South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

Mortgage Rates and Purchasing Power

Mortgage ratesHow Does Purchasing Power Work? You’ve heard the term before — but really, what does ‘purchasing power’ mean? In its most basic form, purchasing power means what you can buy for a given amount of money. For example, a cup of coffee that cost $1 in 2010 now costs almost $4 (thanks, Starbucks!). You buy less gas with $25 today than you did a few years ago, and a car that costs $35,000 once could be bought for less than $10,000. So the purchasing power of a dollar has dropped over time. Inflation makes items cost more and lessens purchasing power.

Buy Low …
So when costs are low, it’s better to buy, before they rise, right? That may not exactly work with a cup of coffee, but it definitely works with things like cars, airplane tickets, and of course houses. When it comes to buying a home, your purchasing power is directly related to several factors, including the availability of desirable homes, average home prices, and the current mortgage rate.

Today’s interest rates are still astonishingly low. The average rate for 30-year fixed-rate loans over the last 40 years has been around 8.9 percent. But over the last several months, mortgage rates have been in the 3-4% range. This is significantly lower than the historic average — but higher than it was a year ago. Experts are predicting mortgage rates to steadily go up, possibly to as high as 5% by the end of the year.

Little Numbers, Big Difference Five percent might not seem like a lot, but when you do the math, you’ll see that even a quarter of a percent rise in mortgage rates will significantly lessen your purchasing power and make a big difference to how much you end up paying for your home. Just check the following chart, which assumes you put 20% down (although loans are available with only a 3% down requirement — call me to learn more!).

Your Monthly Payment Rate Loan Amount Purchase Power
$1,500 3.75% $323,893 $404,867
$1,500 4.25% $304,915 $381,144
$1,500 5.00% $287,551 $279,422

Don’t be like the family who delayed and delayed buying, and ended up shopping in the $270,000 price range rather than the $380,000 range and had to settle for two bedrooms rather than three. With rates this low, the smart buyer makes a move. The market can’t sustain these numbers for long, and won’t need to as it improves. If you’re considering a home purchase, contact me today to see the strength of your purchasing power — before it drops!

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HARP and HAMP Receive Probable Final Annual Extension

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( An article from Colin Robertson of TheTruthAboutMortgage.com dated May 11, 2015 )

Since being introduced back in 2009, both and the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) have helped millions either avoid foreclosure and/or save money on monthly mortgage payments.

Both programs have been deemed pretty successful, though the numbers did fall short of original projections (as everyone probably expected) despite several annual extensions. I think the original estimate was nine million.

HAMP Is Finished at the End of 2016

HAMP

Since HAMP was launched in the spring of 2009, a total of about 1.5 million homeowners have received permanent loan modifications through the fourth quarter of 2014.

Nearly 2.3 million trial modifications were started but fewer than one million are permanent and still active either because of a positive outcome such as loan payoff or alternative modification, or because of something negative like a short sale or foreclosure.

This has resulted in aggregate savings of approximately $32.7 billion compared with prior unmodified mortgage obligations.

The goal of HAMP is to get the borrower’s front-end DTI ratio down to 31% by reducing the interest rate, extending the loan term, and potentially forgiving principal.

About 95% of HAMP loans received an interest rate reduction, though those are temporary and subject to rise.

Just over 60% of HAMP borrowers received a term extension and less than a third (30.3%) received principal forbearance.

[HAMP participants are now eligible for $5,000 more in principal forgiveness.]

HARP Probably Done After 2016

The Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) is a program that allows underwater borrowers with Fannie Mae- and Freddie Mac-backed mortgages to refinance to take advantage of lower interest rates.

It originally allowed borrowers to refinance with LTVs as high as 105%, but that number was later increased to 125% and eventually the cap was removed entirely for most types of loans.

Over the years there were pleas to expand the program and open it up to borrowers with non-agency mortgages (remember HARP 3), but those demands fell on deaf ears.

To date, roughly 3.3 million borrowers have taken advantage of the program, though the numbers have been waning lately. Around 10,000 borrowers are refinancing monthly via HARP nowadays.

This is not unexpected given the fact that most have already applied for assistance under the program or no longer need it thanks to rising home prices.

During FHFA director Mel Watt’s speech at the Greenlining Institute 22nd Annual Economic Summit last Friday, he spoke about both programs and revealed that HAMP would be finished after one final extension through the end of 2016.

Since March 2013, Fannie and Freddie have also offered a proprietary Streamlined Modification that requires less paperwork than HAMP, and this could serve as an ongoing loss mitigation solution for borrowers.

As far as HARP goes, he said “we anticipate that this will also be the final extension for HARP.”

Apparently some 600,000 plus borrowers could still benefit from HARP though they’ve yet to come forward for one reason or another.

Watt said the FHFA will use the next year and a half “to explore possible streamlined refinance solutions for future Enterprise loans,” so there might be some kind of permanent HARP solution for Fannie and Freddie loans that “might apply in a non-crisis environment.” ( End of Colin’s article.)

From Bob Phillips:  Over the past couple of years, local house prices have risen substantially, which may help in two different ways.  First, former underwater homeowners may now actually have some equity, hopefully allowing a little breathing room.

Second, owners having difficulty making their payments on a loan that has a high interest rate, may, in fact, be able to refinance now, where they couldn’t before, staying in their home with a lower payment, OR, they may now be able to sell their home without going through a short sale, getting themselves out from under a terrible loan that they’ve been living with, for years.

Even if the home is STILL underwater, solutions have become easier to accomplish, if you’re dealing with an agent who has both training and experience, in dealing with distressed loan situations.  I, Bob Phillips, have both the training, and the experience, to help you sort out the many options you might have.

If you – or someone you know – is still having difficulty making their house payments, please consider calling me at (949) 887-5305, or shoot me an email to BobPhillipsRE@gmail.com.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 2, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 2 2015Last week provided several housing-related reports including New Home Sales, Pending Home Sales and Existing Home Sales reports. Case-Shiller and FHFA also released data on home prices. The details:

Sales of Pre-Owned Homes Hit Nine-Month Low

According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), Sales of pre-owned homes dropped to a seasonally-adjusted annual reading 4.82 million sales in January as compared to an estimated reading of 4.95 million sales and December’s reading of 5.07 million existing homes sold. This was a month-to-month decline of 4.90 percent, and represented the lowest reading for existing home sales in nine months.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR, said that a short supply of available homes coupled with rising prices contributed to the drop in sales. While mortgage rates remain near historical lows, higher home prices and short supply are negatively impacting affordability; this puts home buyers who rely on mortgages in competition with cash buyers.

More encouraging news arrived with the Commerce Department’s new home sales report; new home sales reached 481,000 sales on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis in January. Analysts had expected new home sales of 467,000 new homes based on December’s reading of 482,000 new homes sold in December.

Pending Home Sales Highest Since August 2013

The National Association of Realtors® reported that pending home sales rose by 1.70 percent in January as compared to December’s reading of -3.70 percent. Pending sales were up 8.40 percent year-over-year. Job growth, a little more leniency in mortgage credit standards and slower inflation were seen as factors that contributed to higher pending sales. Pending sales represent under sales contracts that have not closed.

Case-Shiller, FHFA Post Home Price Data

The Case Shiller 20-City Composite reported that home prices rose by 0.10 percent month-to-month and 4.50 percent year-over-year according to its index report for December. San Francisco, California had the highest year-over-year price gain at 9.30 percent, while Chicago, Illinois had the lowest year-over-year home price appreciation rate at 1.30 percent as of December.

FHFA reported that home prices for properties connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans rose by 5.40 percent on a year-over-year basis as compared to November’ year-over-year reading of a 5.20 percent increase in home prices.

Mortgage Rates Rise

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose across the board last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by four basis points to 3.80 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage increased by two basis points to 3.07 percent and the rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was also two basis points higher at 2.99 percent. Discount points for all loan types were unchanged at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

What’s Ahead?

This week’s scheduled economic news includes consumer spending, construction spending and the Labor Department’s non-farm payroll and national unemployment reports. Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s PMMS report on mortgage rates will be released as usual on Thursday.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 29, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week December 29 2014Last week’s economic news included several housing related reports. Housing markets continue to cool as November reports on existing and new home sales fell below expectations. New Jobless claims were lower than expected by 10,000 claims. The details:

Existing and New Home Sales Down, FHFA House Price Index Up

The National Association of Realtors® reported that November sales of existing homes fell to 4.93 million sales against expectations of 5.18 million sales. October’s reading was revised from 5.25 million sales to 5.26 million. This was seen as an anomaly that may have occurred during uncertainty caused by volatile stock markets. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen slow housing markets to tight lending standards in a recent statement.

FHFA reported that October home prices connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages increased incrementally year-over-year. October house prices increased to 4.50 percent year-over-year as compared to September’s year-over-year house price increase of 4.40 percent.

November sales of new homes fell short of expectations according to the Commerce Department. 438,000 new homes were sold as compared to expectations of 450 new home sales and September’s reading of 445,000 new homes sold. This was the slowest rate of growth in four months.

New home sales declined in three of four regions. Readings for November were -12.00 percent in the Northeast, -6.40 percent in the Southeast, -6.30 percent in the Midwest. Sales of new homes rose by 14.80 percent in the West. Analysts typically caution against reading too much into volatile month-to-month figures, but they are concerned about longer-term sales trends too. Sales of new homes were 1.60 percent lower year-over-year.

The median sale price of new homes was $280,900 in November, which was 1.40 percent higher year-over-year.

Mortgage Rates Up, New Jobless Claims Down

Mortgage rates rose across the board according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of average mortgage rates. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased three basis points to 3.83 percent. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage rose one basis point to 3.10 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was six basis points higher at 3.01 percent. Discount points were 0.60 for 30 and 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

280,000 new jobless claims were filed last week, a seven-week low. Analysts expected 290,000 new claims based on the prior week’s reading of 289,000 new claims. The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims also showed improvement with 8500 fewer claims at 290,250 new jobless claims filed. Stronger labor markets are considered good news for housing markets as more consumers can afford to buy homes.

No economic reports were scheduled Thursday or Friday due to the Christmas holiday.

What’s Ahead

This week brings Case-Shiller Home Price reports, Pending Home Sales and Construction Spending. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and Weekly Jobless Claims will be released on Wednesday due to the New Year’s Day holiday on Thursday.

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Thinking About Buying An Investment Property? 6 Tips To Ensure You Get A Good Buy

House_for_rentPurchasing an investment property is one of the most important decisions that you’ll ever be a part of. As such, it’s a necessity to make your decisions with only the most careful of consideration. Here are the six tips that you need to heed in order to ensure that you get a good buy.

Find The Right Property At The Right Price Yes, this is a whole lot easier said than done. However, it’s not impossible. All it takes is some patience and research. You have to determine what everything in your area is selling for in order to be able to spot a bargain! Further, you need to know that various property classes will outperform each other. For example, land and home units will appreciate differently.

Figure Out The Cash Flow It’s always a good idea that you know how to maintain your mortgage repayment obligations over the long term. It’s recommended that you analyze the cost of servicing any loan only on an after-  tax basis. By taking this approach, you have the power to calculate and put the cost into actual terms that make sense for you.

Look For A Good Property Manager Finding a good property manager who is a professional in his or her field is vital. Your property manager’s job will be to make certain that everything is in order between you and any of your tenants. A good property manager can extract the best possible value for you from your property and help to keep your tenants in line as well. I have been helping South Orange County clients with their rental portfolios for over 35 years.

Choose The Appropriate Type Of Mortgage There are many options available for financing the investment property that you choose, so it’s best to get sound advice. Options such as a variable rate loan and a fixed rate loan are both popular choices, but your specific circumstances will dictate what’s most suitable for you. Consider that variable rates often end up being cheaper over time, yet fixed rates at the right time are ideal.

Take Equity From Another Property Leverage the equity from your residence or another investment property. Doing this is actually an ideal way to purchase your investment property. Equity can be calculated by way of calculating any difference between what you owe on your mortgage and the overall value of your property.

Comprehend Both The Market And Dynamics When Buying It’s best to analyze what other properties are available in the area when you’re looking at an investment property. It’s very advisable to actually talk to both local people and real estate agents in the neighborhood. They can give you hints on small, yet vital, things like which side of a street is considered more desirable.

These are the six tips to help make sure that you get a good deal when buying an investment property. They can make the difference between purchasing a great property that has a high return on investment and purchasing a lemon.

Thinking of buying a potential rental property? Give me a call or text, ( 949-887-5305 ) or an email, ( BobPhillipsRE@gmail.com ) and let’s talk about the possibilities.

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The O.C. Housing Report: “Inventory Has Doubled”

A bi-weekly report on the housing market in Orange County, California, from Steven Thomas:

Despite extremely strong demand, the active inventory has doubled from last year’s historical lows.

O.C.-postcardActive Inventory: In the past month, the active inventory has increased by 9%.

In the first quarter of 2013, the active inventory in Orange County was at an unprecedented, extremely anemic  level. The low was achieved at the very start of January and bounced around that bottom through mid-March   where it reached a level of 3,183 before climbing without pause for seven straight months. It tapped out at 6,350 homes in mid-October, after nearly doubling. Typically, the inventory reaches a yearly height at the beginning of   the Autumn Market, the end of August when the kids go back to school. Reaching the height was delayed because   too many homes were coming on the market despite the slower season. Homeowners were hearing about massive appreciation in year-over-year numbers, so they were still clamoring onto the market. But, they were not getting   the complete picture. Many of these reports failed to talk about, or highlight, month-over-month appreciation.    True appreciation had come to a grinding halt at the beginning of the Autumn Market.

One way to explain what we were experiencing in terms of housing appreciation is in the analogy of taking off from John Wayne Airport, the craziest airport takeoff pattern in the country. Because of a noise ordinance over Newport Beach, pilots accelerate their jet engines to an extraordinarily high level and then release the brake as they rapidly take off and climb into the sky. That was appreciation from January 2012 through July 2013.  After hastily climbing for a very short period of time, the pilot cuts back the engines as the plane flies over the Newport Beach Back Bay. Passengers feel like they are on an amusement park ride, zooming into the air and then, suddenly, gliding over Newport. From August through now, Orange County housing has been flying over Newport Beach, experiencing very little appreciation.

The market has shifted from buyers climbing over each other, doing whatever it took to purchase a home, even if that meant wildly paying way over the last comparable sale, to a much more methodical approach, a desire to pay the Fair Market Value for a home. Sellers used to be able to get away with randomly pricing a home way over the last comparable sale because demand was high, prices were low, interest rates were low, and the inventory was at a very low level. As prices escalated, the desire to pay much more than the most recent comparable sale dropped substantially. When sellers overpriced their homes, they sat on the market and did not achieve success. More homes were coming on the market than were going off as pending sales. The active inventory blossomed.

Inventory - 4-29-14

This year has been no different in terms of buyers approach to the market. They still are acutely aware of price and do not want to overpay. The active inventory started 2014 at 4,733 and has since added an additional 1,636 homes, again without pause. It has climbed by 35% so far this year and now sits at 6,369, a level not seen since March of 2012, over two years ago. Compared to last year’s bottom, prior to turning skyward, the inventory has increased by 100%, doubling. From here the trend will continue in adding more inventory at a faster clip than homes are pulled off the market and into escrow. It appears as if it will reach a height of 8,000 to 8,500 homes at the end of August, attaining a long term average for Orange County, a normal. To this point, the inventory has been at abnormal, anemic levels. It has been growing on the backs of overzealous, overpriced sellers.

For buyers, more inventory is great news. That means that there are more homes on the market with more choices. However, buyers need to understand that it is still a seller’s market, with an expected market time of 2.3 months, or 69 days. Sellers are still in control. That does not mean that they are in control of price, able to randomly choose a value and achieve success. It does mean that if they price according to the Fair Market Value, they will sell fast, with multiple offers, and will be able to dictate many of the terms.

Ultimately, the market is moving towards balance as the inventory rises. It has come a long way since the crazy lows of last year, moving towards a healthy, sensible level.

Last year at this time, the active inventory was at 3,556, that’s 2,813 fewer than today.

Demand:   Demand decreased by 2% in the past two weeks.

Demand – the number of new pending sales over the past month – decreased by 65 and now totals 2,753. Last year at this time, demand was at 3,108 pending sales after increasing by 7% in just two weeks, 355 more than today. Demand was increasing last year, yet dropping this year because of Easter weekend. Typically, real estate takes a backseat during Easter, yet the date is always different. Last year Easter fell on March 31st, that’s nearly three weeks earlier than this year. So, the current demand reading is muted due to the holiday weekend. From here, demand will most likely increase slightly and then remain elevated through the rest of Spring, cyclically the hottest time of year for housing.

Distressed Breakdown: The distressed inventory decreased by 9% in the past two weeks, despite an overall rising inventory.

The distressed inventory, foreclosures and short sales combined, decreased by 24 homes and now totals 249, its lowest level since August of last year. The distressed inventory long term trend is to remain at a very low level, representing less than 10% of all sales in Orange County. As a matter of fact, it was only 6% of all closed sales last month. Only 4% of the active listing inventory and 8% of demand is distressed.

In the past two weeks, the number of active foreclosures dropped by 9 homes and now totals 63. There are 144 zip codes in Orange County, so there simply are not enough foreclosures to go around. 1% of the inventory is a foreclosure. The expected market time for foreclosures is only 34 days. The short sale inventory increased by 15 homes in the past two weeks and now totals 186. The expected market time is 33 days and has remained one of the hottest segments of the housing market. Short sales represent a little less than 3% of the total active inventory. ( End of Steven’s report.)

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4 Important Questions To Ask Before Refinancing Your Mortgage

4 Important Questions To Ask Before Refinancing Your Mortgage

So you are thinking of refinancing? Well you are in luck because I have 4 quick and important questions you should  ask yourself before doing so.

1) Do I Have Enough Equity To Get A Mortgage?

To get a conventional loan, you will usually need to have at least 20 percent equity. This means that your house will have to be worth at least $500,000 to get a $400,000 loan.

If you have less equity, you could end up having to pay for private mortgage insurance, which can easily add $100 or more to your monthly payment.

By the way, if you live in South Orange County, and not sure of the present value of your property, give me a call and I would be happy to help you estimate it.

2) How’s My Credit?

Most lenders will look at your credit score as a part of determining whether or not to make you a loan. With conventional lenders, your rate will depend on your score and the higher it is, the lower your payment will be.

Other lenders, like the FHA and VA programs have an all or nothing rule. If you qualify, your rate won’t be based on your credit, but if your score is too low, you won’t be able to get any loan. Generally, 620 credit scores are the lowest that will qualify you for any loan.

3) What Do I Want To Accomplish?

Mortgages typically offer a choice as to their term. While the 30-year loan is the most popular, shorter term mortgages save you money since you pay less interest over their lives. They also get you out of debt sooner, at least as regards your house.

The drawback is that they carry higher payments since you pay off more principal every month. This can make them less affordable for some borrowers, generally, you’ll need to keep your current house and loan for anywhere from three to six years to break even on the costs of refinancing.

4) How’s My Current Loan?

If you have an adjustable rate mortgage, you may want to switch to a fixed rate mortgage simply for the additional security it offers you. On the other hand, if you are planning to move relatively soon, your current mortgage could be a better deal whether it’s fixed- or adjustable-rate.

When trying to decide what to do, compare the cost of refinancing with what it would cost you in additional interest to hold on to your existing loan. While the breakdown is different for every borrower, generally, you’ll need to keep your current house and loan for anywhere from three to six years to break even on the costs of refinancing.

Deciding what to do with your mortgage can be complicated. Working with a qualified loan broker that can consider every angle with you can help you to make a better decision. I have a couple of excellent lenders I can wholeheartedly recommend, if you’re looking for one.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 10, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - February 10, 2014Residential Construction Spending Up

Last week’s mortgage and housing-related reports began with Construction Spending for December, with a reading of 0.10 percent or a seasonally adjusted $930.5 billion. December’s reading fell short of an expected increase of 0.40 percent.

Spending for private sector projects rose by 1.00 percent; of this amount, residential construction spending increased by 2.60 percent and private sector spending for non-residential construction fell by -0.70 percent.

Although construction spending posted a fractional gain, the good news is that construction spending is currently dominated by residential construction and that due to inclement winter weather, any gain in construction spending during December could be considered positive.

Jobs and Unemployment Data Mixed

Employment related reports dominated the week’s economic reports. The ADP employment report for January indicated that only 175,000 new private sector jobs were added for the lowest reading in five months.

December saw 227,000 new jobs. Severe weather conditions were the cause of lower than expected jobs growth. Month-to-month job reports can be unpredictable, but quarterly results provided positive information as the three month period ended in January 2014 saw average monthly job growth of 230,000 jobs as compared to an average reading of 220,000 jobs added during the same period a year ago.

New Jobless Claims came in at 331,000, significantly less than the prior week’s reading of 351,000 new jobless claims, and also lower than the forecast reading of 337,000 new jobless claims. Analysts said that these readings supported gradual improvement in the economy.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its Non-Farm Payrolls report for January, which indicated that 113,000 new jobs were added during the first month of 2014.

This reading was better than December’s reported 75,000 jobs added, and suggested to economists that bad weather was not the underlying cause of the dip in jobs growth. Healthcare and government sectors cut jobs in January.

With lower job growth, a higher unemployment rate would seem likely, but the national unemployment rate dropped to 6.60 percent from last week’s reading of 6.70 percent.

The Federal Reserve’s FOMC Committee has established a benchmark reading of 6.50 percent as one of the economic indicators it uses in decisions concerning federal stimulus programs.

Readings for labor and unemployment are important for the overall economy and housing markets; consumers worried about jobs that they might lose or jobs they cannot find likely won’t be buying homes in the near term.

Mortgage Rates Drop

According to last week’s Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey, average mortgage rates dropped across the board. The reported rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.23 percent, down from the prior week’s 3.32 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.70 percent.

The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by seven basis points to 3.33 percent. Discount points ticked upward from 0.60 to 0.70 percent. The rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.08 percent with discount points unchanged.

Whats Coming Up This Week

This week’s scheduled economic news includes Weekly Jobless claims, Freddie Mac’s report on average mortgage rates, along with retail sales and retail sales except automotive sales.

The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment report will be released Friday.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 6, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 6, 2014The last week of 2013 brought relatively good news in view of the economic roller coaster rides caused by legislative impasse. A brief shutdown of federal government agencies, and nail-biting suspense over if and when the FOMC of the Federal Reserve would taper its quantitative easing program.

Last week’s news was not high in volume due to the New Year holiday, but it does suggest that a general economic recovery is progressing and that housing markets are leading the “charge!”. Here are the details:

The NAR’s data of month-to-month reading of 0.20 percent showed an increase of 0.20 percent over October’s reading of -1.20 percent, which was the lowest reading for pending home sales in five months.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, said that “…the positive fundamentals of job creation and household formation are likely to foster a fairly stable level of contract activity in 2014.”

November’s year-over-year reading for pending home sales was 101.7 against a reading of 103.3 for November 2013. The good news is that November’s reading exceeded a 10-month low of 101.50 for October 2013.

Rapid Rises In Home Prices May Have Peaked

The S&P Case-Shiller 10 and 20- city home price indices for October was released Tuesday with positive results for both indices showing year-over-year gains in average home prices at 13.60 percent.

On an un-adjusted basis, the 10 and 20 city indices each gained 0.20 percent between September and October. The indices each showed a 1.00 percent gain in home prices on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. Case-Shiller cautioned that home prices are expected to rise at single-digit rates during 2014.

Consumer Confidence Rises, Housing And Manufacturing Sectors Improve

December’s consumer confidence reading gained 6.1 points for a reading of 78.1. This also exceeded the expected reading of 76.2.

The prior two months had shown decreased in readings thought to have been caused by the government shutdown in October. Consumers indicated that they are more confident about the economy than they have been in five and a half years.

Housing and manufacturing are leading the recovery, which reflects stronger housing, production and possibly manufacturing jobs, which have lagged behind increased production.

The national unemployment rate stood at 7.00 percent last week, which remains 0.50 percent above the Federal Reserve’s targeted rate of 6.50 percent.

Weekly jobless claims came in lower than expectations of 342,000 jobless claims at 339,000 new jobless claims. The prior week’s reading showed 341,000 new jobless claims.

Although a small decrease in new claims, last week’s reading further suggested that the economic recovery is on track.

Mortgage Rates

Thursday’s mortgage interest rate survey showed incremental increases in mortgage rates; concerns over continued tapering of the Fed’s QE program may have been a factor in the slight uptick in last week’s rates.

Average rates for mortgage loans rose as follows. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased from 4.48 to 4.53 percent with discount points rising from 0.70 percent to 0.80 percent.

The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.55 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.70 percent. The rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by five basis points to 3.05 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

Economists seem to agree on continued improvement in the economy for 2014, however rising mortgage rates and high unemployment remain as obstacles for faster economic recovery.

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Home Sales Show Healthy Year-Over-Year Increase

New Home Sales Show Healthy Year-Over-Year IncreaseThe holiday season and winter weather slowed home sales in November. Last week, the NAR reported that sales of existing homes had slumped to their lowest level in nearly a year, but this was not unexpected.

The unusual start of this year’s short supplies of available homes, evolved into a “normal” housing inventory, and coupled with later rising mortgage rates, largely eliminated 2013’s earlier pent-up demand for homes.

Improvement In The Labor Market

4.90 existing homes were sold in November; this was lower than the 5.13 million existing homes sold in October, as well as lower than expectations of 5.00 million existing home sales in November.

Existing home sales for November 2013 were also 1.20 percent lower than for November 2012; this is the first time in 29 months that existing home sales were lower year-over-year.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, described the slow-down in sales as a “clear loss of momentum.” The outlook for 2014 is better, as analysts expect continued improvement in the labor market.

The pent-up demand for homes will ease as homeowners begin to list their homes for sale as home prices increase. Mr. Yun also noted that prices for existing homes are increasing at their highest rate in eight years.

The national median home price of existing homes rose to $196,000 in November, which represents a year-over-year increase of 9.40 percent. There was a 5.1 month supply of previously homes available at the current sales rate.

Housing Market Continues To Progress Over Long Term

The Census Bureau and HUD report that 464,000 new homes were sold in November. This was 2.10 percent lower than October’s rate of 474,000 new homes sold. This represents an increase of 16.60 percent as compared to the 398,000 new homes sold in November 2012.

The national median home price for new homes in November was $270,900; with an average new home price of $340,300. The seasonally-adjusted estimate of new homes for sale in November was 167,000; this reading represents a 4.30 month supply of new homes for sale.

While home builder confidence is up and recent labor reports indicate improving job markets, the Fed’s decision to taper its quantitative easing program in January is generating some uncertainty as mortgage rates will likely rise as the Fed winds down the QE program.

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