South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

Mortgage Rates Drop For The First Time In 4 Weeks

Posted in mortgage rates by southorangecounty on August 31, 2012

Freddie Mac mortgage rates

After 4 weeks of rising costs, South Orange County mortgage rates finally recede.

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate dropped 7 basis points to 3.59% this week. Depending on where you live, however, you may find that your offered mortgage rates varies. Freddie Mac’s “published rate” is a national average based on a survey of more 125 banks.

The rates you receive as an individual vary by bank, and vary by region.  

Mortgage applicants in the North Central Region were most likely to get the lowest rates of all applicants nationwide last week. By contrast, applicants in the Southeast Region were most likely to get the highest rates.

Average mortgage rates in the five U.S. regions, as tracked by Freddie Mac :

  • Northeast Region : 3.59 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage
  • West Region : 3.58 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage
  • Southeast Region : 3.64 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage
  • North Central Region : 3.57 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage
  • Southwest Region : 3.61 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage

Across all 5 regions, mortgage rates were quoted with an accompanying 0.6 discount points, on average, plus a full set of closing costs. 1 discount point is equal to one percent of your loan size. Closing costs vary by county.

One year ago, the 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate averaged 4.22%. Today, it averages 3.59%. This 63 basis point difference yields a $36 monthly savings per $100,000 borrowed. 

On a $250,000 mortgage, that’s $1,080 in savings per year.

If watched mortgage rates rise through August and felt as if you missed the market bottom, consider this week your second chance. The 30-year fixed rate mortgage does remains above its all-time low of 3.49 percent, but this week’s drop in rates in encouraging. It’s the biggest one-week drop in rates in more than 3 months.

Talk to your loan officer about how today’s mortgage rates can work for your budget. 

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Pending Home Sales Index Makes New High For 2012

Posted in Housing Analysis by southorangecounty on August 30, 2012

Pending Home Sales Index

In July, the third time this year, the Pending Home Sales Index crossed its benchmark value of 100, moving to 101.7. 

A “pending home sale” is a home under contract to sell, but not yet sold. Data for the index is collected by the National Association of REALTORS® and published monthly.

The rise in July’s Pending Home Sales Index reading is important for two reasons — both of which highlight a U.S. housing market in recovery. Buyer and sellers in South Orange County and across the country would do well to pay attention.

First, the Pending Home Sales Index is at its highest point since April 2010, the last month of that year’s federal home buyer tax credit.

From this, we can infer that the rate at which homes are selling in California and nationwide is approaching the same “stimulated” levels that the tax credit afforded two-plus years ago. The difference is that today there are no buyer tax incentives.

The Pending Home Sales Index readings have climbed steadily since the tax credit’s expiration, too :

  • July 2010 : 78.4 reading
  • July 2011 : 90.5 reading
  • July 2012 : 101.7 reading

Second, because the Pending Home Sales Index is a relative index; and, because it was assigned a value of 100 when it was launched by the real estate trade group in 2001, when the PHSI reads higher than 100, it tells us that homes are going under contract at a faster pace than they did during the index’s first year.

2001 was a strong year for the U.S. housing market. 2012 is on path to be a stronger one.

80% of homes go to closing within two months of contract so, based on the July 2012 Pending Home Sales Index, we should expect for the Existing Home Sales report to rise through the rest of summer and into fall. Home supplies may drop and home prices may rise.

The housing market has expanded slowly and steadily dating to October 2011. Based on last month’s PHSI, that momentum will continue. 

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New Home Sales Reach Multi-Year High

Posted in Housing Analysis by southorangecounty on August 29, 2012

New Home Sales 2010-2012The market for newly-built homes remains strong.

As reported by the U.S. Department of Commerce, 372,000 new homes were sold in July on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. A “new home” is a home that can be considered new construction.

July’s New Home Sales report highlights what today’s buyers of new construction and the nation’s home builders have witnessed for themselves already — that the market for newly-built homes is improving in South Orange County and nationwide.

The number of new homes sold in July on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis matches the tally from May 2012, and is the highest reading since April 2010, the last month of that year’s federal home buyer tax credit.

The South Region continues to account for the majority of new construction sales, posting a 48% market share in July. South Region sales were up 9.1 percent as compared to one year ago. The other 3 regions posted higher sales volume as well :

  • South Region : +9.1% from July 2011
  • Northeast Region : +30.4% from July 2011
  • Midwest Region : +21.7% from July 2011
  • West Region : +63.8% from July 2011

Also noteworthy is that the increase in new home sales is coming at a time when new home supplies are slipping.

At the end of July 2012, there were just 142,000 new homes for sale nationwide. This is the smallest new home housing stock in at least 7 years, and a signal that buyers are buying homes faster than builders can build them. At the current pace of sales, the national supply of new homes would sell out in 4.6 months.

Because economists believe that a 6.0-month supply represents a market in balance, the current new home market is decidedly a “sellers market”. Buyers throughout California should expect higher new home prices ahead.

Dating back to October 2011, the housing market has shown slow, steady growth. Home prices have moved higher and so has builder confidence. If you’re in the market for new construction consider going into contract soon. The longer you wait to buy, the more you may be asked to pay.

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Government : Home Prices Up 3.0% In Last 12 Months Nationwide

Posted in Housing Analysis by southorangecounty on August 28, 2012

Home Price Index, monthly since April 2007

The housing market recovery appears to be sustainable.

According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Home Price Index, home prices rose by a seasonally-adjusted 0.7 percent between May and June 2012. The index is now up 3.0% over the past 12 months, and made its biggest quarterly gain since 2005 last quarter.

The FHFA’s Home Price Index measures home price changes through successive home sales for homes whose mortgages are backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and for which the property type is categorized as a “single-family residence”. 

Condominiums, multi-unit homes and homes with jumbo mortgages, for example, are excluded from the Home Price Index, as are all-cash home sales.

June’s HPI gives buyers and seller in South Orange County reason to cheer, but it’s important to remember that the Home Price Index — like so many other home valuation trackers — has a severe, built-in flaw. The HPI uses aged data. It’s nearly September, yet we’re talking numbers from June.

Data that’s two months old has limited meaning in today’s housing market. It’s reflective of the housing market as it looked in the past.

And, even then, to categorize the HPI as “two months old” may be a stretch. Because it often takes 45-60 days to close on a home sale, the home sale prices as reported by the July Home Price Index are the result of purchase contracts written from as far back as February 2012.

Buyers and sellers in search of real-time home price data, in other words, won’t get it from the FHFA.

The Home Price Index is a useful housing market gauge for law-makers and economists. It highlights long-term trends in housing which can assist in allocating resources to a particular policy or project. For home buyers and sellers throughout California , however, it’s decidedly less useful. Real-time data is what’s most important.

For that, talk to a real estate professional.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : August 27, 2012

Posted in mortgage rates by southorangecounty on August 27, 2012

Greece bailout plans revisitedMortgage markets improved last week. Mixed data highlighted the U.S. economy’s slow, steady expansion; the Federal Reserve changed market expectations for the new stimulus; and, sovereign debt concerns moved back to the forefront in Europe.

Conforming mortgage rates fell last week for the first time this month, breaking a 4-week losing streak that had stymied would-be refinancing households in California and nationwide.

Mortgage rates had been higher since the start of August.

In published minutes from its July 31-August 1, 2012 Federal Open Market Committee meeting, the Federal Reserve revealed that, absent “substantial and sustainable” economic growth, many of its members believe further monetary easing would be warranted.

Recent data shows that growth may be sustainable, but it’s hardly substantial. 

  • Job growth is higher in 22 straight months, but averaging less than 100,000 net new jobs per month over the past three months
  • Housing data shows a steady home sales growth, but a dwindling home inventory of new homes and home resales
  • GDP grew 1.5% in Q2 2012, down from 2 percent during the first three months of the year

Should the Fed add new stimulus, it would likely come in the form of a third round of quantitative easing, a program by which the Federal Reserve purchases government-backed bonds on the open market, including mortgage-backed bonds.

The new-found demand for bonds helps raise their respective prices which, in turn, moves down their respective yields.

“QE3” would push mortgage rates lower, likely. It’s not expected to be released (if at all) until the FOMC’s next scheduled meeting, September 12-13, 2012. There is a small chance it’s announced this Friday, however; the Federal Reserve is meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for its annual retreat.

For this week’s rate shoppers, this week is filled with data and rhetoric. New U.S. housing data will be released along with recent inflation statistics. Both have the ability to cause mortgage rates to rise. In addition, second quarter GDP figures will be revisited and revised. If they’re revised lower, Fed-led stimulus may be more likely.

Lastly, Eurozone leaders reconvene to discuss the terms of Greece’s bailout. If terms are changed for the worse for Greece, mortgage rates may drop in a bout of safe-haven buying.

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Orange County California’s troubled mortgages cut by 24%

From today’s Orange County Register, by Jon Lansner:

Orange County’s 90-day mortgage delinquency rate — an early warning sign of borrowers’ financial troubles — is 23% better than California’s woes and 31% lower than national patterns, by one industry estimate.

According to CoreLogic’s latest late-mortgage report, 4.64% of Orange County home-loan borrowers as of June are 90 days-plus late with their house payments.

This 90-day delinquency number is seen as a key indicator of future mortgages woes as it captures patterns of property owners skipping house payments before the formal foreclosure process begins. This most recent reading for Orange County is down 1.5 percentage points — or 24% — compared to a year earlier.

Meanwhile, Orange County’s foreclosure rate — share of loans in the actual foreclosure process — ran 1.84% — that is down 0.22 percentage points — or 11% vs. a year ago.

Compare that to California patterns:

  • The state’s 90-day delinquency rate ran 6%. That is down 1.98 percentage points — or 25% — compared to a year earlier.
  • Share of California loans in the foreclosure process ran 2.26% — down 0.39 percentage points — or 15% vs. a year ago.

Nationally:

  • The nationwide 90-day delinquency rate ran 6.76% — down 0.49 percentage points — or 7% — compared to a year earlier.
  • Share of loans nationwide in the actual foreclosure process — ran 3.27% — that is down 0.21 percentage points — or 6% vs. a year ago.

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Mortgage Rates Dropping After Release Of Fed Minutes

Posted in Federal Reserve by southorangecounty on August 24, 2012

Fed minutes August 2012Eariler this week, the Federal Reserve released the minutes from its 2-day meeting which ended August 1, 2012. Since the release, mortgage rates have dropped.

The Fed Minutes are released on a schedule, three weeks after the FOMC adjourns from one of its 8 scheduled meetings of the year.

The Fed Minutes are meeting minutes; like you’d see after a corporation shareholder meeting, or after a condo board meeting. Specifically, the Fed Minutes details the conversations among Federal Reserve members which shape our nation’s economic policy.

The most recent Fed Minutes show a central bank closer to adding new market stimulus that previously believed.

At its last meeting, the Federal Reserve’s debate focused on the rate of economic growth and whether it was occurring too slowly to be long-lasting. The Fed appears to think so. Without a “substantial and sustainable strengthening” in the pace of economic expansion, it said, additional monetary stimulus would be “warranted fairly soon”.

Other notes from within the Fed Minutes included :

  • On employment : Unemployment rates will “decline only slowly”
  • On housing : The market appears “to have improved, somewhat”
  • On inflation : Retail energy costs are keeping consumer prices low

However, the Fed expressed an “unusually high level of uncertainty” about its assessments owing to the ongoing European sovereign debt problems. “Spillovers” remain possible and default threats continue to weigh on markets. 

The Federal Reserve’s next scheduled meeting is September 12-13, 2012.

Since the minutes were released — and for the first time this month — mortgage rates in California made a big move lower. This is in contrast to the rest of August through which mortgage rates have climbed steadily.

According to Freddie Mac, on August 1, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate was 3.49% nationwide. Today, the rate is 3.66%. Between now and the Fed’s next policy-making meeting September 13, though, mortgage rates are subject to change. If today’s mortgage rates fit your budget, consider locking in. 

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Existing Home Sales Rise To 4.47 Million

Existing Home SalesHome resales climbed 2% last month as the housing market continues its measured, steady recovery.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, Existing Home Sales rose to 4.47 million units in July on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis.

An “existing home” is a home that cannot be classified as new construction and, despite a reduction in the national homes inventory, the number of previously-occupied homes sold in July was higher by 10% as compared to one year ago.

The Existing Home Sales also reported the folliowing :

  • First-time buyers accounted for 34% of all purchasers, the same as in June
    • Real estate investors accounted for 16% of all purchasers, down from 19% in June
    • Cash buyers accounted for 27% of all purchasers, down from 29% in June

    In addition, the real estate trafde group reports that distressed sales accounted for a smaller percentage of the overall home resale market in July. Just 24% of home resales were for homes in various forms of foreclosure or short sale.

    This is down one percent from June, and five percent from July 2011.

    It also marks the smallest percentage of homes sold in “distressed” status since the trade group began to track such data 4 years ago.

    Lastly, nationwide, the supply of homes for sale dropped to 6.5 months. At the current pace of sales, therefore, the complete U.S. home resale inventory would be sold by the end of Q1 2013.

    There are now 2.40 million homes for sale — a 24% reduction from July 2011.

    For today’s South Orange County home buyers, the July Existing Home Sales report reinforces the notion that housing has been in recovery. Traditionally, however, the market – in this area, anyway – starts to slow down a bit, as we start to head into the fall season. If things play out that way, the next 5 months may become better for buyers, than they’ve been, as there might be fewer buyers to compete against, making sellers a tad more anxious, and therefore more negotiable

    With home inventory low and mortgage rates the same, a slowing fall home resale market will probably look ripe for better deals – for buyers. For anyone who’s been on the fence, looking for an optimal buying moment, the time between now and the middle of January 2013, just might be that time.

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States With The Highest And Lowest Closing Costs, 2012

Posted in Personal Finance by southorangecounty on August 22, 2012

Closing costs by state, 2012

Mortgage rates have been on steady decline in California since the start of 2012 as uncertainty for the future of the Eurozone and questions about the soundness of the U.S. economy have led investors into mortgage bonds in droves, lowering the 30-year fixed rate mortgage to its lowest point in history.

But it’s not just mortgage rates that are down. Closing costs are, too.

According to Bankrate.com’s annual Mortgage Closing Cost Survey, the average mortgage applicant paid seven percent fewer closing costs in 2012 as compared to 2011, on average. The year prior, costs had increased thirty-seven percent, on average.

A “closing cost” is any fee paid in conjunction with a mortgage settlement that would not be payable if the home was financed with cash. Closing costs for purposes of the Bankrate.com survey include such items as underwriting fees and appraisal costs. County transfer stamps, where required, however, were not included.

Like everything in real estate, closing costs vary by locale. There are some states in which closing costs tend to be high, and other states in which closing costs tend to be low.

The five states with the lowest closing costs for 2012, on average, are :

  1. Missouri : $3,006
  2. Kansas : $3,193
  3. Colorado : $3,199
  4. Iowa : $3,257
  5. Arkansas : $3,325

By contrast, the two most expensive states in which to close a mortgage this year are New York ($5,435) and Texas ($4,619). All figures assume a $200,000 loan size with 20 percent equity and excellent credit.

The good news is that, as a home buyer or refinancing household, you’re often not required to pay the closing costs which are itemized by your bank. When asked, many lenders will offer a low-closing cost or zero-closing cost option.

With low- and zero-closing cost programs, qualifying mortgage rates are raised by a small amount, which increases your monthly mortgage payment. Up-front settlement costs, however, are reduced or eliminated. 

Opting for a low- or zero-closing cost mortgage is a trade-off between upfront costs and ongoing costs. Talk to your loan officer about your options to see which path is best for you.

View average closing costs for all 50 states at Bankrate.com.

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Single-Family Housing Starts Remain Strong

Posted in Housing Analysis by southorangecounty on August 21, 2012

Housing StartsThe market for newly-built homes remains strong.

As reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, July featured 502,000 single-family housing starts nationwide on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, marking the fourth straight month during which single-family starts posted north of one-half million.

The last time this milestone occurred was in the four months ending April 2010 — the last month of that year’s federal home buyer tax credit.

A “housing start” is a home on which construction has started and the rise in single-family housing starts is yet one more signal to buyers in South Orange County and nationwide that the housing market has likely put its worst days behind it.

Home builders, it appears, agree with that sentiment.

Last week, the National Association of Homebuilders reported builder confidence to be at a 5-year high. Sales levels have been growing since January and builders expect the next six months to be blowout.

One of the main drivers of today’s new construction market is rising rental costs throughout many U.S. markets. It has helped to create an influx of new home buyers at a time when low mortgage rates have helped to keep new homes affordable.

As compared to one year ago, today’s home affordability is high.

  • July 2011 : A $1,000 mortgage payment afforded a loan size of $196,200
  • July 2012 : A $1,000 mortgage payment afforded a loan size of $223,000

That’s a 13.7% purchasing power increase in just twelve months — one reason why builders report buyer foot traffic through new construction at pre-recession levels.

The ability for buyers to access low downpayment mortgage programs is helping home sales, too.

The FHA offers a 3.5% down payment program and today’s home buyers are taking advantage. FHA mortgages now account for an estimated one-third of purchase money mortgages, and the VA and USDA are gaining market share, too, with their respective 100% financing program for certain qualified buyers.

With low rates, low downpayments and soon-to-rise home prices, it’s a good time to be a home buyer. If you’ve been shopping new construction, consider going under contract soon. As mortgage rates and prices rise, your personal home affordability falls.

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