South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

Shadow Inventory. Yes? No? Maybe?

Posted in Foreclosures, Loan modifications, Real estate, short sales by southorangecounty on July 31, 2010

Here’s one facet of this issue that has never been explored, as far as I’ve seen.

If lenders really had all this stockpile of “shadow inventory”, waiting for prices to rebound higher, why didn’t ANY of them take advantage of the market that existed in Orange County between January of 09, and April 30th of 2010, when, largely due to tax credits and low inventory, there were multiple offers – sometimes as many as 20 to 50 – on practically every listing in the lower price ranges? ( Under $350k, for condos, and under $500k for detached houses.)

That was a well known, more than a year’s worth of time, when it would have been an IDEAL time to unload excess inventory, getting prices bid up to higher than market value, in many cases, while the median price in Orange County rose more than 10%.

If all those lenders were holding all that alleged inventory, their agents would have been imploring them to take advantage of such conditions.

The reason that DIDN’T happen is because that stockpile really only exists in the minds of conspiracy theorists, who can only offer their opinions or theories on the idea of shadow inventory, with charts, graphs, and stories concocted from still more theories.

Here’s MY theory.  There is no shadow inventory, at least not as promoted by doom & gloom bloggers, where lenders have huge stockpiles of properties that they’ve already foreclosed on, and are “holding”, waiting for prices to come back.

What there is, is a lot of properties wending their way through each lender’s labyrinth of systems with loan mods, short sales, and even cancellations, all preferable to eventual foreclosure.  That pile of properties is probably going to take 2 or 3 more years to work their way through these systems, and will likely do so in an extremely manageable fashion, a little bit at a time.

As such, there’s very little likelihood of anything much more than a trickle of such properties hitting the market at any given time – pretty much as it has been for the past year and a half.  Those on the lookout for a Tsunami of distressed properties to arrive, over this next few years are in for quite a disappointment.

Of course, this is just my opinion.

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30-Year Mortgage Rates Make New Lows, But Look Ready To Spike

Posted in mortgage rates by southorangecounty on July 30, 2010

Freddie Mac mortgage rates (January - July 2010)

No doubt you’ve heard that mortgage rates are low. They’re lower than they’ve ever been in history.  The news is everywhere.

Just check out some of these headlines from the last 24 hours:

  • Mortgage rates set new lows for the 6th straight week (Reuters)
  • Mortgage rates fall again; 30-year fixed at 4.54% (Wall Street Journal)
  • Mortgage rates hit another low : 4.54% (NPR)

Fixed mortgage rates are now down more than 1/2 percent from the start of the year, and 3/4 percent from just 1 year ago. The drop has dramatically improved home affordability for home buyers in Trabuco Canyon while creating refinance opportunities for existing homeowners.

From a payment perspective, a conforming, 30-year fixed rate mortgage is now cheaper by $41.94 per month per $100,000 borrowed versus July 2009.

A homeowner with a $300,000 mortgage, therefore, is saving $45,295.20 over 30 years.

Low mortgage rates rarely last long and rates appear to have troughed. After a big downhill between April and July, they’re now flat. This could mean rates have finished falling, or that they’re gearing up for another drop lower. Either way, if you haven’t talked to your real estate agent about home affordability, or your loan officer about refinancing, it may be time to make that call.

If today’s market marks the end of low rates, rates are expected to rise quickly.

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Falling Consumer Confidence Helps Drag Mortgage Rates Lower. For Now.

Posted in Consumer Confidence by southorangecounty on July 29, 2010

Consumer Confidence Index July 2008-July 2010For the second consecutive month, U.S. consumer confidence is plunging. July’s official reading is its lowest since July of last year and the figures run in stark contrast to just two months ago, when the index touched a multi-year high.

According to The Conference Board, July’s figures are reflective of a more pessimistic consumer; one concerned about “business conditions and the labor market”.

Falling confidence numbers are presumed to be poor for the economy. For homeowner and home buyers in Coto de Caza , however, they can create opportunity.  Low confidence can influence the mortgage market in a positive manner, driving mortgage rates down.

Mortgage rates are already at their lowest levels of all-time.

The link between consumer confidence and everyday mortgage rates roots in consumer spending.

Consumer spending accounts for close to 70% of the overall U.S. economy so, the thought goes that, a less confident consumer is less likely to spend money, thereby retarding economic growth. This harms the stock markets and drives cash to bonds, including mortgage-backed bonds.

More bond demand leads bond prices to rise which, in turn, pushes mortgage rates lower.

The other side of lagging confidence is that Americans may be less likely to take new financial risks when they’re feeling unsure, including buying a new home. This can then drag on the housing market, negatively impacting home prices across California.

Falling home values can help buyers, harm sellers, and stymie would-be refinancers.

It’s tough to predict how consumer confidence data will work its way through the economy, but in the near-term, it appears to be helping mortgage rates stay low. If you’re floating a mortgage rate with your lender, or contemplating a refinance, the time may be right to lock in a rate.

Low rates can’t last forever.

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Case-Shiller Shows Home Price Improvement In 95% Of Cities

Posted in Case-Shiller Index, Existing Home Sales, Home Price Index, Real estate by southorangecounty on July 28, 2010

Case-Shiller Change In Home Values April-May 2010

Standard & Poors released its Case-Shiller Index Tuesday. On a seasonally-adjusted basis, between April and May 2010, home prices rose in 19 of Case-Shiller’s 20 tracked markets.  It’s the second straight month of strong Case-Shiller findings.

Also, May’s numbers are a mirror-image of February’s. In February, 19 of 20 markets lost value.

In its press release, the Case-Shiller staff resisted calling May’s data proof of a housing recovery, noting that home values remain flat as compared to October of last year. However, there are some noteworthy numbers in the Case-Shiller report.

  1. 13 of the 20 tracked cities are showing home price improvement year-over-year
  2. Foreclosure posterchlld San Diego has now shown 13 straight months of improvement
  3. San Diego, San Francisco and Minneapolis are showing double-digit annual growth

These are all good signs for the housing market, but the Case-Shiller Index is not without its flaws. Most notably, the data is limited to just 20 cities nationwide — and they’re not even the 20 largest ones.

Cities like Houston, Philadelphia, and San Jose are excluded from Case-Shiller, while cities like Tampa (#54) are not.

Another Case-Shiller flaw is that it reports on a 2-month delay.

Therefore, today is several days from the start of August but we’re now reflecting on data from May. Given the speed at which the South Orange County real estate market can change, May’s data is almost ancient.  Today’s values may be higher or lower than what Case-Shiller reports.

For home buyers, reports like the Case-Shiller Index may not be useful in making a “Buy or Not Buy” decision, but can aid in watching longer-term trends in housing.  For real-time LOCAL data, give me a call – 949-643-2100, or shoot me an email..

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New Homes Sales Gain in June, But Gains Are Relative

Posted in New Home Sales by southorangecounty on July 27, 2010

New Home Supply June 2009 - June 2010

After a down month in May, the sales of newly-built homes appears back on track.

As published by the Census Bureau, June’s New Home Sales report showed:

  1. A 24 percent sales volume increase from the month prior
  2. A 2-month drop in the supply of newly-built home

There are now just 210,000 new homes for sale nationwide.

June’s data is a major improvement over May, but it’s possible that the true “new home market” may be softer than the statistics suggest.  This is for several reasons.

First, we’re comparing June’s sales data to the worst month in New Home Sales history.

In May, sales of new homes totaled just 267,000 units nationwide. That’s one-quarter fewer sales than in the previous worst month in New Home Sales history. May’s sales levels were awful by any measure but June’s improvement to 330,000 units remains second-worst sales levels ever posted.

Second, although much improved, June’s new home supply of 7.6 months is elevated versus the historical norm near 6.0 months.  The last year has averaged 7.7 months.

For buyers of new homes in Coto de Caza , this combination of low sales volume and higher-than-normal inventory may be a positive.  It’s the main reason why homebuilder confidence is reeling and the downturn has opened some doors for big discounts and deals. Free upgrades and closing cost credits can make a well-priced home even more attractive.

Plus, with mortgage rates at all-time lows and expected to rise, home affordability is may never be better.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : July 26, 2010

Posted in Weekly Review by southorangecounty on July 26, 2010

Existing Home Sales June 2009-June 2010Mortgage markets worsened last week for the first time in 6 weeks last week. Investors were pleased with corporate earnings reports and the European bank stress tests results.  Stocks gained on the news, and bonds lost.

Mortgage rates rose last week, but only slightly. Rate are still hovering near their lowest levels of all-time.

Of the bigger stories last week was Existing Home Sales. As reported by the National Association of Realtors®, sales volume was down in June and home supplies were up. But figures were a bit better than expected, giving some hope for housing.

Notably, the number of move-up buyers outnumbers first-timers and the national median home price rose, suggesting that mid-to-upper home prices are getting some support.

This week, the market gets additional two pieces of housing data to add to the mix:

  1. New Homes Sales (Monday)
  2. Case-Shiller Index (Tuesday)

Both will have an impact on mortgage rates. In general, better-than-expected data should cause rates to rise in California ; worse-than-expected data should cause rates to fall.

Also this week, there’s two consumer confidence reports, the Fed’s Beige Book, and late-in-the-week inflationary data.  Mortgage markets should remain volatile with so much news headed down the pipe.

It’s too soon to declare the current 3-month rally over, but it’s been 3 weeks since rates dipped. This can be a signal that mortgage rates have finally bottomed and that it’s time to lock your rate.

If you’re floating a mortgage rate, or thinking about a refinance, it’s time to get locked in. Rates may drop this week, but then again, maybe they won’t.  There’s little sense gambling on a bet as big as a mortgage.

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Existing Home Sales Drop In June But Hint At Support For Higher Price Tiers

Posted in Existing Home Sales by southorangecounty on July 23, 2010

Existing Home Supply (June 2009 - June 2010)Consistent with most post-home buyer tax credit housing news, the National Association of Realtors® says Existing Home Sales eased lower last month.

An “existing home” is a home that cannot be considered new construction.

The 5 percent drop in sales from May to June was expected, but a closer look at the month’s data reveals some interesting trends.

First, repeat buyers accounted for 44 percent of home resales in June, up from 40 percent in May. That’s a healthy increase for just 4 weeks’ time and the tax credit is a likely catalyst. First-timer buyers bought starter homes owned by former first-timers, who were then free to “move up” to larger, more expensive property.

Housing markets can be trickle-up and, not coincidentally, the jumbo/luxury housing market is now in the midst of rebound.

Second, June’s “distressed sales” accounted for 32 percent of all home resales, up from 31 percent in May.

A figure like this hints at the large role foreclosures continue to play in a Coto de Caza home buyer’s home search strategy.  And why not? The National Association of Realtors® suggests that distressed homes are sold at a 15 percent discount.

Lastly, take note that home inventories are rising. June’s 8.9 months of supply is the highest in 10 months. Excess supply leads home prices lower, all things equal.

Overall, the Existing Home Sales data from June is a mixed bag. There’s support for the middle- and upper-price tiers, but a growing overhang of supply. The market looks favorable for buyers given low mortgage rates and strong negotiation leverage.

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Yes, You Can Still Get A Mortgage If You’re Pregnant

Posted in Mortgage Guidelines by southorangecounty on July 22, 2010

The New York Times ran an important story this week concerning pregnancy and mortgage approvals. Titled “Need a Mortgage? Don’t Get Pregnant“, the article discussed the difficulties that expecting and recently-expanded families are having with their mortgage financing.

NBC’s The Today Show picked up the story as well, as shown in the 3-minute clip above.

The crux of the issue is that maternity/paternity leave often leads to a change in household income and mortgage lenders will no longer assume one or both parents will go back to work full-time.  The loss of income can raise a household’s debt-to-income ratio to unlendable levels.

Now, your loan officer cannot ask you about a pregnancy; such questions would be in violation of Equal Credit Opportunity Act. But he can ask if whether you expect your future employment and income situation to change. This would be a perfect time to broach the topic. And you should. If you’re found to have withheld employment and income information from your lender at a later date, it could result in an immediate loan denial plus a loss of earnest monies paid.

Across both pieces, though, the prevailing message is this: Families concurrently planning to (1) have a baby and (2) buy a home should be up-front and forthcoming with their loan officers. Financing is often still available for families expecting an addition — there’s just some extra paperwork though which to work.

Be prepared for that paperwork and you’re more likely to get your loan.

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Housing Starts Ease 0.7 Percent In June — 7x Better Than The Headline Data

Posted in Housing Starts by southorangecounty on July 21, 2010

Housing starts July 2008 - June 2010

Single-family Housing Starts eased lower last month, falling by 0.7 percent from May, or 3,000 units nationwide.

A “housing start” is a home on which construction has started.

June’s Housing Starts data is somewhat soft and may partially explain why home builder confidence dropped to its lowest level since April 2009, but for buyers and sellers in Trabuco Canyon , the Housing Starts report is not nearly as bad as headlines say.

This is because when the press reports on Housing Starts, it doesn’t single out single-family homes. The press lumps every type of home into a single, giant reading. As a result, news outlets are reporting Housing Starts down 5 percent — a somewhat misleading figure.

The 5 percent figure is actually a combination of 3 separate housing types:

  1. Single-Family Housing Starts
  2. Multi-Unit Housing Starts (2-4 Units)
  3. Apartment Building Housing Starts (5 or more units)

But, single-family homes are what most Americans purchase. This is why the single-family starts data is more relevant than the combined figure commonly reported by the press. 2-4 units and apartment buildings are a different realm of buyer.

That said, though, we can’t even be sure that June’s Single-Family Housing Starts report is accurate. As noted in the Department of Commerce’s press release, the data’s margin of error is 10.7 percent which means the reported results are of “no confidence”.

In other words, there is no statistical evidence to prove the actual change was different from zero.

If Housing Starts did, in fact, drop in June, it will help to reduce the Orange County housing inventory, which will provide support for local home values. For home sellers, this could be good news. Fewer homes for sale means less competition for buyers.

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Housing Market Holds Its Own: Life after the Tax Credit

Posted in Existing Home Sales, Home Price Index, Home Values, Pending Home Sales, Real estate by southorangecounty on July 20, 2010

Housing Market Holds Its Own: Life after the Tax Credit

The tax credit brought a lot of buyers out last fall and again this spring, which gave a real shot in the arm to real estate. While that heightened volume cannot be sustained, home sales and prices still remain higher than last year due tointerest rates at historically low levels and the lowest home prices seen in years. A monthly survey of 54 metropolitan areas reveals that closed transactions in June 2010 were 5.6% higher and prices 3.5% higher than during June 2009.

“There’s no question, the tax credit has had a significant impact on this market,” said RE/MAX CEO Margaret Kelly. “No one can predict the future, and we may still see a slight pull back, but for right now it appears that housing is holding its own, hopefully on the road to a sustainable recovery.”

Transactions – Year-Over-Year Change
Buyers trying to make the closing deadline for the tax credit may have pushed sales higher for June with a 7.2% rise from May in addition to the 5.6% gain over last year. Sales were especially strong in the Northeast—Boston and Hartford saw 23% more sales than last year, Providence was up 21% and Philadelphia was higher by 27%. An equal number of metro areas, 27, had increases and decreases in closed transactions year over year.

Median Sales Price – Year-Over-Year Change
Responding to demand, home prices appear to be stabilizing and slowly inching higher. In the survey’s 54 metro areas, the year-over-year change in median sales price was 3.5%, with 27 metros headed up, 25 lower and 2 unchanged. The weighted average of all median sales prices for June was $211, 530.

California experienced the most dramatic increase in prices—median prices in San Francisco rose almost 18% higher than June 2009 levels, Los Angeles prices were 10% higher and San Diego prices were 9% above the same time last year.

Days on Market – Average of 54 Metro Areas
Besides price, most home owners are concerned about how long it will take to sell their home. For the homes that sold in the survey’s 54 metro areas, the average number of days it took from listing to signed contract was 81, slightly lower than the 83 day average in May and the 89 day average in June 2009.

Months Supply of Inventory – Average of 54 Metro Areas
The inventory of homes on the market in June rose slightly from May, up only 1.2%, but down 5.8% from June 2009. In the survey’s 54 cities, the average months supply of Inventory was 8.5 months, which remains unchanged from May. This means that at the current rate of sales, the average metro would eliminate its inventory of homes for sale in eight and a half months. However, a six month supply is considered a market balanced equally between buyers and sellers.

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