Archive for July, 2009

Comments Off on VIDEO : Who Should — And Should Not — Be Paying Down Their Mortgage

VIDEO : Who Should — And Should Not — Be Paying Down Their Mortgage


2009
07.31

Financial advice is rarely one-size-fits-all, but this interview with Suze Orman is worth a watch.

In 5 minutes with NBC’s The Today Show, Ms. Orman covers a ton of relevant ground for homeowners and the public-at-large:

  • Who should — and shouldn’t — be paying down their mortgage
  • What backlash to expect from the Dow’s 40% run-up since March
  • Why July 2009 is so different of an environment from July 2008

Then, as a bonus, Orman explains the relationship between bond prices to bond yields. It’s the heart of why mortgage rates rise when inflation is present.

A lot of what Orman talks about is spot-on, but that doesn’t necessarily make it appropriate for your individual situation. Before acting on Orman’s opinions, talk to your financial professional first.

Comments Off on The Little-Known Reason Why Mortgage Rates Are Rising This Week (And Why They May Go Higher Still)

The Little-Known Reason Why Mortgage Rates Are Rising This Week (And Why They May Go Higher Still)


2009
07.30

Too much supply and not enough demand leads to lower pricesAfter starting the week with a run lower toward 5 percent, mortgage rates have reversed course.

It started mid-day Tuesday and the culprit is Basic Economics. Here’s why.

Mortgage rates are based on the price of mortgage-backed bonds and — like most things — mortgage-backed bonds prices are based in Supply and Demand.

When bond supplies grow faster than the corresponding demand for them, bond prices tend to fall and when bond prices are down, bond yields are up.

Meanwhile, this week, the U.S. Treasury is making its largest weekly auction in history. $115 billion in new debt, to be exact. This means that before the week is through, $115 billion in new bond supply will have been introduced into the market and — so far — demand hasn’t kept pace with the new supply.

Prices are plunging.

For home buyers and rate shoppers, this is especially bad news because mortgage-backed debt is less desirable to investors than is treasury debt. As a result, when treasury debt loses values, mortgage-backed debt tends to lose value, too. Not always, but most of the time.

So, beginning with Tuesday afternoon’s auction, debt supplies have been growing faster than buyer demand.

Bond markets are suffering from an abundance of debt supply and it’s been a big reason why mortgage rates are rising. The week’s not over yet, either. $28 billion is due for auction Thursday.

If demand at the auction is similarly low, watch for mortgage rates to spike again.

Comments Off on Using The Case-Shiller Index To Predict The End Of The Recession

Using The Case-Shiller Index To Predict The End Of The Recession


2009
07.29

Case-Shiller Index one-month results April-May 2009

For May, the Case-Shiller Index showed home values up in 15 of its 20 tracked U.S. markets. It’s the first time in nearly 3 years that the index showed such strength and a signal that home prices may be turning higher for good.

According to a Case-Shiller Index spokesperson, “this could be a signal that home price declines are finally stabilizing.”

However, just because the Case-Shiller Index indicates home values are stabilizing, doesn’t necessarily make it true. Real estate is a local phenomenon and the Case-Shiller Index tracks just 20 U.S. cities.

Residents of every other town are unaccounted for.

Additionally, even within the 20 tracked cities, there are distinct neighborhoods and pockets that are under-performing the general market — just as there are those that are over-performing. The Case-Shiller Index can’t get that granular.

Despite its imperfections, the Case-Shiller Index remains a helpful, broader measurement of U.S. real estate. Economists believe that housing led the U.S. into the recession and they believe housing will lead us out, too.

If that’s true, May’s figures are the next step in the right direction.

Comments Off on More Housing Strength : New Home Sales Surge In June

More Housing Strength : New Home Sales Surge In June


2009
07.28

Months of Supply (New Homes) -- June 2009Once again, the housing market is showing that its worst days may be over.

According to the Census Bureau, the number of new homes sold in June leapt by 11 percent from the month prior. It stands as the biggest one-month jump in 8 years.

A “new home sale” is when a home in any stage of construction — not yet started, under construction, or already completed — goes under contract, often with a builder. It’s the opposite of an “existing home sale”.

In addition to surging sales, the monthly supply of new homes fell to its lowest level in 11 years.

Because home values are based on the relative supply and demand for a particular home in a particular area, anytime that demand for homes grows faster than supply, we would expect prices to rise.

Indeed, that’s what we’ve been seeing.

The combination of low interest rates, seller-paid incentives and a first-time home buyer tax credit is bringing buyers into the market faster than new supply can come online. It’s one reason why home prices have stopped falling across many parts of the country.

It’s also why home buyers may find it tougher to get “a good deal” in real estate later this year and into 2010. If demand stays high and supplies fall further, sellers should regain the upper-hand in contract negotiations.

Comments Off on What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : July 27, 2009

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : July 27, 2009


2009
07.27

The US Treasury is issuing $115 billion in debt this weekMortgage markets carved out a wide range last week, creating a mixed bag for mortgage rate shoppers.

Rates were much improved on Monday and Tuesday, much worse on Wednesday and Thursday, and idle for most of Friday.

Overall, mortgage rates improved slightly but don’t expect the volatility to subside.

There is a ton of economic data scheduled for release this week — at least one new data point per day, actually. Each could cause mortgage rates to rise or fall:

  • Monday : New Home Sales
  • Tuesday : Consumer Confidence
  • Wednesday : The Fed’s Beige Book
  • Thursday : Initial Jobless Claims
  • Friday : Personal Consumption Expenditures

If the data points to a rosier outlook for the U.S. economy, expect that mortgage rates will rise. If data looks weak, rates should fall.

There’s another factor influencing rates this week, too, and that’s the U.S. Treasury’s plan to sell its most weekly debt in history. Across four separate auctions, the government is selling $115 billion in notes. If the notes are in low demand, bond prices will fall, pushing up rates.

Indirectly, this should cause mortgage rates to rise. If demand is very weak, mortgage rates should rise by a lot.

This week in mortgage markets is among the most eventful we’ve seen all year. Expect mortgage rates to be on the move.

Comments Off on Home Supply Falls To An 8-Month Low

Home Supply Falls To An 8-Month Low


2009
07.24

Existing Home Supply June 2009The national home supply is falling, down to its lowest levels since December 2008.

In June, there was 9.4 months of supply, down from a year-ago level of 11.0 months. It’s one more sign that the housing market may be mending itself.

Housing supply is an important metric because home values across every U.S. market are rooted in Supply and Demand. When the supply of available homes outpaces buyer demand, home values tend to fall. And, by contrast, when homes are relatively scarce, values tend to rise.

We’re still a long way from historical averages, but dwindling home inventory may be one reason why the national median sale price rose by $7,000 last month.

A reduction in inventory may also explain why two other popular home value metrics — the government’s Home Price Index and the private sector’s Case-Shiller Index — are each showing signs of a rebound, too.

However, before we get too excited, it’s important to remember that home sales of late have been spurred by low mortgage rates and by the First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit. A real estate trade group says first-timers represent 29 percent of the market, for example.

But so long as rates remain low and buyer stimulus is in place, we can expect that the recent trends in real estate will continue. Inventory should continue to drop and prices should start to rise.

Therefore, if you’re planning to buy a home in the next 12 months, buying sooner rather than later may be a smart way to save on your next home.

Comments Off on The Home Price Index Shows That Home Values Increased In May

The Home Price Index Shows That Home Values Increased In May


2009
07.23

The FHFA Home Price Index May 2009Home values around the country appear to be leveling.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s latest Home Price Index report shows values up by nearly 1 percent in May versus the month prior.

Since peaking in April 2007, values remain off by 11 percent nationwide.

The FHFA Home Price Index is an interesting metric. Different from the Case-Shiller Index which collects data from just 20 U.S. markets, the Home Price Index reflects every U.S. home that backs a mortgage sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In this sense, the FHFA Home Price Index is more “national” than the Case-Shiller Index but the HPI has its flaws, too.

The House Price Index specifically excludes from its measurements the sales price on any home purchase with any of following traits:

  1. Is new home construction
  2. Is a multi-unit property
  3. Is financed by an entity other than Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac

Because of these exclusions, some analysts say the report is incomplete. The same could be said of every method of home valuation, however.

Therefore, what’s most important to today’s home buyers and sellers is that each of the “popular” home valuation reports shows similar patterns. Home prices appear to have stopped falling and may be even starting to recover.

It won’t be for a few years that we’ll be able to look back and point to the exact month that real estate bottomed. Nevertheless, considering how the data has presented as of late, it’s reasonable to think that we’ve already hit it. Certainly, that’s what the Home Price Index suggests.

For a region-by-region breakdown of the Home Price Index, visit the FHFA website.

Comments Off on Mortgage Rates Drop On Bernanke’s “Exit Strategy” From Markets

Mortgage Rates Drop On Bernanke’s “Exit Strategy” From Markets


2009
07.22

A mortgage market rally followed the Ben Bernanke testimony on Capitol HillMortgage markets rallied Tuesday while Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke gave his semi-annual testimony to Congress.

By the time the day was over, some conforming mortgage rates were down by as much as 0.250 percent.

One of the leading causes for the market rally was Chairman Bernanke revealing an “exit strategy” from its massive market stimulus.

Until Tuesday, the Fed hadn’t gone into much depth about means and methods by which it would unwind its interventions. In addition to penning a widely-read Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal Tuesday, Bernanke testified to Congress that the Federal Reserve has a viable “exit strategy”.

Wall Street was pleased to hear it.

The specter of long-term inflation has spooked the mortgage markets off-and-on since the start of the year. It’s one of the reasons why mortgage rates have been so jumpy, and why they crossed 6 percent last month. Inflation is terrible for mortgage markets.

So, with the fear of inflation subsiding — at least temporarily — mortgage rates sunk Tuesday.

With any bit of luck, momentum will carry rates lower today and through the rest of the week. But, don’t get greedy. Mortgage markets are notoriously fickle and one “bad” statement from the Fed Chairman could cause rates to rise right back up.

Bernanke’s complete Tuesday testimony can read online at the Federal Reserve website.

Comments Off on Housing Starts Make Its Largest Leap Since 2004

Housing Starts Make Its Largest Leap Since 2004


2009
07.21

Housing Starts June 2009

Housing Starts soared in June, thumping analyst expectations for the second straight month.

A “housing start” is a new home on which construction has started. Last month’s jump in single-family starts is the largest one-month jump since 2004.

To Wall Street, June’s figures are the latest signal that the country’s housing markets may be on the mend.

For home sellers, however, the news may not be so rosy. With more homes expected to come on the market, price competition among sellers could intensify and — all things equal — that would push sales prices lower.

So far in 2009, that hasn’t happened.

As home supply has grown, it’s been met by off-setting buyer demand. Spurred by low mortgage rates and an $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit, Americans appear to find today’s home buying conditions somewhat ideal.

As a result, purchase activity has been strong and first-time home buyers now account for close to 30 percent of existing home sales.

Rising Housing Starts can be a double-edged sword. It shows strength that builders are more optimistic about the economy, but too much optimism can lead to a glut of unsold homes and that could reverse the recovery’s momentum.

Comments Off on What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : July 20, 2009

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : July 20, 2009


2009
07.20

Initial Jobless Claims July 11 2009Mortgage markets had an awful week last week as a combination of strong economic data and stand-out earnings results led investors into more risky investments.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 7 percent.

Mortgage rates, unfortunately, didn’t fare as well. As the first week since June in which mortgage rates rose, rates were up by a lot.

Mostly for three reasons.

The week’s first big mortgage rate bump came Tuesday, right after Goldman Sachs released its blowout quarterly numbers. As one of the world’s largest financial firms, Goldman’s strong showing hinted that the financial crisis may finally be finished.

Next, rates were impacted by the release of the Fed Minutes from its June meeting. In the report, it was revealed that Ben Bernanke & Co raised the economic forecast for both 2009 and 2010, noting that the recession should be ending soon.

Lastly, June data showed that Retail Sales is expanding and that jobless claims are falling — two potential positives for the U.S. economy that relies so heavily on consumer spending.

This week, without much data, the mortgage market should continue to take its cue from the stock market. If stocks improve, rates are expected to worsen. And vice versa.

The week’s key events are Fed Chairman Bernanke’s Tuesday testimony on Capitol Hill and Thursday’s Existing Home Sales data. Mortgage rates remain volatile so if you’re offered a rate that comfortably fits your household budget, consider locking in before the market can change.