Archives for April 2011

Pending home sales jump in March

More homes may be selling in the coming weeks.The National Association of Realtors says its Pending Home Sales Index rose in March, marking the sixth increase over the past nine months as the housing market continues to recover.According to the report, the index increased 5.1 percent during the month to a reading of 94.1, up from 89.5 a month ago, signaling a potential increase in home sales in the coming months. While the current reading is well below where the index sat a year ago, 2010 numbers were inflated by the government tax credit.”Since reaching a cyclical bottom last June, pending home sales have posted an overall gain of 24 percent and demonstrate the market is recovering on its own,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Modest near-term gains in existing-home sales are likely.”Yun added home sales growth would be stronger, but overly tight lending conditions are making it difficult for people to get approved for a loan.In other recent reports, the NAR has said mortgage lenders could increase sales nationwide, and in the Houston real estate market, by approximately 15 percent if they returned to what it considers the responsible lending standards in place before the housing boom.Courtesy of 2M Realty News

Mortgage rates slip again

Mortgage rates have fallen again.In its weekly mortgage market survey, Freddie Mac says mortgage rates dropped again over the past week, with some rates hitting new lows for this year.According to the report, the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped from 4.8 to 4.78 percent during the week ending April 28.In addition, rates for 15-year loans slid to 3.97 percent. That was down from 4.02 percent the previous week and the lowest mark for the index since December.”Mortgage rates followed Treasury bond yields lower this week amid weak local economic data reports on business conditions and house prices,” said Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist at Freddie Mac. “In addition, the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city composite home price index recorded year-over-year declines through February in 19 of the 20 markets.”The changes in mortgage rates, has made it significantly more affordable for people looking at Houston homes to get a loan. Compared to the rates from a year ago, someone getting a $200,000 mortgage last week may have saved almost $16,000 in payments over the course of the loan.Courtesy of 2M Realty News?

Houston homes becoming more affordable

Trulia says buying a home is more affordable than renting.With mortgage rates remaining low, and rents rising across the country, a report from Trulia finds that homeownership in Houston, and in many other cities across the country, has become more affordable.The website compared the cost of buying an average two-bedroom home and the cost of renting it, saying the market favors buying if the cost of a home is less than 15 years of rent. At the start of this quarter, the site found buying was more affordable in almost 80 percent of the 50 largest cities in the country.”As we head into the summer buying season, those looking to buy a home should be encouraged by improvements in the market and feel optimistic about their chances of finding an affordable home, much more so than in previous years,” says Ken Shuman, head of communications at Trulia.In Houston, market changes made Houston properties even more affordable than they had previously been. The website says Houston homes cost about the same as 11 years of rent payments, down from 13 just three months earlier.Courtesy of 2M Realty News

National homeownership level falls

Fewer Americans are becoming homeowners.In the wake of the recession and foreclosure crisis, data released by the Commerce Department Wednesday showed homeownership in the U.S. had fallen to its lowest level in more than a decade.The national homeownership rate during the first quarter of this year was just 66.4 percent, down slightly from the mark of 66.5 percent from the final three months of last year and 67.1 percent a year ago.It was the lowest homeownership rate since 1998, and well off the recent peak of 69.2 percent seen at the end of 2004.The drop in ownership has been countered by reduced availability for rentals. According to the report, rental vacancies have dropped from 10.6 percent to 9.7 percent over the past 12 months.However, the decrease in homeownership has actually made buying Houston homes, and others across the country, more affordable in comparison to renting. A recent report from the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies found that the cost of renting a home has increased significantly in recent years.Courtesy of 2M Realty News

Houston dubbed a "city of the future" for foreign investment

Houston is a top location for foreign investment.Likely due to its steady economy and strong growth prospects, a recent report has ranked Houston as one of the top 10 American cities of the future for foreign direct investment.The rankings, compiled by fDi Magazine, listed Houston third in the overall rankings, trailing just New York City – which took the top spot – and Chicago. The three cities received identical rankings last year.In the individual categories, Houston earned the top spot for its FDI strategy, and finished in the top 10 in three others, infrastructure, business friendliness and human resources.The favorable rankings show that the city provides a favorable climate for growth in the coming years, and may continue to attract jobs and workers to the area. That positive climate could also help boost commercial properties in the Houston real estate market, as funding flows into companies in the city.Those investments could boost an already steady office market. A report from Colliers International showed vacancies dropping from 16.2 to 15.9 percent during the first quarter of this year.Courtesy of 2M Realty News?

Despite affordability, buyers having trouble

While prices are low, getting one accepted may be difficult.Low mortgage rates and home prices have created record housing affordability for those looking to buy. However, many of those potential buyers told the Wall Street Journal the market remains challenging.According to the Journal, buyers are scouring the market looking for deals on low-priced properties in cities nationwide. However, in many cases they find themselves outbid by investors or other buyers. After repeatedly running into the same scenario, many buyers told the paper they are beginning to become frustrated.”It's a false buyer's market,” software engineer Young Hammack told the WSJ. “If you think prices are cheap, wait until you start putting offers in.”The Journal also noted that much of the competition from buyers is over what's considered the “cream of the crop,” and other properties may have difficultly finding many offers at all due to the prevalence of low-priced foreclosures.However, Houston listings continue to be added to to the real estate market. Data from the Texas A&M Real Estate Center found housing inventory had increased more than 8 percent over the past year.Courtesy of 2M Realty News

Price-reduced homes remain widespread nationwide

Many properties for sale have price cuts.A report from California-based ZipRealty finds homesellers in many parts of the country continue to cut their asking prices, providing affordable options for those looking to buy Houston homes.According to the report, 44 percent of homes for sale nationwide included at least one price cut, up 9 percent compared to last year.While that number is also down compared to the 45 percent mark in February, the drop may be caused by sellers setting lower prices to start with. The report found the median list price for March was down almost 13 percent compared to a year ago.”Home sellers appear to be adapting to the changes in market conditions as we enter the spring selling season,” said Bob Yakominich, senior vice president of sales at ZipRealty.The average reduction by sellers nationwide was just over $18,000, down 10.4 percent compared to a year ago.Those price reductions may be playing a role in falling home prices seen in many cities. According to the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index, prices in February were down more than 3 percent over the previous 12 months.Courtesy of 2M Realty News?

Research finds lower homebuyer activity, increased distress

Distressed properties remain prevalent.Distressed properties make up nearly half of the housing availability in the U.S., according to research from Campbell's HousingPulse tracking survey. That trend is likely to continue in the foreseeable future, the study found, noting that a long backlog of mortgage defaults and foreclosed properties has yet to make its way through the market's pipeline. Campbell's Housing Traffic Index for March, which measures activity among owner-occupant sales, was slower than the month before, reflecting what some experts characterize as a “wait and see” attitude toward the property market. “Our market bottomed out last year and started to rise slowly. January was flat with activity and inventory. February saw more buyers coming out. March has seen a sharp increase of new listings, approximately double what we had in February. It appears that we should have a marked increase in activity as we continue in this strong season of the year,” a Colorado agent told Campbell's. Houston properties has been relatively unscathed, according to the Houston Association of Realtors, but slight dips in sales were still seen.Courtesy of 2M Realty News

New home sales jump in March

New home sales improved in March.After a very slow pace in February, the government says new home sales rebounded in the month of March, showing significant gains at the start of the spring homebuying season.According to the Commerce Department, sales of new homes nationwide increased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 300,000 during the month, up 11.1 percent from sales in February.”The March pace of new-home sales more accurately reflects current market conditions than the extremely low pace we saw in the first two months of this year, when unusually poor weather likely kept buyers away,” said National Association of Home Builders' chief economist David Crowe.Analysts said while the sales rate was more than 21 percent below last year's levels, the tax credit was in effect for March 2010.However, many people looking at Houston homes continue to look at existing properties rather than new homes, mainly because of their lower prices. While new homes have a median price of $213,000 nationwide, the National Association of Realtors says the median existing home price is just $159,000.Courtesy of 2M Realty News

Determining the damage from one missed payment

Missing one mortgage payment can send a credit score tumbling.For those looking to buy a home, one of the most important things is having a strong credit score. However, just one missed mortgage payment can have a significant impact, the New York Times reports.FICO scores – the most commonly used scores – range from a low of 300 up to 850. According to the paper, lenders generally consider scores under 650 to be a high risk.According to analysis by FICO, having one mortgage payment come in 30 days late can drop a 780 credit score all the way down to the 670 to 690 range. For those with a starting score of 720, their score can fall all the way to 630 to 650. Those with a score of 680 could plummet to between 600 to 620.If payments remain past due, FICO says a 90-day late bill can drop even the higher scores below the 650 threshold.Those looking at Houston homes may have seen their credit scores improve in recent weeks. According to CreditKarma.com, Houston residents decreased their average credit card debt by 6 percent during the first quarter of the year.Courtesy of 2M Realty News

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