Buy Now Hard Money

Underpromise. Overdeliver.

New Home Supply August 2009 - August 2010Well, new home sales are not rebounding.  Existing home sales are.   Go figure.  There is enough inventory out there that it doesn’t make financial sense to build new houses if you are building on spec.    This is why we are not funding spec construction.  Read on…..  It may be good news still if you are in the market for a new home to purchase for yourself.  From Thanksgiving to New Years is a great time to make offers.

Existing Home Sales rebounded last month after a lackluster July. New Home Sales data, by contrast, did not.

After an upward revision to July’s data, New Home Sales remained unchanged at 288,000 units in August. It marks the second-lowest number of units sold in a month since 1963, the year government started its record-keeping.

At the current pace of sales, the newly-built home inventory would be depleted in 8.6 months.

The August New Home Sales was weaker-than-expected, but both Wall Street investors and Main Street economists are shrugging it off. The numbers were foreshadowed by weakening housing figures from earlier this summer.

For example:

  1. Building Permits dropped between March and June
  2. Housing Starts dropped between April and July
  3. Homebuilder confidence continues to sag

Together, these three data points suggest that the market for new homes will be soft through at least this month.

With New Home Sales fading and colder months ahead, it may be an opportune time for home buyers to look at new construction. Builders are eager to move inventory and the cost of materials remains low.

Buying “new” may never be cheaper — especially with mortgage rates as low as they are. The 0.750 percent drop in rates since January has shaved $188 off of a $200,000 mortgage’s monthly cost. That’s $2,250 per year in savings.

As home supplies dwindle and mortgage rates rise, finding “great deals” in new construction will undoubtedly get tougher. Take advantage of today’s market conditions, combined with builder pessimism. It may be the right combination at the right time to get that new home for cheap.

Existing Home Supply (August 2009 - Augsut 2010)Sales of existing homes in recovered in August, perhaps the result of a post-tax credit normalization.

As compared to July, Existing Home Sales rose 8 percent in August, buoyed by falling interest rates and slow-to-rise home prices. There’s lot of “good deals” out there and home buyers are taking advantage.

The housing gains are relative, however. August’s total units sold barely crossed 4 million and still trails the average figures of the last few years by close to 1 million units.

Despite that, the August Existing Home Sales report can be considered a strong one. This is for several reasons:

  1. Sales volume increased in August without tax credit or government intervention
  2. Sales growth is not limited by geography. All 4 regions — Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, and West — showed improvement last month.
  3. Repeat buyers are driving the market, representing 48 percent of sales, up from forty-three percent in July.

And, perhaps most important to the housing market market, the number of available home resales dropped by almost one full month last month.  At the current sales pace, the national inventory would be depleted in 11.6 months.

For home buyers, the data presents an interesting opportunity. With average mortgage rates rising from their best levels ever and home affordability cresting , this autumn may represent the turn-around point for the housing market nationwide.

This may mean that the soft market will start to firm up.  But we still have winter ahead, it costs a lot to heat an empty rehabbed house while you wait for a buyer.

Housing starts September 2008 - August 2010

Here’s an example of when the media headlines influence our thinking, but they may be wrong……

The number of single-family Housing Starts rebounded in August, climbing 4 percent from July’s 14-month low.

A “Housing Start” is defined as a home on which construction has started and the August increase represents 18,000 single-family units nationwide.

If you only read the headlines, however, you would think the data was stronger. This is because the Housing Starts data is actually a composite of 3 types of homes — single-family, multi-family, and apartments — but  the press tends to lump them all three together.

As a sampling, here are a some headlines on the story:

  • US Stock Futures Rise After Housing Starts Surge (WSJ)
  • Housing Starts At 4-Month High, Hint At Stability (Fox)
  • Housing Starts Jump 10.5% In August (Marketwatch)

Now, it’s not that the news is wrong, per se, it’s just not necessarily relevant.  Few home buyers  are buying multi-family homes or entire apartment complexes. Most buy single-family and, for the first time since April, single-family starts are on the rise — just not by as much as you’d believe from the papers.

Even still, we can’t be entirely sure that the August Housing Starts data is accurate anyway.

A footnote in the Department of Commerce report shows that, although single-family starts are said to have increased 4 percent, the data’s margin of error exceeds its actual measurement, meaning the data has “zero confidence”.

In other words, starts may have dropped in August, but it’s something we won’t know for sure until revisions are made later this year.

I think it’s both good and bad news.  It’s good for some people, (unless you have a lot of cash in a CD) that the Fed is not increasing rates, because it influences mortgage rates, which are staying near historic lows.  It’s bad if you have a lot of cash and don’t know what to do with it (if that’s the case, call me, I’ll tell you what I’m doing with cash) or if you are looking for a sign that the recession is over (again).  Read on for a summary of the meeting…..

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishToday, in its 7th meeting of the year, the Federal Open Market Committee voted 9-to-1 to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged. 

The Fed Funds Rate remains at a historical low, within a Fed’s target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

In its press release, the FOMC said that the pace of economic recovery “has slowed” in recent months. Household spending is increasing but remains restrained by high levels of unemployment, falling home values, and restrictive credit.

For the second straight month, the Federal Reserve showed less economic optimism as compared to the prior year’s worth of FOMC statements dating back to June 2009. However, the Fed still expects growth to be “modest in the near-term”.

This outlook is consistent with recent research showing that the recession is over, and that growth has resumed — albeit at a slower pace than what was originally expected.

The Fed also highlighted strengths in the economy:

  1. Growth is ongoing on a national level
  2. Inflation levels remain exceedingly low
  3. Business spending is rising

As expected, the Fed re-affirmed its plan to hold the Fed Funds Rate near zero percent “for an extended period”.

There were no surprises in the Fed’s statement so, as a result, the mortgage market’s reaction to the release has been neutral. Mortgage rates in Massachusetts are thus far unchanged this afternoon.

The FOMC’s next meeting is a 2-day affair scheduled for November 2-3, 2010.

Foreclosures per capita, August 2010

Pro’s and Con’s here for real estate investors.  More foreclosures make buying easier, but a plummeting market makes the back-end sale tougher.  So this is generally good news……

According to foreclosure-tracking firm RealtyTrac, the number of foreclosure filings climbed 4 percent in August from the month prior. A foreclosure filing is defined as default notice, scheduled auction, or bank repossession.

Despite the number of filings surpassing 300,000 for the 18th straight month, RealtyTrac’s report shows some bright spots for housing.

  1. The number of default notices served per month fell for the 7th time this year
  2. Foreclosure activity in Nevada, the nation’s leading foreclosure state, is down 25% from last August
  3. Foreclosure activity has not materially increased since early-2009, pointing to a stabilization

In addition, each of the 10 leading metro areas for foreclosures posted year-over-year declines for the second month in a row.

But, perhaps, most important, is that mortgage lenders and servicers appear to be managing their REO more effectively, making properties available for sale at a measured pace as opposed to flooding markets with new homes.  As noted by RealtyTrac, the probable reason is “to prevent further erosion of home prices”.

For home sellers, it’s a welcome development.

Foreclosures have had a hand in falling home values in Massachusetts and across the country. And, although it’s self-serving for banks to meter the release of homes under ownership, everyday homeowners benefit, too.  Fewer homes on the market helps to provide a floor for housing values.

Retail Sales (September 2008 - August 2010)If rates stay low, two things can happen.  One, you give your end buyers more opportunity to purchase a home.  Two, it takes away the urgency to buy now, because there is less fear of rising rates.  Buyers know we are headed toward winter, and that they are in the driver’s seat,  so price the home properly.  Properly doesn’t mean – “I might get this for it, so I’ll try for a few weeks.”  Properly means the lowest price compared to  similar homes, or the best home compared to similarly priced houses.

Here is what happened to slow the rise in interest rates for homeowners:

The recent rise in mortgage rates was slowed this week after the government released its Retail Sales report for August.

Prior to Tuesday, mortgage rates had been spiking across New Hampshire on the resurgent hope for U.S. economic recovery. The sentiment shift was rooted in reports including the Pending Home Sales Index and Initial Jobless Claims, both of which showed surprising strength last week.

August’s Retail Sales, though, after removing motor vehicles, auto parts and gasoline sales, failed to maintain the momentum. Its figures were actually in-line with expectations — it’s just that expectations weren’t all that high.

Wall Street now wonders whether the weak Back-to-School shopping season will trend forward into the holidays.

The doubt spells good news for mortgage rates and home affordability.

Because Retail Sales is tied to consumer spending and consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the economy, a weak reading tends to drag down stock markets and pump up bonds, and when bonds are in demand, mortgage rates fall.

This is exactly what happened Tuesday. The soft Retail Sales data eased stock markets down, and generated new demand for mortgage bonds. This demand caused bond prices to rise, which, in turn, caused mortgage rates to fall.

Mortgage rates did not cut new lows this week, but they’re very, very close.

With mortgage rates at historical lows, it’s an excellent time to look at a refinance, or gauge what financing a new home would cost. Low rates like this can’t last forever.

Pending ARM adjustment based on LIBOR

I found the information below to be interesting.  It applies to conventional homeowner financing but it’s good to have some insight as to what’s going on in the end-buyer finance market.  If you are selling a rehab, low rates give your end buyers a reason to buy now.

When adjustable-rate mortgages are on the verge of adjusting, a common concern among homeowners is that their mortgage rates will adjust higher.

Well, this year, because of the math of how ARMs adjust, homeowners around the country are seeing that mortgage rates on ARMs can sometimes adjust lower, too.

Adjusting conforming mortgages are adjusting to as low as 3 percent.

As a quick review, here’s the timeline for most conforming adjustable-rate mortgages:

  1. There’s a “starter period” in which the interest rate remains fixed. This can range from 1-10 years.
  2. There’s a rate change after the starter period. It’s called the “first adjustment”.
  3. Subsequent, annual adjustments follow until the loan “ends”. This is usually after Year 30.

The adjustments each year are based on a math formula that’s included in the contract with your lender. It’s surprisingly basic.  Each year, your new, adjusted mortgage rate is equal to the sum of some constant — usually 2.25 percent — and some variable.  The variable is most commonly equal to the 12-month LIBOR.

As a formula, the math looks like this:

(Adjusted Mortgage Rates) = (12-Month LIBOR) + (2.250 Percent)

LIBOR is an acronym standing for London Interbank Offered Rate. It’s an interest rate at which banks borrow money from each other — very similar to our Fed Funds Rate here in the United States. And also like our Fed Funds Rate, LIBOR has been low lately.

As a result, adjusting mortgage rates have been low, too.

In 2009, 5-year ARMs adjusted to 6 percent or higher. Today, ARMs are adjusting to 3.000%.

Based on the math, you may want to let your ARM adjust with the market year. Or, if you plan to keep your home long-term and have concerns about adjustments in 2011 and beyond, it may be a good time to open a new ARM.  The same forces that are driving down LIBOR and helping to keep mortgage rates low overall, too.

Consider talking to your loan officer and making a plan. With mortgage rates as low as they’ve been in history, most homeowners have options.  Just don’t wait too long. LIBOR — and mortgage rates in general — are known to change quickly.

Home Price Index from April 2007 peak

This is a good case for drawing your own conclusions – speak to local real estate agents and investors you trust, and remember, the market can change within a half mile drive…Read on…..

The private-sector Case-Shiller Index reported home values up 5 percent nationwide in June. The government’s own Home Price Index, however, reached a different conclusion.

According to the Federal Home Finance Agency, month-to-month home values fell 0.3 percent in June, and values are down by 1.7 percent from June 2009.

So, as a home buyer and/or homeowner , by which valuation model should you make your bets?  Perhaps neither.

This is because both the Case-Shiller Index and the Home Price have inherent methodology flaws, the most glaring of which is their respective sample sets.

The Case-Shiller sample set, for example, comes from just 20 cities across the country — and they’re not even the 20 most populated cities. Together, the Case-Shiller cities represent just 9 percent of the overall U.S. population.

That’s hardly representative of the housing stock overall.

By comparison, the Home Price Index tracks home sales everywhere — every city in every state — but it specifically excludes certain properties.  The Home Price Index does not track sales of homes for which the financing comes from agencies other than Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. This means that as FHA loans grow in popularity, the pool of Home Price Index-eligible homes is reducing.

The HPI ignores homes backed by “jumbo” loans, too.

Therefore, the “right” model for home values cannot come from national data at all — it can only come locally. Neither Case-Shiller nor the government has the tools to get as granular as a neighborhood. A real estate agent in the area does, however.

The best way to get a pulse for what’s happening in markets right now is to talk to somebody with good data.

Pending Home Sales January 2009-July 2010Just one week after reports of Existing Home Sales and New Home Sales plunging, the housing market is signaling that autumn may fare better than did summer.  Talk about a see-saw!  (for those of you under40, which is most of you, that was a child’s ride that went up and down.  It was powered by children pushing with their legs.  And don’t laugh.  I recently had to explain to an employee what a typewriter was and what carbon copy meant.   And if you don’t know either, then please don’t ask me.  I’ll just get depressed.)

The number of homes under contract to sell rose 5 percent in July.

The data comes from the July Pending Home Sales Index, as published by the National Association of Realtors®. By definition, a “pending home sales” is a home that is sold, but not yet closed.

Historically, 80% of such homes close within 60 days which makes the Pending Home Sales Index an excellent, forward-looking indicator for the real estate market.

Indeed, the nationwide drop in home sales this summer was foreshadowed by the Pending Home Sales report.  The index dropped 30 percent in May. Then, two months later in July, it was shown that Existing Home Sales volume dropped 29 percent.

That’s a strong correlation.

Now, to be fair, the July Pending Home Sales Index is still relatively low; the second-lowest on record and well below last year’s numbers. But, the tick higher last month shows how housing may be stronger than than what the headlines report.

It appears that buyers took advantage of rising inventory, cheap financing, and stagnant prices, and pushed the market forward. We should expect similarly promising numbers when September’s Existing Home Sales data is released.

Net Job Gains Sept 2008-August 2010On the first Friday of each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases Non-Farm Payrolls data for the month prior.

The data is more commonly called “the jobs report” and it’s a major factor in setting mortgage rates for residents of Massachusetts and homeowners everywhere. Especially today, considering the economy.

This is because, although it’s believed that the recession of 2009 is over, there’s emerging talk of new recession starting.

Support for the argument is mixed:

  1. Job growth has been slow, but planned layoffs touch a 10-year low
  2. Consumer confidence is down, but beating expectations
  3. Consumer spending is weak, but not declining

In other words, the economy could go in either direction in the latter half of 2010 and the jobs market may be the key. More working Americans means more paychecks earned, more taxes paid, and more money spent; plus, the confidence to purchase a “big ticket” items such as a home.

Jobs growth can provide tremendous support for housing, too.

Today, though, jobs growth was “fair”. According to the government, 54,000 jobs were lost in August, but that reflects the departure of 114,000 Census workers.  The private sector (i.e. non-government jobs), by contrast, added 67,000.

In addition, net new jobs was revised higher for June and July by a total of 123,000.  That’s a good-sized number, too.

Right now, Wall Street is reacting with enthusiasm, bidding up stocks at the expense of bonds — including mortgage-backed bonds.  This is causing mortgage rates to rise.  Rates should be higher by about 1/8 percent this morning.