The National Association of REALTORS® Pending Home Sales Index rose for the third straight month last month.
A “pending home sale” is a home under contract to sell, but not yet closed.
The Pending Home Sales Index rose 5 percent in March, posting its second-highest reading since April 2010. Not coincidentally, that month marked the expiration of last year’s federal home buyer tax credit.
Home buyers and sellers in Madeira would do well to watch the Pending Home Sales Index each month. This is because — unlike most government and private data — the Pending Home Sales Index is a “forward-looking” indicator.
Because 80% of “pending” homes close within 2 months, and a significant share of the rest close within months 3 and 4, the Pending Home Sales Index tends to correlate to future strength (or weakness) in housing.
The Pending Home Sales Index, in other words, is an excellent precursor to the Existing Home Sales report, issued monthly.
By region, the Pending Home Sales Index varied last month.
- Northeast : -3.2% from February
- Southeast : +10.3% from February
- Midwest : +3.0% from February
- West : +3.1% from February
All 4 regions were worse from a year ago.
As with everything in housing, however, we must remember that real estate is neither national, nor regional. It’s local. Sales volume may be higher in areas like the Midwest, but that doesn’t mean that all Midwest markets are experiencing similar gains, if any gains at all.
To get local real estate data for Oakley, for example , talk to a real estate agent that specializes in that area. It’s the best way to know what’s happening on the street level.
Earlier today, the Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its current target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.
The vote was 10-0 — the third straight meeting after which the FOMC vote was unanimous.
In its press release, the FOMC noted that since its March 2011 meeting, the economic recovery is proceeding “at a moderate pace” and that labor markets conditions are “improving gradually”. Household spending and business investment “continue[s] to expand” but the housing sector remains “depressed”.
Furthermore, the FOMC’s statement discussed the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate of (1) Managing inflation levels, and (2) Fostering maximum employment. The statement acknowledged recent inflation pressures on the economy, but it expects those pressures — because they’re related to oil and food prices — to be “transitory”. Unemployment remains “elevated”.
The FOMC statement also re-affirms the group’s plan to keep the Fed Funds Rate near zero percent “for an extended period” of time, and to keep its $600 billion bond market support package — more commonly called “QE2” — intact.
The statement’s verbiage suggests that a third support package may be created after QE2 ends in June 2011, depending on the needs of the economy.
Mortgage market reaction to the FOMC statement has been positive thus far. Mortgage rates in Cincinnati are unchanged, but leaning lower. And, as always, market sentiment could shift quickly. If you like today’s mortgage rates, consider locking in.
The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is a 2-day event, June 20-21 2011.
After posting an all-time low in February, New Home Sales rebounded strongly last month.
Based on joint research from the Census Bureau and HUD, 300,000 new, single-family homes were sold on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis in March. It’s an 11 percent improvement from February, and right in-line with the 6-month average.
The supply of available new homes improved, too, in March, falling by close to a full month.
At the current pace of sales, the entire new home housing stock would be sold in 7.3 months. This is the second-best reading in a year, a statistic partially-supported by the relatively small number of new homes on the market.
There are now just 183,000 new homes available for sale across Cincinnati and the country. That’s the smallest reading since the Census Bureau started to keep New Home Sales records beginning in 1995.
However, it should be noted that the March New Home Sales data is suspect. The reading’s margin of error exceeds it actual measurement by almost double. It’s possible that sales volume fell in March instead of rising, therefore. The Census Bureau says as much in its footnotes:
The change [in new home sales] is not statistically significant; that is, it is uncertain whether there was an increase or decrease [in March 2011].
We won’t know for certain until future data revisions are made.
If you’re a home buyer in Hyde Park , though, and want to stay ahead of the market, you won’t want to take chances. If the Census Bureau finds its data to be accurate after revisions are made, new home prices will already have started to rise.
You may get your best home value by buying sooner rather than later.
The Federal Open Market Committee starts a two-day meeting today, the third of its 8 scheduled meetings this year.
The FOMC is a special, 12-person committee within the Federal Reserve. It’s led by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and the group is responsible for voting on our nation’s monetary policy. This includes setting the Fed Funds Rate, the rate at which banks borrow money from each other overnight.
The general public tends to confuse the Fed Funds Rate for “mortgage rates” but, as shown in the chart at top, the two interest rates are very different. There is no direct correlation between the Fed Funds Rate and everyday mortgage rates in Cincinnati.
Since 1990, the two benchmark rates have been separated by as much as 5.29 percent, and have been as close as 0.52 percent.
Today, the separation between the Fed Funds Rate and the national average for a standard, 30-year fixed rate mortgage is 4.625 percent. This spread will widen — or shrink — beginning 12:30 PM ET Wednesday. That’s when the FOMC adjourns and releases its public statement to the markets.
According to Wall Street, there’s a 100% chance that the FOMC leaves the Fed Funds Rate in its current “target range” of 0.000-0.250 percent, the same range in which it’s been since December 2008. Depending on the verbiage in the press release, plus the comments of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke in his scheduled, 2:15 PM ET press briefing, mortgage rates aren’t expected to steady as well.
If the Fed projects higher growth in late-2011/early-2012, or hints at new market stimuli, expect mortgage rates to rise on concerns about inflation. Inflation is bad for mortgage rates, in general.
On the other hand, if the Fed indicates that the economy is slowing down, or that it plans to withdraw its existing, $600 billion bond market stimulus, look for mortgage rates to fall.
It’s hard to be a home buyer in the Hyde Park area when the Federal Open Market Committee meets. There’s just so much that can change mortgage rates and rising mortgage rates can affect purchasing power in a flash.
In the 6 months since November 2010, home affordability is off 9%.
So, if you’re shopping for mortgages, or just floating a rate, consider getting locked in before the FOMC issues its press release Wednesday. Once the statement hits, mortgage rates could soar.
How do you use your garage? If you’re like most homeowners, you park your car(s) in it, then use the remaining available space for the random storage of “things that don’t go in the house”.
Your garage can do so much more — all it needs is a little bit of organization.
In this 4-minute video from Lowe’s YouTube series, you’ll see how cabinetry, shelving, hooks and a master plan can add purpose to the non-car areas of your garage, and help you “make space”. You’ll even de-clutter parts of your home.
The video is rife with pointers for doing your garage right, including:
- How to create “storage zones” of exactly the right size
- How to organize sporting goods for easy access and optimal space-saving
- Where to place trash receptacles, garden equipment, and seasonal decorations
According to the video, building out a garage should be a weekend project. You may finish faster, or slower, however, depending on the complexity and size of your garage and your storage needs.
Finishing a garage creates “space” — a helpful addition to any home. In addition, it enhances a home’s appeal to prospective buyers. Use the video above as a starting point and inspiration, and consider shopping storage specialty stores to finish out your project.
Home resales rose 4 percent last month, according to the March Existing Home Sales report. A total of 5.1 million homes were sold on an annualized, seasonally-adjusted basis.
The strong results re-establish the national, long-term trend toward rising home resales.
March marked the 6th month out of eight in which sales volume has increased and sales are up 32 percent from July 2010 lows.
Home supply has resumed its downward trajectory, too.
At the current pace of sales, the entire home resale inventory would be depleted in 8.4 months. This is 0.1 months faster as compared to February, and a full month faster than the 12-month average.
The Existing Home Sales report also included a breakdown by buyer-type.
- First-time buyers bought 33% of homes, down from 34% in February
- Repeat buyers bought 45% of homes, down from 47% in February
- Investors bought 22% of homes, up from 19% in February
35 percent of buyers paid in cash.
And, perhaps most noteworthy, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, 40 percent of March home resales were “distressed properties”. Distressed homes include foreclosures, short sales, and REO and typically sell at discounts “in the vicinity” of 20 percent.
Home prices in Madeira are based on the basic economic theory of Supply and Demand. So, with home supplies dropping and demand for homes rising, it’s reasonable to expect home values to rise later this year.
If you’re in the market for a home, play the recent trends to your advantage. Today, homes are affordable and mortgage rates are low. This may not be the case later this year. The best “deals” of the year may be what you buy now.
According to the Census Bureau, seasonally-adjusted, single-family Housing Starts rebounded in March, increasing 8 percent over February’s 2-year low.
We can’t put too much faith in the data, however, because for the second straight month, the government reports that the data’s margin of error — 15 percent — exceeds its actual measurement.
As written in the footnotes, there’s no “statistical evidence to conclude that the actual change [in Housing Starts] is different from zero.”
In other words, single-family Housing Starts may have dropped up to 7 percent last month, or may have increased by as much as 22 percent. We won’t know for certain until several months from now. As the Census Bureau gathers more data, it will revise its initial monthly findings.
Such adjustments are common. February’s starts were revised higher by 4.5%, for example.
Also included in the Census Bureau’s report is the March 2011 Building Permits tally. As compared to February, permits were higher by 6 percent nationwide. This is a noteworthy development because permits-issued is an excellent forward-predictor for housing.
When permits are issued, 86 percent of them will start construction within 60 days. This means that new home sales and housing stock should follow the Building Permits report trend, but on a 2-month delay.
Permits were strong in all 4 regions last month:
- Northeast : +2.6 percent from February
- Midwest : +10.0 percent from February
- South : +5.3 percent from February
- West : +5.3 percent from February
With Building Permits rising, we can infer that the housing market is improving.
Therefore, if you’re currently looking for new construction, consider that the market may be less favorable for buyers 4-6 months from now than it is today. Especially because homebuilders are already projecting higher sales volume.
The better time to buy new construction — relative — may be now.
Homebuilder confidence is falling — a good sign for buyers of newly-built homes in and around Mt Lookout.
According to the National Association of Homebuilders, the Housing Market Index slipped one point to 16 in April. It’s the 5th time in 6 months that the index read 16 — a figure exactly in line with the 1-year average, but still considered “poor”. The Housing Market Index reports on a scale of 1-100.
Values of 50 or better representing “favorable conditions”. Values below 50 are considered “unfavorable”.
It’s been 5 years since the Housing Market Index read north of 50.
As an index, the HMI is actually a composite of three separate surveys, the results of which can be as telling as the final, compiled results. The surveys focus on specific aspects about a homebuilder’s business, and use the broader responses to gauge overall market “sentiment”.
The 3 questions are:
- How are market conditions for the sale of new homes today?
- How are market conditions for the sale of new homes in 6 months?
- How is prospective buyer foot traffic?
In April, interestingly, home builders felt market conditions were worse across the board, but still cited higher buyer foot traffic. This may be the result of a combination of rising mortgage rates and falling home values. Both tend to be bad for builders, and both tend to spur home buyers into action.
As a home buyer this spring, therefore, use the HMI data to your advantage. When home builders feel less confident on housing, buyers can often exact better concessions and/or upgrades during the negotiation process.
And, so long as mortgage rates continue to rise, that pressure on builders should build.
There’s a long-standing myth that freezer-section produce is “worse for you” than fresh produce from a farm. The truth, however, is often the opposite.
Because of upgrades in packaging and delivery methods, frozen produce is often more fresh than “fresh produce”, and contains higher nutrient levels, too.
The key is to know how to shop for it.
The main advantage that frozen produce carries over fresh produce is that frozen produce is picked in its most ripe — and most nutrient-rich — state. Then, when the produce is flash-frozen, its nutrients become locked-in and sealed.
Fresh produce, by contrast, tends to be picked before it’s ripe, and is left to ripen in transit.
Because food nutrients degrade with exposure to heat and/or light, the longer it takes produce to get from the farm to the supermarket, the fewer nutrients the produce will have.
Did you know? Fresh fruit and vegetables might sit for up 2 weeks before they’re sold by your local supermarket. And not to mention how long it may take you to consume them.
Another advantage of frozen produce is that it’s often less expensive than fresh fruit. For example, looking at the cost of strawberries bought in bulk:
This isn’t to say that frozen produce is “better” than fresh produce. It just depends on your circumstance. If you plan to consume the produce within a short period from purchase, and can account for its ripeness and freshness, fresh produce may be preferred. Or, if you eat organic produce, free from pesticides and chemicals — certain produce may be better eaten fresh.
But know the facts. Frozen produce can be healthier and cheaper — a good combination for your household.
Foreclosure activity is much slower this year than last.
According to foreclosure-tracking firm RealtyTrac, the number of national foreclosure filings plunged 35 percent in March 2011 as compared to March 2010, a statistic that reflects a more healthy housing market and more robust outlook for 2011.
A “Foreclosure filing” is defined as any of the following : a default notice, a scheduled auction, or a bank repossessions. Foreclosures filings were down in all but 8 states last month.
Activity remains concentrated, too. More than half of all bank repossessions can be tied to just a handful of states.
In March, 6 states accounted for 51% of activity.
- California : 15% of all repossessions
- Florida : 9% of all repossessions
- Arizona : 7% of all repossessions
- Michigan : 7% of all repossessions
- Texas : 6% of all repossessions
- Nevada : 5% of all repossessions
At the other end of the spectrum is Vermont. With just 5 repossessions for all of March, Vermont accounted for 0.008% of repossessions nationwide.
Distressed homes remain in high demand among today’s home buyers, accounting for almost 40% of all home resales. It’s no wonder, either. Distresses home typically sell at a steep, 15 percent discount as compared to non-distressed properties.
Buying foreclosures can be a great “deal”. However, make sure you’ve done your homework.
Buying homes from banks is different from buying a homes from “people”. Contracts and negotiations are different, and homes are often sold with defects.
If you plan to buy a Cincinnati foreclosure, therefore, make you you speak with a licensed real estate professional before submitting a bid. You can research a home online and learn a lot of the process, but when it’s time to purchase, put an experienced agent on your side.