S&P Case-Shiller: Home Price Growth Slows in 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 30 2015According to the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index report for January, home prices grew by 4.50 percent year-over-year as compared to  January 2014’s  year-over-year  price growth rate of 10.50 percent. This was the lowest rate of home price growth since 2012.

Analysts said that although slower growth in home prices could be good news for home buyers, national wage growth is not keeping pace with home price growth. The Labor Department reports that wages are growing at an annual rate of approximately two percent. Other obstacles to home buyers include strict mortgage standards and likely increases in mortgage rates during 2015.

Highest and Lowest Home Price Growth Rates in January

The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports that January’s five highest rates of year-over-year home price growth were:

Denver, Colorado – 8.40%
Miami, Florida – 8.30%
Dallas, Texas – 8.10%
San Francisco, California – 7.90%
Portland, Oregon – 7.20%

The five cities with the lowest year-over-year rates of home price growth were:

Chicago, Illinois – 2.50%
Minneapolis, Minnesota – 2.20%
New York, New York – 2.10%
Cleveland, Ohio – 1.60%
Washington, D.C. – 1.30%

No cities included in the 20 city index recorded no or negative growth rates on a year-over-year basis.  David Blitzer, S&P Index Committee Chair, cited growing labor markets, current low mortgage rates, lower fuel prices and low inflation as positive influences on U.S. housing markets.

The Case Shiller 20-City Housing Index report for January was also impacted by severe weather conditions that reduced demand for homes.  The 20-City Index has climbed by 29 percent since reaching March 2012 lows.

Pending Home Sales Rise

In other housing related news, pending home sales indicate that home sales are increasing as the peak spring and summer buying season gets underway. The National Association of Realtors® reported that its pending home sale index reading increased by 3.10 percent to 106.9 in February.

This was the highest reading since June 2013 and was up 12.00 percent over February 2014.  Pending home sales are sales for which a contract has been signed, but the sale has not closed. Pending home sales are considered an indicator of future home sales.

Understanding Valuations and How a Real Estate Agent Can Determine Your Home’s Value

Understanding Valuations and How a Real Estate Agent Can Determine Your Home's ValueIf you are thinking about listing your home for sale, one of the biggest factors that may be holding you back from pulling the trigger on this decision is the value of your home. You may have a decent idea about the value of your home by researching other listings in your community, but you may not be able to pinpoint a fair asking price that would get your home sold quickly without leaving money on the table. The fact is that your knowledgeable real estate agent will provide you with a valuation up-front, and this can help you to make a more informed decision. There are several components to the valuation that you may need to know more about.

The Layout Of The Home

When a real estate agent is preparing a market valuation, he or she will initially tour your home to get a feel for the layout. Factors like the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the size of the living areas, if the kitchen is closed off or open to the home and more will all impact desirability and therefore value. Because of this, it is not always easy for a homeowner to determine value with accuracy, and the insight of a knowledgeable and experienced agent is important.

The Square Footage Of The Home

Your real estate agent will know the average price per square foot of homes in the area, and this price per square foot can be applied to your own home. However, keep in mind that there is a difference based on one or two-story homes. Generally, one-story homes will have a higher price per square foot than two-story homes. Other factors such as the condition of the home and special features will come into play.

The Condition And Special Features

When you receive a valuation for your home, the real estate agent will give you additional value for special features that have broad market appeal or for an improved condition over other homes in the community. For example, if your home is in an older community and you have recently updated the kitchen, you may have a value based on a higher price per square foot than other homes in your area.

The fact is that the average price per square foot of similar homes in the area will come into play for your valuation, but there are adjustments made for different features and for the condition of the home. You can learn more about the value of your home by speaking with your real estate agent.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 30, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 30 2015Last week’s economic reports included reports on new and existing home sales and FHFA’s monthly home price index for properties associated with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages. The details:

New Home Sales Surge, Existing Home Sales Drop 

According to the Department of Commerce, new home sales rose in January to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 539,000 which exceeded the expected rate of 455,000 sales and the revised figure of 500,000 sales of new homes in December 2014. This was a 7.80 percent increase over December’s figure and was the first time since 2008 that new home sales met or exceeded the benchmark of 500,000 sales for two consecutive months.

Sales of new homes were close to 25 percent higher than for January 2015, and analysts said that more jobs and relatively low mortgage rates could boost the traditionally busy spring and summer home buying season.

The National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of previously owned homes rose by 1.20 percent in February to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 4.88 million sales against expectations of 4.94 million sales of previously owned homes. Extreme winter weather was cited as a cause for the decline in sales.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors® said that the average price for pre-owned homes rose to $202,600, which represents a 7.50 percent increase year-over-year. Wages are rising at an average of 2.00 percent annually and rents are rising at an average of 3.50 percent annually. This is creating affordability issues for renters and would-be homebuyers as their incomes are not keeping pace with escalating housing and rental prices. The share of first-time home buyers rose by 1.00 percent in February, but analysts said that historically the market share for first-time buyers averages about 40.00 percent. 

FHFA: Home Price Index Falls by 0.30 Percent

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported that home prices for sales of homes associated with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages fell by 0.30 percent year-over-year in January to an increase of 5.10 percent year-over-year as compared to January 2014’year-over-year increase of 5.40 percent.

Mortgage Rates, Weekly Jobless Claims Fall

Mortgage rates fell last week. Freddie Mac reported average rates for fixed rate mortgages fell by none basis points with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaging 3.69 percent and the rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaging 2.97 percent. Discount points for fixed rate mortgages were unchanged at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by five basis points to an average of 2.92 percent. Discount points also fell from 0.50 percent to 0.40 percent.

Weekly jobless claims fell to 282,000 new claims against an expected reading of 290,000 new claims and the previous week’s reading of 291,000 new jobless claims. This reading supports reports of expanding labor markets that may give would-be home buyers the confidence to buy homes.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, Pending Home Sales, Non-Farm Payrolls and the National Unemployment Rate along with regularly scheduled releases on mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims.

Three Unique Upgrades That Will Drive Your Home’s Resale Price Through the Roof

Three Unique Upgrades That Will Drive Your Home's Resale Price Through the RoofIf you are a homeowner, you should always be thinking about ways that you can boost the resale value of your home. Whether you are planning on putting the home on the market, or simply want to be prepared for the future, there are upgrades that can make your property more desirable. Give your home the attention it deserves and you’ll be prepared for whatever may come down the line.

Go Solar With A Home Solar Installation

There’s no doubt that solar power is big in today’s housing market. It’s an excellent resource that will save you money on your utility bills. You could even find yourself in a situation where the power company is actually buying energy from you. It’s also a move that is environmentally-friendly. If you feel a responsibility to the world around you, you will have the peace of mind that comes with reducing your carbon footprint. As energy becomes scarce, solar power is something you can count on. Future buyers will benefit as well.

Install An HVAC System That Does It All

When it comes to your heating and cooling, install a system that will meet all of your needs. Keep your home at a comfortable temperature throughout the year at the touch of a button. Choose an energy saver model that uses the most feasible type of energy source in order to trim costs. When you have a modern system with automation capability, you should see a difference in your utility bills. You’ll also have a huge selling feature to show off when prospective buyers come knocking at your door.

Make the Most of Your Existing Space

Take the space that you have and make sure that you utilize it to its full potential. Whether you create an attic bedroom or a finished basement, making better use of your space will increase your home’s appeal. When it’s time to sell, buyers want to see possibilities and appreciate it more when the work has already been done for them. Give them options and let them make the space their own.

Turn to the Experts for Advice

Call your real estate professional today to further assist you with questions and solutions when considering the resale value of your home. You’ll be able to tap into a vast store of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t before investing in any upgrades.

Three Handy Home Staging Tips That Will Help You Display Your Home in the Best Light

Three Handy Home Staging Tips That Will Help You Display Your Home in the Best Light Your home may be one of your largest assets, and you certainly want to take steps to get the highest price possible for it when you list it on the market to sell. In addition, you may have plans to purchase a new home or to take other similar steps when list your home, so you may need to your house to sell quickly. Staging your home is a great way to present it in the best possible light for potential buyers to see. While there are dozens of staging tips and ideas that you may use, there are a few that are rather simple and affordable for most to complete.

Give Each Room a Single Purpose

If your home is like most, there may be several rooms that have multiple uses. For example, you may have a work desk placed in the master bedroom, or a section of the living room may be designated as a kids’ play area. While this may be functional for how your family lives, it can confuse buyers. Buyers need to be able to walk into a room and imagine their own family living in the area. They may not have a need or use for a desk in the master bedroom, and this can confuse the use of the space. In addition, it also can make a room look smaller and more cramped than it is.

De-Clutter Your Rooms

In addition to defining a single use for each room in your home, you should also de-clutter your rooms. Depending how long you have lived in your home and how significant your periodic spring cleaning sessions have been, this can be a major undertaking. As a good rule of thumb, items that have not been used in more than six months may need to be donated or tossed away. The exception to this rule is seasonal items, like winter coats, pool toys or holiday décor. Keep in mind that buyers will open cabinets, drawers and closets, so your cleaning session should be thorough and not superficial.

Pack Away Personal Belongings

A final step to take is to pack away personal belongings. Everything from religious symbols like crosses to a family photo over the mantel should be packed in boxes. Your goal is to make your home look like any family could live there rather than to make it look like your home. Only decorative items that have a broad or universal appeal should remain.

When a home is properly staged, it may feel as though your home is not your own and even as though you are camping out in your own home. Keep in mind that staging can help you to sell your home as quickly as possible and to get the highest bid possible. Therefore, your effort is well worthwhile.

FHFA: Home Prices Rise 0.30 Percent in January

FHFA Home Prices Rise 0.30 Percent in JanuaryThe Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported that home prices rose by a seasonally-adjusted rate of 0.30 percent in January, and were 5.10 percent higher as compared to home prices in January 2014.

FHFA oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and its home price report is based on sales of homes financed by mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Month- to- Month FHFA Home Prices Mixed

Month to month home price data was mixed for January. Home prices ranged from -0.40 percent in the Middle and South Atlantic census divisions to +2.30 percent in the East South Central census division.

Month-to month readings are considered more volatile than year-over-year home price readings. Year-over-year readings for all nine U.S. census divisions were positive and ranged from a 1.70 percent increase in the Middle Atlantic division to an increase of 8.20 percent in the Pacific division. This suggests that overall, home prices are gaining, but slowly.

Commerce Department: New Home Sales Hit 7-Year Peak

In an unrelated report, the Commerce Department reported that February sales of new homes reached a seven-year peak with 539,000 sales of new homes expected on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. This was significantly higher than the expected reading of 455,000 new home sales and was also higher than the revised reading of 500,000 new home sales in January.

Analysts said that this positive reading may indicate a robust sales for the peak spring and summer home buying season. The reading for new home sales in February was nearly 25 percent higher than for February 2014.

In spite of this good news, analysts cautioned that the new home sales numbers are often volatile, and future revisions could result in lower sales figures for new homes.

With jobs increasing and mortgage rates remaining relatively low, more homebuyers may enter the market and boost home sales. Tight mortgage lending standards remain an obstacle for would-be buyers with less than stellar credit scores.

How Safe is Your Home from a Fire? Learn How to Run a Quick Fire Safety Assessment

How Safe is Your Home from a Fire? Learn How to Run a Quick Fire Safety Assessment A fire can rage through your home at a moment’s notice, and it can cause a significant amount of damage in a very short period of time. Damage from the flames, intense heat, smoke and soot can cause tens of thousands of dollars or more in some cases, and a severe fire event can result in a total loss for the homeowner. More than that, a fire can create a serious health and safety risk for you and your loved ones inside the home. If you are concerned about how safe your home is from a fire, consider a few important points.

Do You Have Fire Extinguishers On All Floors?

When a small fire breaks out, you may only have a few seconds to respond. You simply do not have time to rush around the house in search of a fire extinguisher. Instead, you should know immediately where it is at and how to use it. More than that, you should have one available on all floors of your home. While you may want to reach for a fire extinguisher to put out a small flame, you should still yell for others in the home to vacate while you use the fire extinguisher.

Do You Have Smoke Alarms in Ideal Locations?

Fires can break out during all hours of the day and night. When you are awake, you may easily be able to smell smoke from a nearby room. However, when you are asleep or when the smoke is in a removed area of the home, it can be more difficult to observe the signs of a fire until it is too late. Placing a loud smoke alarm in all bedrooms in your home is a wise idea. You will also need one in living areas of the home. If your home is larger in size, you may consider investing in additional smoke alarms.

When Was the Last Time You Replaced the Batteries in Your Smoke Detectors?

It is not enough to simply have the smoke detectors mounted to your walls or ceiling. Instead, you need to make sure that they are loud and that they work well. If you have a hearing impaired person in the home, you should invest in detectors with a visible strobe light to alert them to a danger. Batteries generally should be replaced every few months, and you may consider replacing the batteries each time you replace the filters for your HVAC system. Keep in mind that it is better to replace the batteries before they lose power than to be without the function of an alarm in your home when you need it.

Even a small fire can be a dangerous and costly event. By focusing on these factors in your home, you can most easily prepare for a fire, and you will be able to take immediate action in the event a fire develops in your home.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 23, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 23 2015Last week’s events included the National Association of Home Builder’s Housing Market Index, which fell to its lowest reading since last summer. Other news included reports on housing starts and building permits, the FOMC meeting statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference.

Home Builder Confidence Falls, Building Permits Rise

The NAHB Wells Fargo Housing Market Index fell by two points for a reading of 53 in March. The expected reading was 57. Analysts said that this proves that lower mortgage rates and steady job growth aren’t fueling housing markets as expected. NAHB chief economist David Crowe also cited supply chain issues such as a shortage of available lots, labor shortages and tight mortgage underwriting standards. Home builders remain optimistic that as labor markets continue to improve and more home buyers enter the market during the traditional spring and summer buying season, that builder confidence will also grow.

The Department of Commerce reported that building permits for February rose from January’s reading of 1.06 million to 1.09 million. This represents a 3.00 percent increase and was the highest reading since October. Permits fell for single family homes fell by 6.20 percent in February, but were 2.80 percent higher year-over-year. Single family permits account for 75 percent of building permits issued.

Housing starts fell dramatically due to bad weather. The Northeast saw housing starts fall by 56 percent due to extreme snowfall; Housing starts in the Midwest fell by 37 percent and the West saw housing starts decline by 18.20 percent in February. The South reported a 2.50 percent decrease in housing starts, but since nearly 50 percent of housing starts are in the South, this decline is more significant than it appears.

Fed Rates Hold Steady, Mortgage Rates Fall

The Federal Reserve noted in its post FOMC meeting statement that the Fed is in no hurry to raise rates. Citing ongoing concerns about low inflation and a sluggish housing market recovery, the Fed’s policymakers indicated that they don’t plan to rush on raising the target federal funds rate. In her press conference held after the FOMC statement, Fed Chair Janet Yellen reiterated the Fed’s intention to raise rates only when domestic and global economic developments warrant.

Mortgage rates fell according to Freddie Mac with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage eight basis points lower at 3.78 percent. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage was four basis points lower at 3.06 percent; the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was also four basis points lower at an average rate of 2.97 percent. Discount points were unchanged at an average of 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

What’s Ahead

This week’s housing-related news includes new and existing home sales, the FHFA home price index and FHFA’s home price index. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims will also be released as usual on Thursday.

Spring DIY Projects: How to Build a Treehouse That the Kids Will Love

Spring DIY Projects: How to Build a Treehouse That the Kids Will Love If you have children, no home is complete without a treehouse. Besides the fact that treehouses provide kids with hours of entertainment, they can also confer ancillary benefits that are hard to quantify. For starters, treehouses can improve property values by boosting curb appeal. When building any type of treehouse, keep the following tips in mind.

Location, Location, Location

Before you head off to Home Depot and get all the necessary supplies, you need to spend some serious time storyboarding the build process. Pick a tree with low, sprawling branches such as an oak or a maple. Furthermore, consider issues like wind, shade and privacy before you start to nail up supports.

Choose Your Materials Wisely

A treehouse built with subpar materials will fall short in the longevity department and disappoint the kids. Pick out stout oak 4×4 posts for the structural elements and top them off with pressure-treated pine for the floors and railings. Use quality plywood for the interior walls and seal it to avoid rot.

Make Multi-Use Your Mantra

Treehouses that are simply shacks suspended above ground will quickly bore youngsters no matter how well-built they may be. Incorporate elements such as swings, rope ladders and even zip-lines to get more from your treehouse. As long as you’re putting in the effort, you might as well add all of the bells and whistles.

Bake Safety Into the Recipe

You don’t want the kids to get hurt when they’re frolicking among the branches. Make sure to bolt handles and permanent rails into the truck so that adolescents are less likely to slip and fall. If you want to go all out, add a few safety nets around the edges.

Heed Aesthetics When Designing

An unadorned treehouse quickly turns into an eyesore over time as it’s battered by the elements. Shingle the roof and paint the exterior walls so that they match your home. Kids will naturally gravitate towards a treehouse that looks appealing and your neighbors won’t complain about a shoddy structure in your weeping willow.

It’s More Than a Treehouse

While many young kids will no doubt love a full-featured treehouse, it’s usually the improvement in home value that will appeal to adults. If you’re interested in learning more about homes in your area that would support your desire to build a treehouse, call a professional real estate agent today.

FOMC Statement: Federal Reserve Discusses Rate Increase, but Concerned About Growth

FOMC Statement: Federal Reserve Discusses Rate Increase, but Concerned About GrowthThe post-meeting statement of the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee indicated that while the Fed is considering raising its target rate as early as June, the agency is in no hurry to cast anything in cement. The statement cited stronger labor markets and low unemployment rates as encouraging, but noted that FOMC members remain concerned about economic growth due to low inflation failing to meet the FOMC goal of two percent.

15 of 17 Federal Open Market Committee members said that they expected interest rates to increase before year-end, but downwardly revised forecasts of how high rates might be raised. Committee members further expressed concerns about economic growth and inflation, which is likely to impact Federal Reserve decisions about raising interest rates or not.

Economic Growth, Inflation Slower than Expected

The FOMC statement noted that economic growth has “moderated somewhat”, which was less enthusiastic than in January, when the Fed noted solid economic growth. The Fed revised its projections for the national unemployment rate from December’s expected range of 5.20 to 5.50 percent to 5.00 percent to 5.20 percent.

The target federal funds rate remains at a range of 0.00 to 0.250 percent and is expected to increase to 0.625 percent by year-end, and forecasted to reach 0.875 percent by the end of 2016. The target rate is expected to rise to 1.25 percent at the end of 2017.
Raising the target federal funds rate would impact mortgage rates, rates on vehicle loans and corporate loans. As the cost of loans rises, and wages stay relatively flat, consumers will have less cash for discretionary spending and may put off buying homes and purchasing big-ticket items that require financing.

Fed Chair Says Fed Isn’t “Impatient” about Raising Rates

After the FOMC statement was issued, Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave a press conference. Asked about the FOMC removing the word “patient” from its description of the committee’s attitude about raising the target federal funds rate, Chair Yellen said that removing the word patient does not mean that FOMC members are impatient about deciding when to move on interest rates.

Chair Yellen reiterated what’s she has said many times in recent FOMC statements and press conferences, that although the committee may project when it will raise rates, the decision will be based on incoming economic data.

In her opening remarks, Chair Yellen said that when the Fed does raise its target interest rate, the FOMC will retain a “highly accommodative” stance in line with the FOMC’s dual mandate of achieving maximum employment and a target inflation rate of 2.00 percent.

All in all, this FOMC statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference revealed no great changes in the Fed’s stated policy over the last several months. While low unemployment rates are prompting the Fed to consider raising the federal funds rate, no date for doing so has been set; the agency will provide plenty of advance notice before it raises rates and in the meantime will closely monitor domestic and global financial and economic developments for guidance in deciding when to raise rates.