Archive for February, 2013

Existing Home Sales Rise As Home Inventory Shrinks

Posted in Housing Analysis by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 28th, 2013

Existing Home Sales Numbers ReleasedHome sales rose for the 11th consecutive month according to the National Association of REALTORS® Existing Home Sales Report for January.

This is the first time this has occurred since the period between July of 2005 and May of 2006.

National Average Home Price Up Over 12% Annually

The national average home price in January was $173,600, which is 12.3 percent higher than for January 2012. 

Calculated on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis, Existing Home Sales data is compiled using completed sales of single family homes, condominium units and co-ops.

January’s existing home sales rose by 0.4 percent to 4.92 million sales nationally as compared to December’s revised annual rate of 4.90 million sales nationally.

National sales of existing homes increased by 9.1 percent as compared to January 2012.

Regional Home Sales Support Housing Recovery

Regional home sales for January suggest more good news for housing markets. Seasonally- adjusted annual home sales rose in all regions of the U.S. except in the West, while median home prices rose for all regions.

Northeast: Home sales were up by 4.8 percent in January to 650,000 sales, which is 12.1 percent more homes sold than for January 2012. The median home price rose by 2.4 percent from January 2012 to $230,500.

Midwest: Annual home sales in January increased by 3.6 percent to 1.16 million; this is 17.2 percent higher than for January 2012. The median home price in the Midwest rose to $131,800, an increase of 8.6 percent as compared to January 2012.

South: Home sales were up by 1 percent to 1.96 million sales in January; this represents a 14.0 percent increase in annual sales as compared to one year ago. The average home price for the South was $152,100, an increase of 13.4 percent over January 2012.

West: Home sales fell by 5.7 percent to an annual rate of $1.15 million. This represents a 5.7 percent decrease in sales from one year ago. The median home price in January was $239,800 and was 26.6 percent above the region’s median sale price for January 2012.

A falling inventory of homes for sale may be holding back buyers; the inventory of homes for sale fell to a 4.2 month supply from December’s 4.5 month supply of homes. A 6-month supply of homes is considered average.

Home Prices May Rise Quickly

While the spring home buying season will likely see more homes come on the market in Royal Oak and the surrounding area , economists caution that home prices could rise faster than expected due to increasing demand. A seller’s market could be in the making.

Mortgage rates also appear to be rising; now may be your best time for gaining the advantage of relatively low home prices and mortgage rates.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week: February 25th, 2013

Posted in Mortgage Rates by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 25th, 2013

What's Ahead This WeekA quiet past week in economic news caused mortgage rates to worsen slightly.

This week, however, will be packed with economic reports which may have an impact on interest rates going forward.

Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by 3 basis points from 3.53 percent to 3.56 percent with borrowers paying 0.8 in discount points and all of their closing costs.

The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was unchanged from last week at 2.77 percent with borrowers paying 0.8 in discount points and all of their closing costs.

In other economic news, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for January fell slightly to 0.0 percent as compared to Wall Street expectations of 0.1 percent and December’s reading of 0.1 percent.

The Core CPI, which measures consumer prices exclusive of volatile food and energy sectors, was 0.3 percent for January and surpassed analyst expectations of 0.2 percent and December’s reading of 0.1 percent.

Inflation Remains Low

These readings remain well below the 2.5 percent inflation level cited by the Fed as cause for concern.

According to the Department of Commerce, Housing Starts for January fell to 890,000 from December’s 954,000 and below Wall Street projections of 910,000.

These seasonally adjusted and annualized numbers are obtained from a sample of 844 builders selected from 17,000 newly permitted building sites.

Falling construction rates could further affect low supplies of homes reported in some areas; as demand for homes increase, home prices and mortgage rates can be expected to rise.

Full Economic Calendar This Week

This week’s economic news schedule is full; Treasury auctions are scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. New Home Sales will be released Tuesday.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is set to testify before Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wednesday’s news includes the Pending Home Sales Index and Durable Orders.

Thursday’s news includes the preliminary GDP report for Q4 2012, the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index, and weekly jobless claims.

Friday brings Personal Income and Core Personal Expenditures (CPE).

Consumer Sentiment, the ISM Index and Construction Spending round out the week’s economic news.

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How To Know If You Will Need Private Mortgage Insurance on Your Mortgage Loan

Posted in Mortgage Guidelines by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 22nd, 2013

Private Mortgage Insurance

 

Have you heard the term Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) when looking to finance real estate?

You may be wondering what PMI is and how you know when you need to purchase it.

These answers can be hard to find among all the real estate jargon you might be hearing lately.

Below is the short version of what you need to know.

What is Private Mortgage Insurance?

Private Mortgage Insurance is an insurance premium required by some lenders to offset the risk of a borrower defaulting on their home loan.

When you put down less than 20 percent of the real estate’s purchase price, the lender will generally require that PMI is added to the loan.

It is usually added into the monthly mortgage payment until the equity position in the real estate reaches 20 percent. However, there may be other options available in your area.

Under the current law, PMI will be canceled automatically when you reach 22 percent equity in your home, if you are current on your payments.

If you aren’t current, the lender may not be required to cancel the mortgage insurance because the loan is considered high-risk.

After getting caught up on your payments, the PMI will likely be cancelled. Any money that you have overpaid must be refunded to you within 45 days.

What if Your Real Estate Increases in Value?

With a conventional loan, it may take as many as 15 years of a 30-year loan to pay your balance down 20 percent making the minimum monthly payment.

But, if property values in your area rise, you might be able to cancel the PMI sooner.

Some lenders may be willing to consider the new value of your home to determine the equity in your home.

You may, however, be responsible for any fees, like an appraisal, that are incurred to assess the new value of your property.

In the end, private mortgage insurance is likely a good option if you can’t afford a down payment of 20 percent of the purchase price.

Now May Be A Very Good Time To Take Action

With all of the activity happening the housing market, now may be the best time for you to purchase your new home. 

A smart next move would be speaking with a qualified home financing professional to learn which programs and down payment options are available in the Birmingham area. 

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Builder Confidence In New Home Sales Stay Near All Time High

Posted in Housing Analysis by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 20th, 2013

Home Builder Confidence Strong

Many times real estate market experts point to the feelings of the nation’s home builders as a bell-weather signalling the health of the housing sector.

This month’s reading indicates that home builders are feeling pretty good.

The National Association of Home Builders / Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) for February changed by one point to 46 as compared to 47 for January’s reading. 

Over the last four months, HMI readings have stayed within a three-point range between 45 and 47, indicating a plateau after rising from 25 to 45 in 2012.

Housing Market Index Near Highest Levels Since 2006

The good news is that February’s reading remains near the HMI’s highest level since April 2006, when the HMI reading reached 51.

Some builders may be taking a wait-and-see stance in their confidence as high national unemployment rates and rising costs for building materials impact home buying ability and home prices.

Regional factors influencing builder confidence include difficulties in finding building sites and labor required for building new homes.

3 Important Categories Affect The Home Builders Index

The HMI is a seasonally-adjusted index comprised of three survey categories of home builder confidence.

Readings above 50 indicate that more builders are finding conditions good than bad within each category and overall:

  • Builder confidence in current new single-family home sales fell by one point to 51 in February, but sustained a positive rating.
  • Builder confidence in new single-family home sales over the next six months achieved a reading of 50 in February, up from 49 in January.
  • Builder confidence in foot-traffic in new single-family homes fell by four points from 36 in January to 32 in February.

February results for four regional categories consist of 3-month moving averages for new home sales: the Northeast gained 3 points to 39, The West gained 4 points to 55, the Midwest fell 2 points to 48 and the South fell by 2 points to 47.

With demand for homes increasing, home prices and mortgage rates are likely to rise during spring and summer as warmer weather brings out more potential buyers.

Check with your real estate and mortgage professional for the most updated market details in your area. 

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3 Stress-Free Packing Tips For Moving Into Your New Home

Posted in Around The Home by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 19th, 2013

Packing Tips For Moving HomesMoving everything in your house to your new |**CITY & CITY**| home can be an overwhelming task.

You never realize how much stuff you actually own until you try to fit it all into boxes and move it somewhere new.

When you are packing up your things to relocate, here are some helpful tips to make your moving experience much easier:

Start Packing In Advance

You don’t have to wait until the day before you move to start packing everything in your house!

As soon as you find out that you are moving, you can start packing the items you don’t often use, such as your seasonal decorations, photo albums and family keepsakes.

If you pack a few items per week, you’ll have almost everything packed by the time you are ready to go except for the essentials you use every day.

Establish A System

Rather than randomly throwing every item you see into a box, think ahead and create a logical plan for your packing.

Before you start, develop a simple record-keeping system.

Give every box you pack a number and write a corresponding list detailing the items in that box.

This way, when you arrive you will know exactly where to find each item.

Stay Organized

You will want to keep all of the items from each area of the house together so they can be unpacked easily.

For example, keep all of the boxes of kitchen supplies together and then put them straight into the kitchen when you arrive at your new home.

You could even designate a color for each room in the house and put colored stickers on the boxes so that the movers or anyone helping you can easily determine in which room a box belongs.

Bonus Tip: Sometimes Less Is More

One final consideration that can make your move easier is to use your move as an opportunity to pare down your unused belongings.

Plus, you won’t be left wondering why you decided to move things from one home to another once you start unpacking.

As with many things, the more organized you are when packing, the less stressful it will be when you arrive and at your new house. 

 

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Over 70% Of US Metro Market Housing Markets Improve In February

Posted in Housing Analysis by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 14th, 2013

Improving Market IndexThe National Association of Homebuilders recently released its Improving Markets Index for the month of February.

The report attempts to identify U.S. metropolitan areas in which the economy is improving, demonstrating “measurable and sustained growth”.

259 U.S. markets are qualified as “improving” this month, a 17-market jump from the month prior and includes participants from all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia.

Experts point to improving market conditions in at least one market in all 50 states as a strong indication that the housing recovery is gaining substantial momentum.

This increasing momentum may suggest that now may be a very good time to purchase a home.

Compared to September 2011, when there were just 12 improving metro market areas, the widespread positive movement indicates how conditions are steadily improving nationwide.

So what qualifies a market as “improving”? The NAHB uses strict criteria.

First, the group gathers data from the three separate, independent sources :

  1. Employment growth from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
  2. Housing price appreciation from Freddie Mac
  3. Single-family housing permits growth from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Next, for each of the above data sets, the National Association of Homebuilders separates for local data in each U.S. major metropolitan area.

And, lastly, armed with data, the NAHB looks for areas in which growth has occurred for all three data points for six consecutive months; and for which the most recent “bottom” is at least six months in the past.

In this way, the Improving Market Index doesn’t just measure housing market strength — it measures general economic strength.

Of the 22 markets added to the Improving Market Index in November, the following cities were included : Chico, California; Columbus, Georgia; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Topeka, Kansas; and Wenatchee, Washington.

Several markets dropped off the list, too, including Champaign, Illinois; Lebanon, Pennsylvania; and Amarillo, Texas.

The complete list of 259 metropolitan areas on February’s IMI, plus breakouts of the metropolitan areas newly added and dropped is available online at http://www.nahb.org/imi.

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5 Power Saving Ideas That Can Lower Your Energy Bill

Posted in Around The Home by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 13th, 2013

Energy Saving IdeasHow to Save Money on Energy Costs in Your Home

Many communities in Michigan and around the US are seeing their energy costs increase; sometimes dramatically.

Whether you are energy conscious or just trying to save money, there are many steps you can take to lower your Royal Oak home bills while helping the environment at the same time.

Below are several energy-saving measures to help you save money either in your current house or future residence. 

Heating and cooling

Keeping your home at a comfortable temperature uses more energy than anything else.

To save energy, install a programmable thermostat to adjust the inside temperature when you are not there for long periods of time.

Seal windows and doors to prevent air leaks, and close doors and air vents to rooms that are not often used.

Changing filters in your heating system monthly can also help it run more efficiently, with the added bonus of increasing the air quality in your home.

Water heaters

Heating water is usually the second highest energy expense. To cut costs, set the hot water heater at 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Wrap older hot water heaters with an insulation jacket and insulate the piping leaving the water heater to prevent heat loss.

Appliances

Invest in appliances with the ENERGY STAR® rating. These appliances use less energy to run and will save money.

Cleaning the coils on the back of your refrigerator will help it run more efficiently.

Washing full loads of clothes on cooler settings and keeping your dryer vent clean will also save on energy costs.

Lighting

Besides turning lights out when leaving a room, use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). These bulbs use less energy and can last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.

Insulation

Improperly insulated houses mean high energy costs. If the attic is easily accessible, check and replace insufficient insulation to keep your living space at a more comfortable temperature.

By making energy-efficient choices you can save electricity without giving up the comforts of home.  Plus, with a little extra effort these simple tips might add more money to your month as well!

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Clever Tips for Paying Off Your Home Mortgage Faster

Posted in Personal Finance by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 12th, 2013

Pay Off Mortgage Faster

Paying off the mortgage on your Bloomfield Hills home faster not only means that you’ll be able to enjoy the peace of mind that comes with completely owning your property earlier, but you may also save thousands of dollars in interest payments.

Below are seven clever tips to help you get your mortgage payments on the fast track.

1. Save for a large down payment

Pay as large a down payment as you can reasonably afford. The more you can put down, then the less you’ll have to borrow from the bank.

2. Read the fine print

When you are choosing a mortgage, look at the fine print to find out if any restrictions apply to paying early. Some lenders will charge you for making extra or early payments. 

3. Prepay early in the life of the mortgage

This is when the loan is the most interest-heavy. In the first five to seven years you are likely paying mostly interest. Request an amortization schedule of your mortgage to get a clear picture of how this works.

4. Be smart with unforeseen fortune

If you get an unexpected chunk of cash, such as a gift, prize, work bonus, inheritance, tax refund or other windfall, consider applying it straight to paying down the principal on your mortgage.

5. Double-check your records

When you make extra payments, ensure that they are processed correctly. Sometimes when the lender receives a payment that is outside of the monthly cycle, they may not know what to do with it. Make a special note and keep track of the payments yourself, so you can make sure they’ve been applied to your principal.

6. Increase your payment

Even increasing your payment by a small amount every month may take years off the length of your mortgage. Consider how much you can afford to pay every month rather than just the minimum payment amount.

7. Think about a bi-weekly payment

You might want to switch to an accelerated bi-weekly mortgage payment rather than a monthly payment. This typically applies an extra payment each year.

These are just a few techniques you can use to pay off your mortgage faster.

Remember, the quicker you pay off your mortgage, the less interest you will be paying.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week: February 11th, 2013

Posted in Mortgage Rates by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 11th, 2013

Homebuilder Confidence ImprovesMortgage rates worsened last week in response to more indications that the U.S. economy and global economic trends are improving. Global economic data was stronger than expected; which generally boosts investor confidence and leads to higher mortgage rates in Michigan and across the country.

According to Freddie Mac, the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.53 percent with borrowers paying all of their closing costs and 0.8 percent in discount points along with a full complement of closing costs.

The U.S Department of Commerce reported that Factory Orders for December improved over November; they rose from 0.0 percent in November to 1.89 percent in December, but fell short of Wall Street’s expectation of 2.5 percent.

The ISM Services Index for January was released Tuesday and fell to 55.2 from December’s reading of 56.1 and was slightly higher than against investors’ expectations of 55.0. Readings above 50 indicate expansion of the service sector of the economy. The ISM Services Index is also an indicator of future inflationary pressure.

Homebuilders Say Markets Improve For 6th Consecutive Month

On Wednesday, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) released its NAHB/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI), which provided good news for housing markets in all 50 states and Washington, D. C. Metro housing markets surveyed showed expansion of improving markets for the sixth consecutive month.

259 of the 361 metro areas surveyed in the IMI showed improvement in February. By comparison, only 12 improving metro markets were reported for September of 2011.

Increasing home prices and mortgage rates suggest that now may be the time for buying a home.

The weekly Jobless Claims report released on Thursday indicated that 366,000 new claims were filed, which was higher than Wall Street’s estimate of 360,000 new jobless claims, but lower than the previous week’s 368,000 new jobless claims.

Falling U.S. Trade Deficit Signals Economic Uptick

The best economic news for last week came on Friday, when the U.S. trade deficit fell to its lowest level since January 2010. The Trade Balance Report for December shows the trade deficit at -$38.5 billion against expectations of -$46 billion and November’s deficit of -$48.7 billion. While a great boost for the economy, this is another indicator that recent low mortgage rates and home prices may soon become history.

Economic News scheduled for this upcoming week includes U.S. Treasury Auctions set for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Retail Sales for January will be released on Wednesday and watched closely by investors. Retail sales account for approximately 70 percent of the U.S. economy and are viewed as a strong indicator of the economy’s direction.

Jobless Claims on Thursday, Industrial Production and Consumer Sentiment on Friday round out the week’s economic reports.

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Case-Shiller Index Shows Near 6% Home Price Gain

Posted in Housing Analysis by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 7th, 2013

Case-Shiller Index November 2012Home prices continue their upward climb. 

Last week, the S&P/Case-Shiller Index showed home prices gaining 5.5 percent during the 12-month period ending November 2012, marking the largest one-year gain in home prices since May 2010.

The Case-Shiller Index measures changes in home prices by tracking same-home sales throughout 20 housing markets nationwide; and the change in sales price from sale-to-sale.

Detached, single-family residences are used in the Case-Shiller Index methodology and data is for closed purchase transactions only.

Between November 2011 and November 2012, home values rose in 19 of the 20 Case-Shiller Index markets, with previously-hard hit areas such as Phoenix, Arizona leading the national price recovery.

The Phoenix market gained 1.4% for the month and was up 22.8% for the previous 12 months combined. 

The top three monthly “gainers” for November 2012 were:

  • Phoenix, Arizona : +1.4 percent
  • San Francisco, California :  +1.4 percent
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota : +1.0 Percent

Only New York City posted annual home value depreciation. On average, homes lost -1.2% in value there.

It should be noted, however, that the Case-Shiller Index is an imperfect gauge of home values.

First, as mentioned, the index tracks changes in the detached, single-family housing market only. It specifically ignores sales of condominiums, co-ops and multi-unit homes. 

Second, the Case-Shiller Index data set is limited to just 20 U.S. cities. There are more than 3,000 cities nationwide, which illustrates that the Case-Shiller sample set is limited. 

And, lastly, the home sale price data used for the Case-Shiller Index is nearly two months behind its release date, rendering its conclusions somewhat out-of-date. 

That said, the Case-Shiller Index joins the bevy of home value trackers pointing to home price growth over the last year. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), for example, reported similar home price growth with its November 2012 House Price Index (HPI).

Home values rose 0.6 percent between October and November 2012 nationwide, the FHFA said, and climbed 5.6 percent during the 12 months ending November 2012. 

Economists attribute increasing home prices to higher buyer demand, record-low mortgage rates and the gradual improvement of the U.S. economy.

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