Archive for October, 2009

What The Media Missed In September’s New Home Sales Report

David Kosmecki | October 29, 2009 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

New Home Sales supply September 2009Some days, newspaper headlines are a terrible place to get your real estate news.

Today is one of those days.

After the September New Home Sales report showed sales volume down from August, the mainstream media jumped on the story:

But the headlines miss the point, somewhat. Yes, home sales volume is important to housing, but it’s not as important as home supply.

A deeper look at the New Home Sales data reveals an interesting comparison point:

  • New home sales volume fell 3.6%
  • The number of new homes available for sale fell 3.8%

In other words, sales outpaced supply — a running theme this year and a positive signal for housing.

Since peaking in January 2009, the supply of newly-built homes has now dropped by 40 percent. The average sale price is up 15% over the same period.

This is why you can’t get your real estate news from the headlines. You have to dig a little bit deeper to get the real story.

September’s New Home Sales report was plenty strong. The housing market recovery continues.

Home Values In 95% Of Case-Shiller Markets Are Improving Year-To-Year

David Kosmecki | October 28, 2009 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Case-Shiller August 2009

For August, the Case-Shiller Index showed annual home values improving across 19 of 20 U.S. markets. It’s the first time in 3-plus years that the benchmark housing index has shown such strength.

According to a Case-Shiller Index spokesperson, “The rate of annual decline in home price values continues to improve.”

It’s yet another sign that housing may have already bottomed.

However, just because the Case-Shiller Index shows a stabilization in home values, that doesn’t necessarily make it true. This is because real estate happens on the local level and the Case-Shiller Index is more “national”. It tracks data in just 20 U.S. cities.

Homeowners everywhere else are unaccounted for.

Furthermore, even within the 20 tracked Case-Shiller markets, there’s no allowance for the natural sub-markets that exist. Some neighborhoods under-perform and some neighborhoods out-perform.

Case-Shiller treats them all the same.

Despite its imperfections, though, the Case-Shiller Index remains a helpful, broader measurement of U.S. real estate. Economists believe that housing led the U.S. into the recession and they believe housing will lead us out, too.

If that’s true, August’s Case-Shiller data is another step in the right direction.

Falling Home Supplies Mean More Multiple-Offer Situations For Buyers

David Kosmecki | October 27, 2009 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Existing Home Supply September 2009The national housing supply fell to a 2-year low last month, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

At the current sales pace, existing home inventories would sell out in 7.8 months — 30 percent faster versus November 2008.

For a 10-month window, that’s a major housing supply reduction and it helps to explain why multiple-offer situations have been so common lately.

Moreover, the same report from NAR showed sales activity reaching its highest point since July 2007, too.

If you’re looking for evidence that the long-standing Buyers Market is ending, this month’s Existing Home Sales report might be it.

Even median sales prices — typically dragged lower by distressed and foreclosed properties — declined at its slowest pace in a year. The market may have turned a corner.

Home prices are rooted in the basic economics of supply and demand.

  • When supply outweighs demand, home prices fall
  • When supply lags demand, home price rise

Since March 2009, the market has been moving in the right direction. Low mortgage rates, ample housing supply and a first-time home buyer tax credit fueled buy-side demand so that home prices are now rising in many U.S. markets.

If home supplies stay on this path into 2010, expect home prices to rise even more.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : October 26, 2009

David Kosmecki | October 26, 2009 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

1-Month PPI September 2009Mortgage markets were volatile last week, making it very difficult to shop for mortgage rates.

On most days, lenders issued multiple rate sheets with the trend putting rates higher in the morning, and lower in the afternoon.

Overall, mortgage rates were unchanged on the week. It broke a three-week streak through which mortgage rates rose.

Rates remain roughly one-half percent higher than the lows of early-October.

The biggest positive for rate shoppers last week was tame economic data — specifically concerning the Producer Price Index and the housing sector.

The Producer Price Index is an inflationary, Cost of Living-like measurement for businesses and it went negative in September. Analysts weren’t expecting that and the surprise pulled rates down an eighth.

Similarly, in housing, both the Home Price Index and Housing Starts figures were softer than expectations. These, too, tugged mortgage rates down.

At least temporarily.

We say “temporarily” because — all week long — a steadily-weakening U.S. dollar was leading mortgage rates higher.

All things equal, mortgage rates rise as the dollar loses value and, last week, the dollar touched a 14-month low versus the Euro. The greenback’s weakness countered most of the “positive” news for rate shoppers and is a major reason why rates were so volatile.

The volatility should continue into this week, too. With little data and no Fed speakers, look for mortgage rates to move with the market’s momentum.

Lately, momentum has been pulling rates higher so if you’re floating a rate and trying to time a bottom, the chances are good that we already passed it. Consider locking your rate before rates rise much further.

Once rates break 6 percent, they may not come back down.

Government : Home Prices Edged Lower In August

David Kosmecki | October 23, 2009 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Home Price Index month-to-month since the April 2007 peak

According to the government, home values edged lower last month.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Home Price Index report shows values down by 0.3 percent from the month prior — the index’s first down month since April.

The Home Price Index is based on the value of homes financed via Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and, in this sense, the FHFA Home Price Index is more of a “national” real estate index than its private-sector cousin, the Case-Shiller Index.

But like the Case-Shiller, the HPI is as notable for what it specifically excludes as for what it includes. Most notably, the Home Price Index doesn’t account for homes meeting any of the following descriptions:

  1. Is considered new construction
  2. Is a multi-unit property
  3. Is financed by an entity other than Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac

Given the resurgence of FHA financing this year, this last exclusion is especially glaring. FHA represents about one-third of all mortgage loans in 2009.

Because of these exceptions, some analysts label the Home Price Index incomplete. The same could be said of every method of home valuation, however. Case-Shiller only collects data from 20 markets, for example.

In light of these shortcomings, therefore, what’s most important is to recognize that both of the “popular” home valuation reports show similar patterns — home prices have leveled and are showing signs of a rebound.

For a region-by-region breakdown of the Home Price Index, visit the FHFA website.

As Gas Prices Rise, Mortgage Rates Are Rising, Too

David Kosmecki | October 22, 2009 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Gas price breakdown from DOE.govWith crude oil at its highest levels since October 2008, retail gas is up 8 cents per gallon this week.

It’s bad news for home buyers and mortgage rate shoppers. The same force that’s driving oil higher is linked to rising mortgage rates.

We’re talking about the weakening U.S. Dollar which is now at its worst levels versus the Euro in 15 months.

Crude oil is priced in U.S. dollars, by the barrel. When the dollar loses value, more of them are needed to buy the same barrel of oil. As a result, predictably, the price of crude oil goes up.

Now, there are other reasons why crude oil is rising, but the fading U.S. dollar is one of the major ones and it’s why we’re addressing it.

The dollar has a similar impact on mortgage rates.

Mortgage rates are based on the price of mortgage bonds that — like crude oil — are also denominated in dollars. As the dollar loses value, so do mortgage bonds. This causes demand for bonds to drop and prices on bonds to fall.

Because bond prices and bond rates move in opposite directions, mortgage rates rise and this is precisely what’s happening on Wall Street today.

Since touching a 5-month low in early-October, mortgage rates have tacked on as much as 1/2 percent, depending on the product. Moreover, with the dollar showing no signs of a rebound, the upward pressure on rates should continue.

If you’re trying to time the market bottom, you may have already missed it. Consider locking your mortgage rate before rates increase even more.

And your everyday signal that rates are rising? Just check your price at the pump. If gas prices are up, it’s likely that mortgage rates are, too.

Housing Starts Rise In 8 Months Out Of 9 This Year

David Kosmecki | October 21, 2009 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Housing Starts September 2009Housing Starts on single-family homes gained last month, marking the 8th time that’s happened this year.

A “Housing Start” is a home for which the foundation has been excavated and, considered alongside other key market metrics, September data suggests that the housing market stabilization is complete.

Momentum in housing is overwhelmingly positive:

Despite the positive news, the press is calling September’s Housing Starts data a “bummer“. Citing a drop in monthly building permits, the media purports that housing will slow in the months ahead.

The conclusion may be right, but the rationale may be wrong.

The probable cause for fewer permits isn’t that the housing market is overdone. It’s that home builders are choosing to exercise caution given the pending expiration of the First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit and a still-growing number of foreclosed homes.

It’s unclear what housing demand will be beginning in December and the last present a builder wants for the holidays is an excess of inventory.

It makes sense that building permits are down, in other words.

Looking back at February of this year, there’s a host of signs that housing is on the path to recovery. Now, that path won’t be a straight line and there’s bound to be setbacks, but September’s Housing Starts is not one of them.

Housing Starts are up 40 percent on the year.

Previewing The New Good Faith Estimate

David Kosmecki | October 20, 2009 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

The new Good Faith Estimate

The new Good Faith Estimate makes its debut January 1, 2010.

Expanded from 1page to 3, the legislators responsible for the new Good Faith Estimate want it to be simpler for homeowners and home buyers to understand than the former version.

By most accounts, Congress will meet this goal.

The new Good Faith Estimate includes plain-English explanations of every fee, charge, and interest payment involved in a purchase or refinance. It also includes a section called “The Shopping Cart” in which applicants can compare lenders.

The new Good Faith Estimate is concise, too. Using a series of “Yes/No” checkboxes on Page 1, mortgage lenders specifically note:

  • The interest rate on the mortgage
  • Whether the interest rate can change over time
  • Whether the loan carries a prepayment penalty
  • The length of the rate lock

Currently, this information is spread across 3 separate forms.

Furthermore, the new Good Faith Estimate simplifies rate-and-fee comparisons, showing applicants how a lower rate can be available for a higher set of fees, and vice versa.

For all of its clarity, though, the new Good Faith Estimate still fails to address the issue of “suitability”. As in, is this the right loan for the right borrower? That’s something only a loan officer can do.

For suitable advice, talk with a loan officer who both listens to your needs and helps you plan for them. Great terms on an unsuitable loan are often worse than “good” terms on the right one.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : October 19, 2009

David Kosmecki | October 19, 2009 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

University of Michigan Consumer SentimentMortgage markets worsened last week on better than expected economic data, causing mortgage rates to rise.

Last week was the third consecutive week that mortgage rates moved higher and, since touching a multi-month low in early-October, conforming mortgage rates are up by about a half-percent.

It’s likely rates will continue to rise, too. That’s because the same force that held rates down for so long is now the force pulling them up — expectations for the U.S. economy.

Over the last 6 months, it wasn’t clear in what direction the country was headed. The housing sector has been gaining in strength, but the rest of the economy has been a question mark.

Last week put an end to some of those questions:

Expectations for the U.S. economy are changing on the fly. As a result, stock markets gained last week and mortgage markets lost.

This week, rates could move higher still. There are an unusually large number of key economic reports including on housing and inflation, plus a handful of speeches from key Federal Reserve members.

With each positive announcement, mortgage rates should rise.

The Fed Thinks The Economy Is Improving And What It Means For Home Affordability

David Kosmecki | October 16, 2009 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

FOMC Minutes September 23-23 2009Mortgage rates are higher after the Federal Reserve released the internal notes of its September 22-23, 2009 meeting.

Known as the “Fed Minutes”, the report details the conversation and cross-currents that led to the Federal Reserve’s decision to vote “unchanged” on the Fed Funds Rate after its last meeting.

The Fed Minutes are the lengthy companion to the more famous, succinct post-meeting press release.

As a comparison:

The extra level of details is a big deal because Wall Street is perpetually in search of clues about what the Federal Reserve is going to do next.

In the past week, multiple Federal Reserve members hinted that the Fed Funds Rate may rise as early as April 2010. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke even alluded to it, too.

The minutes revealed that the economy may improve even faster than was previously expected, too.

These acknowledgements are part of the reason why mortgage rates are up. Because the Fed Funds Rate rises to accommodate a growing economy, the prospect of economic recovery is drawing money into the stock market and away from mortgage-backed bonds.

Less demand for bonds means a lower prices which, in turn, leads to higher rates.