Last week’s housing related economic reports were slim, but an unexpected increase in weekly jobless claims gained attention. Analysts calmed concerns by noting that last week’s reading of 315,000 new jobless claims was not far removed from jobless claim levels before the recession. Expectations for last week’s reading were for 301,000 new jobless claims based on the previous week’s original reading of 302,000. The previous week’s reading was revised to 304,000 new jobless claims.
Jobless Claims: 4-Week Average for Continuing Claims Hits Lowest Level Since 2007
Prospective home buyers and current homeowners typically consider their jobs and employment prospects before seeking a home purchase mortgage or refinancing their existing home loans. Last week’s readings released by the Department of Labor suggest that while weekly jobless claims increased, overall trends in hiring and continuing jobless claims indicate a stronger labor sector.
The four-week average of new jobless claims rose from 303,250 to 304,000. The four-week average is typically less volatile than week-to-week readings. Continuing jobless claims increased by 9,000 to 2.49 million for the week ended August 30. The four-week average for continuing jobless claims fell by 15,500 claims to 2.50 million continuing jobless claims. This was the lowest reading for continuing jobless claims since 2007.
In other labor related news, job openings were nearly steady at 4.67 million in July against June’s reading of 4.68 million new job openings. The Labor Department reported that job openings increased by 22 percent year-over-year, with private sector jobs rising to 4.19 million job openings and government jobs increasing by 101,000 job openings to 485,000 in July. The number of hires in July rose from June’s reading of 4.79 million to 4.87 million in July. This was the highest number of hires since 2007. Pre-recession hiring levels were approximately 5 million; this suggests that U.S. labor trends are approaching pre-recession levels.
Mortgage Rates Rise, Discount Points Unchanged
Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates on Thursday, with average discount points unchanged at 0.50 across the board. Average rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose from 4.10 percent to 4.12 percent; the average rate for a 15-year mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.26 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose to 2.99 percent from the prior week’s average of 2.97 percent.
This week’s scheduled news includes several reports related to housing. In addition to Freddie Mac’s usual mortgage rates report, The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) will release its Housing Market Index and the Department of Commerce will release data on housing starts in August. General economic reports include the Consumer Price Index, Core Consumer Price Index, and Leading Economic Indicators.
The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve will release its post-meeting statement on Wednesday, and Fed Chair Janet Yellen is also expected to give a press conference. The Federal Reserve may provide further indication of its intention concerning the target federal funds rate, which is currently at 0.00 to 0.250 percent. The Fed may address its intentions concerning the federal funds rate, but the FOMC has been consistently vague about details concerning its economic strategy.
Last week’s economic news included several reports related to housing. The Case-Shiller and FHFA reports for June showed a further slowing in home price growth. New home sales for July fell short of the expected reading, but pending home sales exceeded expectations. The details:
Case-Shiller, FHFA: June Home Price Growth Slows
The Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Index for June moved from May’s year-over-year reading of 9.40 percent growth to 8.10 percent in June. Home prices grew by 1.00 percent on a month-to-month basis in June as compared to May’s reading of 1.20 percent.
Demand shrank due to increasing inventories of available homes and stricter mortgage standards. For the first time since 2008, each of the 20 cities tracked showed slowing growth in home prices. Home prices are about 17 percent lower than their pre-recession peak in 2006. Case-Shiller also reported that the national median home price rose by 2.90 percent year-over-year to $269,800.
Analysts said that slower gains in home prices coupled with increasing confidence among home builders signals a return to more normal housing market conditions.
FHFA reported that home prices for purchase transactions grew by 0.20 percent less than May’s year-over-year reading of 5.40 percent. FHFA reports on properties connected with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
New Home Sales Slip in July, Pending Home Sales Gain
The Department of Commerce reported that New Home Sales missed expectations for July with a reading of 412,000 new homes sold on seasonally adjusted annual basis. June’s revised reading was 422,000 new homes sold, and analysts expected new home sales at a rate of 430,000 in July against June’s original sales pace of 406,000. Three out of four regions posted slower growth rates for new home sales, with the South posted a gain in new home sales. New home sales were 12.30 percent higher than one year ago.
Analysts said that improving labor market conditions and the slower rate of home price growth are positive trends for housing markets as more home buyers can afford to buy homes. Mortgage rates are approximately one-half percent lower than last year, which also increases affordability.
Pending home sales exceeded expectations for July to an 11 month high, which may ease concerns over July’s dip in new home sales. The National Association of REALTORS® Pending Home Sales Index rose to 105.9 in July as compared to June’s index reading of 102.5. Homes under contract increased from a negative reading of -1.30 percent in June to July’s reading of +3.30 percent. Pending home sales are considered a strong indicator of future home sales.
Mortgage Rates Mixed. Consumer Confidence Jumps
Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates were little changed. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was unchanged at 4.12 percent. 15-year mortgages had an average rate of 3.25 percent which was an increase of two basis points over the previous week. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage moved from 2.95 percent to 2.97 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.50, 0.60 and 0.50 percent respectively.
Two gauges of U.S. consumer confidence indicated stronger levels of consumer confidence in the economy. The Consumer Confidence Index rose to 92.4 in August from July’s reading of 91.9 and exceeded a lower expectation of 88.5. The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index rose to 82.5 against July’s reading of 79.2 and the expected reading of 80.1. Increasing consumer confidence suggests that as more consumers become comfortable with current economic conditions, they may be more confident about buying homes.
What’s Coming Up
Next week’s economic reports include construction spending and the Fed’s Beige Book Report. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will also release Non-farm Payrolls and the National Unemployment Rate for August. No activity is scheduled for Monday due to the Labor Day holiday.
The Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices for June reported year-over-year gains of 8.10 percent while the Case-Shiller National Home Price Index covers all nine census regions and reported a year-over-year gain of 6.20 percent.
Readings for all three indices worsened as compared to May readings, and all cities tracked showed slower growth in home prices. The National Home Price Index, which is now published monthly, rose by 0.90 percent from May’s reading, and both the 10 and 20-City Index posted month-to-month gains of one percent.
Five cities including Detroit, Las Vegas, New York, Phoenix and San Diego posted larger gains in June than for May.
Regional Home Price Growth: NYC Leads Cities in June
According to the Case-Shiller 20-City Index, New York City led home price growth in June with a reading of +1.60 percent. Chicago, Detroit and Las Vegas posted gains of 1.40 percent with Las Vegas posting its largest home price gain since last summer.
Year-over-year, Las Vegas posted the highest growth rate at 15.20 percent. San Francisco’s home price gains slowed to a year-over-year rate of 12.90 percent. Phoenix posted its slowest home price growth since March of 2012 with its June reading of 6.90 percent.
Home Prices Rise, But Modestly
While home prices in all cities tracked by Case-Shiller rose for the third consecutive month, analysts said that the Federal Reserve may increase its target federal funds rate as soon as the first quarter of 2015. This would lead to higher mortgage rates, which could further flatten home price growth.
Home affordability became an issue for many would-be buyers after the rapid rate of home price growth seen in 2013. Lower demand for homes could also impact the rate of home price appreciation as inventories of available homes rise. With these factors and no one knowing exactly when the Fed will act to raise rates, it’s unlikely that home prices will rapidly escalate in the coming months.
FHFA Reports Slower Home Price Growth in June
FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that June home prices slowed from May’s reading of 5.40 percent year-over-year to 5.20 percent year-over-year in June. FHFA reports on properties connected with mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. FHFA shared some positive trends for seasonally adjusted purchase-only home prices in its June report:
- June’s home prices rose in 40 states.
- Home prices rose for the seventh consecutive month
- Home prices rose for 23 of the last 24 months with the November 2013 as the exception.
- Home prices rose in the second quarter of 2014 in 74 of 100 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) tracked by the federal government.
- Home prices in the Pacific and Mountain census districts continued to slow in the second quarter. After rapid growth in home prices in 2013, this appears to indicate and expected adjustment rather than an unexpected crash in home prices for these regions.
While slower growth in home prices is of concern to homeowners, more affordable prices will likely encourage more would-be buyers to become actual buyers.
Last week’s economic news brought several reports related to housing. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Wells Fargo Housing Market Index for August rose by two points to 55, which was its highest reading in seven months.
Components of the NAHB HMI include builder surveys on conditions related to upcoming sales of new homes, which rose by two points for a reading of 65. Builder sentiment concerning present sales conditions also rose by two points to 58.
Builder views on prospective buyer traffic rose from 39 to 42. Readings above 50 indicate that more builders viewed housing market conditions as positive as negative.
NAHB cited job growth and low mortgage rates as conditions driving higher builder confidence in market conditions.
Housing Starts, Building Permits Up in July
According to the Commerce Department, housing starts and building permits rose in July. Housing starts increased to 1.09 million from June’s reading of 945,000 and exceeded expectations of 975,000. This reading reflects higher builder confidence and could contribute to easing demand for housing as new homes expand the inventory of available homes.
Construction of single family homes accounts for about 75 percent of new home construction. July’s reading was 656,000 single family housing starts on an annual basis. Regionally, housing starts declined by 25 percent in the Midwest, but rose by 44 percent in the Northeast, 29 percent in the South and 18.60 percent in the West.
Building permits issued in July rose to an annual rate of 1.05 million, which was an increase of 8.10 percent over June’s reading of 973,000 permits issued. Permits for single family homes increased by 0.90 percent to a reading of 640,000 permits annually.
July’s readings for housing starts and building permits are in line with overall economic growth and suggest that housing markets may improve in coming months as the supply of new homes increases.
Let’s add more icing to the cake. The National Association of REALTORS® reported that existing home sales rose to 5.15 million on a seasonally adjusted annual basis against predictions of 5.00 million existing homes sold and June’s reading of 5.05 million sales of previously owned homes.
Mortgage Rates Fall, FOMC Minutes Indicate Economic Improvement
Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of mortgage rates reported that average rates fell across the board: The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by two basis points to 4.10 percent with discount point lower at 0.50 percent.
The rate for a 15-year mortgage dropped by one basis point to 3.24 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by two basis points to 2.95 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve released minutes from its July meeting. Highlights included the committee’s 9-1 vote in favor of continuing the slow pace of reducing economic stimulus.
The minutes indicated that the committee intends to keep the federal funds rate below normal levels for “some time.” Previous FOMC statements have consistently indicated the Fed’s intention to maintain very low short-term interest rates after asset purchases under QE3 end in October, but FOMC has not released a specific time frame or details of its intentions concerning the federal funds rate.
The Fed acknowledged economic improvements, but cited lingering concerns over unemployment, which remains higher than average.
More Good News: Jobless Claims Lower, Economic Indicators Up
Weekly jobless claims fell to 298,000, lower than expectations of 300,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 312,000 new claims. Leading economic indicators (LEI) rose by 0.89 percent in July after increases in May and June. Analysts interpreted this reading as a further indication of stronger economic conditions.
This week’s scheduled economic reports include New Home Sales, the Case-Shiller Home Price Index and FHFA House Price Index. General economic reports include the Consumer Confidence Index and the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index. It will be interesting to see whether consumer views of the economy are consistent with recent economic improvements.
During the course of a marriage, it is common for the couple to acquire property together. This is what is referred to as joint or community property.
When a couple divorces, it is up to the parties involved to determine what happens to this joint property or let a judge use applicable law to determine how property is to be split.
What Happens To The House?
A couple of options are available when deciding what to do with a house where both partners are listed on the mortgage. First, the couple may decide to simply sell the home and split the proceeds from the sale.
Another option would be for one person to give the other person the house as part of the divorce settlement.
Technically, the house is sold or transferred and whoever gets the home is now the sole person listed on the mortgage.
Beware Of The Tax Implications
Typically, the person who gets the house should be the person who is in the lower tax bracket. This is because capital gains taxes may be lower or non-existent for those who are in the 10 or 15 percent tax bracket.
If the house is sold and the proceeds are split, capital gains taxes are exempted on the first $250,000 of profit made on the sale. For a married couple, the exemption is $500,000. Therefore, it may be worthwhile to sell the house before the marriage is over.
What If Children Are Involved?
In the event that the divorcing couple has a child, the best interest of the child must be considered. Typically, a judge will award a principal residence to the parent who will raise the child after the divorce is finalized.
To help the custodial parent afford any payments on the house, the other parent may be asked to help make payments as part of a child support or alimony agreement. This may be beneficial to the noncustodial parent as payments that are considered alimony are tax deductible.
When a couple divorces, they have a lot to think about. As this may be an emotional time, figuring out what to do with a home where both parties are on the mortgage can be difficult. However, those who are divorcing amicably or who want what is best for their children can come to an agreement without a lot of stress or drama.
I Can Help You Sort Out Your Options – Both Of You
For over 38 years I’ve been helping South Orange County people in all facets of their real estate lives, buying, selling, and leasing local property. I would be honored to assist you in your real estate planning.
Bob Phillips, Realty One Group, South Orange County, CA. Cell/Text: (949) 887-5305, BobPhillipsRE@gmail.com
As if homeowners who are facing foreclosure don’t have enough to worry about, a multitude of loan modification scam artists have invaded the internet, public files and even foreclosure notices in newspapers in hopes of targeting their next victim. By identifying the top three modification scams and learning how to avoid them, at-risk homeowners can protect themselves (and their homes).
Never Pay For Mortgage Modification Assistance
Many desperate homeowners fall victim to scam artists who offer to provide them with assistance in the loan modification process for an exorbitant fee. Many times the scam artist who promises to provide assistance will require that the homeowner pay the fee upfront, after which they will provide very little assistance or simply take the money and run. Consumers should be aware that assistance and counseling services are offered for free through a number of reputable HUD approved counseling agencies.
Avoid Transferring The Deed
One popular scam that at-risk homeowners often face is the property deed scam in which scam artists promise to purchase the home in question, agreeing to let the desperate homeowner rent it out. They suggest that turning over the deed to a borrower with a better credit rating will offer additional financing opportunities, thus preventing the loss of the home. The scammer often promises to sell the home back to the homeowner, but in reality has no intention of doing so.
Many times the scam artist will sell the home to another buyer. In some instances, the crook will collect any processing fees, take the title to the home and any equity, and then leave the home to default. It is a good idea for consumers who are approached with a property deed scam to report it to the FTC.
Ignore Unrealistic Promises
Mortgage modification scammers often make promises to do such things as negotiate a solution to the foreclosure more quickly, process mortgage payments for the consumer while the negotiation is being worked out, or even guarantee a loan modification. Since the actual lender is the only one who can agree to a loan modification, and this solution requires additional processing time, overnight fixes are almost always scams. Additionally, consumers should never make mortgage payments to anyone other than their lender.
For additional information about mortgage modification scams and how to avoid them, or to receive assistance with working out a solution to avoid foreclosure, at-risk homeowners should contact someone with distressed property training and experience. In South Orange County, California, I am just such a person.
Last week’s economic news brought little housing-related content, but several economic reports in other sectors contributed to overall perceptions of the economy.
In a speech given in Sweden, Fed Vice President Stanley Fischer noted that the economy might be in a period of “secular stagnation.” This condition is expected to keep interest rates low for longer than expected.
A survey of small business owners showed that confidence increased by 0.70 in July. Job openings for June increased from 4.60 million to 4.70 million. Readings for several reports fell shy of expectations and new jobless claims were higher than expected.
Economic Readings Lower Than Expected, Weekly Jobless Claims Rise
Retail sales for July were flat and fell shy of June’s reading of 0.20 percent, which was also the expected reading for July. Retail sales except autos were also lower in July with a reading of 0.10 percent against the expected reading and June’s reading of 0.40 percent.
Weekly jobless claims were reported at 311,000 against expectations of 300,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 290,000 new jobless claims. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, this was the highest reading since June.
New jobless claims were close to pre-recession levels which suggested a slower pace of layoffs. The four-week average of new jobless claims, which presents a less volatile reading than for weekly reports, rose by 2000 new jobless claims to a reading of 285,750.
Mortgage Rates Lower
Freddie Mac’s weekly survey reported lower mortgage rates last week. Average rates were as follows: 30-year fixed rate mortgages had a rate of 4.12 percent and were two basis points lower than the previous week.
Discount points averaged 0.60 percent against the prior week’s reading of 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.24 percent as compared to the prior week’s reading of 3.27 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.60 percent.
The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 2.97 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.
A couple of good news bytes from last week included an increase in small business sentiment in July. The National Federation of Independent Business Index for July increased from June’s reading of 95.00 points to 95.70 points.
The federal government also reported that job openings increased from 4.60 million in May to 4.70 million in June.
Several housing-related reports are set for release this week. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) will release its Home Builder Index for August, which measures builder confidence in market conditions for newly built homes.
The Department of Commerce will release Housing Starts for July, and the National Association of REALTORS® will release its Existing Home Sales report for July. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve will release the minutes of its most recent meeting on Wednesday; this could provide details concerning the Fed’s recent monetary policy decisions, which include the wind-down of asset purchases under the current quantitative easing program.
An article from Tory Barringer, of DSNews.com, August 8th, 2014:
In an announcement on Thursday, analytics and decision management firm FICO said its new credit model, FICO Score 9, “introduces a more nuanced way to assess consumer collection information,” resulting in greater precision for lenders measuring a borrower’s credit stability. The model will be available to lenders through the country’s various reporting agencies starting in the fall.
“FICO Score 9 uses a more refined treatment of consumers with a limited credit history and those with accounts at collection agencies, so that lenders can grow their credit and loan portfolios more confidently,” said Jim Wehmann, EVP for Scores at FICO.
The key difference in the new model is that strikes from medical collections will have a lower impact, reflecting the relatively low level of credit risk they represent. From just that change, the company expects the median FICO score will increase by 25 points among consumers whose only credit dents come from unpaid medical debts.
FICO isn’t alone in its push to reassess how medical debts are reflected on a borrower’s credit profile. In May, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released the results of a study finding that credit scores may underestimate creditworthiness by as much as 10 points for consumers owing on medical costs and by up to 22 points for consumers who have repaid their debt.
Often, consumers aren’t even aware their debt has been sent to collections, CFPB said.
Another change in the FICO Score 9 model is that it will also discount any overdue payments that have already been made, leaving only unpaid collections as a mark.
While the changes may have a significant impact on approval rates for credit cards and auto loans, the effects will be more subtle for borrowers and lenders in the mortgage space, says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for personal finance website Bankrate.com.
“These changes are going to be a positive for consumers, but it’s not something that moves the goalposts,” McBride said in a phone call. “These changes aren’t going to take a consumer with bad credit and suddenly make them appear as if they have good credit.”
Rather, for consumers whose credit scores sit on the threshold between poor, adequate, or good, the expected boost could make a difference in terms of required down payments or interest rates.
The Score 9 model also promises to help lenders make decisions on consumers with little to no credit history—though McBride doesn’t expect to see an immediate impact in mortgage approvals for credit-lacking millennials.
However, if those young consumers have an easier time securing lines on smaller loans, however, that could balloon out into the mortgage space in the future.
“You [have to] knock over the dominoes,” McBride said.