The supply of newly-built homes for sales plummeted in April, a positive indicator for the Madeira housing market as we head into the summer months.
It’s no wonder that homebuilders are breaking new ground at the fastest clip in 2 years.
At the current sales pace, the nation’s complete supply of new homes would be sold in just 5 month’s time. That’s more than double the pace of a year ago.
Also, as more good news, in terms of total housing units, the government reports that New Home Sales topped one half-million homes sold for the first time since May 2008.
It’s a similar spike as within the Existing Home Sales data released earlier this week.
But before we declare the housing market “repaired in full”, we have to consider a few of the reasons why home sales are charting so strongly.
The first reason is the federal homebuyer tax credit’s April 30 expiration. In order to claim up to $8,000 in tax credits, home buyers must have been in mutual contract for a property before May 1. There is no doubt this contributed to a run-up in sales, especially among first-time home buyers.
The second reason is that mortgage rates have remained exceptionally low, defying expert predictions. Low rates don’t sell homes, but they do make monthly payments easier to manage for households torn between renting or buying.
And, lastly, March and April’s new home sales may have been buoyed by aggressive discounting on behalf of homebuilders. As compared to February 2010, April’s average new home sale price was lower by 13 percent. That’s a sharp drop in a short period of time.
For now, though, homes are selling, supplies are dropping, and buyer interest is high. It’s no wonder builder confidence is soaring.
Because of strife in Greece, Spain and North Korea, conforming mortgage rates are back to all-time lows. They’re at levels not seen in 50 years. For homeowners that missed the Refi Boom of November 2009, it’s a second chance.
In this well-presented, 3-minute video from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll get tips getting low rates and choosing the best time to lock in.
Some of the topics covered include:
- Why were the experts wrong about rates moving higher this summer?
- How much money can you save with a 1 point drop in your interest rate?
- Should you buy a bigger home now that rates have fallen?
The advice in the piece is matter-of-fact and centered. There is no cheerleading and the message is honest. Mortgage rates are low and they likely won’t stay that way. If you’ve been thinking about a refinance, talk to your loan officer as soon as possible.
Home values rose in March, according to the Federal Home Finance Agency’s most recent Home Price Index. Values were reported higher by 0.3 percent, on average, from February.
We use the phrase “on average” because the Home Price Index is broad-reaching, national housing statistic. It ignores the dynamics of neighborhood real estate markets like Mt Lookout as well as citywide markets like Cincinnati , too.
Instead, the Home Price Index focuses on state and regional statistics.
For example, in March 2010 as compared to February:
- Values in the East South Central region rose 2.5%
- Values in the Mountain states rose 1.1%
- Values in the Middle Atlantic states fell 1.0%
Of course, none of this data is especially helpful for today’s home buyers and sellers.
Real estate is a local phenomenon that can’t be summarized by state or region. What matters most to buyers and sellers is the economics of a neighborhood and that level of granularity can’t be served up by a national housing report like the Home Price Index.
The Home Price Index data is additionally unhelpful to buyers and sellers in that it reports on a 2-month delay.
In other words, Home Price Index is not even a fair reflection of today’s market — it highlights the real estate market as it existed 60 days ago.
So why is the Home Price Index even published? Because government, business and banks rely on the reports. As a national indicator, the Home Price Index helps governments make policy, businesses make decisions, and banks make guidelines. This, in turn, trickles down to Main Street where it impacts every one of us — and eventually influences real estate.
Since peaking in April 2007, the Home Price Index is off 13.44 percent.
Sales of existing homes rose in April, buoyed by an expiring home buyer tax credit and exceptionally low mortgage rates.
As compared to March, April’s Existing Home Sales rose by 410,000 units nationwide — the second straight month of large gains. An “existing home” is a home resold by a prior owner (i.e. not new construction).
It’s a solid report for housing overall, with rising sales suggesting that the real estate market’s recovery is ongoing. However, the data presented a mixed message.
According to the National Association of Realtors®, although the number of homes sold ticked higher in April, so did the supply of existing homes for sale, too.
Sellers are now listing homes faster than buyers can buy them.
After adding another 0.3 months of supply in April, resale home supply is nearly two full months larger than at November 2009’s low-point. This put downward pressure on home prices.
Furthermore, because 49% of April’s buyers were first-time buyers and the tax credit has since ended, we can expect that sellers will continue to outweigh buyers in the months ahead.
It presents an interesting opportunity for June’s home buyers. Mortgage rates are still at their lowest levels of the year — despite expert predictions to the contrary — and homes remain affordable. Plus, in a lot of markets, home values have started to creep higher.
There’s good values and good rates but neither should last long. For the next few weeks, real estate may be in its 2010 sweet spot.
If you were thinking of moving in September of this year or later, consider moving up your timeframe.
From one pot to a lush garden, we all have plants for which to care in our lives. But are they getting the right amount of water? Too little water and the plant dies. Too much water and root rot sets in.
In general, plants want 1 inch of water per week but Mother Nature doesn’t always provide. It’s up to us to make up the difference.
In this short video from ExpertVillage, Doug Smiddy shows us how to make sure our plants get the right amount of water they need to survive. He answers questions including:
- How do you know if your plants need water right now?
- What is best time of day to water outdoor plants?
- What is the proper way to water a plant?
The video runs a little bit over 2 minutes and is stocked with helpful tips. If you care for any plants in your life, it’s a must-watch video.
With home prices still relatively low and mortgage rates trolling near their all-time best levels, it’s no surprise that home affordability is extraordinarily high in Madeira and most U.S. markets.
According to the quarterly Home Opportunity Index as published by the National Association of Home Builders, more than 72 percent of all new and existing homes sold between January-March 2010 were affordable to families earning the national median income.
It’s the second highest reading in the survey’s history.
Of course, on a city-by-city basis, home affordability varies.
In the first quarter of 2010, for example, 98.7% of homes sold in Bay City, Michigan were affordable for families earning the area’s median income and in Indianapolis, the percentage was almost 95 percent.
Indianapolis has held the top quarterly ranking for close to 5 years now.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the New York-White Plains, NY-Wayne, NJ region earned the “least affordable” metropolitan area for the 8th consecutive quarter. Just 20.9% of homes are affordable to families earning the local median income.
The rankings for all 225 metro areas are available on the NAHB website but regardless of where your town ranks, home affordability remains high as compared to historical values but it likely won’t last long. Home values are recovering in many markets and mortgage rates won’t stay this low forever.
All things equal, buying a home may never come this cheap again. If you were planning to buy later this year, consider moving up your timeframe.
After starting the day in the red, mortgage rates rebounded Wednesday afternoon after the Federal Reserve released its April 27-28, 2010 meeting minutes.
It’s good news for home buyers and would-be refinancers in Cincinnati. Mortgage rates continue to troll along multi-year lows.
“Fed Minutes” are lengthy, detailed recaps of Federal Open Market Committee meetings, not unlike the minutes you’d see after a corporate conference, or condo association gathering. The Federal Reserve publishes Fed Minutes 3 weeks after each respective FOMC get-together.
The Fed meets 8 times annually.
Because of the minutes’ content and density, it’s of tremendous value to Wall Street and investors. Fed Minutes provide a glimpse into the conversations and debates that shape the country’s monetary policy.
The broad scope of the published meeting minutes are in sharp contrast to the more well-known, post-meeting press release which reads more like a policy summary.
And the extra words matter.
Here’s some of what the Fed discussed last month:
- On Greece : A crisis in Greece could slow U.S. domestic growth
- On housing : Despite government support, growth appears to have stalled
- On its mortgage buyback program : There’s little reason to sell mortgage bonds right now
When the markets saw the Fed Minutes, what had been a down day for bond markets turned positive. The less-than-sunny outlook for the near-term U.S. economy sparked bond sales, pushing prices higher.
Mortgage rates move opposite mortgage bond prices.
Wall Street is always in search of clues from inside the Fed about what’s next for the economy and post-FOMC minutes usually give good fodder. April’s meeting was no different.
For now, mortgage rates remain near all-time lows but once the Eurozone issues are settled, rates are likely to rise. If you haven’t locked a mortgage rate, your window may be closing. Once the economy is turning around for certain, mortgage bonds will be among the first of the casualties.
As lenders tighten mortgage guidelines for Madeira home buyers, minimum downpayment requirements are increasing. Several years ago, you could finance a home with nothing down. Today, most conventional mortgages require at least 10 percent.
Anecdotally, guideline changes have led to an increase in the number of home buyers accepting cash gifts from family.
Gifts are allowed in most cases but the problem is, if you don’t accept the gift in a “lender-friendly” way, the mortgage underwriter could reject it, and negate it.
You can’t just deposit a cash gift into your bank account. You have to follow a series of steps and keep records.
- Provide an acceptable gift letter signed by all parties
- Provide documentation of the gifter’s withdrawal of funds via teller receipts
- Provide documentation of the giftee’s deposit of funds via teller receipts
Lenders require these 3 steps for two basic reasons. First, they want to make sure that the cash gift is “clean” (i.e. not laundered). Second, they want to make sure the gift is really a gift and not a loan-in-disguise.
It’s why lenders typically require that the loan application be accompanied by a signed, dated letter.
I am the [relationship to recipient] of [name of recipient] and this letter serves as evidence that I am gifting [name of recipient] [amount of gift] to be used for the purchase of the home at [complete address of property].
This is a gift — not a loan — and there is no expectation of repayment.
[Signature of gifter]
As an additional step, home buyers receiving cash gifts should make sure that gifted funds are not commingled at the time of deposit. If the cash gift is for $10,000, therefore, the bank’s deposit slip should indicate that a $10,000 deposit was made — nothing more, nothing less. Don’t add a random $100 deposit to the transaction, in other words. The $100 deposit should be a separate transaction.
It’s also worth noting that gifting funds between family members can create both legal and tax liabilities. If you’re unsure about how donating or receiving a gift may impact you, call or email me directly. If I can’t help you with your questions, I can refer you to somebody that can.
With the Oxo Salad Chopper, making chopped salad for the family and/or friends is both faster and safer.
Using a dual-blade roller knife similar to a pizza cutter, the ergonomic Salad Chopper cuts lettuce, vegetables, fruits, meats and nuts with just a few rolls. There’s no need for a separate cutting board (and no worries of slicing a finger).
Made from stainless steel, the angle-handled roller is built to trace the curves of the accompanying Oxo bowl. The blades remain in constant contact with the plastic and the rim has a built-on grip to help you get a handle on your work.
The 5.5-quart bowl is big enough for 6 servings and is dishwasher-safe. Oxo says you can serve in it, too, but that’s up to you.
Trade in store-bought salad bags and opt for something fresher. Oxo’s Salad Chopper sells on Amazon.com for $25.
A mortgage approval is never final until it’s funded.
A host of things can “go wrong” while your home loan is underway. Some are in your control, many more are not. And just being aware of some potential pitfalls could help save your loan down the road, and your peace of mind today.
MSN Money ran a summary piece on the topic titled “10 Things That Can Kill A Home Loan“.
It’s an excellent article because, unlike most “get approved” articles that advise against things like buying a car before closing, or opening a bunch of new credit cards, the MSN Money piece addresses more uncommon factors that can lead to a similar loan turndown.
For example, a home may be unfundable if it’s unsuitable for human habitation — a condition you may not discover until after a thorough home inspection’s been made. Broken windows, lack of plumbing, and/or major foundation damage are all deal-breakers with a lender.
Either fix the home prior to closing, or don’t close at all.
Homes in “declining markets” have danger spots, too. Especially for conforming mortgage applicants with less than 20% equity.
Because of how private mortgage insurers operate, some homes carry tougher, ZIP code-based PMI eligibility requirements. As a mortgage applicant, it’s important to understand this because you may be PMI-eligible in one neighborhood, but not in another.
There’s others ways in which a mortgage approval can go bad, too:
- You’re self-employed and your income was lower last year versus the year prior
- Your tax return shows large amounts of unreimbursed employee expenses
- You failed to return required paperwork to the lender within a reasonable time frame
Mortgage approvals are delicate and, despite an improving economy, lenders still operate with caution. Talk with your real estate agent and your loan officer and put together a game plan.
The best way to beat the mortgage system is to know the rules before you start to play.