Housing Affordability Index Rose to Record Level in Past Two Decades

23 02 2012

Nationwide housing affordability, as measured by the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI), rose to the highest percentage recorded in the 20-year history of the index during the fourth quarter of 2011. However, prospective homebuyers continued to have trouble qualifying for a mortgage thanks to tighter credit standards and a soft economy.

HOI data released last week indicates that 75.9 percent of all new and existing homes sold in the fourth quarter were affordable to families earning the national median income of $64,200, the highest percentage recorded in the 20-year history of the index.

“While today’s report indicates that homeownership is within reach of more households than it has been for more than two decades, overly restrictive lending conditions confronting homebuyers and builders remain significant obstacles to many potential homes sales, even with interest rates at historically low levels,” said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla.

In Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio, Pa. – the most affordable major housing market in the country during the fourth quarter – 95.1 percent of all homes sold during the quarter were affordable to households earning the area’s median family income of $54,900.

Also ranking at the top of the most affordable major housing markets, in descending order were Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla.; Modesto, Calif.; Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pa.; and Toledo, Ohio.

Among smaller housing markets, the most affordable was Kokomo, Ind., where 99.2 percent of homes sold during the fourth quarter of 2011 were affordable to families earning the median income of $59,100. Other smaller housing markets at the top of the index included Fairbanks, Alaska; Cumberland, Md.-W.Va.; Lima, Ohio; and Rockford, Ill.

In New York-White Plain-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J. – the least affordable major housing market during 2011’s fourth quarter – 29.0 percent of all homes sold were affordable to those earning the area’s median income of $67,400. It’s the 15th consecutive quarter in which the New York metropolitan division held the position.

Other major metro areas at the bottom of the affordability index included Honolulu; San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif.; Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif.; and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif., respectively.

Ocean City, N.J., where 47.5 percent of the homes were affordable to families earning the median income of $70,100, was the least affordable of the smaller metro housing markets in the country during the fourth quarter. Other small metro areas ranking near the bottom included Laredo, Texas; San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Calif.; Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.; and Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas.

Source: National Association of Home Builders

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National Existing Home Sales Up Again in January, Inventory Down

23 02 2012

National existing-home sales rose in January, marking three gains in the past four months, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). In addition, the high inventory of homes continued to improve.

Total existing-home sales – completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – increased 4.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.57 million in January from a downwardly revised 4.38 million-unit pace in December and are 0.7 percent above a spike to 4.54 million in January 2011.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said strong gains in contract activity in recent months shows buyers are responding to very favorable market conditions. “The uptrend in home sales is in line with all of the underlying fundamentals – pent-up household formation, record-low mortgage interest rates, bargain home prices, sustained job creation and rising rents.”

Total housing inventory at the end of January fell 0.4 percent to 2.31 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.1-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 6.4-month supply in December.

“The broad inventory condition can be described as moving into a rough balance, not favoring buyers or sellers,” Yun said. “Foreclosure sales are moving swiftly with ready homebuyers and investors competing in nearly all markets. A government proposal to turn bank-owned properties into rentals on a large scale does not appear to be needed at this time.”

Total unsold listed inventory has trended down from a record 4.04 million in July 2007, and is 20.6 percent below a year ago.

NAR President Moe Veissi, broker-owner of Veissi & Associates Inc. in Miami, said buying power is enticing more potential homebuyers. “Word has been spreading about the record high housing affordability conditions and our members are reporting an increase in foot traffic compared with a year ago,” he said. “With other favorable market factors, these are hopeful indicators leading into the spring home-buying season. We’re cautiously optimistic that an uptrend will continue this year.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was a record low 3.92 percent in January, down from 3.96 percent in December; the rate was 4.76 percent in January 2011; recordkeeping began in 1971.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $154,700 in January, down 2.0 percent from January 2011. Distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales that sell at deep discounts – accounted for 35 percent of January sales (22 percent were foreclosures and 13 percent were short sales), up from 32 percent in December; they were 37 percent in January 2011.

“Home buyers over the past three years have had some of the lowest default rates in history,” Yun said. “Entering the market at a low point and buying at discounted prices have greatly helped in that success.”

All-cash sales were unchanged at 31 percent in January; they were 32 percent in January 2011. Investors account for the bulk of cash transactions.

Investors purchased 23 percent of homes in January, up from 21 percent in December; they were also 23 percent in January 2011. First-time buyers rose to 33 percent of transactions in January from 31 percent in December; they were 29 percent in January 2011.

Forty-seven percent of NAR members report that contracts settled on time in January; 21 percent had delays, and 33 percent experienced contract failures. Contract cancellations are unchanged from December but were only 9 percent in January 2011. Most contract failings are caused by lenders that decline mortgage applications and failures in loan underwriting appraisals that come in below the negotiated price.

Single-family home sales rose 3.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.05 million in January from 3.90 million in December, and are 2.3 percent above the 3.96 million-unit pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $154,400 in January, down 2.6 percent from January 2011.

Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 8.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 520,000 in January from 480,000 in December, but are 10.3 percent lower than the 580,000-unit level in January 2011. The median existing condo price was $156,600 in January, up 2.0 percent from a year ago.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 3.4 percent to an annual pace of 600,000 in January and are 7.1 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $225,700, which is 4.2 percent below January 2011.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest increased 1.0 percent in December to a level of 980,000 and are 3.2 percent higher than January 2011. The median price in the Midwest was $122,000, down 3.9 percent from a year ago.

In the South, existing-home sales rose 3.5 percent to an annual level of 1.76 million in January, unchanged from a year ago. The median price in the South was $134,800, which is 0.3 percent below January 2011.

Existing-home sales in the West jumped 8.8 percent to an annual pace of 1.23 million in January but are 3.1 percent below a spike in January 2011. The median price in the West was $187,100, down 1.8 percent from a year ago.

Source: National Association of Realtor





Florida Housing Market Upbeat in January 2012

23 02 2012

Florida’s housing market reported gains in median sales prices and a reduced inventory of homes for sale in January, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®.

“We’re seeing positive signs of a strengthening recovery in Florida’s housing market,” says 2012 Florida Realtors President Summer Greene, regional manager of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Florida 1st in Fort Lauderdale. “In both the statewide single-family and condo-townhome markets, pending sales are higher and the statewide median sales price rose – up 5.3 percent to $129,000 for single-family homes and up 18.8 percent to $95,000 for condo-townhomes. Improving the availability of affordable financing to qualified buyers and investors would continue to stabilize Florida’s housing market and economy.”

The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less. Sales of foreclosures and other distressed properties continue to downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes, according to housing industry analysts.

The national median sales price for existing single-family homes in December 2011 was $165,100, which is 2.5 percent below the previous year, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). In California, the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in December was $285,920; in Maryland, it was $222,934.

Florida statewide sales of existing single-family homes totaled 12,044 in January 2012, down 5.5 percent compared to the year-ago figure, according to data from Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department and vendor partner 10K Research and Marketing.

Looking at Florida’s year-to-year comparison for sales of condos/townhomes, a total of 5,963 units sold statewide last month, down 22.6 percent from those sold in January 2011. According to NAR, the national median existing condo price in December 2011 was $160,000.

“Even though closed sales are down from a year ago, there are two really bright spots in Florida’s housing market,” said Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo. “One is a significant increase in pending sales. In fact, pending sales have been up every month since May. The barrier that stands between pending sales and closings is the difficulty consumers are experiencing in obtaining financing.

“The second positive is inventories, which are now at a point close to a balanced market,” Tuccillo said. The months supply of inventory stands at 6.4 for both the single-family homes market and the condos/townhomes market.

The interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.92 percent in January 2012, down from the 4.76 percent average during the same month a year earlier, according to Freddie Mac.

To see the full statewide housing activity report, go to Florida Realtors Media Center at http://media.floridarealtors.org/ and look under Latest Releases, or download the report under Market Data at: http://media.floridarealtors.org/market-data.

The January 2012 Florida Realtors home sales release marks a new statewide housing market reporting partnership between Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department and a new vendor partner, 10K Research and Marketing. Housing sales data from the state’s 63 local Realtor organizations is collected and organized with the goal of providing unique, localized market reports to the local Realtor boards and associations within Florida Realtors, enabling the groups and their Realtor members to serve as the definitive voice of real estate in their respective local markets.

At the same time, Florida Realtors is providing comprehensive statewide housing market statistics – but this new data series only includes statewide numbers. Beginning with this January 2012 housing data report, Florida Realtors is no longer reporting any market data for Realtor members’ sales in the state’s metropolitan statistical areas, as had previously been reported in partnership with the University of Florida’s Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies.

Source: Florida Realtors





What Short Sale Homeowners Should Know

9 02 2012

Homeowners considering a short sale may want to start the process now and should try to close by December 31, 2012 as the government may or may not extend the tax provision for any tax liability associated with forgiveness of a mortgage loan.

Short sales normally take time to process and may even fall through before homeowners can close on their homes. If a bank writes off debt in a short sale, it’s a “taxable event,” and the lender tells the Internal Revenue Service about the deal by submitting a “Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt” at the end of the year. Home sellers must acknowledge the amount when they fill out their federal taxes. The federal government forgives any tax liability associated with forgiveness of a mortgage loan.

The government generally considers forgiven debt to be income. If a seller has signed legal loan papers to take out a $200,000 mortgage and the lender accepts $100,000 in a short sale, for example, the seller received the equivalent of $100,000 in free money by government estimates. As a result, the IRS taxes it. The tax amount can be significant. On a debt of $100,000, a short-sale seller in the 25 percent tax bracket could end up owing $25,000 in income taxes.

For tax year 2012, however, the government still forgives the debt; in 2013, it might not.

In general, homeowners believe the government will extend this tax provision. However, as evidenced by the First Time Homebuyer Credit expiration in 2010, you can’t always count on the government to bail you out.

If you or someone you know need to consider a short sale, please consult with a local real estate professional who is knowledgeable with a short sale process and has a proven track record in the number of transactions they have completed to help homeowners avoid the foreclosure. Ask your real estate professional for his/her credentials and designations so you know they have the education and expertise in dealing with a pre-foreclosure/short sale process.








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