How To Find Good Deals As The Buyers Market Comes To An End

October 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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At some point in their lives, every home buyer in America has wondered “Is now the best time to buy a home?” In this 3-minute video, NBC’s The Today Show does a good job of answering the question.

The conclusion? Yes, but not if you’re going to overpay.

The Buyers Market is ending, we learn, as home prices rise across most of the country. Pockets of opportunity remain, however, and the focused home buyer can still find a “good deal”.

Some of the video’s tips include:

  • On what types of homes can you get the best prices
  • What you can learn from looking in a seller’s closet
  • How to identify a desperate seller

The piece also goes negative on short sales, noting the amount of time required to buy one. Short sales typically do take longer to close versus a “traditional” purchase, but that doesn’t mean they should be avoided.

There’s plenty of bargains in the short sale arena, too.

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What The Media Missed In September’s New Home Sales Report

October 29, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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New Home Sales supply September 2009Some days, newspaper headlines are a terrible place to get your real estate news.

Today is one of those days.

After the September New Home Sales report showed sales volume down from August, the mainstream media jumped on the story:

But the headlines miss the point, somewhat. Yes, home sales volume is important to housing, but it’s not as important as home supply.

A deeper look at the New Home Sales data reveals an interesting comparison point:

  • New home sales volume fell 3.6%
  • The number of new homes available for sale fell 3.8%

In other words, sales outpaced supply — a running theme this year and a positive signal for housing.

Since peaking in January 2009, the supply of newly-built homes has now dropped by 40 percent. The average sale price is up 15% over the same period.

This is why you can’t get your real estate news from the headlines. You have to dig a little bit deeper to get the real story.

September’s New Home Sales report was plenty strong. The housing market recovery continues.

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Home Values In 95% Of Case-Shiller Markets Are Improving Year-To-Year

October 28, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Case-Shiller August 2009

For August, the Case-Shiller Index showed annual home values improving across 19 of 20 U.S. markets. It’s the first time in 3-plus years that the benchmark housing index has shown such strength.

According to a Case-Shiller Index spokesperson, “The rate of annual decline in home price values continues to improve.”

It’s yet another sign that housing may have already bottomed.

However, just because the Case-Shiller Index shows a stabilization in home values, that doesn’t necessarily make it true. This is because real estate happens on the local level and the Case-Shiller Index is more “national”. It tracks data in just 20 U.S. cities.

Homeowners everywhere else are unaccounted for.

Furthermore, even within the 20 tracked Case-Shiller markets, there’s no allowance for the natural sub-markets that exist. Some neighborhoods under-perform and some neighborhoods out-perform.

Case-Shiller treats them all the same.

Despite its imperfections, though, the Case-Shiller Index remains a helpful, broader measurement of U.S. real estate. Economists believe that housing led the U.S. into the recession and they believe housing will lead us out, too.

If that’s true, August’s Case-Shiller data is another step in the right direction.

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Falling Home Supplies Mean More Multiple-Offer Situations For Buyers

October 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Existing Home Supply September 2009The national housing supply fell to a 2-year low last month, according to the National Association of Realtors

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Powermat : The Wireless Battery Charger For Cell Phones

October 26, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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The Powermat ChargerTired of “wire clutter” where your mobile phones, MP3 players and gaming devices compete for outlet space?

The Powermat may be your solution.

The Powermat is a 12-inch long wireless battery charger that’s conspicuously missing “plugs”. Instead, it uses magnetic induction to safely recharge up to 3 devices at once.

Just place your phone(s) on the pad and they charge automatically.

The Powermat debuted at the 2009 Consumer Electronic Show and was reviewed in video. The reviewers had many positive comments on the Powermat, but highlighted some negatives aspects, too. Give a look and see what you think.

Powermat retails for $99 on Amazon.com and is usually shipped for free.

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Government : Home Values Edged Lower In August

October 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Home Price Index month-to-month since the April 2007 peak

According to the government, home values edged lower last month.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Home Price Index report shows values down by 0.3 percent from the month prior — the index’s first down month since April.

The Home Price Index is based on the value of homes financed via Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and, in this sense, the FHFA Home Price Index is more of a “national” real estate index than its private-sector cousin, the Case-Shiller Index.

But like the Case-Shiller, the HPI is as notable for what it specifically excludes as for what it includes. Most notably, the Home Price Index doesn’t account for homes meeting any of the following descriptions:

  1. Is considered new construction
  2. Is a multi-unit property
  3. Is financed by an entity other than Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac

Given the resurgence of FHA financing this year, this last exclusion is especially glaring. FHA represents about one-third of all mortgage loans in 2009.

Because of these exceptions, some analysts label the Home Price Index incomplete. The same could be said of every method of home valuation, however. Case-Shiller only collects data from 20 markets, for example.

In light of these shortcomings, therefore, what’s most important is to recognize that both of the “popular” home valuation reports show similar patterns — home prices have leveled and are showing signs of a rebound.

For a region-by-region breakdown of the Home Price Index, visit the FHFA website.

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As Gas Prices Rise, Home Affordability Wanes

October 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Gas price breakdown from DOE.govWith crude oil at its highest levels since October 2008, retail gas is up 8 cents per gallon this week.

It’s bad news for home buyers and mortgage rate shoppers. The same force that’s driving oil higher is linked to rising mortgage rates.

We’re talking about the weakening U.S. Dollar which is now at its worst levels versus the Euro in 15 months.

Crude oil is priced in U.S. dollars, by the barrel. When the dollar loses value, more of them are needed to buy the same barrel of oil. As a result, predictably, the price of crude oil goes up.

Now, there are other reasons why crude oil is rising, but the fading U.S. dollar is one of the major ones and it’s why we’re addressing it.

The dollar has a similar impact on mortgage rates.

Mortgage rates are based on the price of mortgage bonds that — like crude oil — are also denominated in dollars. As the dollar loses value, so do mortgage bonds. This causes demand for bonds to drop and prices on bonds to fall.

Because bond prices and bond rates move in opposite directions, mortgage rates rise and this is precisely what’s happening on Wall Street today.

Since touching a 5-month low in early-October, mortgage rates have tacked on as much as 1/2 percent, depending on the product. Moreover, with the dollar showing no signs of a rebound, the upward pressure on rates should continue.

If you’re trying to time the market bottom, you may have already missed it. Consider locking your mortgage rate before rates increase even more.

And your everyday signal that rates are rising? Just check your price at the pump. If gas prices are up, it’s likely that mortgage rates are, too.

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Housing Starts Post 8th Gain in 9 Months

October 21, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Housing Starts September 2009Housing Starts on single-family homes gained last month, marking the 8th time that’s happened this year.

A “Housing Start” is a home for which the foundation has been excavated and, considered alongside other key market metrics, September data suggests that the housing market stabilization is complete.

Momentum in housing is overwhelmingly positive:

Despite the positive news, the press is calling September’s Housing Starts data a “bummer“. Citing a drop in monthly building permits, the media purports that housing will slow in the months ahead.

The conclusion may be right, but the rationale may be wrong.

The probable cause for fewer permits isn’t that the housing market is overdone. It’s that home builders are choosing to exercise caution given the pending expiration of the First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit and a still-growing number of foreclosed homes.

It’s unclear what housing demand will be beginning in December and the last present a builder wants for the holidays is an excess of inventory.

It makes sense that building permits are down, in other words.

Looking back at February of this year, there’s a host of signs that housing is on the path to recovery. Now, that path won’t be a straight line and there’s bound to be setbacks, but September’s Housing Starts is not one of them.

Housing Starts are up 40 percent on the year.

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Previewing The New Good Faith Estimate

October 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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The new Good Faith Estimate

The new Good Faith Estimate makes its debut January 1, 2010.

Expanded from 1page to 3, the legislators responsible for the new Good Faith Estimate want it to be simpler for homeowners and home buyers to understand than the former version.

By most accounts, Congress will meet this goal.

The new Good Faith Estimate includes plain-English explanations of every fee, charge, and interest payment involved in a purchase or refinance. It also includes a section called “The Shopping Cart” in which applicants can compare lenders.

The new Good Faith Estimate is concise, too. Using a series of “Yes/No” checkboxes on Page 1, mortgage lenders specifically note:

  • The interest rate on the mortgage
  • Whether the interest rate can change over time
  • Whether the loan carries a prepayment penalty
  • The length of the rate lock

Currently, this information is spread across 3 separate forms.

Furthermore, the new Good Faith Estimate simplifies rate-and-fee comparisons, showing applicants how a lower rate can be available for a higher set of fees, and vice versa.

For all of its clarity, though, the new Good Faith Estimate still fails to address the issue of “suitability”. As in, is this the right loan for the right borrower? That’s something only a loan officer can do.

For suitable advice, talk with a loan officer who both listens to your needs and helps you plan for them. Great terms on an unsuitable loan are often worse than “good” terms on the right one.

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DIY : How Do I Fix A Towel Rack That’s “Loose”

October 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Over time, towel racks tend to come loose from sheetrock walls. And, sometimes, they separate completely. The good news is that making repairs is easy — it’s something you can do yourself with a little instruction.

In this 2-minute video from ExpertVillage.com, a professional contractor shows that with just a drill and some butterfly anchors, re-securing a towel rack can be a basic handyman job.

So, before you call a professional to rehang your towel rack, watch the video and consider making the repair yourself.

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