Mortgage rates fall sharply

Mortgage rates have fallen again.After rising to start the year, mortgage rates have declined once again, giving those looking at Houston homes more flexibility when looking to buy properties.

According to Freddie Mac (http://www NULL.freddiemac NULL.com/pmms/release NULL.html?week=9&year=2011), the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate loan last week was 4.87 percent which is down from 4.95 percent the previous week. Rates for 15-year FRMs also fell, dropping from 4.22 percent to 4.15 percent.

"Mortgage rates saw an overall improvement this week. Interest rates for 30-year fixed mortgages were almost 0.2 percentage points below this year's high set just three weeks ago," said Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Nothaft. "This means that homebuyers could now expect to pay $263 less per year on a $200,000 loan."

However, Nothaft also expressed concern with demand in the housing market, with low levels of new home sales and two consecutive drops in the National Association of Realtors' Pending Home Sales Index.

The pending sales index dropped 2.8 percent in February to a reading to 88.9, which is 1.5 percent below the 90.3 mark of a year ago. However, it is still higher than most readings from late last year, when the market was recovering from the absence of the homebuyer tax credit.

Texas home sales fall below ’09 levels

Home sales in Texas last year were below 2009 levels.Data from the Texas Association of Realtors (http://www NULL.texasrealtors NULL.com/public/MR/About/Media/News/NR2011-02-01 NULL.cfm) finds that the number of homes sold in the state last year was down from 2009.

The Texas Quarterly Housing Report finds that there were just under 203,000 homes sold in the state last year, down roughly 5 percent from the previous year. However, much as has been the case in the Houston real estate market, prices remained strong, gaining 1 percent over the same time period.

"It's clear Texas was not immune to the economic downturn in 2010 and that showed in the number of homes sold. However, it's encouraging to see that Texas real estate held its value so well during the year, which bodes well for homeowners as the recovery continues," said Dwight Hale, 2011 chairman of the Texas Association of Realtors.

The largest reason for the drop was the data from the fourth quarter of last year, which fell 18.9 percent below 2009 levels. However, analysts said the homebuyer tax credit skewed those results, increasing sales at the end of 2009, and pulling forward others into the first half of 2010.

Overall, the prices for Houston homes have remained higher than the state as a whole. According to the Houston Association of Realtors, the median home price in December was $157,500, roughly 7 percent above the $147,400 state-wide median price last year.

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