American’s thirst for smart home technology is growing, with more home owners seeking greater control of their home’s appliances, lighting, and systems. More than 70 percent of about 2,000 adults recently surveyed wish they could control something in their home from their mobile device, according to Lowe’s 2014 Smart Home Survey.
What do they most want to do? The survey showed respondents wanted to be able to adjust the thermostat, turn on the lights, or start the coffee pot before they get out of bed.
Besides added convenience, 40 percent of adults surveyed say a smarter home would help them trim costs and save money on their utility bills. Sixty-two percent said they find smart home systems are most beneficial for monitoring safety and security.
So with the technology pool in the smart home arena ever-expanding, what’s holding back adoption rates? The top considerations holding back respondents from purchasing such products were cost or fees (56 percent); ease of use (13 percent), and security (11 percent). Americans are more than twice as likely to prefer a do-it-yourself solution, without a monthly fee, over a professionally installed/monitored system with a monthly service fee, according to the survey.
“In general, Americans feel positively toward products that will make their homes safer, more energy efficient, and easier to manage,” says Kevin Meagher, Lowe’s vice president and general manager of Smart Home. Lowe’s offers Iris, a single user interface that allows home owners to control several aspects of their home from connected devices. “People want DIY solutions that are simple and affordable.”
Ordinarily under Proposition 13, the value of a home for property tax purposes is re-assessed to market level whenever achange in ownership takes place. This usually results in higher property taxes for the homebuyer.
In November 1988, the state‘s voters approved Proposition 90, which is designed to induce greater turnover of homes owned by senior citizens. The measure provides anyone over the age of 55 with relief from Proposition 13 by allowing them to move from one county to another without undergoing a change in their basic property taxes.
Proposition 90 is a “local-option” law; each county has the option of participating. If a county has adopted a Proposition 90 ordinance, it accepts transfers of property tax base assessments from other California counties. If the county that the homeowner is moving from does not have a Proposition 90 ordinance, this does not affect the eligibility of the homeowner.
El Dorado County is one of only a handful of counties participating in this tax saving program. However, Prop 90 is due to expire in February of 2015.
The average percentage rates for fixed-rate mortgages inched up slightly this week, but continue to hover near yearly lows.
Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Sept. 11:
- 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.12 percent, with an average 0.5 point, up slightly from last week’s 4.10 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.57 percent.
- 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.26 percent, with an average 0.5, rising from last week’s 3.24 percent average. A year ago, 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.59 percent.
- 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 2.99 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 2.97 percent average. Last year at this time, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.22 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac
About 20 percent of households who would benefit from refinancing are not doing it — and they could be losing out on lessening their mortgage payments by thousands of dollars over the life of the loan, according to a new report from the National Bureau of Economic Research.
In analyzing a large random sample of outstanding mortgages from December 2010, researchers found that the median household could save $160 per month over the remaining life of the loan, amounting to a total savings of about $11,500.
“Despite the large stakes, anecdotal evidence suggests that many households may fail to refinance when they otherwise should,” according to the report. “Failing to refinance is puzzling due to the large financial incentives involved.”
The report found that borrowers may fail to refinance because they are unable to calculate the full financial benefit to them, they fail to see the benefits over time, or the high amount of upfront costs may deter them.
“Our results suggest the presence of information barriers regarding the potential benefits and costs of refinancing,” per the NBER. “Expanding and developing partnerships with certified housing counseling agencies to offer more targeted and in-depth workshops and counseling surrounding the refinancing decision is a potential direction for policy to alleviate these barriers for the population most in need of financial education.”
Source: “Here’s Why Some Home Owners Throw Away $11,500 a Year on Mortgage Payments,” HousingWire (Sept. 10, 2014)
The percentage of cash sales fell to 33 percent of total home sales in June, marking the lowest share since September 2008, CoreLogic reports. A year ago, cash sales stood at 36.3 percent of the market; they have been falling steadily since January 2013.
Historically, cash sales make up about 25 percent of total home sales, according to data prior to the housing crisis. In 2011, cash sales peaked at 46.2 percent of sales nationwide, CoreLogic reports.
Buyers are using cash mostly to purchase real estate–owned properties, or REOs. Fifty-five percent of REOs are all-cash transactions, followed by nearly 33 percent of resales, about 32 percent of short sales, and 16 percent of newly built homes.
Source: “Cash Sales Accounted for One in Three Home Sales in June,” HousingWire (Sept. 9, 2014)
The Federal Housing Administration is overhauling a long-held policy of charging extra interest payments on loans it insures to borrowers who have already paid off the principal debts on their mortgages.
FHA has permitted its lenders to charge borrowers a full month of interest when they sell or refinance a home, even if borrowers had paid off the mortgage weeks prior to the end of the month. For example, if borrowers went to closing on an FHA loan on Sept. 3, lenders would be allowed to continue to charge them interest through Sept. 30.
Beginning Jan. 21 of next year, new FHA mortgages will require lenders to collect interest only on the balance remaining on the date of closing for a home sale or refinancing. (However, sellers and refinancers who currently have FHA loans and expect to close before Jan. 21 likely won’t see much benefit from the new policy.)
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau raised the issue with FHA last year, asking why FHA was allowing its lenders to collect post-payment penalties from borrowers at closing. FHA had argued that its bond investors, who purchase packages of insured mortgages, expected full-month payments of interest plus principal. FHA said that its lenders did charge borrowers slightly below market rates to help compensate for the post-closing payments.
However, critics argued that the policy was unfair to borrowers. The National Association of REALTORS® had lobbied against the FHA policy for more than a decade. NAR estimated that during 2003 alone, sellers and refinancers paid nearly $690 million in extra interest charges due to the policy.
Source: “FHA to Ban Lenders From Charging Extra Interest Payments on Mortgages,” The Los Angeles Times (Sept. 7, 2014)
For the third consecutive week, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage held steady, with borrowing costs for home buyers and refinancers remaining near its lows for the year.
Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Sept. 4:
- 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.10 percent, with an average 0.5 point, holding the same as last week. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.57 percent.
- 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.24 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 3.25 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.59 percent.
- 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 2.97 percent, with an average 0.5 point, holding the same average from last week. Last year at this time, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.28 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac
Many housing markets remain weak overall, but those with stronger economies and favorable demographics are improving at a much stronger pace, per Freddie Mac’s latest Multi-Indicator Market Index. The so-called MiMi monitors the stability of the nation’s single-family housing market by looking at home purchase applications, payment-to-income ratios, on-time mortgage payments, and the local employment picture.
Overall, the index indicates a weak housing market (at 73.7) in June, the latest month measured, with only slight improvement month-over-month. Since reaching its lowest value of 59.8 in September 2011, the housing market has made a 23.3 percent rebound.
“As we see the economy slowly normalizing we’re starting to see its effects in the housing market as well, albeit very slowly,” says Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “The good news is the big housing markets, of which some were also the hardest hit, continue to improve.”
For example, compared to the same time last year, California is up 12 percent and every market the MiMi tracks in the state is improving, Nothaft notes. Also, Florida is up nearly 15 percent, and Illinois is up nearly 13 percent over the past year.
“Likewise, the stalwarts of the recovery continue to be those states in the North Central section of the country, places like North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and then south to Texas and Louisiana,” Nothaft says. “In these areas not only are markets producing jobs, but better paying jobs that translate into workers taking out applications to purchase a home and income growth that keeps homebuyer affordability strong.”
Source: Freddie Mac
The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is heading into the holiday weekend at its yearly low, giving home shoppers and home owners another opportunity to snag the lowest rate of the year, weekly mortgage market surveys in its weekly mortgage market survey.
“Mortgage rates were little changed following mixed housing news,” says Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Existing-home sales rose for the fourth consecutive month to an annualized pace of 5.15 million, the highest of the year. On the other hand, new-home sales fell for the third consecutive month to an annualized rate of 412,000 units.”
Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Aug. 28:
- 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.10 percent, with an average 0.5 point, holding the same as last week’s new low for 2014. A year ago at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.51 percent.
- 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.25 percent, with an average 0.6 point, rising from last week’s 3.23 percent average. Last year at this time, 15-year rates averaged 3.54 percent.
- 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 2.97 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 2.95 percent average. Last year at this time, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.24 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac
City centers and downtowns may be growing in demand among millennials and retiring baby boomers, but a new poll says residents are still happiest in the suburbs.
Americans who live in suburban areas are the most satisfied with the place they live, according to the Atlantic Media/Siemens State of City Poll. Eighty-four percent of suburbanites rated their community as “excellent” or “good” compared to 75 percent of urban dwellers and 78 percent of rural residents, according to the poll of more than 1,600 U.S. adults.
The survey revealed some racial, economic, and generational differences in community satisfaction. For example, in urban areas, whites were significantly more likely than minorities to say they were happy with their communities as places to live. Also, younger adults in general were less likely to rate their communities as “excellent” or “good” compared to their older counterparts. Older respondents tended to hold more favorable views of the place where they live.
Home ownership also appeared to be a major predictor for how satisfied residents were with their community. In urban areas, 44 percent of home owners rated their community as “excellent” compared to 22 percent of urban renters. Among non-urban home owners, 46 percent rated their community as “excellent” compared to 31 percent of non-urban renters, the poll found.
Source: “Overall, Americans in the Suburbs Are Still the Happiest,” The Atlantic CityLab (Aug. 25, 2014)