Linda F. Reeves-REALTORŪ - GRI, SRES - "Your Realty Lady" Austin, Buda, Kyle, and surrounding areas

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Analysts Hold Guarded, but Positive Forecast for Existing-Home Market

Sales of previously owned homes – which in recent months have been buoyed by a growing share of distressed REO and short sales – are expected to remain on an upward, albeit uneven, track through this year and next, according to economists at the National Association of Realtors (NAR) midyear meeting in Washington this week.

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, characterized existing-home sales as “underperforming” by historical standards, but he sees gradual improvement ahead.

“If we just hold at the first-quarter sales pace of 5.1 million, sales this year would rise 4 percent,” Yun said, but he was quick to add that the remainder of the year looks better than the results seen in the first three months of 2011.

“We expect 5.3 million existing-home sales this year, up from 4.9 million in 2010, with additional gains in 2012 to about 5.6 million – that’s a sustainable level given the size of our population,” Yun explained.

Data released by NAR earlier in the week showed that bank-owned homes and pre-foreclosure short sales made up 39 percent of the first quarter’s existing-home sales. According to the trade group’s study, these distressed

properties are selling for discounts in the 20 percent range and attracting investors looking for a bargain.

“A huge volume of cash sales, supported by the recovery in the stock market, show that smart money is chasing real estate,” Yun said.

He notes that this buyer makeup implies there could be a sizeable pent-up demand from traditional buyers who would need to take out mortgages.

“The problem isn’t with interest rates, but with the continuation of unnecessarily tight credit standards that are keeping many creditworthy buyers from getting a loan despite extraordinarily low default rates over the past two years,” Yun said.

According to NAR’s chief market analyst, if credit requirements returned to normal, safe standards, home sales would be 15 to 20 percent higher.

Yun expects the median existing-home price to remain near $170,000 over the next two years, which would mark four consecutive years of essentially no meaningful price change.

Frank Nothaft, chief economist at Freddie Mac, holds similar views on the outlook.

He expects home sales overall to rise 5 percent by the end of the year compared to the annual sales of 2010.

“National home price indices are close to a bottom and prices are likely to bottom sometime this year,” Nothaft said.

Refinancing activity in 2011 will be only half of what it was last year, according to Nothaft, and as a result, he says banks may become more willing to lend to traditional homebuyers, which could set loose some of that pent-up demand Yun spoke of from buyers who would be borrowers.

3:16 pm est

Thursday, March 24, 2011

5 Mortgage and Foreclosure Myths
In a mortgage market that changes as quickly as this one, today’s fact is tomorrow’s fiction.  For buyers, misinformation can be the difference between qualifying for a home loan or not. Sellers and owners, knowledge is foreclosure-preventing, smart decision-making power! Without further ado, let’s correct some common mortgage misconceptions.

1.       Myth: Buyers with bad credit can’t qualify for home loans. Obviously, mortgage guidelines have tightened up, big time, since the housing bubble burst, and they seem likely to tighten even further over the long-term. But just this moment, they have relaxed a bit.  In the last couple of weeks, two of the nation’s largest lenders of FHA loans announced that they’ve dropped the minimum FICO score guideline from 620 (which allows for some credit imperfections) to 580, which is actually a fairly low score.

At a FICO score of 620, buyers can qualify for FHA loans at many lenders with only 3.5 percent down. With a score of 580, the lenders are looking for more like 5 to 10 percent down – they want to see you put more of your own skin in the game, and the higher down payment lowers the risk that you’ll default.  However, if your credit has taken a recessionary hit, like that of so many Americans, this might create a glimmer of hope that you’ll be able to take advantage of low prices and interest rates without needing years of credit repair.

2.     Myth: The Mortgage Interest Deduction isn’t long for this world.  Homeowners saved over $85 billion in 2008 by deducting their mortgage interest on their income tax returns. A few months ago, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform caused a massive wave of fear to ripple throughout the world of real estate consumers and professionals when they recommended Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID) reform, which would dramatically reduce the size of the deduction.

Fact is, the Commission made a sweeping set of deficit-busting recommendations to Congress, a few of which are likely to be adopted.  Fortunately for buyers and sellers, MID reform is not one of them.  Very powerful industry groups and economists have been working with Congress to plead the case that MID reform any time in the near future would only handicap the housing recovery.  Congress-folk aren’t interested in stopping the stabilization of the real estate market.  As such, the MID is nearly universally thought of as safe – even by those who disagree that it should be.

3.       Myth:  It’s just a matter of time before loan guidelines loosen up. 
The US Treasury Department recently recommended the elimination of mortgage industry giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I won’t get into the eye-glazing details of it here, but the long and the short is that (a) this is highly likely to happen, and (b) it will make mortgage loans much harder and costlier to get, for both buyers and homeowners.   It’s possible that loans are as easy to get as they’re going to get.  So don’t expect that if you hold out, zero-down mortgages will come back into vogue anytime soon. Fortunately, Fannie and Freddie aren't likely to disappear for another 5-7 years, so you have a little time to pull your down payment and credit together. If you want to get into the market, the time to get yourself ready is now!

4.       Myth: If you don’t have equity, you can’t refi. Much ado is being made about how stuck so many people are in their bad loans, because they don’t have the equity to refinance their way out of them.  If you’re severely upside down (meaning you own much, much more than your home is worth), stuck may be the situation. But there are actually a couple of ways homeowners can refi their underwater home loans.  If your loan is held by Fannie or Freddie (which you can find out, here), they will actually refinance it up to 125% of its current value, assuming you otherwise qualify for the loan.  That means, if your home is worth $100,000, you could refinance a loan up to $125,000, despite the fact that your home can’t secure the full amount of the loan.

If your loan is not owned by Fannie or Freddie, you might be a candidate for the FHA “Short Refi” program. While most mortgage workout plans are only available to people who are behind on their loans, the Short Refi program is only available to homeowners who are current on their mortgages and need to refinance up to 115 percent of their homes’ value.  So, if you owe $250,000 on your home, you can refinance via an FHA Short Refi even if your home’s value is as low as $217,000. If you think you’re a good candidate for a short refi, contact your mortgage broker, stat – there are some in Congress who think that this program is so underutilized (only 245 applications have been submitted since it rolled out in September – no typo!) that its funding should be diverted to other needy programs.

5.       Myth: 
If you’ve lost your job and can’t make your mortgage payment, you might as well mail your keys in.  Until recently, this was essentially true – virtually every loan modification and refinancing opportunity required that your economic hardship be over before you could qualify. And documenting income has always been high on the requirements checklist. But there are some new funds available in the states with the hardest hit housing and job markets, which have been designated specifically for out-of-work homeowners.

3:33 pm est

3:29 pm est

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hays among youngest, fastest growing

Hays among youngest, fastest growing

Posted Under: General Area in Hays County, In My Neighborhood in Hays County  |  March 15, 2011 10:36 AM  |  13 views  |  Nocomments

Most locals intuitively know that Hays County is a young, fast-growing and increasingly diverse community. Now, a new set of data released last month by the U.S. Census Bureau gives hard numbers to back up those hunches.

Following the Census Bureau’s December issuance of the five-year American Community Survey, the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) has released its own analysis of data showing trends across the 10 counties of Central Texas, including Hays County.

All of Central Texas has experienced explosive 33 percent growth in the last decade, and Hays County’s population is building at an even more rapid pace of 57 percent. The county now numbers more than 155,000 residents, up from about 56,000 in 2000. Texas is growing at a rate of 18 percent, while the nation as a whole recorded nine percent growth in the last decade.

In the CAPCOG region, only Williamson County, which borders Austin to the north, has seen faster growth, at a rate of 61 percent.  Like Hays, Williamson is a formerly rural outpost whose location along the interstate corridor made it a ripe target for suburban expansion.

That commuter status of both counties is illustrated in the high percent of residents who drive alone to work, representing 78 percent of Hays County residents and 79 percent of Williamson County residents, the highest in the region.

That growth is taking the form of suburban subdivisions. More than 66 percent of housing structures in Hays County are single-family, a rise of more than nine percent in the last decade, representing the largest increase in the region. At the same time, the proportion of mobile homes declined from 16 percent to less than 10 percent in the last decade. Most of the county’s multi-family units house college students in San Marcos. While Buda and Kyle have seen a smattering of apartment developments, new construction has overwhelmingly been in the form of single family homes.

With a median age of 28.4, Hays County is the youngest in the CAPCOG region, and the only county to experience a decline in the median age. That’s largely because one out of five Hays County residents are students at Texas State University in San Marcos, with an average age of 21 years old.

With a median age of 30.1, Kyle residents are younger than the CAPGOC region’s median age of 32, while Buda residents, at 33, are slightly older.

However, the county, like the nation as a whole, can expect to get a little more gray in coming years. Though the median age declined, the proportion of Hays County residents 45 years and older actually increased in the last decade.

In addition to getting younger, Hays County is also growing more racially diverse. Though Asian and African American populations remain small – just 1.2 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively – Hispanics now represent more than one-third of all Hays County residents. Less than 60 percent of Hays residents report their ethnicity as white, a decrease of five percent in the last decade.

Hays County remains slightly less diverse than the region as a whole, which has 57.4 percent Anglo residents. In the ten-county region, only Caldwell County is “majority-minority,” with white non-Hispanics making up 46 percent of the population.

Hays County is more educated than the region as a whole, but slightly less wealthy. Education levels remained roughly constant over the last decade, with 87 percent of residents graduating from high school, 32 percent earning a college diploma and 10 percent achieving a graduate or professional degree.

Like many regions in a recession era, Hays County’s median household income suffered a 10-percent decline in the last decade, dropping nearly $5,500 to $52,409. Nationwide, the median income declined five percent. In the CAPCOG region, income dropped nine percent from $63,000 to $57,000. Unemployment in Hays County remains relatively low, at 6.6 percent.

12:51 pm est

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Housing Market - Where We Stand Now

After a few years of depressing information out of the U.S. housing market, this month’s data continues to be mixed. Is recovery truly in the works? Here’s what the numbers say:


According to numbers from real estate data firm RealtyTrac, foreclosures in January were down, the second consecutive monthly drop. The national foreclosure rate fell to one in every 409 U.S. households, representing a ten percent decline from December.

RealtyTrac’s executive was not convinced this is a true sign of recovery though.

"January foreclosure numbers are exhibiting a pattern very similar to a year ago: a double-digit percentage jump in December foreclosure activity followed by a ten percent drop in January," James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac, said in a statement.

"If history repeats itself we will see a surge in the numbers over the next few months as lenders foreclose on delinquent loans where neither the existing loan modification programs or the new short sale and deed-in-lieu of foreclosure alternatives works," he said.

The states still getting hit hardest by foreclosures are Nevada, Arizona, California, Florida, Utah, Idaho, Michigan, Illinois, Oregon, and Georgia.

Home Sales

Existing home sales were down again in January, falling 7.2 percent from December, based on data from the National Association of Realtors. According to the Census Bureau, new home sales hit an all-time record low in January, plummeting 11.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 309,000 units. That is the lowest rate of sales on record. Foreclosed homes and short sales continue to attract more buyers than the higher prices of new homes.

Fannie Mae

The government-sponsored entity, which has been under government control since September 2008, recently announced it will need another $15.3 billion in bail out money from taxpayers. Fannie Mae, one of the largest mortgage finance companies in the country, had $216.5 billion worth of non-performing, toxic loans on its books as of December and just reported total 2009 losses of $74.4 billion dollars. Fannie and Freddie Mac, the other mortgage GSE , have been instruments in getting bad loans out of the investment markets, but apparently couldn’t take on the nation’s problems without eventually dealing with them as well.

Interest Rates

Mortgage rates stayed low for the entire month of February, but there is plenty of talk as to what will happen after the Federal Reserve stops buying up mortgage-backed securities at the end of March. Most say the laws of supply and demand suggest rates will rise, perhaps by a half to a full percent. Yet, based on recent statements by officials, there is reason to believe the Fed and the Obama Administration are perfectly willing and ready to step back in to aid the housing market if rates do start to rise, which would in turn bring lower rates again.

While no one is ready to say the housing market is back to normal, things are at least better than they have been during some periods over the past two years. The question is whether they will continue to improve or head south again.

5:20 pm est

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What is the Velocity of Money and How Does it Impact Home Loan Rates?
According to the most recent Commerce Department report, Personal Spending and Personal Incomes were unimproved from the previous month, and the Savings Rate increased as consumers cut back on spending. While that data sheds light on the slow economic recovery, it also has implications on home loan rates. 

Here's why. It has to do with something called the velocity of money. Even though the government keeps pumping money into the system, nothing happens until that money is spent or lent, and passes from one hand to another or one business to another. The speed at which this money passes between parties is called the velocity of money. 

With the job market still very sluggish, consumers aren't spending much money these days...and businesses are still reluctant to spend moneymaking investments in their business. With the present velocity at low levels, inflation remains subdued and that's good for home loan rates. That's because rates are tied to Mortgage Bonds and inflation is the archenemy of Bonds, so low inflation is good for Bonds and rates. However, once velocity increases, the excess money in the system will cause inflation – which is bad for rates, since even the slightest scent of inflation can cause home loan rates to worsen. 

While we certainly want to see better economic recovery news in the near future, we have to remember that there's an inverse relationship between good economic news and Bonds and home loan rates. Weak economic news normally causes money to flow out of Stocks and into Bonds, helping Bonds and home loan rates improve. Strong economic news, on the other hand, normally has the opposite result. Currently, home loan rates are at a historically low level, which makes now an ideal time to purchase a home or refinance before the velocity of money – and rates – change. 

If you or anyone you know would like to learn more about the current economic situation and how to take advantage of historically low home loan rates, please don't hesitate to call or email right away.

I wanted to share this information that was sent to me from  

Jay Roush, Loan Officer, with  IHS Mortgage

1:40 pm est

2011.05.01 | 2011.03.01 | 2010.11.01 | 2010.09.01

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Linda F. Reeves-REALTOR®
Texas Realtor
ERA Colonial Real Estate