As Homebuilder Confidence Stagnates, Deals Abound

September 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Homebuilders 

Housing Market Index (2000-2010)

Home builder confidence held firm this month, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ monthly Housing Market Index. September’s reading of 13 equaled a 17-month low.

The HMI is on a 1-100 scale. A value of 50 or better indicates “favorable conditions” for home builders.

Broken down, the Housing Market Index is actually a weighted composite of 3 separate surveys which measures current single-family sales; projected single-family sales; and foot traffic of prospective buyers.

None of the 3 September surveys improved from August:

  • Single-Family Sales : 13 (unchanged from August)
  • Projected Single-Family Sales : 18 (unchanged from August)
  • Buyer Foot Traffic : 9 (from 10 in August)

Builder confidence is lower in 2010 than at any point in recorded history.

For home buyers in Madeira , the drop in sentiment creates opportunity. With builders feeling “down”, there’s a greater likelihood for discounts and free upgrades. It can mean more house for your home buying money.

Plus, with the supply of both new and existing homes elevated, and foreclosures still hitting the market, conditions aren’t soon likely to change.

Then, couple all that with all-time low mortgage rates and monthly housing payments look as affordable as ever.

If your plans call for buying a home in the early part of 2011, you may want to consider moving up your time frame. Today’s market looks ripe for a good deal.

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Case-Shiller Shows Slowing Growth In Home Prices… Two Months Ago

September 29, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Case-Shiller Index 

Case-Shiller Change In Home Values June-July 2010

For the 17th straight month, the Case-Shiller Index reports that home values are rising across the United States. As compared to June, July’s prices were up by 4 percent.

However, despite the improvement, July’s Case-Shiller Index showed weaker as compared to prior months.

  • In June, just 3 cities posted year-to-year reductions in home value. In July, 10 of 20 did.
  • In June, just 1 city posted a month-to-month reduction in home value. In July, 7 of 20 did.

As a spokesperson for Case-Shiller said, values “crept forward” in July. But not that it matters — the Case-Shiller Index is a better tool for economists than it is for homeowners in Madeira. This is for 3 reasons.

First, the Case-Shiller Index is on a 60-day delay but real estate sales are based on prices today. A lot can change in 60 days, and it often does. Therefore, the Case-Shiller Index is a better snapshot of the former market than the current one.

Second, the Case-Shiller Index is geographically-limited. It tracks just 20 cities, ignoring some of the largest metropolitan areas in the country including Houston, Philadelphia, and San Jose. Smaller cities like Tampa are included.

And, lastly, national real estate data remains somewhat useless anyway. All real estate is local, rendering citywide statistics too broad to have any real meaning to an individual. To find out what’s happening on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood level, you can’t look to a national survey — you have to look to a local real estate agent instead.

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Rid Your Kitchen Of Hidden Dirt And Grime

September 27, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Home How-To 

A kitchen is often a home’s busiest room — a meeting place for meals and conversation. It’s also among the home’s most grimy rooms. Bacteria, dirt and germs collect on floors, on countertops, and inside appliances.

In this 4-minute clip from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll learn how to rid your kitchen of “nastiness”.  The featured fixes use nothing but basic household cleansers and elbow grease, and they include:

  • How to clean and restore wooden cutting boards and bowls
  • How to remove “burn stains” from the side of a frying pan
  • How to eliminate pervasive dishwasher odors

The segment also tackles why you should choose loofah over sponge, and how to catch fruit flies.

For as much time as you spend in your kitchen, it’s best to keep it clean and sanitized.

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Existing Home Sales Rebound In August, Give Hope For Autumn

September 24, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Existing Home Sales 

Existing Home Supply (August 2009 - Augsut 2010)Sales of existing homes in recovered in August, perhaps the result of a post-tax credit normalization.

As compared to July, Existing Home Sales rose 8 percent in August, buoyed by falling interest rates and slow-to-rise home prices. There’s lot of “good deals” out there and home buyers in Cincinnati are taking advantage.

The housing gains are relative, however. August’s total units sold barely crossed 4 million and still trails the average figures of the last few years by close to 1 million units.

Despite that, the August Existing Home Sales report can be considered a strong one. This is for several reasons:

  1. Sales volume increased in August without tax credit or government intervention
  2. Sales growth is not limited by geography. All 4 regions — Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, and West — showed improvement last month.
  3. Repeat buyers are driving the market, representing 48 percent of sales, up from forty-three percent in July.

And, perhaps most important to the housing market market, the number of available home resales dropped by almost one full month last month.  At the current sales pace, the national inventory would be depleted in 11.6 months.

For home buyers, the data presents an interesting opportunity. With average mortgage rates rising from their best levels ever and home affordability cresting in places like Oakley , this autumn may represent the turn-around point for the housing market nationwide.

If you’re planning to move in early-2011, consider moving up your time frame.

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Housing Starts Rise In August, But By Less Than The Headlines Report

September 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Housing Starts 

Housing starts September 2008 - August 2010The number of single-family Housing Starts rebounded in August, climbing 4 percent from July’s 14-month low.

A “Housing Start” is defined as a home on which construction has started and the August increase represents 18,000 single-family units nationwide.

If you only read the headlines, however, you would think the data was stronger. This is because the Housing Starts data is actually a composite of 3 types of homes — single-family, multi-family, and apartments — but  the press tends to lump them all three together.

As a sampling, here are a some headlines on the story:

  • US Stock Futures Rise After Housing Starts Surge (WSJ)
  • Housing Starts At 4-Month High, Hint At Stability (Fox)
  • Housing Starts Jump 10.5% In August (Marketwatch)

Now, it’s not that the news is wrong, per se, it’s just not necessarily relevant.  Few home buyers  in Madeira are buying multi-family homes or entire apartment complexes. Most buy single-family and, for the first time since April, single-family starts are on the rise — just not by as much as you’d believe from the papers.

Even still, we can’t be entirely sure that the August Housing Starts data is accurate anyway.

A footnote in the Department of Commerce report shows that, although single-family starts are said to have increased 4 percent, the data’s margin of error exceeds its actual measurement, meaning the data has “zero confidence”.

In other words, starts may have dropped in August, but it’s something we won’t know for sure until revisions are made later this year.

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A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (September 21, 2010 Edition)

September 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: FOMC 

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishToday, in its 7th meeting of the year, the Federal Open Market Committee voted 9-to-1 to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged. 

The Fed Funds Rate remains at a historical low, within a Fed’s target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

In its press release, the FOMC said that the pace of economic recovery “has slowed” in recent months. Household spending is increasing but remains restrained by high levels of unemployment, falling home values, and restrictive credit.

For the second straight month, the Federal Reserve showed less economic optimism as compared to the prior year’s worth of FOMC statements dating back to June 2009. However, the Fed still expects growth to be “modest in the near-term”.

This outlook is consistent with recent research showing that the recession is over, and that growth has resumed — albeit at a slower pace than what was originally expected.

The Fed also highlighted strengths in the economy:

  1. Growth is ongoing on a national level
  2. Inflation levels remain exceedingly low
  3. Business spending is rising

As expected, the Fed re-affirmed its plan to hold the Fed Funds Rate near zero percent “for an extended period”.

There were no surprises in the Fed’s statement so, as a result, the mortgage market’s reaction to the release has been neutral. Mortgage rates in Kentucky are thus far unchanged this afternoon.

The FOMC’s next meeting is a 2-day affair scheduled for November 2-3, 2010.

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The Federal Reserve Meets Today. Should You Lock Your Rate Before It Adjourns?

September 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: FOMC 

Comparing 30-year fixed mortgage rate to Fed Funds Rate since 1990The Federal Open Market Committee adjourns from its 6th scheduled meeting of the year today, and 7th overall.

Upon adjournment, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will release a formal statement to the market. In it, the Fed is expected to announce “no change” to the Fed Funds Rate.

Currently, the Fed Funds Rate is within a target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.  It’s been at this same level since December 2008.

Note that the Feds Funds Rate is not “a mortgage rate” — nor is it a a consumer rate of any kind. The Fed Funds Rate is a rate that defines the cost of an overnight loan between banks. And, although the Fed Funds Rate has little direct consequence to everyday Cincinnati homeowners, it is the basis for Prime Rate, the interest rate on which most consumer cards are based, plus many business loans, too.

Therefore, because the Fed Funds Rate won’t change today, neither will credit card rates.  Mortgage rates, however, are a different story.  Mortgage rates should change today — regardless of what the Fed does.

It’s more about what the Fed says.

In its statement, the Federal Reserve will highlight strengths and weaknesses in the economy, and threats to growth over the next few quarters. Depending on how Wall Street interprets these remarks, mortgage rates may rise or fall.

If the Fed’s comments signal better-than-expected growth, bond markets should lose and mortgage rates should rise. Conversely, if the Fed’s comments signal worse-than-expected growth, mortgage rates should fall.

If you’re actively shopping for a mortgage, it may be prudent to lock your rate ahead of the Fed’s announcement today. The Fed adjourns at 2:15 PM ET.  Call your loan officer to lock your rate.

The Fed meets 8 times annually.

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Unique Homes Across The Country

September 20, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Interesting Homes 

Shoe House (image courtesy of Zillow)If a home is an expression of personality, then these 10 homes say something unique about their owners. 

Culled by Zillow, this list of one-of-a-kind properties make for excellent party conversation. There’s the “round house”, the geodesic dome, the firehouse home, and the earth-ship, among others.

Some highlights from the collection:

  • The Shoe House (Hallham, PA) : The Shoe House was completed in 1949. It’s pink, it’s made of stucco, it’s 25-feet tall, and in the shape of a workboot. Oh, and every window is decorated with a stained glass shoe.
  • The Cave House (Festus, MO) : This 15,000 square foot home is tucked inside a mountain, and consists of three chambers — one for the bedrooms, one for laundry and storage, and one where musicians like Bob Seger once performed. Because of geothermal and passive solar heat, this home is extremely energy-efficient.
  • The Decommissioned Missile Site House (Othello, WA) : If you’ve ever dreamed of owning a decommissioned Titan 1 missile complex, than this is the home for you. Located roughly 3 hours east of Seattle, this home is built to withstand nuclear blasts. It’s a 6-story descent to the 125-foot diameter “center room” with 65-foot ceilings.  Missiles not included.

A few of the properties as listed by Zillow are for sale and most have accompanying pictures. Unfortunately, buyers of the homes should expect to pay cash because getting a mortgage for a unique home can be veritable challenge.

(Image courtesy: Zillow)

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Rent A Home Or Buy A Home : The Case For Both Sides

September 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Budgeting 

Is it better to rent a Cincinnati home, or to buy one? The answer may not be as clear-cut as you think. In this balanced, 3-minute joint interview from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll hear the case for both sides.

From the pro-renting part of the talk, there’s valid points about the economic impact of low credit scores and/or no cash for downpayment, and the ongoing, annual cost of home maintenance — estimated at 2% of a home’s value.  Plus, renters have the ability to “follow a job” to a new town or region whereas a homeowner may be restricted, somewhat.

From the pro-purchase part, however, there’s excellent points that were made, too:

  • Mortgage rates are low and each 1% drop to rates equates to a 9% drop to home price
  • Buyers can zero in on a particular area with particular schools or walkability, for example, better than renters
  • A home can a piggybank over the long-term; a place for “forced savings” for families that want it

The segment then closes with 5 of the best cities in which to rent, and 5 of the best cities in which to buy.

Whether buying or renting, don’t try to go at it alone. There’s lot of resources online, and an email to a local real estate or mortgage pro can set you in the right direction.

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Home Defaults Dropped For The 7th Month In A Row In August

September 16, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Foreclosures 

Foreclosures per capita, August 2010

According to foreclosure-tracking firm RealtyTrac, the number of foreclosure filings climbed 4 percent in August from the month prior. A foreclosure filing is defined as default notice, scheduled auction, or bank repossession.

Despite the number of filings surpassing 300,000 for the 18th straight month, RealtyTrac’s report shows some bright spots for housing.

  1. The number of default notices served per month fell for the 7th time this year
  2. Foreclosure activity in Nevada, the nation’s leading foreclosure state, is down 25% from last August
  3. Foreclosure activity has not materially increased since early-2009, pointing to a stabilization

In addition, each of the 10 leading metro areas for foreclosures posted year-over-year declines for the second month in a row.

But, perhaps, most important, is that mortgage lenders and servicers appear to be managing their REO more effectively, making properties available for sale at a measured pace as opposed to flooding markets with new homes.  As noted by RealtyTrac, the probable reason is “to prevent further erosion of home prices”.

For home sellers, it’s a welcome development.

Foreclosures have had a hand in falling home values in Ohio and across the country. And, although it’s self-serving for banks to meter the release of homes under ownership, everyday homeowners benefit, too.  Fewer homes on the market helps to provide a floor for Mason housing values.

If you have an interest in buying foreclosed homes, be sure to talk with a real estate agent first. The process of buying a home from a bank is different from buying from “a person”. Having the help of a professional should work to your benefit.

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