San Digo Real Estate News

 

May 15, 2012

Home Affordability Getting A Springtime Boost From Greece

Greece affects U.S. mortgage ratesHome affordability is receiving a boost from across the Atlantic Ocean this spring.

For the third time in as many years, a weakening Eurozone is pushing May mortgage rates to new lows throughout CA and nationwide.

The story centers in Greece and begins in 2010.

2 years ago, it was uncovered that successive Greece governments had purposefully misreported the nation-state's economic statistics in order to meet European Union standards. The fraudulent data had permitted Greek governments to spend beyond their means while hiding deficits from EU auditors.

The realization that Greece was heavy in debt with little means to repay its creditors resulted in a massive bailout from the IMF and the rest of the Eurozone nations. The terms for Greece said that, in order to receive its €110 billion aid package, Greece would be required to enact strict spending controls.

This is known as "austerity" and the deal was met with outrage by the Greek public. There's been general social unrest ever since and, on May 6 of this year, Greece held a special "early election" to elect all 300 members to its legislature.

No party won majority in the elections.

7 different groups garnered seats in the parliament last week with anti-austerity groups faring well. It's spurred concern that Greece will end its bid for fiscal restraint, and that Greece may choose to leave the 17-nation Eurozone.

The uncertainty surrounding Greece is helping U.S. mortgage rates to make new lows. As concerns mount for the future of Greece -- and the Eurozone, in general -- global investors seek safer markets for their money.

The U.S. mortgage-backed bond market is one such market.

With the implied backing of the U.S. government, mortgage-backed bonds are viewed as nearly risk-less and investors clamor for safety of principal during uncertain times. The boost in demand drives bond prices up and bond yields down, resulting in lower mortgage rates for home buyers and refinancing households of San Diego.

So long as Greece struggles to form its government and flirts with a sovereign debt default, mortgage rates should continue to face downward pressure. U.S. rates may not fall week after week, but analysts expect any rise in rates to be muted.

Posted in Mortgage Rates
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May 11, 2012

Mortgage Rates Make New All-Time Lows (Again)

Mortgage rates

Conforming mortgage rates continue to drop.

For the second straight week, the 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell to a new, all-time low nationwide. According to Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage rate survey, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate dropped 1 basis point to 3.83% this week for borrowers willing to pay 0.7 discount points plus a full set of closing costs.

The 15-year fixed rate mortgage also set a mortgage rate record, registering 3.05% with an accompanying 0.7 discount plus closing costs.

Discount points are a one-time, up-front closing cost, based on loan size. 0.7 discount points is equal to 0.7% of the borrowed amount. A home buyer in San Diego opening a $200,000 mortgage and paying 0.7 discount points, therefore, would be subject to a one-time $1,400 fee paid at closing.

Borrowers wanting to avoid paying discount points can expect higher mortgage rates than Freddie Mac's reported national average.

Falling mortgage rates are nothing new throughout CA. Since peaking in February 2011, mortgage rates of all types have been in steady decline. The 30-year fixed rate mortgage has shed 122 basis points since that date, falling from 5.05%; the 15-year fixed rate mortgage has shed 124 basis points, falling from 4.29%.

Low mortgage rates give today's home buyers additional purchasing power, stretching home affordability to new heights.

Low rates also help existing homeowners to lower monthly mortgage payments. For example, as compared to mortgage rates just 15 months ago, homeowners refinancing into today's 30-year fixed rate mortgage stand to save 13.4 percent on their respective mortgage payments. 

A comparison :

  • February 2011 : $539.88 principal + interest per $100,000 borrowed
  • May 2012 : $467.67 principal + interest per $100,000 borrowed

A homeowner with a $300,000 mortgage at February 2011 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates would save $2,600 annually with a refinance to this week's low rates. Even accounting for discount points and closing costs, the "break-even point" on savings like that comes relatively quickly.

Mortgage rates can't be predicted so there's no guarantee of low rates forever. If today's rates meet your budget, consider locking something in. Speak with your loan officer about your options.

Posted in Mortgage Rates
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May 10, 2012

8-Fold Increase In "Improving Markets" Since September

Improving Markets IndexThe economic recovery continues nationwide, but the recovery's an uneven one.

Some metropolitan areas are faring very well this year, posting measurable gains in both employment and housing. Other metropolitan areas, by contrast, are struggling.

To help identify those markets in which growth is occurring, the National Association of Homebuilders created the Improving Market Index, a metric analyzing three separate, independently-collected data series "indicative of improving economic health".

The IMI's three collected data series are :

  1. Employment Growth (as published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  2. Home Price Growth (as published by Freddie Mac)
  3. Single-Family Housing Growth (as published by the Census Bureau)

A metropolitan area is considered to be "improving" if all three indicators show growth at least six months after the respective area's most recent trough, or "bottoming out".

In May, there are exactly 100 U.S. markets that qualify for the NAHB's Improving Market Index, down from 101 last month but higher by more than 800% from the reading in September 2011, the index's inaugural release.

17 areas were added to the Improving Market Index list this month including Phoenix, Arizona; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Bend, Oregon. 18 areas were removed from the May IMI.

83 metropolitan areas remained from April.

There is little actionable information in the Improving Markets Index but the report does a good job of highlighting how "real estate markets" can't be summarized on a national level and remain relevant to everyday home buyers and sellers across CA and nationwide. For example, Fort Collins, Colorado is listed as an Improving Market. However, Greeley, Colorado -- located just 30 miles away -- was just downgraded from the same list. 

Home values and economies vary by region, by state, by city, by neighborhood, and even by street.

The complete Improving Markets Index can be viewed at the NAHB website but for the best read of what's happening in your neighborhood, talk to a local real estate agent.

Posted in Housing Analysis
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May 9, 2012

With LIBOR Low, Don't Rush To Refinance Your ARM

Pending ARM Adjustment

Is your mortgage scheduled to adjust this season? You may want to let it. This year's ARM-holding homeowners in CA are finding out that an adjusting mortgage may be the simplest way to get access to today's low mortgage rates -- without paying the closing costs.

Currently, conventional adjustable-rate mortgages are adjusting to near 3.00 percent.

If your home is financed via an adjustable-rate mortgage, you're likely cognizant of your loan's life-cycle. At first, your ARM's initial mortgage rate is agreed upon between you and your lender, a rate that both parties agree will remain in place from anywhere from one to 10 years, with periods of five and seven years being most common.

Then, after the initial "teaser rate" expires, the mortgage's mortgage rate adjusts according to a pre-determined formula -- one that's also agreed upon at closing. The loan is then subject to an identical mortgage rate adjustment every 12 months thereafter until the loan is paid in full.

The most common conforming mortgage adjustment formula is to add 2.25 percent to the then-current 12-month LIBOR rate.

Today's 12-month LIBOR is 1.05% so, as a real-life example, an adjustable-rate mortgage that's leaving its teaser rate period this week would adjust to 3.30%.

If you're a homeowner who took a 7-year ARM in 2005, or a 5-year ARM in 2007, your newly-adjusted mortgage rate should be roughly 2 percent lower than your initial teaser rate. On a $250,000 mortgage, a 2 percent mortgage rate reduction yields $298 in monthly savings.

Therefore, if you have an adjustable-rate mortgage that's due to reset, don't rush to refinance it. For at least one more year, you can benefit from low mortgage rates and low payments.

As for next year's adjustment, however, that's anyone's guess.

Posted in Mortgage Rates
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May 4, 2012

Planning For A Memorial Day Closing

Memorial Day ClosingsPlanning to close on your home at the end of May? Plan ahead. Memorial Day is coming and the holiday may delay your closing.

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer and the 3-day Memorial Day weekend is a popular vacation time in real estate-related industries.

Real estate agents tend to take time off because fewer of their clients are actively home shopping on a holiday weekend; mortgage lenders are closed because banks don't operate on a federal holiday; and, title agents are often away from the office because the former two groups aren't working.

But what's supposed to be a 3-day weekend is actually a 4.5-day one. This is because many people leaving for a Memorial Day vacation will not go to work on the Friday before the holiday, and then getting back into the "work groove" on Tuesday can be a half-day affair.

Therefore, if you're under contract to buy a home in San Diego , or to sell one; or if you have a refinance in progress that's expected to close at month-end, there are some steps you should take to get pro-active with your closing. If you're going to lose 4-and-a-half days at the end of the month, you'll want to try to make those days up while the month is still young.

Here are 3 quick tips to speed up your closing and approval.

First, get your homeowners insurance policy picked out. Do your comparison shopping, select an insurer, and then prepay your first year of insurance, effective your closing date. Pay by check and not credit card, if possible, to avoid harming your credit score.

Provide your proof of payment to your lender immediately.

Next, if you're using a Power of Attorney, have your documents signed by all interested parties and submit them to your lender for review. Don't assume that your attorney's Power of Attorney documents will be acceptable to a bank -- banks require specific verbiage. If the documents are rejected, make the requested fixes and resubmit.

Banks do not compromise on Power of Attorney letters.

And, lastly, if you're accepting gifts or using retirement funds for your downpayment, be sure to have your paperwork reviewed and on file with your lender as soon as possible. Do not wait to withdraw funds until just before closing, either. Have everything in the proper checking account at least one week in advance, and ready for your closing.

There are other steps you can take, too, to make sure your end-of-May closing goes smoothly and they all amount to "preparedness".

When you're asked for paperwork, provide it quickly. When you're asked to sign a document, sign it on the same day. When you're needed to attend a home inspection or an appraisal, do it during your first available opening.

Just leave as little as possible to the "last minute", and everything should go well.

Posted in Personal Finance
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May 3, 2012

Make A Mortgage Rate Plan Ahead Of The Jobs Report

Non-Farm Payrolls 2000-2012

Been shopping for a mortgage rate? You may want to lock something down. Tomorrow morning, mortgage rates are expected to change. Unfortunately, we don't know in which direction they'll move. 

It's a risky time for CA home buyers to be without a locked mortgage rate.

The action begins at 8:30 A.M. ET Friday. This is when the government's Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its April Non-Farm Payrolls report.

The monthly Non-Farm Payrolls report is more commonly known as "the jobs report" and provides a sector-by-sector breakdown of the U.S. employment situation, including changes in the Unemployment Rate.

In March 2012, the government reported 120,000 net new jobs created -- half the number created during the month prior, and the third straight month of declining job creation. The Unemployment Rate fell one-tenth of one percent to 8.2%.

For April, economists expect to see 160,000 net new jobs created, and no change in the national Unemployment Rate.

Based on the accuracy of those predictions, mortgage rates in San Diego are subject to change. If the actual number of jobs created in April exceeds economist expectations, mortgage rates should rise. Conversely, if the actual number of jobs created falls short, mortgage rates should drop.

Job growth's link to mortgage rates is straight-forward. Jobs are an economic growth engine and mortgage rates are based economic expectation. Therefore, as the number of people entering the U.S. workforce increases, so do Wall Street's growth projections for the economy. When that happens -- especially in a recovering economy such as this one -- mortgage rates tend to rise.

So, for today's rate shoppers, Friday's job report represents a risk. The economy has created jobs for 18 straight months, a winning streak that has added 2.9 million people to the U.S. workforce. If that winning streak continues and expectations are beat, mortgage rates are likely to rise off their all-time lows, harming home affordability in Pacific Beach, among other areas.

Posted in The Economy
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May 2, 2012

Home Values Start The Year Strong

HPI 2007-2012

Home prices started the year on an upswing. 

According to the Federal Home Finance Agency's Home Price Index, home prices rose by a seasonally-adjusted 0.3 percent between January and February 2012. The index is up 0.4% over the past year, offering a counter-story to the Case-Shiller Index's assertion that home values are sinking.

Last week, Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller Index said home values had dropped more than 3 percent in the prior 12 months. 

As a home buyer or seller in San Diego , data showing "rising home values" or "falling home values" may be of interest to you, but we can't forget that most home valuation trackers -- including both the government's Home Price Index and the private sector Case-Shiller Index -- have a severe, built-in flaw.

Both used "aged" data. Today, the calendar reads May. Yet, we're still discussing February's housing data.

Data that is two-plus months old is of little value to everyday buyers and sellers wanting to know the "right now" of housing. And, even then, characterizing the data as "two-plus months old" may be a stretch. This is because the home values used in the Home Price index and the Case-Shiller Index are collected from actual transactions, but at the time of closing.

Considering that most purchases require 45-60 days to close, we can know that when we look at the Home Price Index and Case-Shiller Index reports for February, what we're really seeing is a snapshot of the housing market as it existed two-plus month plus 60 days ago.

Data that's 5 months old is of little relevance to today's buyers and sellers. Today's market is driven by today's economics.

The Home Price Index is a useful gauge for economists and law-makers. It highlights long-term trends in housing which can be helpful in allocating resources to a particular project or policy. For home buyers and seller throughout CA , though, it's much less useful. Real-time data is what matters to you.

For that, talk to a real estate professional.

Posted in Housing Analysis
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May 1, 2012

Mortgage Guidelines Resume Tightening Nationwide

Senior Loan Officer SurveyDespite an improving U.S. economy, the nation's banks remain cautious about what they will lend, and to whom.

Last quarter, by a margin of 3-to-2, more banks tightened residential mortgage lending standards for "prime borrowers" than did loosen them.

A "prime borrower" is defined as one with a well-documented credit history, high credit scores, and a low debt-to-income ratio. The insight comes from the Federal Reserve's quarterly survey of its member banks.

Last quarter, of the 54 responding banks :

  • 0 banks tightened mortgage guidelines considerably
  • 3 banks tightened mortgage guidelines somewhat
  • 49 banks left guidelines basically unchanged
  • 2 banks eased mortgage guidelines somewhat
  • 0 banks eased mortgage guidelines considerably

By contrast, in the quarter prior, not a single surveyed bank reported tighter residential mortgage guidelines. The period from January-March was a step backwards, therefore, for the fledgling U.S. housing market.

Overall, getting approved for a mortgage is tougher than it used to be. Banks enforce higher minimum credit score standards; ask for larger downpayment/equity positions; and require higher monthly income relative to monthly debt obligations.

It's one reason why the homeownership rate is at its lowest point since 1997.

Another reason why homeownership rates may be down is that prospective home buyers believe the hurdles of today's mortgage approval process may be impassably high. That's untrue.

There are many U.S. homeowners and renters -- even here in San Diego -- that were approved for a home loan last quarter -- prime borrowers or otherwise. Some had excellent credit, some had modest credit. Some had high income, some had moderate income. Many, however, took advantage of low-downpayment mortgage options such as the FHA's 3.5% downpayment program, and the VA's 100% mortgage program for military veterans.

Despite a general tightening in mortgage standards, loans are still available and banks remain eager to lend.

It is harder to get approved today as compared to 5 years ago, but for those that try and succeed, the reward is access to the lowest mortgage rates in a lifetime. Mortgage rates throughout CA continue to push home affordability to all-time highs.

If you're in the market to buy a new a home or refinance one, your timing is excellent.

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April 27, 2012

Pending Home Sales Index Crosses The 100 Barrier

Pending Home Sales 2010-2012

After a series of worse-than-expected data last month, the housing market appears to be back on track.

The Pending Home Sales Index posted 101.4 in March, a four percent gain from the month prior and the index's highest reading since April 2010 -- the last month of that year's federal home buyer tax credit.

A "pending home" is a home under contract to sell, but not yet closed. The Pending Home Sales Index is tracked and published by the National Association of REALTORS® monthly.

The March report marks the index's first 100-plus reading in nearly two years.

To home buyers and sellers throughout CA , this is statistically significant because the Pending Home Sales Index is normalized to 100, a value corresponding to the average home contract activity in 2001, the index's first year of existence. 2001 was an historically-strong year for the housing market.

The March 2012 Pending Home Sales Index, therefore, puts current market activity on par with market activity from 2001.

You wouldn't know it from reading this week's papers, though. There have been stories about how the Case-Shiller Index put home values at new loans; and how the Existing Home Sales figures unexpectedly dropped off; and how the New Home Sales report was a laggard.

But this is why the Pending Home Sales Index can be so important.

What makes the Pending Home Sales Index different from those other data points is that the Pending Home Sales Index is a "forward-looking" housing market indicator.

Unlike most data which aims to tell us how the housing market performed at some point in the past, the Pending Home Sales Index attempts to tell us how the housing market will perform at some point in the future. 

80% of homes under contract close within 2 months. Many more close within months 3-4. Therefore, on the strength of the March Pending Home Sales Index, we should expect a strong April and May nationwide

If you're shopping for homes right now, consider taking advantage while the market remains somewhat soft. Mortgage rates are low and home prices are, too. It can make for a good home-buying conditions.

Posted in Housing Analysis
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April 25, 2012

A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (April 25, 2012)

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishThe Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its current target range of 0.000-0.250 percent Wednesday.

For the fifth consecutive month, the Fed Funds Rate vote was nearly unanimous. Just one FOMC member, Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker, dissented in the 9-1 vote.

The Fed Funds Rate has been near zero percent since December 2008. It is expected to remain near-zero through 2014, at least.

In its press release, the Federal Reserve noted that the U.S. economy has been "expanding moderately" since the FOMC's last meeting in March. Beyond the next few quarters, the Fed expects growth to "pick up gradually". 

This key phrase will likely be repeated by the press. It suggests that the economy is no longer contracting; instead moving along a path of slow, consistent expansion.  

In addition, the Fed acknowledged that "strains in global financial markets" continue to pose "significant downside risks" to long-term U.S. economic outlook. This is in reference to the sovereign debt concerns of Greece, Spain and Italy, and the potential for a broader European economic slowdown.

The Fed's statement included the following notes :

  1. The housing sector remains "depressed"
  2. Labor conditions have "improved in recent months"
  3. Household spending has "continued to advance"

Also, with respect to inflation, the Fed said that the higher oil and gasoline prices from earlier this year will affect inflation "only temporarily", and that inflation rates will return to stable levels soon.

At its meeting, the Federal Reserve neither introduced new economic stimulus, nor discontinued existing market programs. The Fed re-affirmed its intentions to hold the Fed Funds Rate at "exceptionally low" levels through late-2014, and to buy mortgage-backed bonds in the open market.

Immediately following the FOMC's statement, mortgage markets improved slightly, pressuring mortgage rates lower in San Diego and nationwide.

The FOMC's next scheduled meeting is a two-day event slated for June 19-20, 2012.

Posted in Federal Reserve
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