As The Pending Home Sales Index Falls, Home Buyers See Dollar Signs

By Todd Abelson NMLS #180858 on .

Pending Home Sales Dec 2008 to June 2010The Pending Home Sales Index failed to rebound from a cliff-dive in May, falling by another 3 percent more in June.  The index remains at record-low levels.

A “pending home sale” is a home under contract to sell, but not yet closed. The data is culled from local real estate associations and large brokers and accounts for 20 percent of all purchase transactions in a given month nationwide.

The Pending Home Sales Index is a future indicator for the housing market; there is a high correlation between the PHSI and the monthly Existing Home Sales report.  This is because of the relatively large sample set used for the PHSI, and because 80 percent of homes under contract close within 60 days, according to the National Association of Realtors.

June’s Pending Home Sales Index is weak by most measures, but if you’re a home buyer in Tucson , the headlines aren’t so bad. Fewer home sales can push negotiation leverage to the buy-side of a transaction.

Plus, there’s other positives in the market for today’s buyers:

  • Home supplies are up, which creates competition among sellers
  • Builder confidence is down, which leads to “free” upgrades and incentives
  • Mortgage rates are low, which increases cash flow and disposable income

All things equal, the current home buying conditions haven’t been this favorable in years.

The falling figures in June’s Pending Home Sales Index hint that home sales will be down through the rest of the summer and into early-Fall. However, mortgage rates may not and higher mortgage rates can do more to change a monthly payment that a small reduction in home price.

If you’re planning to buy a home later this year, consider moving up your time frame.

It’s an excellent time to be a home buyer in Tucson, Arizona.

What Does It Mean To Escrow Taxes And Insurance?

By Todd Abelson NMLS #180858 on .

Escrow schedulingThe fiscal responsibility of a homeowner — in Tucson and everywhere else — extends beyond the mortgage’s basic principal and interest repayments. Homeowners are also responsible for the real estate taxes on the home and its insurance premiums, too.

Failure to pay taxes can lead to foreclosure, and failure to insure is breach of your mortgage contract.

As a homeowner, you can  pay 1/12 of the annual bill to your mortgage servicer each month, and then let your servicer pay the bills on your behalf when they come due.

Not surprisingly, servicers prefer the latter method — it reduces two major lender risks:

  1. That the home’s real estate taxes go delinquent and are sold to a third-party
  2. That the home endures catastrophic damage during a lapse of insurance coverage

In theory, when the servicer is paying the bills, the home’s taxes are always current and the home’s insurance is always paid. This method of managing taxes and insurance is commonly called “escrowing”.

To calculate a home’s monthly escrow payment is simple. Just take the sum of the annual real estate tax bills and insurance bill, then divide it by 12 months in the year.

As a example, a $4,000 annual tax bill with a $800 insurance policy = $4,800 annually = $400 paid into escrow monthly. These monies are collected as part of the regular mortgage payment along with the mortgage’s scheduled principal + interest payment.

Homeowners choosing to escrow tend to get the lowest rate and lowest fee loans. This is because lenders often charge a premium to “waive escrow” (i.e. pay their own taxes and insurance). To the chagin of many, the charging of a fee to NOT do something like an unpublished telephone number, is just “wrong”. Escrow waiver fees vary between banks, but typically cost 1/4 (.25) points of the amount borrowed. The larger the loan, the stiffer the penalty in dollar terms.

P.S.: Call Todd Abelson & Tyler Ford at Sunstreet Mortgage in Tucson Arizona at (520) 331-LEND for all your mortgage needs!

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : August 2, 2010

By Todd Abelson NMLS #180858 on .

Unemployment Rate 2007-2010 Mortgage markets improved last week, pushing mortgage rates lower for the 6th time in seven weeks.

Since April, rates in Arizona have been on a downward path, spurring refinances in most markets and sparking the start of a Refi Boom.

Last week, 3 key stories played a role in falling rates:

  1. Demand was strong for U.S. government debt
  2. Emerging concerns of a Japan-style deflation in the U.S.
  3. Personal Spending since late-2007 was shown to be less than previously thought

Of the three, it’s the measured drop in Personal Spending for which rate shoppers and home buyers in Tucson should watch. Drops in spending slow down the economy which, in turn, tends to pull mortgage rates lower.

Long-term, deflation could be a drag on rates, too. For now, though, it’s just a conversation among academics and economists.

This week, mortgage rates could move up or down — a lot hinges on the results on July’s Non-Farm Payrolls report.

More commonly called “the jobs report”, Non-Farm Payrolls hits the wires Friday at 8:30 AM ET. Markets are expecting a 75,000 net loss of jobs last month. If the actual number is higher, mortgage rates should rise. If the actual number is lower, mortgage rates should fall.

With the jobs numbers not due until Friday morning, expect choppy trading through Thursday’s market close. There’s a handful of economic data set for release including Personal Consumption Expenditures (Tuesday), Pending Home Sales (Tuesday) and Jobless Claims (Thursday). Each has the potential to move mortgage rates.

The Refi Boom is ongoing but when it ends, it will end in a hurry. If you’ve been thinking about a refinance, contact Tucson’s top lending at 520-331-LEND about your options sooner rather than later.

Borrowers with a Prior Foreclosure

By Todd Abelson NMLS #180858 on .

Fannie Mae has issued Announcement SEL-2010-08, Underwriting Borrowers with a Prior Foreclosure, to modify the waiting period that must elapse before a borrower is eligible for a new mortgage loan after a foreclosure. A seven-year waiting period after a prior foreclosure will apply for all borrowers, unless the foreclosure was the result of documented extenuating circumstances, which requires a three-year waiting period with additional eligibility requirements.

30-Year Mortgage Rates Make New Lows, But Look Ready To Spike

By Todd Abelson NMLS #180858 on .

Freddie Mac mortgage rates (January - July 2010)

No doubt you’ve heard that mortgage rates are low. They’re lower than they’ve ever been in history.  The news is everywhere.

Just check out some of these headlines from the last 24 hours:

  • Mortgage rates set new lows for the 6th straight week (Reuters)
  • Mortgage rates fall again; 30-year fixed at 4.54% (Wall Street Journal)
  • Mortgage rates hit another low : 4.54% (NPR)

Fixed mortgage rates are now down more than 1/2 percent from the start of the year, and 3/4 percent from just 1 year ago. The drop has dramatically improved home affordability for home buyers in Tucson while creating refinance opportunities for existing homeowners.

From a payment perspective, a conforming, 30-year fixed rate mortgage is now cheaper by $41.94 per month per $100,000 borrowed versus July 2009.

A homeowner with a $300,000 mortgage, therefore, is saving $45,295.20 over 30 years.

Low mortgage rates rarely last long and rates appear to have troughed. After a big downhill between April and July, they’re now flat. This could mean rates have finished falling, or that they’re gearing up for another drop lower. Either way, if you haven’t talked to your real estate agent about home affordability, or your loan officer about refinancing, it may be time to make that call.

If today’s market marks the end of low rates, rates are expected to rise quickly.

Falling Consumer Confidence Helps Drag Mortgage Rates Lower. For Now.

By Todd Abelson NMLS #180858 on .

Consumer Confidence Index July 2008-July 2010For the second consecutive month, U.S. consumer confidence is plunging. July’s official reading is its lowest since July of last year and the figures run in stark contrast to just two months ago, when the index touched a multi-year high.

According to The Conference Board, July’s figures are reflective of a more pessimistic consumer; one concerned about “business conditions and the labor market”.

Falling confidence numbers are presumed to be poor for the economy. For homeowner and home buyers in Tucson , however, they can create opportunity.  Low confidence can influence the mortgage market in a positive manner, driving mortgage rates down.

Mortgage rates are already at their lowest levels of all-time.

The link between consumer confidence and everyday mortgage rates roots in consumer spending.

Consumer spending accounts for close to 70% of the overall U.S. economy so, the thought goes that, a less confident consumer is less likely to spend money, thereby retarding economic growth. This harms the stock markets and drives cash to bonds, including mortgage-backed bonds.

More bond demand leads bond prices to rise which, in turn, pushes mortgage rates lower.

The other side of lagging confidence is that Americans may be less likely to take new financial risks when they’re feeling unsure, including buying a new home. This can then drag on the housing market, negatively impacting home prices across Arizona.

Falling home values can help buyers, harm sellers, and stymie would-be refinancers.

It’s tough to predict how consumer confidence data will work its way through the economy, but in the near-term, it appears to be helping mortgage rates stay low. If you’re floating a mortgage rate with your lender, or contemplating a refinance, the time may be right to lock in a rate.

Low rates can’t last forever. Give the Tucson leading home mortgage team a call today at 520-331-LEND to lock in a great rate.

Case-Shiller Shows Home Price Improvement In 95% Of Cities. Good new for Tucson, Arizona!

By Todd Abelson NMLS #180858 on .

Case-Shiller Change In Home Values April-May 2010

Standard & Poors released its Case-Shiller Index Tuesday. On a seasonally-adjusted basis, between April and May 2010, home prices rose in 19 of Case-Shiller’s 20 tracked markets.  It’s the second straight month of strong Case-Shiller findings.

Also, May’s numbers are a mirror-image of February’s. In February, 19 of 20 markets lost value.

In its press release, the Case-Shiller staff resisted calling May’s data proof of a housing recovery, noting that home values remain flat as compared to October of last year. However, there are some noteworthy numbers in the Case-Shiller report.

  1. 13 of the 20 tracked cities are showing home price improvement year-over-year
  2. Foreclosure posterchlld San Diego has now shown 13 straight months of improvement
  3. San Diego, San Francisco and Minneapolis are showing double-digit annual growth

These are all good signs for the housing market, but the Case-Shiller Index is not without its flaws. Most notably, the data is limited to just 20 cities nationwide — and they’re not even the 20 largest ones.

Cities like Houston, Philadelphia, and San Jose are excluded from Case-Shiller, while cities like Tampa (#54) are not.

Another Case-Shiller flaw is that it reports on a 2-month delay.

Therefore, today is several days from the start of August but we’re now reflecting on data from May. Given the speed at which the Tucson, Arizona real estate market can change, May’s data is almost ancient.  Today’s values may be higher or lower than what Case-Shiller reports.

For home buyers, reports like the Case-Shiller Index may not be useful in making a “Buy or Not Buy” decision, but can aid in watching longer-term trends in housing.  For real-time data, talk to a real estate agent with access to local figures instead.

Tucson Existing Home Sales Drop In June But Hint At Higher Price Tier Support

By Todd Abelson NMLS #180858 on .

Existing Home Supply (June 2009 - June 2010)Consistent with most post-home buyer tax credit housing news, the National Association of Realtors® says Existing Home Sales eased lower last month.

An “existing home” is a home that cannot be considered new construction.

The 5 percent drop in sales from May to June was expected, but a closer look at the month’s data reveals some interesting trends.

First, repeat buyers accounted for 44 percent of home resales in June, up from 40 percent in May. That’s a healthy increase for just 4 weeks’ time and the tax credit is a likely catalyst. First-timer buyers bought starter homes owned by former first-timers, who were then free to “move up” to larger, more expensive property.

Housing markets can be trickle-up and, not coincidentally, the jumbo/luxury housing market is now in the midst of rebound.

Second, June’s “distressed sales” accounted for 32 percent of all home resales, up from 31 percent in May.

A figure like this hints at the large role foreclosures continue to play in a Tucson home buyer’s home search strategy.  And why not? The National Association of Realtors® suggests that distressed homes are sold at a 15 percent discount.

Lastly, take note that home inventories are rising. June’s 8.9 months of supply is the highest in 10 months. Excess supply leads home prices lower, all things equal.

Overall, the Existing Home Sales data from June is a mixed bag. There’s support for the middle- and upper-price tiers, but a growing overhang of supply. The market looks favorable for buyers given low mortgage rates and strong negotiation leverage.