HouseLogic Articles

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


In what may be the first fluttering of a recovery in the housing market, sales of existing homes last month actually increased from January levels according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR.)
Sales of previously occupied single-family houses, condominiums, co-ops and town houses rose 2.9 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 5.03 million units. The January sales level was 4.89 million. In spite of the encouraging small increase, February’s rate was still 23.8 percent below the 6.60 million pace one year earlier.
NAR's chief economist Lawrence Yun said the increase is encouraging. "We're not expecting a notable gain in existing-home sales until the second half of this year, but the improvement is another sign that the market is stabilizing," he said. “Buyers taking advantage of higher loan limits for both FHA and conventional mortgages will unleash some pent-up demand. As inventories are drawn down, prices in many markets should go positive later this year."
Sales of single-family homes increased 2.8 percent to an annual rate of 4.47 units from an upwardly revised estimate of 4.35 million in January but are still 22.9 percent lower than the 5.80 million sales in February 2007. Condo and co-op sales did a little better, rising 3.7 percent to 560,000 units from January’s level of 540,000.
Another bit of good news; inventories of existing dwellings fell 3.0 percent in February to 4.03 million homes available for sale. This is a 9.6 month supply at the current rate of sales compared with a 10.2 month supply in January.
Prices did continue to drop, with the median price of all housing types dropping to $195,900 in February 2008, a decrease of 8.2 percent from the median of $213,500 in February 2007. NAR said that the slowdown in sales from a year ago is greater in high-cost areas, so there is a downward pull to the national median with relatively fewer sales in higher priced markets.
The median price of single-family houses was down 8.7 percent year-over-year to $193,900 and the median existing condo price was $211,700, 4.9 percent lower than a year ago.
Readers of the survey were advised to look as well at home prices within metropolitan areas. Roughly half of the metro areas in the U.S. have had price increases with healthy gains in markets such as Oklahoma City and Trenton, New Jersey. "In other areas such as Sacramento, a rapid price decline has induced buyers to come into the market and sales are now rising," Yun said. "The relationship between home prices, interest rates and income has improved to the point where buyers are more serious about making offers."
In virtually every housing report we have seen over the last few months the situation in the Northeast seems to be improving faster than in other parts of the country. That is true of the current existing home sales report wherein sales in the Northeast were up 11.3 over January but are remain 26.4 percent below February 2007. The median price in the Northeast was $264,800, up 0.4 percent from a year ago.
Two of the other regions also showed increases. Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 2.5 percent last month while lagging behind February 2007 sales by 19.5 percent. The median price in the Midwest was $143,900, which is 7.1 percent lower than February 2007.
In the South, sales increased 2.1 percent but are 22.0 percent below February 2007. The median price in the South was $163,400, down 8.6 percent from a year ago.
Sales in the West slipped 1.1 percent month-over-month and are 29.2 percent below a year ago. The median price in the West was $290,400, down 13.4 percent from February 2007.


By Jonathan Clements From The Wall Street Journal Online
Financial lore says you should buy when there's blood in the street -- which suggests real estate is a bargain, because there's blood all over the neighborhood.
Time to invest? I wouldn't be surprised to see home prices drop sharply this spring, as long-suffering sellers in hard-hit areas throw in the towel and slash their asking price.
That could spell opportunity for this year's buyers. But what if you already own a home -- and have no desire to become a landlord? Here are three ways to play today's battered housing market.
Trading up. If you're hankering after a larger home or a house in a better neighborhood, this could be your chance to trade up on the cheap.
To be sure, when you go to sell your current home, you will likely get a modest price. Since 2006's second quarter, real estate has fallen 10.2%, as measured by the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index. But your new, grander house will also be relatively inexpensive, so you're effectively cranking up your real-estate exposure when the market is well below its peak.
That said, I wouldn't think of this move as an investment. Your new home will probably mean not only a bigger mortgage, but also higher ongoing costs, including homeowner's insurance, property taxes and maintenance expenses. These ongoing costs will offset a large chunk of any future home-price appreciation.
In other words, trading up to a larger home or a better neighborhood is really about wanting to consume more real estate. Still, like any thrifty shopper, you want to buy when there's a sale -- and that is what today's market offers.
"It's like going from a Honda to a Mercedes," says Charles Farrell, a financial adviser with Denver's Northstar Investment Advisors. "It's a lifestyle choice. As long as it doesn't cut into your ability to accumulate capital for retirement, this is probably a pretty good time to upgrade."
Doubling down. Instead of trading up, you might be eyeing a vacation home. If you don't plan to rent the place out, the same logic applies: Once you subtract the annual costs from the price appreciation, you likely won't make very much money -- which means the property won't be much of an investment.
On the other hand, maybe you're two or three years from retirement and are toying with buying a second home that could become your sole residence once you quit the work force. Does it make sense to purchase now, given the decline in home prices?
Buying today is no doubt appealing, because it'll give you a chance to vacation in your future home. But whether it turns out to be a wise financial move depends on what happens to property prices -- and that's tough to predict.
Still, I wouldn't bank on a rapid bounce back in home prices. At the current sales pace, it would take a whopping 10.3 months to clear January's backlog of unsold homes. By contrast, in January 2005, the supply of unsold homes was at a mere 3.6 months, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The bottom line: If you think you'll get a lot of use from a second home, go ahead and buy. But if you view the purchase as a bet on rising home prices, I would hold off for now.
Helping hand. While buying more real estate for your own use probably won't be a great investment, you could help your adult children make good money -- by transforming them from renters to homeowners.
To that end, you might give your kids an advance on their eventual inheritance, so they have enough money to make a down payment. Yes, that means they will start to incur the housing costs I mentioned above, including property taxes and maintenance expenses. But your children will also replace their monthly rent check with a monthly mortgage check, and that will allow them to start building home equity.
"If you have kids who are first-time buyers in markets that are relatively depressed, this could be a good time," Mr. Farrell reckons. "These days, they might need to make a 10% down payment. You could make a gift to them of the down payment or make a loan to them."


HUD Home Fact #1
About the FHAThe Federal Housing Administration (FHA), an agency of the federal government, insures private loans that are issued for new and existing housing, and loans that are approved for home repairs. Created by congress in 1934, the FHA became part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Housing (HUD) in 1965. Today the mission of the FHA includes helping borrowers get amounts they qualify for, and assisting lenders by reducing their risk in issuing loans. To find out if you might be eligible for an FHA-insured loan, contact us.
HUD Home Fact #2
Credit Problems and a HUD Housing LoanIt is advisable to approach any FHA loan with your best possible credit rating. If you have had credit problems in the past, the FHA recommends a Consumer Credit Counseling program to avoid being denied an FHA loan. A good credit counselor can talk to you about income-to-debt ratio, maintaining satisfactory payments and challenging errors on your credit report. The FHA recommends creating a satisfactory payment history for at least one year before applying for any FHA loan program.
HUD Home Fact #3
The FHA TOTAL ScorecardIf you submit FHA paperwork electronically, the FHA TOTAL Scorecard is used to measure the credit risk of all FHA loans submitted through the automatic underwriting system. Your FHA loan is processed through a qualified and approved FHA lender. Applications submitted through FHA TOTAL are evaluated by a standardized scoring procedure creating a quick, fair and seamless evaluation. The FHA's TOTAL system is internet based and works in real time.
HUD Home Fact #4
Applying for an FHA LoanThe FHA asks for a lot of information on your FHA loan application. You will need to provide the FHA with a wide range of details including:
All addresses where you have lived in the previous two years.
Your employer's name and addresses for the last two years, plus the amount of your Gross Monthly Salary.
W2s for the past two years.
Income tax forms submitted for the last two years.
Gather all of this before you begin your FHA application so you will have everything handy to complete your FHA loan forms at one time.
HUD Home Fact #5
Additional Paperwork for VeteransThe FHA asks that veterans submit the DD Form 214 along with their FHA loan application paperwork. The DD Form 214 is the official record of discharge from the Armed Forces. If you have recently separated, retired or otherwise left active duty and don't have your DD Form 214, request a copy from either your final outprocessing base (call the orderly room, records office or outbound assignments/outprocessing office), or request the form electronically from the Department of Defense
HUD Home Fact #6
FHA/HUD Insured Mortgages and RefundsIf you have an FHA loan or HUD insured mortgage, you may have paid an "up-front" mortgage insurance premium at the closing of your house. Assuming you did not default on your mortgage payments, you may be eligible for a refund on part of your insurance premium. Loans granted after September 1, 1983 may be entitled to this refund. Check your FHA loan settlement paperwork or phone your lender to learn more. If you need further assistance, contact your FHA loan officer for help.
HUD Home Fact #7
Popular FHA LoansThe 203(b) FHA Fixed Rate Mortgage Loan Program is the widely used FHA home loan, especially among first time home buyers. The 203(b) FHA loan keeps your down payment to a minimum. Your closing costs may also be reduced. The 203(b) FHA loan will finance up to ninety-seven percent of your loan. You must qualify with some debt-to-income ratios, but the 203(b) does not have a minimum income requirement. Check with a financial planner about your debt to income ratio, or discuss your financial status with a lender. Find out how to maximize your credit rating before you apply for your FHA loan.
HUD Home Fact #8
Where FHA Mortgages Come FromFHA loans do not come directly from the FHA. The FHA guarantees home loans, reducing the risk to lenders and offering increased borrowing power to qualified applicants. You may bet better interest rates thanks to FHA home loan insurance. FHA loans are particularly helpful for who want a home, but have little or no money saved for a down payment; including those just graduating college, newly married couples, and also those who have had credit problems in the past because of foreclosure or bankruptcy. Check out your credit rating and get a list of lending limits for FHA loans in your area which vary from state to state, and may even vary by county.
HUD Home Fact #9
Pre-qualify for an FHA Home LoanTo pre-qualify for an FHA loan, you should be able to demonstrate employability, job stability and reliability. To the FHA, reliability includes holding a steady job for at least two years with the same company or employer and increasing or at least maintaining consistent income. The FHA would like to see that any foreclosures or bankruptcies on your record are at least three years old. The FHA loan bottom line: demonstrate that you have been a good credit risk for two years or more and you will have a much better chance at pre-qualifying for an FHA loan.
HUD Home Fact #10
The Increased FHA Loan AmountIn early 2006, a HUD press release announced an increase of nearly thirty thousand dollars in FHA-insured home loan money being made available to borrowers for single-family home mortgages. This increase signals more borrowing power with your FHA home loan, and it allows more people than ever the opportunity to own a home. With only a three-percent down payment and a single-family home mortgage limits coming closer to two hundred thousand dollars, now may be the best time to apply for an FHA home loan. First, evaluate your finances; your monthly housing costs should not exceed more than 29% of your gross monthly income. Use gross income, not net income, when evaluating your finances to apply for your FHA loan.


March 7, 2008 – $100 HUD Repo Program Now Available in Kansas and Missouri
The FHA HUD Repo Program which allows the borrower to make only a $100 downpayment when purchasing a HUD repossessed home has now expanded to include Kansas and Missouri. Borrowers are only required to make a $100 downpayment instead of the normally required 3% investment. In certain cases the borrower and perhaps even the selling real estate agent may be eligible for additional incentives. The $100 HUD Repo program allows for a maximum LTV up to 110% in order to finance closing costs and prepaid expenses above 100%.
FHA continues to provide highly competitive interest rates and mortgage insurance premiums for borrowers who have had credit challenges in the past as well as for those that have not.