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The Prime Time to List a Home for Sale?

January 17 2015

Thursday and Friday are the most common days of the week when real estate professionals list a home, according to 2014 home sales data analyzed by the National Association of REALTORS®. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday follow in popularity in that order. The least popular days to post a new listing are Saturday and Sunday.

Also, “while home closings exhibit a strong tendency to get done at the end of the month, listings are much steadier throughout the course of the month, with a slight tendency to be posted earlier rather than later,” researchers write at NAR’s Economists’ Outlook blog.

Source: “EHS in 2014 by the Numbers – Part 3 – Popular Listing Dates,” National Association of REALTORS® Economists’ Outlook Blog (Jan. 14, 2015)

2015 Remodeling Cost vs. Value: ‘Less Is More’

January 13 2015

With home-price gains slowing in most parts of the country, sellers will be looking for ways to get top dollar for their listing. Cleaning and staging make a big difference. But for some sellers — such as investors seeking to bring a property up to neighborhood standards before the sale — remodeling work may be the ticket.

As the 2015 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report makes clear, large-scale jobs aren’t likely to return sellers their full cost. But there are improvements worth doing in anticipation of an upcoming sale. Some will return almost 100 percent of their cost. Others may not have as great a payback, but they can improve the market position of the property in relation to the competition. (Think about the impact of beautiful kitchen photos on online home shoppers.) In addition, several pricier projects can provide owners with a few years of enjoyment while still offering a decent payback down the road.

Find out which remodeling projects get you the most bang for your buck.

Home Buyers Took a Break During the Holidays

January 7 2015

Mortgage applications dropped sharply during the holidays, plunging 9.1 percent for the week ending Jan. 2 compared to two weeks earlier, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s mortgage activity index. The index reflects adjustments for New Year’s Day and Christmas Day when banks are closed.

Applications for refinancings dropped 12 percent from two weeks ago, while mortgage applications for home purchases, viewed as a leading gauge activity, dropped 5 percent.

“Beyond the seasonal slowdown, purchase application volume remains about 8 percent below last year’s level, indicating that home buyers are still cautious,” says the MBA’s chief economist, Mike Fratantoni.

Home shoppers have been slow to jump into the housing market, despite low mortgage rates. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 4.01 percent for the week ending Jan. 2, according to the MBA. Lower bond yields this week are pushing rates even lower, with the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage now a full quarter point lower than average rates available in the second half of December, the MBA notes.

Source: “Weekly Mortgage Applications Fall Sharply Over Holidays,” CNBC (Jan. 7, 2015)

The Biggest Obstacles Facing Housing in 2015

January 5 2015

Industry analysts and economists largely believe the real estate market will gain traction this year, but they acknowledge several challenges that pose a potential derailment to the ongoing recovery. CNNMoney recently highlighted several of those challenges:

Investors exit the market: Institutional investors accounted for 15 percent of all sales in October, a drop from 20 percent in January, according to National Association of REALTORS® housing data.

Lending criteria still tight. REALTORS® still say tight credit is holding many of their would-be buyers back and derailing transactions as buyers continue to struggle to qualify for a mortgage (although REALTORS® surveyed say they have seen a slight improvement in lending recently), according to the latest REALTOR® Confidence Index.

Rising mortgage rates: Mortgage rates are sitting near historical lows at the moment, under 4 percent for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, but don’t expect that to last. Many economists are predicting rates will push up to 5 percent by the end of this year.

Foreign buyers buying less in U.S.: Foreign buyers helped fuel the housing market recovery, but there are signs they’re presence is receding.For example, in California alone, sales to international clients has plunged about 25 percent in the past year, according to the California Association of REALTORS® (more: NAR’s 2014 Profile of International Home Buying Activity).

Source: “5 Biggest Threats to the Housing Market,” CNNMoney (Jan. 2, 2015)

Buyers Say Price, Not Inventory, Is the Problem

December 30 2014

Home buyers say that affordability is a bigger concern than the lack of homes for sale — the first time since early 2012 that price has trumped inventory in buyers’ minds, according to a new survey.

Nearly 33 percent of 1,300 home buyers say that “affordability in the area I want to buy” was the biggest obstacle to a home purchase in November, according to results from Redfin’s Real-Time Buyer Survey. That compares to 11 percent of buyers who cited the biggest obstacle as “not enough homes for sale.”

“If you can’t afford any of the homes for sale, it doesn’t matter how many homes are on the market,” says Leslie White, a Redfin real estate professional based in Washington, D.C. “Despite the low interest rates, prices in D.C. are so high right now, many home buyers feel priced out of the market. They’re being forced to decide between putting their home search on hold and renting another year, buying a significantly smaller home, or looking in neighborhoods farther away from the city.”

But some housing analysts are optimistic that the supply of homes under $300,000 will likely improve next year, as more home owners regain enough equity to put their homes on the market. Prices for homes in the low- to mid-range (generally below $310,000) rose by 12 percent this year — double the price increases for more expensive homes, according to Redfin’s Research Center.

Source: “Homebuyers More Concerned About Affordability Than the Lack of Homes for Sale,” Redfin Research Center (Dec. 29, 2014)

Top Moving Trends for 2015

December 24 2014

MovingCompanyReviews.com, provides consumers with information about moving companies, predicted how housing trends will impact the moving industry in 2015:

1. Mover availability is likely to be tight in the spring and summer months. Consumers are urged to book a moving company as soon as they know their moving date. A shortage of nationwide truck drivers is expected in the spring and summer months, according to MCR. The average consumer books the mover only two weeks in advance. But the busiest times of year are between Memorial Day and Labor Day, with moves peaking in August, according to MCR.

2. Major metros will be popular moving destinations. MCR reported the highest amount of moves in the nation’s largest cities in 2014, including Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Denver, and Dallas. MCR expects continued urban population growth and the return of post recession new construction will continue to make major moving destinations in 2015.

3. Square footage will flatten. In 2014, MCR reported that more movers upgraded their home sizes by a median of 628 square feet. But MCR is projecting that trend won’t continue in 2015 with significant upgrades to square footage. Also, MCR’s forecast projects that the rental market will remain strong with many moves being into rentals.

4. Mover scams remain a threat but will moderate some. The past two years has seen the rise of illegitimate moving companies that offer consumers low prices and then scam them by drastically increasing the rate at the point of delivery or even holding their items hostage. The American Moving and Storage Association and state moving associations issued warnings to consumers and urged consumers to more carefully vet their movers.

Source: MovingCompanyReviews.com

Home Buying Gets Cheaper This Week

December 19 2014

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage this week dipped to its lowest level in more than a year, bringing borrowing costs down for home buyers and refinancers.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, the most popular loan among home buyers, averaged 3.80 percent this week, meaning that it has remained below 4 percent for every week except for two since Oct. 16, Freddie Mac reports in its weekly mortgage market survey.

Still, “the temporary decline in rates will likely be short-lived,” says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at realtor.com®. “Those who can take advantage now and lock in a purchase or refinance at these levels may never see these rates again. This is likely the last of the low rates. We’re likely to see increases in the weeks ahead.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Dec. 18:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.80 percent, with an average 0.6 point, dropping from last week’s 3.93 percent. The 30-year rate was at its lowest average this week since May 2013. A year ago, 30-year rates averaged 4.47 percent. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage’s record low was set on Nov. 21, 2012, when it averaged 3.31 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.09 percent, with an average 0.6 point, dropping from last week’s 3.20 percent average. Last year at this time, 15-year rates averaged 3.52 percent.
  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 2.95 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 2.98 percent average. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 3 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac and “Mortgage Rates Hit Lowest Level of the Year Again,” realtor.com® (Dec. 18, 2014)

Winter Is Best Time to Sell a Home, Study Shows

December 15 2014

The housing market doesn’t hibernate in the winter. Sellers who list and buyers who buy often find the winter season the most advantageous time to make a move in real estate, according to a new study by the real estate brokerage Redfin. The winter season officially takes place between Dec. 21 and March 20, and real estate professionals should be ready for a season that often brings in more focused and active sellers and buyers.

In an update to a two-year analysis it completed last year, Redfin researchers studied nationwide home listings, sales prices, and time-on-market data from 2010 through October 2014.

The winter tends to net sellers’ more than their asking price during the months of December, January, February, and March than listings from June through November. Listing during those four winter months has resulted in higher percentages of above-asking-price sales than listing during any months, other than April and May.

Researchers say the winter market is less competitive for sellers since many people tend to wait until the spring to list. The smaller inventory of active listings help sellers get more attention from buyers on their properties. Also, many large corporations often transfer employees or hire new ones early in the year, creating opportunities for winter sellers from very motivated purchasers.

Source: “Best Time to List a Home for Sale? Winter, Redfin Says,” Los Angeles Times (Dec. 14, 2014)

Mortgage Rates Up, But Remain Below 4%

December 12 2014

After four weeks of decreases, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage inched up slightly this week, but stayed near yearly lows under  4 percent, Freddie Mac reported in its weekly mortgage market survey.

Freddie Mac reported the following national averages for the week ending Dec. 11:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.93 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 3.89 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.42 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.20 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 3.10 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.43 percent.
  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 2.98 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 2.94 percent average. Last year at this time, 5-year ARMs averaged 2.94 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

70% Unaware of ‘Loan Down-Payment Assistance’

December 7 2014

Seventy percent of adults in the U.S. say they’re unfamiliar with down-payment assistance programs for middle-income home buyers in their community, according to a NeighborWorks America survey of 1,000 people. But plenty of help is available.

NeighborWorks organizations provided 6,000 buyers with more than $100 million in down-payment assistance last year. NeighborWorks expects to increase its assistance this year, too. Many local and state organizations offer down-payment assistance as well, and there are specialized programs for military vets through the Veterans Affairs loan program, for first-time buyers through the Federal Housing Administration, and for rural home buyers through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Down-payment assistance programs make home purchasing more accessible for first-time buyers,” says Marietta Rodriguez, vice president of Homeownership Programs and Lending at NeighborWorks America. “In addition, because many down-payment assistance programs require home-buyer education, these purchasers tend to be more successful in the long-term. Research has shown pre-purchase counseling helps reduce mortgage default and equips home owners with the information they need to budget for other expenses and maintain their property.”

Source: NeighborWorks America