South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

Breaking Down The Federal Reserve Statement (January 2013 Edition)

Posted in Federal Reserve by southorangecounty on January 31, 2013

FOMC statementThe Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) voted to maintain the Federal Funds Rate within its current range of zero to 0.25 percent, and to continue its current stimulus program of purchasing $85 billion monthly in Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities (MBS).

Citing weather-related events such as Hurricane Sandy and drought in the Midwest, the committee said in its statement that information received since its December 2012 meeting “suggests that growth in economic activity has paused in recent months in large part because of weather-related disruptions and other transitory factors.”

Concerns over the then-looming fiscal cliff crisis may have also contributed to the economic contraction during the last quarter of 2012. Positive economic trends observed by the Fed included:

  • Improved household spending
  • Improving housing markets
  • Growth in business fixed investments

The Fed initiated its third round of quantitative easing (QE3) in September as part of an ongoing effort to hold down interest rates and to encourage business spending. The benchmark Federal Funds Rate will remain between zero and.0.25 percent until the unemployment rate falls to 6.5 percent and provided that inflation remains stable.

The Fed Funds Rate has stayed near zero since December 2008.

The national unemployment rate was 7.8 percent in December, and Wall Street expects it to be 7.7 percent for January. The Department of Labor will release its monthly jobs report on Friday; this report includes the monthly unemployment rate. Inflation is expected to remain at or below the Fed’s target level of 2.0 percent or less for the medium-term.

While noting that “strains on global financial markets have eased somewhat,” the FOMC said that it “continues to see downside risks to the economic outlook.” Low overall interest rates and gradual inflation work in favor of home buyers as home prices and mortgage rates are likely to rise at a gradual pace.

Mortgage rates in South Orange County improved slightly after the FOMC release.

Advertisements
Tagged with: , ,

Comments Off on Breaking Down The Federal Reserve Statement (January 2013 Edition)

How To Paint Your Home’s Exterior Walls

Posted in Around The Home by southorangecounty on January 30, 2013

Paint your home's exterior to improve its curb appealWhen preparing to sell a home, few things improve its curb appeal more than a fresh coat of exterior paint.  

Many people are intimidated by the thought of painting their home’s exterior, and choose to hire a third-party to handle the work. But, you can do it yourself, with these easy steps.

First, before starting, you’ll want to inspect your home. Examine all walls, look under the eaves, and pay attention to door frames and windows.  Be on the lookout for peeling paint, mildew and rough surfaces and make a note of them.

Next, gather the tools you’ll need to do the job. These include :

  • A power washer
  • A 2-3” inch putty knife
  • A 2-3” inch pull scraper
  • A wire brush
  • A sander
  • Chlorine bleach

Then, to create a clean surface on which to paint, power-wash the walls with plain water. Detergents are not needed, and may not work as well as plain water, anyway.

Follow-up your wash with the putty knife and wire brush to remove the remaining paint. Note where paint has peeled, blistered or wrinkled. Avoid gouging the surface by holding the putty knife perpendicular to the wall, and by using moderate force.

For areas that won’t easily clean, use your pull scraper. It’s used the same way as the putty knife, but it has a sharp blade attached that quickly works through old paint.

Next, sand your home’s exterior smooth using a piece of sandpaper wrapped around a sanding block. An electric sander may be more effective for large areas; it’ll save you time and energy.

If during the cleaning process, you find mildew, be sure to remove it. A simple mix of chlorine bleach will do the job. Mildew will show through the new coat(s) of paint, so be sure to be rid of it before beginning.

Lastly, with your home cleaned and primed for paint, wait for “good painting weather” and get started. Soon you’ll be ready to list your South Orange County home for sale.

Tagged with: , ,

Comments Off on How To Paint Your Home’s Exterior Walls

Pending Home Sales Post 20th Consecutive Month Of Annual Gains

Posted in Housing Analysis by southorangecounty on January 29, 2013

Pending Home Sales IndexThe National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) reports that the Pending Home Sales Index fell 4.3 percent in December as compared to the month prior. The index now reads 101.7.

The Pending Home Sales Index measures the number of U.S. homes that have gone “into contract”, but have not yet closed. The report is based on data collected from local real estate associations, and from national brokers.

Despite December’s drop, however, the annual rate at which contracts for a home purchase were drawn increased 6.9 percent from one year ago, and marked the 20th consecutive month of annual purchase contract gains.

NAR reports that 80% of homes under contract are closed with 60 days, with the majority of the remained homes “sold” within months 3 and 4.

Analysts believe that December’s Pending Home Sales Index drop is not a result of a weakening housing market. Rather, it’s a function of a falling national home supply; in particular, a shortage of homes in the West Region offered a prices under $100,000.

The national housing inventory is currently at an 11-year low. However, regionally, results varied :

  • Northwest : -5.4 percent from November; +8.4 percent from one year ago
  • Midwest : +0.9 percent from November; +14.4 percent from one year ago
  • South : -4.5 percent from November; +10.1 percent from one year ago
  • West: -8.2 percent from November; -5.3 percent from one year ago

Although December’s Pending Home Sales Index dropped as compared to November, the year-to-year growth of pending home sales suggests a broader improvement in the U.S. housing market. Furthermore, the index is a strong indicator of existing home sales, which means that this season’s home sales should outpace those from 2012.

The Pending Home Sales Index is bench-marked to 100, the value from 2001, which was the index’s first year of existence. 2001 was considered a strong year for the housing market so last month’s 101.7 is considered a positive measure for the housing market.

Analysts project a strong Spring market in South Orange County and nationwide.

Comments Off on Pending Home Sales Post 20th Consecutive Month Of Annual Gains

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : January 28, 2013

Posted in mortgage rates by southorangecounty on January 28, 2013

FOMC meeting this weekMortgage rates rose last week as investors gained confidence in the global economy. China and Europe posted better-than-expected manufacturing rates, U.S. Jobless Claims fell for the second straight week, and the worst of the European debt crisis appears to have passed.

Last week’s economic news provided further evidence of a strengthening U.S. economy.

The National Association of REALTORS® released its Existing Home Sales report, which indicates that existing home sales improved by 13 percent on a year-over-year basis and are now at their highest point since 2007. The group expects sales of existing homes to increase by 9 percent in 2013.

The Commerce Department released its monthly New Home Sales report; while new home sales for December fell short of Wall Street’s expectations, sales of new homes are almost 20 percent higher than they were one year ago.

Growing demand for homes coupled with lower inventories of available homes suggests that the days of rock-bottom home prices and low mortgage rates are dwindling.

According to Freddie Mac, the average mortgage rate for a 30-year fixed rate loan was 3.42 percent with borrowers paying 0.7 percent in discount points plus closing costs. The average rate for a 15- year fixed rate mortgage was 2.71 percent with borrowers paying 0.7 percent in discount points plus closing costs.

While slight, the week-over-week increase in mortgage rates in South Orange County could become a trend.

Weekly Jobless Claims fell below Wall Street forecasts for the second week in a row. 330,000 new jobless claims were filed; far fewer new claims were filed than the 360,000 new jobless claims expected by investors. New jobless claims also fell below the prior week’s 335,000 new jobless claims. Fewer jobless claims are a sign of a stabilizing economy.

Mortgage rates typically rise as investors gain confidence in the economy and financial markets.

This week’s economic news calendar is jam-packed.

Investors await the outcome of the  Federal Open Market Committee’s first scheduled meeting of 2013, treasury auctions are scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and the Pending Home Sales Index will be released.

Plus, the Department of Labor’s Non-farm Payrolls Report and Unemployment Report will be released Friday morning.

Comments Off on What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : January 28, 2013

Six Reasons Housing Inventory Keeps Declining

Posted in Existing Home Sales, Home buying, Home Selling, Home Values, Mortgage Rates, Pending Home Sales, Real estate by southorangecounty on January 26, 2013

Six Reasons Housing Inventory Keeps Declining

By Nick Timiraos, The Wall Street Journal, 1/22/2013

          for sale sign
The number of homes for sale fell to 1.82 million at the end of 2012, an 8.5% drop from November.

“Home sales in December dropped by 1% from November, the National Association of Realtors reported on Tuesday, but still stood nearly 13% above the levels of one year ago. That means home sales have risen from the year-ago month for 18 straight months.

For 2012 as a whole, sales were up 9% to 4.65 million units, the highest annual total since 2007.

Prices, meanwhile, are picking up because the number of homes for sale continues to drop despite the sales volume gains. The number of homes for sale fell to 1.82 million at the end of 2012, an 8.5% drop from November and a 21.6% decline from one year earlier, the Realtors’ group said on Tuesday.

Here’s a breakdown of why inventory has continued to drop this year:

Many homeowners are underwater: More than 10 million homeowners owe more on their mortgage than their homes are worth, according to CoreLogic Inc.  That pencils out to around 22% of homeowners with a mortgage, or 15% of all homeowners (since not every homeowner has a mortgage). Underwater owners aren’t likely to sell unless they need to move due to changing life (marriage, divorce) or financial circumstances, and they’ll take a hit on their credit for pursuing a short sale, where the bank allows the home to sell for less than the amount owed.  Data from CoreLogic show that inventory has been the most constrained in housing markets where there’s the largest concentration of underwater borrowers.

Others don’t have enough equity to “trade up”: Another 10 million homeowners have less than 20% equity in their current residence, meaning they can’t easily “trade up” to their next house. Traditionally, homeowners have relied on home equity to make the down payment on their next home, and to pay their real-estate agent to sell their current home and buy their next one. These “under-equitied” homeowners—meaning they don’t have enough equity to make a move to a more expensive home—have added to the drag on inventory.

Everyone wants to buy at the bottom, but few want to sell: Even those people who do have plenty of home equity are likely reluctant to sell if they think prices will be higher tomorrow. Would you sell your largest asset today if you thought it might be worth 5% more next year? This helps explain why markets such as Denver and Dallas, which didn’t have huge housing bubbles and thus had smaller shares of underwater borrowers, have also seen double-digit inventory declines.

More purchases from investors of all stripes: From the big institutional investors that have been grabbing all the headlines, to the mom-and-pop landlords that have traditionally played a much larger role renting out homes, investors have increasingly bought homes that can be rented out rather than flipped and resold for quick profits. This is further keeping inventory off the market in two ways: homes that are bought at courthouse foreclosure auctions never show up on multiple-listing services when they’re initially sold. They’re also held out of the for-sale pool because they’re being rented out.

Banks have been slower at foreclosing: Banks and other companies that process delinquent mortgages have had trouble proving that they’ve followed state law in taking title to homes ever since the “robo-signing” scandal surfaced in late 2010, and they’ve also had to meet a host of new state and federal rules governing loan modifications and foreclosures from settlements spawned by the robo-scandal. Banks have also become better about approving short sales and loan modifications, which has curbed the flow of foreclosed properties onto the market.

Builders have been putting up fewer homes: Housing starts were severely depressed from 2009 through 2011 and have only recently rebounded off of those low levels. Consequently, there’s been much less new home inventory being added to the market at a time when demand (boosted by increases in household formation) is picking up. If more homes are held off the market—for any of the five reasons above—you can bet that builders will move in to fill the void.

Many of these factors that have been dragging down inventory aren’t signs of “normal” or “healthy” housing markets—but then, we probably haven’t had a normal market for around a decade now. If anything, declining inventory shows that normal supply-and-demand dynamics are returning, which is an important step towards putting a floor under home prices and giving markets time to get back to health.” ( End of article.)

Update:  Looking forward, the number of houses available here in South Orange County, California has started to creep up, over the past 2 weeks, although so has buyer activity. This looks like it will be a year similar to 2012, with relatively low housing inventories, coupled with strong buyer demand. This will probably equate to difficulty for buyers, with continued rising prices.  Sellers, though, should be happy – unless they’re going to also be a buyer.

Comments Off on Six Reasons Housing Inventory Keeps Declining

Housing market saw no seasonal slowdown in 2012

Posted in Existing Home Sales, Home buying, Home Selling, Home Values, Pending Home Sales, Real estate by southorangecounty on January 25, 2013

The local market saw no seasonal slowdown this year

People who have read my postings over the past few years know that I tend to suggest – based on my 36+ years of local experience – that Orange County has a number of “typical” seasons for its real estate market.

 key2urnewhome

The busiest buying season “usually” starts around February 1st, ( In 2012 it started early, in mid-January, if not sooner.) end starts to poop out come August/September, and REALLY slows down for the Holidays, starting as early as Halloween.

Not last year. There was only a small – barely detectable – slowdown, last fall, and into today.

http://www.housingwire.com/fastnews/2013/01/25/housing-market-saw-no-seasonal-slowdown-2012

As of right now, the market has picked up already, and good listings are selling quickly.

If you’re a potential buyer, you NEED a good experienced agent, to help you secure a good buy, before prices start creeping up, like they did last year.

If you’re a potential seller, you ALSO need a good, local, experienced agent, to help make sure you don’t price your home too low.  It’s better – for sellers – to start a little high and take 3-4 weeks to sell, than to start too low, and sell in hours.

If you’re planning to both sell and buy, you REALLY need an experienced agent to help you navigate the complexities of a double transaction.

Good luck to everyone, buyers and sellers alike – it’s going to be an interesting year!

Comments Off on Housing market saw no seasonal slowdown in 2012

Reasons To Attend Your Own Home Inspection

Posted in Around The Home, Around The House, Existing Home Sales, Home buying, Pending Home Sales, Real estate by southorangecounty on January 25, 2013

Be present for your home inspection

As a home buyer in South Orange County , you can get a feel for whether a home’s systems and appliances are in working order. However, you can’t know for certain until after the home has been inspected.

This is why an experienced agent like myself will recommend that buyers hire a licensed home inspectors immediately after going into contract. It’s the best way to really know the home which you’re buying.

By definition, a home inspection is a top-to-bottom check-up of a home’s physical condition and systems, including a review of the structure, and its plumbing and electrical systems. Home inspections are not the same as a home appraisal, which is a valuation of the property.

When you order a home inspection, you should be present for it. Here are 3 reasons why :

Seeing For Yourself 
There’s a big difference between reading a report and seeing “live” what may be right or wrong with a home. With first-hand knowledge of a potential issue, you’ll be in a better position to determine whether a problem warrants contract cancellation, or whether it’s an additional negotiation point.

Discovering The Home
Via a home inspection, you will learn where the systems reside within a home (e.g.; plumbing, furnace, air conditioner, garage), and how to operate them. This is a valuable educational opportunity and most inspectors are happy to share what they know. It’s also a chance to ask questions about maintenance and upkeep.

Better Understanding
A home inspector’s job is to review and disclose the condition of the home. The inspector’s report, however, is just a summary on paper. In being present for the inspection, a buyer will be able to visualize and understand the report’s conclusions more clearly. This can make for more effective re-negotiations with the seller, in the event that damage or distress is identified.

So, what should you do during the home inspection? Your primary tasks are to watch, listen, learn and ask questions. A professional home inspector will welcome your participation in the process. ( And so should your agent.)

Comments Off on Reasons To Attend Your Own Home Inspection

4 Easy-Living, Universal Design Tips for Any Home

Posted in Around The Home, Home How To, Home improvement, Home safety, Real estate by southorangecounty on January 24, 2013

4 Easy-Living, Universal Design Tips for Any Home

By: John Riha     Published: November 25, 2011

Here are some tips to get you started on incorporating universal design features in your home.

One of the basic principles of universal design, also called ageless design, is that it makes homes more practical and safer for everyone — not just the elderly or people with limited mobility.

These days, universal design features are an every day fact of life for many households, with architects and other professional designers adding universal design ideas as a matter of course.

You don’t have to be a pro designer to incorporate this smart thinking into your own home. If you’re remodeling or simply adding a few upgrades, be sure to keep universal design features in mind. There are lots of resources that’ll give you some great starting points.

As we remodeled our 1972 ranch-style house (we’re on the multi-year, budget-as-you-go plan), my wife and I incorporated several low-cost, easy-to-do UD features. A few of our favorites:

1. Switch out doorknobs for lever-style handles. Doorknobs require lots of dexterity and torque to open; with levers you simply press and go.

Makes sense for folks with arthritis, of course, but think about an emergency situation when everyone, including small kids, needs to exit fast: A lever handle is a safe, foolproof way to open a door.

A big plus: Levers are good-looking and can contribute to the value of your home. A standard interior passage door lever in a satin nickel finish costs about $20; you’ll pay $25 to $30 for a lockable lever set for your bath or bedroom. Replacing door hardware is an easy DIY job.

2. Replace toggle light switches with rocker-style switches. Rocker switches feature a big on/off plate that you can operate with a finger, a knuckle, or even your elbow when you’re laden with bags of groceries.

Rocker style light switch

Rocker switches are sleek and good-looking, too. Ever notice how conventional toggle switches get dirt and grime embedded in them after a couple of years? No more! You’ll pay $2 for a single-pole rocker switch, up to $10 for multiple switch sets.

3. Anti-scald devices for your bathroom prevent water from reaching unsafe temps. An anti-scald shower head ($15) reduces water flow to a trickle if the water gets too hot. An anti-scald faucet device ($40) replaces your faucet aerator and also reduces hot water flow.

Anti-scald valves — also known as pressure-balancing valves — prevent changes in water pressure from creating sudden bursts of hot or cold water. An anti-scald valve ($100) installs on plumbing pipes inside your walls. If you don’t have DIY skills, you’ll pay a plumber $100 to $200 for installation.

4. Motion sensor light controls add light when you need it. They come in a variety of styles and simple technologies. I like the plug-in sensors ($10 to $15). You simply stick them into existing receptacles, then plug your table or floor lamps into them. When the sensor detects motion, it turns on the light.

They’re great for 2 a.m. snacking, or if your young kids are at that age when they migrate into your bed in the middle of the night. The lights turn off after about 10 minutes if no more motion is detected.

Comments Off on 4 Easy-Living, Universal Design Tips for Any Home

Existing Homes For Sale At Lowest Point In 11 Years

Posted in Housing Analysis by southorangecounty on January 24, 2013

Existing Home SupplyHome sales dropped last month, but not because demand was lacking. There are fewer homes for sale than at any time in the last 11 years.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, Existing Home Sales for December 2012 fell to a seasonally-adjusted, annualized rate of 4.94 million homes from November’s tally of 4.99 million existing homes.

The Existing Home Sales report is based on the number of closings for previously-owned, single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops. It’s estimated that existing homes account for 85 to 90 percent of all home sales nationwide.

2012 was a good year for housing. Sales of existing homes climbed 12.8 percent as compared to the December 2011 tally, which may be a strong indicator of future mortgage originations and short-term demand for home-related goods.

Based on preliminary sales figures, the number of home resales in 2012 grew 9.2 percent to 4.65 million homes as compared to 4.26 million homes sold during 2011. This marks the highest number of home resales sold in 5 years — a time which predates the recession of last decade.

In addition, the median price of a homes resale read $180,800 in December, which is a 11.5 percent increase as compared to December 2011, and the tenth consecutive month of year-over-year median price growth.

Not since November 2005 has the median home resale price climbed this quickly

Furthermore, the supply of existing homes fell to 4.4 months in December, down 0.4 months from November. At the current pace of sales, the national home resale inventory will be sold by June. This is an important statistic because home supply of less than 6.0-months is thought to represent a “seller’s market”.

There are also just 1.82 million existing homes for sale nationwide — the fewest since January 2001, and a 22 percent reduction from one year ago. With buyer demand high and home inventory down, home prices are likely to rise in South Orange County and nationwide throughout 2013.

Comments Off on Existing Homes For Sale At Lowest Point In 11 Years

Buying ( Or leasing.) A Home In A Golf Community

Posted in Home buying, Home Leasing, Home Renting, Home Selling, Pending Home Sales by southorangecounty on January 23, 2013

Golf course communitiesIt’s January, but home sales in golf communities remain strong throughout Orange County, California.

If you’re looking to buy a home in a golf course community, either as a primary residence or as a vacation or retirement home, there are additional home traits which make buying on a golf course different from buying a typical South Orange County single-family residence.

Here is a quick primer of home characteristics to consider when buying in a golf community.

Land Plot 
When looking at homes within a golf course community, be aware of its location with respect to the community entrance. Homes nearest to the entrance will receive the most drive-by traffic and may be slightly more noisy that a home which is situated far from the entrance. However, homes close to the entrance will also be more navigable for visitors.

Security
How security-conscious is the community? Golf course communities tend to be gated communities but each will have varying levels of security. Some will have 24-hour gatepersons to manage and monitor traffic into the community. Others will use a pass-key system. Determine what’s most important to you.

Proximity To Golf Course
Consider the physical location of the home relative to the golf course(s). Homes which are situated near tee boxes are less likely to be struck by errant golf shots, but may be louder because of chatty players. Homes off the golf course are typically free of all such hazard.

Amenities
Many golf communities feature amenities such as swimming pools, exercise facilities, and clubhouses. Some have tennis courts and other recreational outlets. Do these services require extra fees? Is there a mandatory membership cost, with minimum monthly purchase levels? Be sure to ask.

Association Dues And Restrictions
As with most planned community/association, golf communities typically require annual or monthly membership dues; and publish a list of rules by which homeowners must abide. For example, home improvements may be restricted by the rules of the community. Before buying, review the association by-laws carefully.

Golf course communities are a terrific way for golf enthusiasts play (nearly) year-round, and can provide a terrific lifestyle even beyond the golf game. If you plan to buy in a golf community, use the tips above to help with your research.

Then, when you’re ready, talk to an experienced local Realtor for help with your purchase. In South Orange County, in Southern California, I’ve been selling golf course properties for over 36 years.

Comments Off on Buying ( Or leasing.) A Home In A Golf Community

%d bloggers like this: