The Fed lowered the Fed Funds Rate by a quarter-percent to 2.000% this afternoon.
Because it is tied to the Fed Funds Rate, Prime Rate also fell by a quarter-percent. Prime Rate is now 5.000%.
Holders of home equity lines of credit and credit card debt benefited from the change and will see lower interest costs in next month’s statements.
Mortgage rate shoppers are also benefitting.
Each time the Federal Reserve cuts the Fed Funds Rate, it’s meant to stimulate the economy in growth. Too much stimulation can create too much growth and that often leads to inflation (which causes mortgage rates to rise).
This is one reason why mortgage rates had not fallen over the past few months. Each Fed Funds Rate cut made it more likely that the economy would overheat in the second half of 2008.
So, because the Federal Reserve signaled that a rate-cutting “pause” may be ahead, investors are reducing expectations for a Fed-induced inflation cycle for later this year, pushing rates lower.
The FOMC’s next scheduled get-together is a two-day meeting June 24-25, 2008.
Parsing the Fed Statement
The Wall Street Journal Online
April 30, 2008
The Federal Open Market Committee adjourns from its two-day meeting at 2:15 P.M. ET today.
Markets expect the Fed to lower the Fed Funds Rate by 0.250 percent in its press release but it’s not what the Fed does that matters to economy right now.
It’s what the Fed says.
If the Fed states that future rate cuts are needed to stabilize the economy, mortgage rates should rise because rate cuts tend to create inflation. Inflation is the enemy of mortgage rates.
By contrast, if the Fed states that it will “pause” before making additional rate cuts (or hikes), mortgage rates should fall.
We’ll dissect the message in full late this afternoon but the most important message to remember is this:
The Federal Reserve does not directly control mortgage rates.
The Fed only controls the Fed Funds Rate, the interest rate on a very specific type of loan made from one bank to another. The Fed Funds Rate, however, is directly related to a consumer-focused interest rate called Prime Rate.
Prime Rate is the basis of interest rates on credit cards and home equity lines of credit.
If the Federal Open Market Committee votes to lower the Fed Funds Rate by a quarter-percent, it means that the interest rate on Americans’ collective credit card and home equity line debt will fall by a quarter-percent, too.
RealtyTrac released Q1 2008 foreclosure statistics and the data follows an interesting statistical phenomenon most commonly known as the “80/20 Rule”.
The 80/20 Rule states that 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes.
In this case, 80 percent of bank repossessions in the first three months of 2008 came from 20 percent of the states in the union.
Accounting for 156,463 repossessed homes nationwide:
- California (40,023 homes)
- Texas (14,935 homes)
- Michigan (12,016 homes)
- Ohio (10,299 homes)
- Florida (10,185 homes)
- Georgia (8,265 homes)
- Arizona (7,956 homes)
- Colorado (7,022 homes)
- Tennessee (4,533 homes)
- Indiana (4,446 homes)
- Illinois (4,216 homes)
Overall, 0.55 percent of homes were repossessed by banks in the first quarter.
Temperatures are rising as we head into May, but your energy bill doesn’t have to. This classic video from The Weather Channel reminds us that ceiling fans can help to reduce energy bills all year long.
The key is to use them properly.
- When the heating system is on, fan blades should rotate clockwise
- When the air conditioning is on, fan blades should rotate counter-clockwise
By changing the ceiling fan’s blade rotation, homeowners can push heat back into circulation to warm a room, or create a downward draft to make a room feel cooler.
With energy costs at record levels and more increases expected, use your home’s ceiling fans to help keep energy bills low and household budgets in check.
Newspaper headlines rarely tell the full story and today’s papers provide a terrific example.
New-home sales lowest since 1991
8.5% March decline exceeds forecasts; prices also tumble
As always, there’s more to the story than the headline.
The Census Bureau reported a 8.5 percent decline in New Home Sales last month, but in the “fine print” of the report, the Census Bureau cites a margin of error of 16.1 percent.
By including a margin of error, the Census Bureau is acknowledging that the “headline number” is not precise and that the actual change in New Home Sales data lies somewhere between the values -24.6% and +7.6%.
Notice that the range of possible reading includes positive numbers.
This means that New Home Sales could have just as easily shown growth in March — if only the Census Bureau had interviewed a different set of home builders.
The Census Bureau acknowledges this possibility, adding that it “does not have sufficient statistical evidence to conclude that the actual change is different from zero.” The data, therefore, is worthless.
The housing market may be strong or the housing market may be weak. Most likely, it is both of these things. It all depends on your street in your neighborhood because all of real estate is local.
Either way, look deeper than the headlines. They’re a good source of information, but the real analysis requires a deeper look.
New Residential Sales In March 2008
April 24, 2008
More than 130 million Americans will receive tax rebates this year as part of Congress’ $168 billion economic stimulus package.
Payments begin in about two weeks and range from $600 for individuals to $1,200 for couples, plus an additional $300 per child.
Not everyone is eligible for a full rebate, however.
For single filers earning more than $75,000 and joint filers earning more than $150,000, the tax rebate is reduced by $50 for each $1,000 of income beyond the limits.
An individual with no children, therefore, will not receive a tax rebate if income exceeds $87,000 annually. The IRS provides a tax rebate calculator that can help make sense of the math.
For tax filers using direct deposit, the rebates will be paid based on the last two digits of the social security number:
- SSN ending in 00-20 will arrive May 2
- SSN ending in 21-75 will arrive May 9
- SSN ending in 76-99 will arrive May 16
For tax filers using paper checks instead of direct deposit, payouts begin a little bit later on May 16 and extend through mid-July. The IRS makes the exact dates known on its Web site.
For late income tax filers, the IRS send rebate checks about two weeks after the returns are processed, but not before the regularly scheduled date.
The National Association of REALTORS released its Existing Home Sales report for March 2008. An “existing home” is one that is not considered new construction.
A sub-headline in the report showed that the median sales price of all homes sold in March increased by 2.5 percent to $200,700.
But don’t assume that the housing market is improving because of a statistic like that because in the field of Statistics, median is just the “middle” in a group of numbers.
With respect to the Existing Home Sales, the median sales price is the price point at which half of all homes sold went for more, and half went for less.
If more homes sell in high-priced San Jose, CA than in low-priced Youngstown, OH, for example, the median will be skewed to the high-side. The reverse is true, too.
Median sales price make for good headlines, but it does nothing to talk about the local market and that’s where real estate is bought and sold.
As mortgage lenders limit how much money they will lend and to whom, co-signing home loans is growing in popularity.
“Co-signing” a home loan is when a third-party — usually a parent or relative — promises to make repayments to the bank in the event that the borrower falls behind on his obligations.
Money experts usually advise against co-signing notes because of the long-term financial risks, but people still do it for a number of reasons including “wanting to help”.
If you’re thinking about co-signing a home loan for a friend or loved one, it’s important to consider the implications of sharing credit with another person.
The four questions below may help you with your decision:
- Why can’t the borrower get approved on his own? It is because of poor credit ratings? Lack of income? History of foreclosure?
- If the borrower stops paying the mortgage, can you afford to make the full payment due each month?
- If the borrowers defaults on the mortgage and doesn’t notify you, how will a foreclosure on your credit rating impact your family finances?
- When the co-signed loan appears on your credit, will the debt load prevent you from getting approved for your own loans in the future?
Not only can a co-signed home loan create serious financial burdens, but it’s a long-term commitment, too.
Once the note is co-signed, the only way to separate the signers is terminate the note entirely. The two ways to accomplish that are to remortgage the home out of the co-signer’s name, or to sell the home and retire the debt.
Co-signing on a mortgage is not “bad” but bad things can happen should the primary signer face personal and/or financial difficulties. Before agreeing to share credit, consider the implications should something go wrong.
Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and 1 out of 15 homes has elevated levels of the radioactive gas seeping into it.
Despite the risks, however, radon is a potential problem that many homeowners ignore.
Radon can enter a home at many different points. A partial list includes:
- Earth and rock beneath a home
- Joints in construction materials
- Gaps around pipes and wires
- Cracks in flooring and walls
But, because radon is odorless, colorless, and scentless, it’s impossible to detect without the use of tools.
If the tests are positive for radon, fixing the problem in your home can cost anywhere from $800 to $2,500, depending on the home’s architecture.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, nearly one million homeowners have taken radon-reducing steps in their homes over the years, saving 6,000 lives.
My $1,200 Radon Job
The Wall Street Journal Online http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120855599410427459.html
In the world of real estate, Days On Market is the number of days between when a home lists for sale and when it goes under contract.
It is often abbreviated as DOM.
Average Days on Market is a similar statistic but instead of applying to one home in particular, it applies to all homes in a given neighborhood, ZIP code, or city.
Average DOM is calculated by adding the number of days for which every listed home in an area was available for sale, and then dividing that number by the total number of listings.
In a buyer’s market, Average Days On Market is often elevated. This is because homes don’t sell as fast as during a seller’s market when the Average DOM can be quite low.
For buyers and sellers of real estate, Average Days On Market can be a strong indicator of home prices. When Average DOM falls, home prices tend to increase.