Archive for June, 2010

Comments Off on Case-Shiller Shows Home Price Improvement In 90% Of Cities

Case-Shiller Shows Home Price Improvement In 90% Of Cities


2010
06.30

Case-Shiller Change In Home Values Mar-Apr 2010

Standard & Poors released its Case-Shiller Index Tuesday.  The index is a monthly home valuation report from select cities and among the private sector’s most popular home pricing models.

In reviewing the April Case-Shiller Index and its accompanying analysis, it appears that the housing market’s rebound is gathering momentum.

In the index’s 20 tracked cities:

  • 18 of 20 improved from March to April 2010
  • Versus April 2009, home prices are up nearly 4 percent
  • The two “down” cities from April — Miami and New York — are off just 0.5% and 1.0% annually, respectively

Furthermore, as another sign of strength, San Diego, a city in which homeowners have lost a lot of equity since 2007, has now shown 12 straight months of home price improvement.

However, the Case-Shiller Index must be kept in context. It’s far from perfect.

For one, the index reports on a 60-day delay; it’s only now showing data from the end of April, when the federal homebuyer tax credit was expiring. Home sales have been weak since then it’s been reported.

And second, the Case-Shiller Index is limited to just 20 cities nationwide. Therefore, the index doesn’t consider every home sale in every American city — it only considers a select few. Many more U.S. homes are excluded from the Case-Shiller Index than are included.

But, despite its flaws, the Case-Shiller Index remains important with respect to economic analysis. Much like the government’s Home Price Index, Case-Shiller helps to identify broader trends in housing that shape government and monetary policy.

Comments Off on The 1 Force That Can Really Change A Mortgage Rate

The 1 Force That Can Really Change A Mortgage Rate


2010
06.29

Inflation and mortgage ratesAll day, every day, conforming and FHA mortgage rates in Arizona are in flux.  Rates move in response to hundreds of factors which exact varying levels of influence.

Among the biggest influences on mortgage rates is inflation.  When inflation is unexpectedly high, mortgage rates tend to rise quickly. Conversely, when inflation is unexpectedly low, rates tend to fall quickly.

But what is inflation?

By definition, inflation is when a currency loses its value; when what used to cost $1.00 now costs $1.10.

As consumers, we recognize inflation by the items we buy on a daily basis becoming more expensive.  However, it’s not that goods are more expensive — it’s that the dollars we’re using to buy them have become worth less.

With respect to mortgage rates, this is a big deal because mortgage rates are directly related to the price of a special type of bond called a mortgage-backed bond.

On Wall Street, mortgage-backed bonds are priced, bought, and sold in U.S. dollars so as inflation renders those dollars less valuable, so it does to mortgage-backed bonds as well. It’s a chain reaction by which mortgage bonds lose value, leading investors sell them, causing bond prices to fall on the excess supply.

And, because mortgage rates move opposite of bond prices, as inflation takes hold, mortgage rates rise.

Lately, inflation has been exceptionally low. The Federal Reserve acknowledged as much in its last statement to the markets, and available data backs that position.  This, after predictions that inflation would be “runaway” in 2010.

The Cost of Living is up just modestly this year and it’s helping mortgage rates stay low. And, so long as it lasts, the cost of owning a home will remain relatively inexpensive.

Comments Off on What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : June 28, 2010

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : June 28, 2010


2010
06.28

Non-Farm Payrolls June 2008-May 2010Mortgage markets improved last week in response to mostly negative data about the U.S. economy, and the Federal Reserve’s acknowledgement that Eurozone financial ills could cross the Atlantic.

Conforming and FHA mortgage rates fell last week, extending a rate rally that dates to early-April.  Mortgage rates have fallen to several, new, all-time lows during this period and last week was no different.

The best rates of last week hit Thursday morning.

This week, mortgage rates should be volatile, and may rise, too.  There’s a bevy of data due for release, and market volume will be light with the long weekend looming.

Monday, the Personal Consumptions Expenditures Price Index is published. More commonly known as “PCE”, the index is the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge. When inflation is running higher than expected, mortgage rates tend to rise.

Conversely, when inflation is running lower than expected, mortgage rates tend to fall.

Tuesday, the Case-Shiller Index will be released for April’s home prices, along with two consumer confidence reports.  As with PCE, strength tends to lead mortgage rates higher and weakness draws them lower.

Thursday, the National Association of REALTORS® releases its Pending Home Sales Index for May and the Department of Labor releases initial and continuing jobless claims number.

Then, Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes June’s jobs report, including the Unemployment Rate.  This number is always a market-mover, but with the long vacation weekend looming, it’s expected that Friday’s volume will be light on Wall Street, creating extra volatility. 

Mortgage rates may be erratic, in other words.

If you’ve been shopping for mortgages, you’ve been rewarded with falling rates. However, will rates cutting new lows almost weekly and expected to reverse soon, it may be a good time to lock up your savings.

Talk to your loan officer ASAP about locking in your rate.

Comments Off on Buyers Take The May 2010 New Home Sales Data All The Way To The Bank

Buyers Take The May 2010 New Home Sales Data All The Way To The Bank


2010
06.25

New Home Supply May 2009 - May 2010

One month after the federal homebuyer tax credit’s official expiration, the New Home Sales report turned in its worst showing ever.

In May 2010, for the first time in 11 months, the inventory of unsold new homes crossed the 8-month marker, posting an 8.5 month supply overall.

Additionally, new homes sales volume fell to 300,000 units nationwide — a drop of 32% and its lowest level since the Commerce Department started tracking data in 1963.

Now, universally, the press is referring to the May New Home Sales report as “poor“.  A closer look, however, shows that may not be the case.

For one, we have to keep New Home Sales in perspective as a percentage of overall home sales. Yes, there were just 300,000 new homes sold in May, but there were also 5.66 million “existing” homes sold.

New Home Sales, therefore, accounted for just 5 percent of the total housing market — a very small percentage.

Another reason why the weak New Home Sales data isn’t so awful is that, when New Home Sales stall, it actually benefits home buyers.  Excess supply puts a strain on sellers which, in turn, gives buyers a tremendous amount of leverage in negotiation.

When home inventories are high, builders are more apt to appease their customers in hopes of making a sale.  For Scottsdale home buyers, this can result in buying a better product at a lower price.

Especially with builder confidence plummeting.

Since February 2009, housing has shown steady gains. There’s been both peaks and valleys across units, inventories, and prices, but overall, the market is improving.  May’s New Home Sales data shows how now may an opportune time to “buy new”.

Comments Off on What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : June 21, 2010

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : June 21, 2010


2010
06.21

FOMC meets this weekMortgage markets improved last week on weaker-than-expected jobless figures, ongoing troubles in Europe, and a tame reading on domestic inflation.

As a result, conforming mortgage rates for Arizona fell last week, drawing loads of new refinance applications.

For a brief moment Thursday afternoon, mortgage bond prices pierced a key support level, dropping rates in Phoenix to their best levels of the year. 

It didn’t last long, however. By Friday morning, pricing was worsening on profit-taking and in preparation for this week — a week that promises to be heavy on both data and rhetoric.

To mortgage markets, this can be a dangerous combination.

The biggest news of the week is the Federal Reserve’s 2-day meeting, scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington D.C. 

The Fed is expected to hold the Fed Funds Rate in its target range near 0.000-0.250 percent. It won’t be what the Fed does at its meeting that will matter to rates, though. It will be what the Fed says — about jobs, about growth, about inflation — in its post-meeting press release.

Remarks that reflect well upon the economy should lead mortgage rates higher. Remarks viewed as negative should lead mortgage rates down.

There’s key data due for release next week, too:

  • Tuesday : Existing Home Sales and Home Price Index
  • Wednesday : New Home Sales
  • Thursday : Continuing Jobless Claims
  • Friday : GDP and Consumer Sentiment

Mortgage rates remained relatively tame last week.  This week, volatility should return.

If you’re shopping for a mortgage, rates remain very low but could reverse quickly. Your biggest risk is tied to the Fed’s adjournment Wednesday afternoon.

Comments Off on The Home Buyer Tax Credit Extension Has Not Been Passed Into Law (Yet)

The Home Buyer Tax Credit Extension Has Not Been Passed Into Law (Yet)


2010
06.18

Tax credit was not extended -- yetAs its June 30, 2010 closing deadline approaches, the federal home buyer tax credit is back in the news.

Unfortunately, the headlines are misleading.

Contrary to what you may have read (or heard), the federal home buyer tax credit has not been extended past June 30, 2010. At least not yet. And here’s why there’s confusion.

Look at these headlines from earlier this week:

  • Senate Extends Date On Home-Buying Tax Credit (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • U.S. Senate Approves Extension Of Home Buyer Tax Credit (NASDAQ)
  • Senate Approves Home Tax Credit Extension (Reuters)

Now, nothing above is factually incorrect, but each neglects a key piece of the country’s law-making process — it takes more than the Senate to pass a law. For a bill to become a law, it must pass the Senate and the House of Representatives and then it must be ratified by the President.

To date, we’ve only cleared just one of those 3 steps.

This means that the federal home buyer tax credit has not been formally extended. As of now, it’s still in discussion.  Ultimately, though, if the extension does pass, it’s expected to extend the closing date deadline for Phoenix home buyers beyond the original June 30, 2010 date into September 2010.

Homeowners must still have been in contract as of April 30, 2010 to claim up to $8,000 in federal tax credits.

Comments Off on Good News For Sellers : Housing Starts Fall To 1-Year Low In May 2010

Good News For Sellers : Housing Starts Fall To 1-Year Low In May 2010


2010
06.17

Housing starts June 2008 - May 2010Single-family housing starts plummeted to a one-year low in May, just 30 days after soaring to a 20-month high.  It’s no wonder home builders are confused.

Against a revised April figure, Housing Starts fell 97,000 units in May, a figure representing almost one-fifth of the total market size.

It’s the worst showing for Housing Starts since May 2009, a surprise to builders and economists alike.

Furthermore, single-family Building Permits plunged in May, too — down 10 percent from April. A permit is a certification from local government that authorizes home construction.

Housing permits are a precursor to Housing Starts with 82% of homes starting construction within 60 days of permit-issuance. Fewer permits, therefore, directly reduces the number of new homes coming to market in the coming months.

For home buyers in Mesa , this should create a sense of urgency.

Home prices are based on supply and demand and supply appears to be falling about the same time that economists predict a surge in home demand.  It could spell rising home prices and a complete loss of negotiation power with home sellers.

For now, though, home affordability remains high with properties cheap and mortgage rates near all-time lows. If you plan to buy a home later this year, the May 2010 Housing Starts data may be a reason to move up your timeframe a bit.

Comments Off on Loan Application Alert : Conforming, Interest Only Mortgages Guidelines Change Next Week

Loan Application Alert : Conforming, Interest Only Mortgages Guidelines Change Next Week


2010
06.16

Fannie Mae changes the interest only guidelinesIf you plan to finance your Scottsdale home with a conforming interest only mortgage, get your loan application submitted no later than this Friday, June 18. 

Starting next week, Fannie Mae is clamping down on the popular loan product.

An “interest only” mortgage is exactly what its name implies — a mortgage for which the monthly payments consist entirely of interest with no principal reduction. Because there’s no amortization, payments are less costly on a month-to-month basis.

For example, assuming principal + interest payments at 5 percent, a $250,000 mortgage carries a monthly payment of $1,342.  The payment on a comparable interest only mortgage, however, drops to $1,042.

That’s a payment difference of $300 and the size of the cost savings, not surprisingly, is the biggest reason why Fannie Mae is making its changes.

In its official announcement, Fannie Mae says it wants the give the interest only option to “borrowers who are in a position to choose it as a financial management tool” rather than allowing homeowners use it as an affordability tool for their budgets.

Going forward, there are new minimum standards for interest only home loans.

  • Applicants must have a 720 credit score or better
  • Applicants must have at least 24 months of reserves
  • The property type may not be a 2-unit, 3-unit or 4-unit
  • The property must be a primary residence, or vacation home

Furthermore, only purchase and rate-and-term refinances are eligible.  Cash out refinances are prohibited.

Interest only home loans aren’t for everyone, but if you plan to finance with a Fannie Mae mortgage and interest only is your preference, get your loan application submitted as soon as possible. Starting Monday, approvals will be tougher to come by.

Comments Off on Shopping And Paying Bills Online? Here’s Methods To Protect Your Online Financial Identity

Shopping And Paying Bills Online? Here’s Methods To Protect Your Online Financial Identity


2010
06.15

In May 2010, Retail Sales at non-store retailers — a category that includes Amazon and eBay — topped $29 billion, up 16 percent from May 2009. Clearly, Americans are doing an increasing amount of shopping online.  And we’re paying our bills online, too.

But how well are we protecting our identities?

In this 5-minute piece from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll learn the basics of online fraud and methods to minimize the likelihood of identity theft.  Furthermore, the tips go beyond the basic “choose a challenging password”.  For example, you’ll hear about:

  • Why you shouldn’t pay bills from a coffee shop
  • Who might be hiding behind an unprotected public wifi network
  • The dangers of storing credit card numbers with an online retailer

And, although, at one point, the interviewee goes over the top with respect to spyware and anti-phishing prevention, the point being made is a good one — you can’t be too careful with your online financials and common sense goes a long way.

Comments Off on What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : June 14, 2010

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : June 14, 2010


2010
06.14

Retail Sales (June 2008 - May 2010)Mortgage markets posted four good days last week and one awful one.  Unfortunately for rate shoppers in AZ , that one bad day outweighed the gains of the other four and mortgage rates worsened on the week overall.

Despite re-touching all-time lows on Tuesday and Wednesday, Conforming and FHA mortgage rates moved higher on the week.

There wasn’t much domestic data on which for mortgage markets to move so rates took their cues from global economic activity. Strong data from Japan and China, plus an improving outlook from the Eurozone, sparked optimism among Wall Street investors. Cash poured into the stock market and it happened at the expense of bonds — including the mortgage-backed ones.

It’s the primary reasons rates rose and not even the worst Retail Sales report in 8 months could undue the damage.

Often, weak Retail Sales data causes mortgage rates to fall. Last week, however, that wasn’t the case. 

This week, there’s cause for rates to rise again with Wednesday emerging as a “data day”.

First, at 8:30 AM ET, the government releases two key housing statistics and one major gauge for inflation — Housing Starts, Building Permits and Producer Price Index, respectively.  Strength in any or all three should lead mortgage rates higher.

Then, at 5:45 PM ET, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke makes a public speech and anytime Bernanke speaks, mortgage rates can move.

Mortgage rates remain unnaturally low and a lot of Americans have taken advantage already. If you’re a homeowner and you’ve wondered whether or not a refinance makes sense, talk to your loan officer straight away. Low rates like this can’t last forever so lock one in while you can.