4 percent from November.

This would be double the increase from last month, which saw a 0.2 percent increase in Retail Sales.

The Retail Sales report tallies receipts collected by retail and food-service stores nationwide. When the sum of these receipts rise, it puts pressure on mortgage rates to do the same. The connection is straight-forward.

Retail Sales are the largest part of “consumer spending” and consumer spending accounts for the majority of the U.S. economy — up to 70 percent, by some estimates.

As the economy goes, so go mortgage rates.

Remember: today’s ultra-low mortgage rates have been partially fueled by weak economies — both domestic and abroad — going back 4 years. Stock markets have sold off as economies have faltered worldwide, leading investors to seek refuge in the relative safety of U.S.-backed mortgage bond market. The new-found demand for mortgage-backed bonds has helped drop mortgage rates to levels never seen in history.

When economic recovery is apparent, therefore, we should expect a mortgage rate reversal, and should expect for it to happen quickly. Stock markets should rise; bond markets should fall. Mortgage rates will climb. Rate shoppers will lose.

Last week’s strong jobs report sparked hope for the U.S. economy. If Thursday Retail Sales data reveals similar strength, the risk in “floating” your mortgage rate may be too great. The safer play is to lock your rate today.

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

Category : The Economy | Blog
4
January

What's next for housing in 2012As the new year begins, there are no shortage of stories telling us what to expect in 2012. Housing finished 2011 with momentum and mortgage rates closed at the lowest rates of all time.

Some expect those trends to continue through the first quarter and beyond. Others expect a rapid reversal.

Who’s right and who’s wrong? A quick look through the newspapers, websites and business television programs reveals “experts” with opposing, well-delivered arguments views. It’s tough to know who to believe.

For example, here are some “on-the-record” predictions for 2012 :

The issue for buyers, seller, and would-be refinancers in San Diego and nationwide is that it can be a challenge to separate a “prediction” from fact at times. 

When an argument is made on the pages of a respected newspaper or website, or is presented on CNBC or Bloomberg by a well-dressed, well-spoken industry insider, we’re inclined to believe what we read and hear.

This is human nature.

However, we must force ourselves to remember that any analysis about the future — whether it’s housing-related, mortgage-related, or something else — are based on a combination of past events and personal opinion.

Predictions are guesses about what might come next — nothing more.

For example, at the start of 2009, few people expected the 30-year fixed rate mortgage to stay below 6 percent, but it did. Then, at the start of 2010, few people expected the 30-year fixed rate mortgage to stay below 5 percent, but it did.

All we can know for certain about today’s market is that both mortgage rates and home values are low, creating favorable home-buying conditions nationwide.

At that start of last year, few people expected mortgage rates to even reach 4 percent. Today, rates “with points” price in the 3s.

What 2012 has in store we just can’t know.

Category : The Economy | Blog
22
December

Existing Home Supply 2010-2011

Home resales moved to a 10-month high in November, the latest in a series of strong showings from the housing sector.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, November’s Existing Home Sales rose to a seasonally-adjusted, annualized 4.42 million units nationwide —  a 4 percent climb from October 2011.

An “existing home” is a home that has been previously occupied and cannot be categorized as new construction.

Home buyers and sellers throughout San Diego should take note of November’s numbers because — behind the headlines — there’s a series of statistics that foretell higher home prices ahead.

First, the total number of homes for sale nationwide dipped to 2.58 million, an 18% reduction from November 2010 and represents the fewest number of homes for sale since February 2007. 

At the current sales pace, the complete home resale inventory would be sold in 7.0 months.

And, second, the real estate trade group reports that 33% of all homes under contract “failed” for some reason last month.

Contract failures can occur because of mortgage denials in underwriting; home inspection issues; and homes appraising for less than their respective purchase prices.

In other words, despite a reduction in the number of homes for sale, and a rash of failed contracts, Existing Home Sales volume is still on the rise.

Broken-down by buyer-type, here’s to whom home sellers were selling in November :

  • First-time buyers : 35% of home resales, up from 34% in October 2011
  • Repeat buyers : 46% of home resales, down from 48% in October 2011
  • Investor buyers : 19% of home resales, up from 18% in October 2011

Given high demand for home resales and shrinking home supplies, we should expect that home prices will rise through December 2011 and into early-2012, at least. Recent Housing Starts data supports this notion. 

Thankfully, mortgage rates remain low. Low mortgage rates help keep homes affordable.

Category : Housing Analysis | Blog
15
December

Foreclosure concentration November 2011Foreclosure activity continues to concentrate over just a few states.

According to foreclosure-tracker RealtyTrac, November’s foreclosure filings fell 3 percent as compared to October, and 14 percent from November 2010.

“Foreclosure filing” is a catch-all term for the various “action steps” throughout the foreclosure process. The grouping comprises default notices, scheduled home auctions, and bank repossessions.

As in most months, though, foreclosure activity remains concentrated by state. More than half of last month’s bank repossessions can be traced to just 6 states.

  1. California : 14.8% of all bank repossessions
  2. Florida : 12.7% of all bank repossessions
  3. Texas : 7.0% of all bank repossessions
  4. Georgia : 6.9% of all bank repossessions
  5. Arizona : 6.7% of all bank repossessions
  6. Michigan : 6.3% of all bank repossessions

Meanwhile, with just 5 repossessions, South Dakota topped the list of states with the fewest bank repossessions in November. The Mount Rushmore State accounted for just 0.009% of REO nationwide in a month in which bank repossessions dropped to a 44-month low point across the United States.

The drop in REO is coming at a tough time for today’s San Diego home buyers. Distressed properties are in high demand — mostly because they sell at steep discounts.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, distressed homes accounted for 28 percent of all home sales in October. As fewer bank-owned homes become available, though, there will be fewer “deals” to be had.

Especially as the broader housing market continues to signal its recovery.

If you plan to buy a bank-owned foreclosed property, do your research first. As supplies drop, the price for foreclosed homes throughout CA relative to non-distressed homes may rise, rendering REO properties less of a relative “value”.

Before you write a contract, therefore, talk with a licensed real estate agent. There’s plenty of foreclosure data available online but, when it’s time to buy, you should have an experienced agent on your side.

Category : Housing Analysis | Blog
6
December

FOMC minutesThe Federal Open Market Committee released its November 2011 meeting minutes, revealing a Fed split on whether new stimulus is needed for the U.S. economy.

The Fed Minutes is published 8 times annually, three weeks after each scheduled Federal Open Market Committee meeting. It’s the official record of the meeting’s policy-shaping debates and dialogues.

The Fed Minutes is the lengthier companion piece to the FOMC’s more well-known, post-meeting press release.

As compared to press release which is concise and focused at 492 words, the Fed Minutes is comprehensive and broad, totalling 7,682 words over 11 pages, complete with charts.

The November minutes reveal Fed opinions on a variety of economic issues :

  • On employment : Unemployment will gradually decline through 2014
  • On housing : The market remains depressed. Foreclosures are “holding back” growth.
  • On rates : The Fed Funds Rate should remain low until mid-2013

There was also discussion about the government’s revamped HARP program, and how it should help more homeowners get access to low mortgage rates. The Fed sees this as a positive for housing, and for the economy.

There was little in November’s Fed Minutes to surprise Wall Street, however, the Fed did discuss the possibility of new market stimulus, a topic Wall Street expects the FOMC to address next week at its last scheduled meeting of 2011.

Should the Fed introduce new market stimulus next week, and should it arrive in the form of additional mortgage bond purchases, expect for mortgage rates to fall across CA and nationwide. If the Fed declines new stimulus, mortgage rates should rise.

The FOMC meets Tuesday, December 13, 2012.

Category : Federal Reserve | Blog