Home Loan Interest Rates Just Got Higher

“Optimistic testimony on Capitol Hill from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell sent Treasury yields higher as Powell stated his outlook for the economy has strengthened since December,” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist.

“We think strength in the economy and pent-up housing demand should allow U.S. housing markets to post modest growth this year even with higher mortgage rates,” Kiefer says.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending March 1:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.43 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 4.40 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.10 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.90 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 3.85 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.32 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Fannie Mae Announces Expansion of HomePath for Short Sales Website

Fannie Mae (FNMA/OTC) today announced the expansion of the HomePath® for Short Sales website, a communication tool created to help real estate professionals efficiently complete short sales and resolve challenges directly with Fannie Mae.  The new functionality will allow agents to contact Fannie Mae sooner in the short sale process and preempt potential challenges, decreasing the need to escalate concerns further down the road. The website is open to any real estate professional working on a short sale involving a Fannie Mae-owned loan.

Through the expanded HomePath Short Sale Portal, listing agents can work directly with Fannie Mae to:

  • Request list price guidance prior to listing a property
  • View the status of submitted cases
  • Negotiate and receive first lien approval on a short sale directly from Fannie Mae (This feature will be rolled out over the next few months through individual servicers.)

“This is an important step in continuing to build a strong relationship with the real estate community, which will ultimately contribute to the stabilization of neighborhoods,” said Tim McCallum, Vice President for Short Sales, Fannie Mae. “Allowing real estate professionals to negotiate an offer directly with Fannie Mae is the next step in streamlining the short sale process. Our goal is to provide transparency throughout these transactions and arrive at an agreement that benefits all parties involved.”

Source http://www.fanniemae.com/portal/about-us/media/corporate-news/2014/6126.html

U.S. a ‘Safe Bet’ for Foreign Homebuyers

American cities claimed four of the top five spots in the world for foreign property investors. However, London claimed this year’s top pick as the best city in the world for foreign property investors, according to a survey conducted by the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate.

Several major property deals in London last year helped it nab this year’s top spot. Last year’s top pick, New York, came in second in this year’s survey.

The top five spots for foreign buyers worldwide, according to the survey, are:

  1. London
  2. New York
  3. San Francisco
  4. Houston
  5. Los Angeles

The U.S. kept its position as the most “stable and secure” country overall for foreign investors with property, according to the association. The U.S. was more than 50 percentage points ahead of Germany, which came in second place. Your Comments?

Source: “London Claims Top Spot for Foreign Buyers,” London Evening Standard (Jan. 6, 2014) and “London Voted World’s Best for Foreign Buyers,” Sky News (Jan. 6, 2014)

Study: 60% of Web Visitors Are Bots

Could the majority of your website’s traffic be from automated bots? Most likely, according to new figures by Incapsula that shows about 61 percent of all traffic to websites comes from automated bots.

Only 38.5 percent of the traffic to web sites is from humans. The rest is thanks to non-human traffic, such as search engines, scrapers, hacking tools, spammers, and other impersonators, the study shows.

However, there are good bots and bad bots. About 30 percent of the traffic is from so-called “good bots”—search engines and cookies that claim to better users’ surfing experience, Forbes reports.

It’s the lurking visitors from “bad bots” that webmasters need to guard their sites against. Thirty-one percent of bots are malicious, the study found. For example, some bots are data scrapers that may steal your content and duplicate it on other sites. Others are spammers who have the potential to annoy your legitimate visitors with irrelevant content. Other bots include hackers who can inject malware onto your site and impersonators who can slow your site’s bandwidth.

The Incapsula report found that overall bot traffic was up 21 percent in the past year. The positive news? The number of “good bot” visits to sites is growing while “bad bot” activity is declining, particularly from those which specialize posting in spam comments.

Source: “Report: Bot Traffic Is Up 61.5% of All Website Traffic,” Incapsula (Dec. 9, 2013) and “Over 60% of All Website Visits Are Bot Traffic,” Forbes.com (Dec. 13, 2013)

Foreclosed Home Evictions on Hold for the Holidays

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae announced a holiday moratorium on all foreclosed single-family homes that the mortgage giants own or guarantee, suspending all evictions between Dec. 18 and Jan. 3. Processing of the evictions will continue during this period, but families living in foreclosed homes will be able to stay in their homes.

“At this time of year we want to bring some relief to families who confronted financial difficulties and went through foreclosures,” says Chris Bowden, senior vice president of REO at Freddie Mac. “We also want to remind home owners going into the New Year facing financial challenges to reach out for help as soon as they can by calling their mortgage servicer.”

While the mortgage giants will be putting evictions on a two-week holiday hold, they will continue to proceed on other pre- or post-foreclosure activities.

–REALTOR(R) Magazine Daily News

Housing Recovery at a ‘Turning Point’

The housing recovery is at a “turning point,” say economists at Wells Fargo Securities, but it needs more jobs and income growth in order to pick up steam.

High unemployment remains a drag on the housing recovery, severely limiting the upside for housing demand nationwide, according to the latest WFS Housing Chartbook. For the housing recovery to gain more traction, “overall employment conditions need to improve further.”

Wells Fargo economists have lowered their projections for new home sales, estimating 440,000 new home sales this year, which would be up 19 percent from last year. In July, Wells Fargo economists had predicted a 24 percent increase in new home sales.

Source: “Wells Fargo Economists Reduce New Home Sales Forecast,” National Mortgage News (Oct. 3, 2013)

Rapid Rise in Home Prices ‘Remarkable’

We’re seeing the Sacramento region leading this trend! During the first six months of this year, home prices jumped 10 percent, the fastest pace in 36 years, CoreLogic reports. Mark Fleming, chief economist with CoreLogic, called the 10 percent jump “remarkable.”

In June, the latest data available, home prices were up 11.6 percent year over year, according to CoreLogic’s home price index, which reflects distressed sales as well. June marked the 16th consecutive month of increases.

The pace of home price appreciation is showing signs of slowing. In June, prices rose 1.9 percent compared to May — a slower pace for increases than  recent months. April to May, prices rose 2.6 percent, while they rose nearly 2.8 percent in April from March.

Some analysts point to a slowing due to rising mortgage rates, fewer investors  purchases, and a rise in inventory levels of homes for sale. The National Association of REALTORS® reported inventories of existing homes for sale rose to 5.2 months in June from 5 months in May. A six- to seven-month supply is considered a balanced market.

Still, prices are not showing signs of stalling. CoreLogic analysts predict that home prices will be up 12.5 percent year over year in July. Your comments?

Source: “Home Prices Rising at Fastest Pace in 36 Years,” Mortgage News Daily (Aug. 6, 2013) and “Home prices rise again, but at a slower pace,” USA Today (Aug. 6, 2013)


More Renters Say They “Want to Own”

The majority of renters say home ownership is one of their highest priorities for their future, and more renters are saying they want to buy soon, according to the 2013 National Housing Pulse Survey, conducted by the National Association of REALTORS®. Renters are showing stronger desires for home ownership compared to recent years.

Fifty one percent of renters say that eventually owning a home is one of their highest personal priorities, up from 42 percent in the 2011 survey.

The survey found that 80 percent of the 2,000 Americans surveyed say they believe buying a home is a good financial decision. Sixty-eight percent said now is a good time to buy a home, too.

Their main motivations to home ownership: Building equity, wanting a stable and safe environment, and the freedom to choose where to live, the survey found.

Meanwhile, the main obstacles to home ownership have remained the same over the years: saving for the down payment, closing costs, low wages, and student loan debt.

More information at source: National Association of REALTORS(R)

IRS Simplifies ‘Home Office Deduction’

The number of home owners who work from home at least one day a week increased nearly 10 percent — from 9.5 million to 13.4 million — between 1999 and 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. However, only 3.4 million home owners claimed deductions for business use of a home in 2010, according to the IRS.

The IRS recently announced a new safe harbor provision for home office deductions for the 2013 tax year.

“This allows at-home workers the option to simply take a deduction capped at $1,500 per year based on $5 a square foot for up to 300 square feet,” FOX Business reported. “The requirement that home office space be exclusively used for business and limitations on income earned from that business still applies, and direct business expenses unrelated to the home (advertising, supplies and wages paid to employees, etc.) are deductible.”

For more information on the deduction, visit the IRS Web site.

Source: “IRS’ Simpler Home Tax Deduction Cuts Through the Clutter,” FOX Business (July 24, 2013)

New Social Network Focuses on the “Happy Moments”

Will real estate have a presence on the latest social network that focuses on the happy things in life — say, a new home buyer showing off their new home or a home owner posting about their latest home improvement?

Happier is a new start-up social network that sets out to celebrate the happy moments in life. Users can post photos and status updates about anything that makes them happy.

The one rule: No negativity allowed.

Happier launched in February. It’s available on the Web and also has an iPhone app (no Android app as of yet). So far, a million happy moments have been posted to the site. The site has more than 100,000 users. Happy moments can be viewed by all users at the site, and a new version of the iPhone app, out in August, will default to making all posts public. Users can opt to restrict access, if they choose.

“Seeing what makes other people happier is as valuable, or maybe more valuable” than sharing your own happiness, says Nataly Kogan, co-founder and chief executive of the company.

Source: “A Social Network Dedicated to Happy Moments,” The New York Times (July 23, 2013)