South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

Orange County homebuyers are paying as much as 16% more

Posted in home affordability, Real estate by southorangecounty on May 14, 2010

For the 22 business days ending April 27 – DataQuick’s latest homebuying report — Orange County saw …

For the 22 business days ending April 27
Slice Price Yr. ago Sales Yr. ago
Houses $504,000 +18.6% 1,638 +4.0%
Condos $298,000 +19.2% 812 +8.0%
New $610,000 +25.3% 114 +16.3%
All O.C. $435,000 +16.0% 2,564 +5.7%
  • $435,000 median selling price that is +16% vs. a year ago … yet -33% below June 2007’s peak of $645,000.
  • The most recent median is 18% above the cyclical low hit in January 2009 at $370,000 — a current bottom that was 43% below the peak.
  • Prices have risen on a year-over-year basis since September after falling from Sept. 2007 through August 2009.
  • Single-family homes resell for 31% less than their peak pricing (June ‘07) while condos sell 37% below their peak in March 2006. Builder prices for new homes are 29% below their February ‘05 top.
  • Single-family homes were 69% more expensive than condos in this period vs. 70% a year ago. From 1990-2008, the average house/condo gap was 57%.
  • In this most recent period, O.C. shoppers bought 2,564 residences — that is +5.7% vs. year-ago buying activity. (From 1997-2006, monthly sales averaged 4,304 per month.)
  • Builder’s new homes sales were 4% of all residences sold in the period vs. 4% a year ago. From 1990-2008, builders did 15% of the selling.

May 14th, 2010,  by Jon Lansner of the Orange County Register

Comments Off on Orange County homebuyers are paying as much as 16% more

Tax credit deadline ignites buying frenzy

Posted in home affordability, Real estate, taxes by southorangecounty on May 2, 2010

April 30th, 2010, · posted by Jeff Collins of the Orange County Register
 

A lot of last-minute homebuying decisions were made Friday as buyers rushed to qualify for a federal tax credit that expired that day.

Buyers needed to have a signed contracts in hand to get a credit of $8,000 for first-time buyers and $6,500 for repeat buyers. They also must close escrow by June 30.

“I think there’s definitely some last-minute scurrying around,” said Tustin agent Charles Folcke. “I’m sure that if some offers are accepted (this weekend), agents are going to backdate it.”

“Lots of quick decisions (were) made this week from our fabulous last-minute type of folks,” added Huntington Beach agent Vivian Young. “I’ve been showing property for lots of clients the entire month to quickly get them under contract before the month ends.”

Broker Steve Thomas of Altera Real Estate reported that the number of deals signed increased 6.2 percent from two weeks ago and 10 percent over the past month.

“Buyers are pushing their way into escrow, but I think the momentum will carry even after the expiration,” Thomas said.

Coto de Caza agent Bob Phillips spent part of Friday dashing from Santa Ana to Capistrano Beach, then to a listing agent’s office to get a signed contract to an East Coast bank in time for its approval.

His clients got outbid Thursday, after offering $11,000 over the asking price on a bank-owned home. His cell phone rang at 6 a.m. Friday with news that the top bidder got cold feet and backed out.

He had to drive to both clients’ work places to get their signatures, then dash over to the listing agent’s office for the bank’s approval.

“I am now going to drive to Dana Point to open the escrow before they close at 5 p.m.,” he said Friday. “It has been an exciting day.”

Several agents noted that buyers stopped looking at homes listed as short sales, or selling below what’s owed the bank, since lenders typically are pokey in responding to offers.

Thomas and others predicted that the $200,000 set aside for the California tax credit likely will be exhausted in a month, rather than in the seven months allotted for it.

“There is still a lot of confusion about the California tax credit, which will last about a minute,” Thomas said. “The first 17,500 lucky first-time home buyers win and everybody else is going to be upset.”

Comments Off on Tax credit deadline ignites buying frenzy

Debate Rages Over the Supply of Foreclosed Homes

Posted in Foreclosures, Real estate, Uncategorized by southorangecounty on April 29, 2010

Debate Rages Over the Supply of Foreclosed Homes

Why is there such a fierce debate about whether the housing market is slowly healing or heading for another free fall? Partly because no one can estimate with much confidence how many foreclosed homes banks need to sell or how fast they are getting rid of all that property.

A huge chunk of today’s housing supply comes from homes that have been acquired by banks or mortgage investors through foreclosure, plus those that are being offered by people who hope to avoid foreclosure by doing “short sales,” selling their homes for less than the mortgage balance due. The National Association of Realtors estimates that such “distressed” situations accounted for 35% of home sales in February and March.

The latest heroic attempt to tally how many foreclosed homes are available for sale comes from analysts at Barclays Capital in New York. They estimate that banks and mortgage investors including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac owned 480,000 homes at the end of February. That’s far lower than previous estimates. Barclays explains that it has acquired more data on mortgages and refined its methods for analyzing foreclosure trends. Under the bank’s previous methods, the estimate for February would have been more than 600,000.

Estimating the inventory of foreclosed homes is tricky because thousands of banks and others that own the properties disclose those holdings in varying ways, if at all. RealtyTrac Inc., another data provider and one of the few other firms that regularly makes such calculations, estimates that banks and mortgage investors own 758,000 foreclosed homes.

So we have a pretty big gap. Is it 480,000 as Barclays thinks, or 758,000, as per RealtyTrac? Tom Lawler, an independent housing economist who tracks reams of housing data when he isn’t tending the livestock on his farm near Leesburg, Va., figures the total is more than 550,000 but probably less than the RealtyTrac estimate.

“What is truly disturbing,” Mr. Lawler wrote in his daily housing-market commentary Wednesday, “is that given all of the economic data the government tracks, the sector it appears to track the worst is…the housing market!  Why is it that the government has not deployed more resources to better track and report data on the housing inventory, households, home sales, home prices, and, of course, foreclosures and the number of homeowners who have lost their home to foreclosure?”

(That’s an especially good question given that the U.S. government has a bit of exposure to the housing market. Inside Mortgage Finance reports that mortgages backed by government-related entities – Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the FHA and the VA – accounted for more than 96% of home loans originated in the first quarter.)

Whatever the number of homes that banks, the federal agencies and private mortgage investors own now, it’s likely to increase. Barclays expects the inventory generally to rise over the next 20 months, peaking at 536,000 in January 2012, and then decline gradually.

To get a rough sense of how many more households will lose their homes to foreclosures or related actions, Barclays tallies what it calls a “shadow inventory,” consisting of homeowners 90 days or more overdue on mortgage payments or already in the foreclosure process. At the end of February, 4.6 million households were in that category.

Barclays expects 1.6 million “distressed sales” of homes – mainly foreclosures or short sales – both this year and in 2011, then a slight decline to 1.5 million in 2012. Last year, Barclays estimates, such sales totaled 1.5 million. Around 30% of all home sales this year and next will be foreclosure-related, forecasts Robert Tayon, a mortgage analyst at Barclays, who says that would be only about 6% in a normal housing market.

Barclays expects U.S. home prices on average to fall another 3% to 5% over the next couple of years, adding to a decline of about 30% already recorded since 2006. That forecast assumes a gradual improvement in the unemployment rate to 8% within the next two years from 9.7% in March. The home-price picture would worsen if job growth sputters or banks “push homes through the foreclosure pipeline faster than expected,” Mr. Tayon says.

Efforts to avert foreclosures by offering many borrowers lower payments have slowed the flow of homes into bank ownership. In some parts of the country, such as the Las Vegas area and Orange County, Calif., that has left bargain-hunters frustrated by what they see as a shortage of bank-owned properties in attractive neighborhoods.

In the Las Vegas area, foreclosed homes accounted for 56% of sales in March, down from 73% a year earlier, according to MDA DataQuick, a research firm.

This article appeared in the Wall Street Journal on April 28th, 2010, written by James R. Hagerty

http://blogs.wsj.com/developments/2010/04/28/debate-rages-over-supply-of-foreclosed-homes/

Comments Off on Debate Rages Over the Supply of Foreclosed Homes

How Iceland’s Volcanoes Are Helping Mortgage Rates Fall

Posted in home affordability, mortgage rates, Real estate, Refinances by southorangecounty on April 21, 2010

 

Mortgage rates react to natural disastersMortgage rates and home affordability have improved lately, thanks to an unlikely ally — Mother Nature.

In the 7 days since Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull erupted, ash clouds have grounded planes, disrupted businesses, and stranded exports in warehouses worldwide.

It’s a drag on commerce that’s spilled over onto Wall Street. As experts debate the potential for future seismic activity, traders are taking some of their investment risk off the table. 

In trading circles, it’s called “safe haven buying”. When the market gets cloudy, investors often move their cash into relatively safe assets.  This includes government-backed securities — mortgage-bonds among them.

Demand for bonds rise, pushing up prices and driving down rates.

Conforming and FHA mortgage rates touched a 3-week low earlier this week.

Volcanic eruptions and like natural disasters remind us: mortgage rates change for all sorts of reasons. Some we can predict, most we cannot. There’s literally thousands of influences on the U.S. mortgage market.

If you’ve been shopping for a home or floating a mortgage rate, luck’s been on your side. Mortgage rates have fallen post-Eyjafjallajökull. However, as ash clouds dissipate and business resumes worldwide, investors will regain their collective appetite for risk and safe haven buying will reach its natural end.

When that happens, mortgage rates will rise.

Therefore, use the seismic uncertainty to your advantage.  Consider locking your mortgage rate sooner rather than later — while rates are still low.

Comments Off on How Iceland’s Volcanoes Are Helping Mortgage Rates Fall

Housing Starts Data Hints That Housing Will Expand Even After The Tax Credit Expires

Posted in home affordability, Real estate by southorangecounty on April 20, 2010

Housing Starts Apr 2008-Mar 2010After a strong March showing and a surprise upward-revision for February, Housing Starts are, once again, trending better.

It’s yet another signal that the housing market nationwide is stabilized.

A Housing Start is a new home on which construction has started and, over the last 6 months, home builders are averaging one half-million starts per month.

This marks the highest 6-month average since 2008 and a reading one-fifth percent better from 12 months ago.  Revisions to prior data have all been higher, too.

Even more interesting, though, is that the number of newly-issued building permits is exploding. Permits were up more than 5 percent last month and have climbed back to the levels of late-2008.

Housing permits are an important data point in housing because permits are precursors to actual housing starts.  According to the Census Bureau, 82% of homes start construction within 60 days of permit-issuance.

Therefore, because March’s housing permits increased, we should expect Housing Starts to continue to rise into the early months of summer.

This, too, reflects well on housing because the federal home buyer tax credit won’t be in existence this summer. The simple fact the homes are being built now shows that housing is likely to expand even after the tax credit expires.

Non-military members must be under contract by April 30, 2010 and closed by June 30, 2010 in order to claim up to $8,000 in federal tax credits. Of course, we Californians have a new $10,000 tax credit which begins on May 1st – until the alloted funds run out, anyway.

Comments Off on Housing Starts Data Hints That Housing Will Expand Even After The Tax Credit Expires

It May Be A Good Time To Look At Adjustable Rate Mortgages

Posted in home affordability, mortgage rates, Real estate, Refinances by southorangecounty on April 19, 2010

Comparing the 30-year fixed to the 5-year ARM Apr 2009-Apr 2010

Each week, government-led Freddie Mac publishes a weekly mortgage rate survey based on data from 125 banks across the country.  According to this week’s results, the relative rate of a 5-year ARM is extremely low versus its 30-year fixed-rate cousin.

Consider this comparison:

  • In April 2009, the two products ran neck-and-neck with respect to rates
  • In April 2010, the two products are split by 0.99 percent

On a $200,000 home loan, that’s a difference of $117 per month to a mortgage payment.

Adjustable-rate mortgages aren’t suitable for everyone, but they can be a terrific fit given your individual circumstance.  For example, any one of the following scenarios could warrant a 5-year ARM:

  1. Buying a home with an intent to sell within 5 years
  2. Currently financed with a 30-year fixed mortgage with plans to sell within 5 years
  3. Interested in low payments and comfortable with longer-term interest rate and payment uncertainty

Additionally, homeowners with existing ARMs may want to refinance into a brand-new ARM, if only to extend the initial change date on the current note.

Before opting an ARM or a fixed, speak with your loan officer about how adjustable-rate mortgages work, and what longer-term risks may exist.  The savings may be tempting, but there’s more to consider than just the payment.

Comments Off on It May Be A Good Time To Look At Adjustable Rate Mortgages

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : April 19, 2010

Posted in home affordability, mortgage rates, Real estate, Refinances by southorangecounty on April 19, 2010

 

Existing Home Sales Feb 2008-Feb 2010Mortgage markets improved last week for the second week in a row.  And, also for the second week in a row, rates were down on “safe haven” buying — just not for the same safe haven reasons as before.

If you’ll remember, safe haven buying is when investors sense market risk, then move money toward less risky investments.

Well, because the U.S. government backs the bonds of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, mortgage bonds tend to fit the “less risky” description and as Iceland’s volcanoes shut down air traffic in Europe, mortgage bonds benefited.

That was early in the week.

Then, on Friday, when the SEC announced fraud charges against Goldman Sachs, a second wave of bond buying began as Wall Street fled the stock market. Mortgage rates fell a second time and the improvement carried through the market’s weekly close.

Conforming and FHA rates are as low as they’ve been since March.

This week, there’s not much data due until Thursday, but even Thursday’s releases won’t make a huge impact on rates.

  1. Initial Jobless Claims : Important vis-a-vis broader employment figures. A strong number could push rates up.
  2. Existing Home Sales : Housing remains a key part of the economy. Strong sales are expected because of the tax credit.
  3. Producer Price Index : A “Cost of Living” index of business. A weak reading is expected because inflation is low.

Then, Friday, New Home Sales is released.

The bigger risk to home buyers this week than data is the reversal of the safe haven buying patterns that have kept mortgage rates down over the past 10 days.  Keep an eye on the markets and your loan officer on speed dial.  Markets can — and do — change quickly. 

You’ll want to time your lock accordingly.

Comments Off on What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : April 19, 2010

How To Buy Distressed Properties In A Period Of Rising Inventory

Posted in Foreclosures, Real estate, short sales by southorangecounty on April 15, 2010

 

Foreclosures concentrate on 4 statesForeclosure filings rose close to 20 percent nationwide last month versus February, according to foreclosure-tracking firm RealtyTrac.com, and for the 13th straight month, total filings topped 300,000.

In addition, bank repossessions reached an all-time, quarterly record. Through the first three months of 2010, banks reclaimed more than 257,000 homes.

Nonetheless, 4 states dominated foreclosure activity nationwide.

California, Florida, Arizona and Georgia accounted for more than half of all bank repossessions. It’s a disproportionate distribution of foreclosures. Together, the 4 states represent just 23 percent of the overall U.S. population.

The RealtyTrac report revealed some other interesting statistics, too.

  • Foreclosure activity was up in 40 out of 50 states last month
  • Bank repossessions rose 9 percent versus the same quarter last year
  • For the 13th straight quarter, Nevada topped the state foreclosure rate

Regardless of where you’re buying, short sales, foreclosures, and REO are making a profound impact on pricing and product. Distressed homes are 35 percent of the overall resale market.

There’s excellent value in foreclosures out there if you know where to look, but keep these points in mind:

  1. Buying short sales homes can take 120 days to close or more. Be flexible.
  2. Foreclosures aren’t always listed for sale publicly. Some inventory is privately-held.
  3. Bank-owned homes are frequently sold “as is”. There may be defects that render the homes mortgage-ineligible.

The short sale/REO market is very different from the traditional “existing home” market.  Therefore, if you have an interest in buying such a property, be sure to talk with an experienced real estate agent first.  I have been selling properties like these for over 33 years, and would be honored to share my expertise with you.  Give me a call or shoot me an email – and let’s talk about real estate!

Comments Off on How To Buy Distressed Properties In A Period Of Rising Inventory

Why You Shouldn’t Schedule Your Closing For May 28, 2010

Posted in Real estate by southorangecounty on April 14, 2010

 

3-day weekends can make closings toughThe federal home buyer tax credit expires April 30 and the deadline is sparking a home sale surge. It figures to burden real estate, mortgage and title offices nationwide over the next 60 days so plan your closing date accordingly.

Especially because the last Friday in May is the Friday before Memorial Day.

Now, if the connection between the tax credit and Memorial Day is not immediately clear, think of your own office on a 3-day weekend’s Friday. Some of your colleagues take a half-day at work, others take the entire day off.

Office-wide, productivity drops.

The same is true in the real estate space. Offices are short-handed ahead of a holiday so, if you’re under contract for a home and plan to close in May, consider a closing date other than Friday May 28, 2010. 

And meanwhile, with 6 weeks until Memorial Day, here’s some steps you can take today prepare for other people’s time off later. 

  1. Notify your lender of your planned vacation time between now and your scheduled closing
  2. Purchase a homeowners insurance policy and prepay the first year. Send proof of payment to your lender.
  3. Have Power of Attorney forms lender-approved and signed by all parties in advance, if applicable
  4. Deposit gift monies and/or retirement fund withdrawals into an acceptable bank account, if applicable
  5. Schedule your final walk-through as far in advance as is realistic so there’s time to make “fixes”, if needed
  6. Have your closing funds ready at least 1 day in advance

The tax credit’s expiration is around the corner and as it gets closer, real estate-related businesses are taking on more work. Basic title and mortgage tasks are taking longer to complete and that should persist for a while.

Get ahead of the curve and beat your contract dates handily. Use the checklist above and be responsive to your lender’s requests.

And, if at all possible, avoid closing on the Friday before Memorial Day and even the Tuesday after — it’s when office staffs are at their smallest.

Comments Off on Why You Shouldn’t Schedule Your Closing For May 28, 2010

Is It Time To Re-Approve Your Pre-Approval?

Posted in Real estate by southorangecounty on April 9, 2010

 

Get re-approved for your mortgageAs the federal home buyer tax credit nears its April 30 end-date, there’s a lot of would-be home buyers still working to get under contract.

A piece of advice for all of them : If your pre-qualification and/or pre-approval letter is more than 8 weeks old, it would be prudent to have your lender “re-pre-approve” you.  Mortgage guidelines have been in flux and your original lender letter may now be invalid.

For example, over the past half-dozen months, the majority of mortgage lenders have reduced their risk tolerance with respect to:

  • Maximum debt-to-income ratios
  • Minimum allowable credit scores
  • Calculation of “assets in reserve”

For buyers of condominiums and co-ops, even the subject property itself is coming under tougher scrutiny.

Today’s mortgage applicants need to be a complete package. It takes more than just good income and credit to get approved anymore and today’s buyers should revisit their qualifications. What passed underwriting in January may not pass in May.

Being pro-active brings other advantages, too. If a mortgage re-pre-approval does unearth an issue, it’ll be easier for every party to the transaction to address and correct it up-front versus trying to clean up a mess once a home’s already under contract.

Talk to your agent and your loan officer about your pre-qualification/pre-approval letter before you bid on a home.

Comments Off on Is It Time To Re-Approve Your Pre-Approval?

%d bloggers like this: