Mortgage Rates Fall Back Below 4%

Freddie Mac Weekly Mortgage Rates

After a brief run-up two weeks ago, mortgage rates are back below 4 percent. It’s good news for home buyers and mortgage rate shoppers of Metro Atlanta because with lower mortgage rates come lower mortgage payments.

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the national, average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate fell to 3.99 percent this week from last week’s 4.08 percent.

Last week had marked the first time since December 2011 that the benchmark rate crossed north of 4 percent — a span of 16 weeks.

And, it wasn’t just rates that got cheaper this week — closing costs dropped, too.

Freddie Mac’s survey showed that the average number of discount points to accompany a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell one-tenth of a percent this week to 0.7, where one discount point is equal to one percent of your loan size.

As a real-life example, a $200,000 mortgage with an accompanying 0.7 discount points would be subject to an additional $1,400 one-time closing cost. Last week, that cost was $1,600.

Note, though, that these are average mortgage rates for the nation. On a local level, rates may be higher or lower, and so may the accompanying number of discount points.

For example, in this week’s Freddie Mac survey, each U.S. region boasts its own “average rate” :

  • Northeast Region : 4.00% with 0.7 discount points
  • West Region : 3.94% with 0.9 discount points
  • Southeast Region : 4.01% with 0.8 discount points
  • North Central Region : 3.99% with 0.6 discount points
  • Southwest Region : 4.02% with 0.8 discount points

These rates are each well below the average rates of a year ago when the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.86%.

Low mortgage rates can’t last forever so if you’ve been wondering whether now is a good time to buy a home or refinance one; or whether rising rates will harm your monthly budget, the answer may be yes. A weak economy held mortgage rates low last year. An improving economy should push rates higher this year.

Talk to your loan officer and review your home loan options. Looking ahead to spring and summer, mortgage rates appear poised to rise.

For more information about the Atlanta area real estate market, please email me at ed@edshort.com or call me at 404.918.2500.

~ Ed Short, Atlanta REALTOR®

 

 

 

 

 

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Case-Shiller Shows Uneven Recovery For U.S. Housing

Case-Shiller Home Value Changes

Recent data suggests that the U.S. housing market is in recovery. However, the data also shows this to be an uneven recovery.

According to the monthly S&P/Case-Shiller Index, for example, home values rose in three of 20 tracked markets between December 2011 and January 2012. 17 tracked markets showed home prices still in decline.

It’s easy to point to the Case-Shiller Index as evidence that the housing market in Georgia has yet to bottom, but we have to consider the Case-Shiller Index’s shortcomings — specifically in a recovering economy.

For example, the Case-Shiller Index is based on changes in home prices of a single home, through successive sales. This means that to calculate its home price index, the Case-Shiller searches for sales of the same home over a period of time and calculates the difference in contract price.

This methodology can distort the home price tracker downward during times of weak economy because there is no distinction made for homes sold in foreclosure or as a short sale.

35% of all homes sold in January were “distressed,” says the National Association of REALTORS®.

Another distortion in the Case-Shiller Index is that the model neglects all home types that are not of type “single-family residence.” This means that multi-unit homes and condominiums are excluded from the Case-Shiller Index model.

In some markets, such as Chicago and New York City, condominiums account for a large percentage of overall sales.

Lastly, the Case-Shiller Index is published with a “lag,” which renders it useless to buyers and sellers of Metro Atlanta in search of real-time, relevant data. The most recent Case-Shiller Index is published with a 60-day delay, and accounts for home purchase contracts written between October and December 2011.

Since October, the U.S. economy has added more than 1 million jobs and the economy has moved into “moderate expansion,” according to the Federal Reserve. Data that’s two seasons old does little to help us today.

Making sound real estate decisions is about having timely, relevant data at-hand when it’s needed. The Case-Shiller Index fails in that respect. It’s good for highlighting the U.S. housing market on the whole, as it existed in the past. For real-time market data, though, you’ll want to talk with an active real estate agent.

For more information about the Atlanta area real estate market, please email me at ed@edshort.com or call me at 404.918.2500.

~ Ed Short, Atlanta REALTOR®

 

 

 

 

 

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Pending Home Sales Index Remains Strong Into Spring

Pending Home Sales IndexThe housing market took a step back in February, but remains near post-recession highs.

According to data from the National Association of REALTORS®, February’s Pending Home Sales Index slipped 0.5 percent from the month prior, to 96.5.

The Pending Home Sales Index is a monthly report which measures the number of homes under contract to sell, but not yet sold, nationwide.

The index is benchmarked to a value of 100, the average level of home contract activity in 2001, the first year that pending home sales data was analyzed. It also happened to be a year of historically-high levels of home contract activity. Therefore, a Pending Home Sales Index reading of 100 suggests a strong housing market nationwide.

The index has read north of 90 since October 2011.

On a regional basis, February’s Pending Home Sales Index varied :

  • Northeast Region: -0.5 percent from January 2012
  • Midwest Region : +5.7 percent from January 2012
  • South Region : -3.3 percent from January 2012
  • West Region : -2.6 percent from January 2012

Mild weather may have helped the Midwest Region last month but even regional data can only tell us so much. Like everything in real estate, housing data must be local to be relevant.

Throughout the South Region, for example, the area in which contract activity fell most on a monthly basis, there are states which performed better than the regional average, and states which performed worse. Furthermore, even within those states, there are some cities which over-performed, and others which underperformed.

It’s why we can’t put too much stock in national housing news. Buyers don’t buy nationally — they buy locally.

Today’s home buyers and sellers in Metro Atlanta , therefore, should look beyond the national Pending Home Sales Index and into local market drivers. The Pending Home Sales Index can paint a broad picture of the U.S. housing market but for data that matters to you specifically, it’s not as widely helpful.

To get relevant, timely local real estate data, please contact me.

For more information about the Atlanta area real estate market, please email me at ed@edshort.com or call me at 404.918.2500.

~ Ed Short, Atlanta REALTOR®

 

 

 

 

 

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New Home Sales Slip In February

New Home SalesSales of “new homes” fell to the lowest levels in four months last month.

According to the Census Bureau’s monthly New Home Sales report, 313,000 new homes were sold in February 2012 on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, representing a 1.6% drop from the month prior.

A “new home” is a home for which there has been no prior owner nor tenant.

At first glance, the data looks negative for the housing market; a suggestion that the well-publicized housing market recovery may be slowed. However, within February’s New Home Sales report are three important counter-statistics worth mentioning.

First, although annualized home sales volume slipped 5,000 units in February, this occurred as the number of homes for sale nationwide remained constant at 150,000. This is the fewest number of new homes for sale since at least 1993 — the first year that the Census Bureau tracked such data.

A small home supply promotes rising home values when buyer demand is rising and, in February, buyer demand held firm.

A second reason to remain optimistic on housing is that New Home Supply was 5.8 months in February. This means that, at the current pace of sales, the entire new home inventory will be “sold out” in 5.8 months.

Housing experts say that when home supplies fall below 6.0 months, it’s bullish for housing.

And, as a third reason to look past the New Home Sales headline figure, last month’s reporting Margin of Error was huge.

According to the government, the February New Home Sales data was published with a ±23.9% margin of error. This means that the actual New Home Sales sales volume may have dropped as much as -25.5%, or may have climbed by as much as +22.3%.

Because the range of possible values includes both positive and negative numbers, the Census Bureau assigned its February data the “zero confidence” label.

It will be several months before February’s New Home Sales data is revised. Until then, buyers in Metro Atlanta would do well to take cues from the real estate market-at-large which shows steady, gradual improvement.

If your 2012 housing plans call for buying new construction, consider using February’s results as a window to “make a deal”. As the year progresses, great values in housing may be gone for good.

For more information about the Atlanta area real estate market, please email me at ed@edshort.com or call me at 404.918.2500.

~ Ed Short, Atlanta REALTOR®

 

 

 

 

 

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How To Replace Cracked, Dirty Grout

How to replace groutTile is among the most versatile home surfacing materials. It can be as functional and good-looking on your home’s walls as it can be on counter tops, adding a polished look to your kitchen or bathrooms.

Tile is also easy-to-clean — so long as it’s well-maintained.

Proper tile cleaning is more than just a daily wipe-down. Cleaning tile requires a periodic resealing of the tiles themselves, as well as a re-grout for when the existing grout cracks, or stains.

Replacing grout is a job that’s low on skill but large on elbow grease. You can hire it out to a handyperson in Metro Atlanta , or you can handle it in-home. If you choose to replace your own grout, here are the steps you’ll want to follow.

First, you’ll need some tools :

  • Hammer and screwdriver
  • Grout scraper
  • Putty knife
  • Damp sponge
  • Dry cloths
  • Grout
  • Grout sealer

Start by using your screwdriver to loosen bits of the damaged and/or dirty grout. Tap the screwdriver with the hammer gently to avoid scratching your tile. Once you’ve loosened the grout, use the grout scraper to remove the remnants.

Next, pour new grout into the crevices between the tiles and smooth it into place using the putty knife. The motion is similar to that of buttering a slice of bread. Scrape up the excess grout as you work. Continue spreading the grout until you’ve finished a several-foot section.

Before the grout has dried, use a damp sponge to wipe the tiles clean and neaten the grout lines. You can also use your finger to smooth and remove excess grout from between the tiles.

Repeat the grouting and cleaning process until all of the grout has been replaced. Allow the grout to dry for the length of time recommended by the manufacturer.

Next, using the dry cloths, buff the tiles, using a forceful, circular motion to remove any remaining grout residue.

Then, as a final step, for long-lasting protection, seal the grout using a commercial grout sealer from a hardware store.

Keeping grout in good condition does more than just make your kitchen or bathrooms look great — it protects the surfaces beneath the tile, too. Re-grouting tile is a basic home improvement task that can pay for itself many times over.

For more information about the Atlanta area real estate market, please email me at ed@edshort.com or call me at 404.918.2500.

~ Ed Short, Atlanta REALTOR®

 

 

 

 

 

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Building Permits On The Rise

Building PermitsThe new construction housing market appears primed for growth this season.

According to the Census Bureau, the number of single-family building permits issued in February rose to 472,000 on a seasonally-adjusted, annual basis, marking the highest building permit tally since April 2010 — the last month of that year’s federal home buyer tax credit program.

Building permits are a pre-cursor to new home construction.

In 2011, from the date of permit-issuance to the date of “ground-breaking,” an average of 27 calendar days passed. February’s data, therefore, is a signal that the market for newly-built homes should be strong this year, an idea supported by the most recent homebuilder confidence survey.

As buyer foot traffic soars, homebuilders expect to make more sales in the next 6 months than at any time since the housing market’s collapse. Builder confidence is at a 5-year high.

Last month, however, single-family housing starts slipped.

As compared to January, February’s single-family housing starts fell by 50,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. The 10% drop represents the largest one-month drop since February 2011. It’s a statistic that may suggest that this year’s results are simply seasonal.

For buyers of new construction, the news is mixed.

Rising permits and builder confidence may mean that Metro Atlanta homebuilders will be less willing to negotiate with today’s buyer on upgrades and/or home prices. However, as more new home supply is set to come online, excess housing stock could help keep home prices low.

If you’re planning to buy new construction in Georgia this year, be sure to ask your real estate agent about the local home supply, and how the market is currently trending. With mortgage rates low and the summer buying season approaching, you may find some of your best deals of the year available in just the next few weeks.

For more information about the Atlanta area real estate market, please email me at ed@edshort.com or call me at 404.918.2500.

~ Ed Short, Atlanta REALTOR®

 

 

 

 

 

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Existing Home Sales Stay Strong; Spring Season Underway

Existing Home Sales

The market for home resales stays strong.

Despite sparse home inventory, the National Association of REALTORS® reports that 4.59 million existing homes were sold in February on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. An “existing home” is a home that cannot be classified as new construction.

Last month’s sales data represents a 9 percent improvement from the year prior.

There are now just 2.43 million homes for sale nationwide — a 19% reduction versus a year ago. The complete home inventory would “sell out” in 6.4 months at the current sales pace.

Some analysts believe that a 6-month home supply indicates a housing market in balance.

The real estate trade group’s report contained other noteworthy statistics, too :

  1. 32 percent of home sales were made to first-time buyers
  2. 33 percent of home sales were made with cash (i.e. no mortgage)
  3. 34 percent of home sales were of foreclosed homes or homes in short sale

In addition, nearly one-third of all home sales “failed” last month, the result of homes not appraising at the purchase price; or, the buyer’s inability to secure mortgage financing; or, insurmountable home inspection issues.

Even accounting for last month’s high contract failure rate,though,  the Existing Home Sales report still posted its second-highest reading since May 2010. For today’s Metro Atlanta home buyer, the data may be a “buy signal.”

As compared to last fall, home supplies are down and home sales are up. Basic economics tell us that home prices should start to rise shortly — if they haven’t already. After all, the Existing Home Sales data is 30 days old, reporting on February. It’s nearly April today.

The good news is that homes remain affordable. With conforming and FHA mortgage rates in the low-4 percent range, home affordability is at its highest in history. Home prices may rise this spring, but at least your mortgage payment should remain low.

For more information about the Atlanta area real estate market, please email me at ed@edshort.com or call me at 404.918.2500.

~ Ed Short, Atlanta REALTOR®

 

 

 

 

 

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