U.S. New-Home Sales in May Climb to Best Levels Since 2008

24 06 2015

Purchases of new U.S. homes surged in the Northeast and West in May, as steady job growth over the past year has lifted the real estate sector.

The Commerce Department said that new-home sales rose 2.2 percent in May 2015 to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 546,000, the strongest pace in more than seven years.

Sales of new homes have soared 24 percent year-to-date, helped by the additional incomes from the employers hiring 3.1 million workers in the past 12 months and relatively low mortgage rates. The sharp increase in purchases could help drive more employment in the construction sector and broader economic growth, potentially offsetting the setbacks to growth in the manufacturing sector caused by cheaper oil prices and a stronger dollar that has hurt exports.

Last month’s sales gains were concentrated in the Northeast, where sales jumped 87.5 percent. New-home sales increased 13.1 percent in the West, but slipped in the Midwest and South.

The median sales price has fallen slightly, dipping 1 percent over the past 12 months to $282,800.

The increases have caused the supply of new homes to dwindle to 4.5 months, compared to the six months’ supply generally associated with a healthy market.

Still, homebuilders are preparing to meet this demand, having broken ground on more houses this year and plan to continue construction. Approved building permits rose increased 11.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.28 million, the highest level since August 2007, the Commerce Department reported last week.

Existing homes are also seeing strong sales as the economy continues to muscle up.

Sales of existing homes climbed 5.1 percent in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.35 million, the National Association of Realtors said Monday. Tight supplies have lifted prices, which have climbed 7.9 percent over the past 12 months to an average of $228,700, about $1,700 below the July 2006 peak.

Much of the increased buying activity flows from a stronger job market and relatively affordable mortgage rates.

Borrowing costs are low by historical standards, but they have been rising in recent weeks at a speed that might prompt more people to buy homes.

Average 30-year fixed rates were 4 percent last week, according to the mortgage giant Freddie Mac. That average has increased from a 52-week low of 3.59 percent.

Soure: Associated Press





William Vasana Receives 2015 Best of Jacksonville Award

4 06 2015

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Jacksonville Award Program Honors the Achievement

2015 Best of Jacksonville Award

2015 Best of Jacksonville Award

JACKSONVILLE June 4, 2015 — William Vasana has been selected for the 2015 Best of Jacksonville Award in the Real Estate Agents category by the Jacksonville Award Program.

Each year, the Jacksonville Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Jacksonville area a great place to live, work and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2015 Jacksonville Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Jacksonville Award Program and data provided by third parties.

About Jacksonville Award Program

The Jacksonville Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Jacksonville area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.

The Jacksonville Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community’s contributions to the U.S. economy.

CONTACT:
Jacksonville Award Program
Email: PublicRelations@awardsystem.org
URL: http://www.awardsystem.org

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Watson Realty Corp. Announces Nocatee Office Groundbreaking

4 04 2015

St. Johns County, Fla. – Watson Realty Corp. is excited to announce the groundbreaking of its newest office in Nocatee, Florida. The ceremony will be held on April 7th at 2:30 p.m. at the site of the future building located at the corner of Nocatee Village Dr. and Marketside Ave. Light hors d’oeuvres and refreshments will be served.

The Nocatee office will provide real estate services including sales, leasing, property management, mortgage, and title services.

“I am really excited to open a new Watson office in Nocatee,” said Ed Forman, Watson Realty Corp. President. “This is a tremendous opportunity to have a location in one of the top selling communities in the country.”

Nocatee was the third best-selling master-planned community in the nation in 2013, according to real estate advisory firm RCLCO.

“It is a perfect time to add an office in Nocatee as Watson Realty Corp. celebrates its 50th anniversary,” noted William A. Watson, Jr. founder and Chairman of the Board, Watson Realty Corp.

Plans for the site include the construction of a state-of-the-art 6,000 square foot building with 4,200 square feet for the real estate office and 1,800 square feet for rental space. The anticipated completion date of the project is November 2015.





U.S. existing home sales rise in December but down for 2014

24 01 2015

U.S. home resales rose slightly in December but fell overall for the year, the first annual drop since 2010 and another sign that the housing market recovery remains uneven amid expectations of a pick-up in 2015.

The National Association of Realtors said existing home sales increased 2.4 percent to an annual rate of 5.04 million units last month. That was slightly below economists’ expectations for a 5.06-million-unit pace.

“The still-tight mortgage credit conditions and more challenging first-time homebuyer affordability that were revealed by the failure of home sales to continue recovering last year remain serious concerns as we head into 2015,” said Ted Wieseman, an economist at JPMorgan in New York.

First-time buyers made up 29 percent of transactions in December as well as for the year as a whole, well below the level needed to boost growth in the housing market.

For all of 2014, existing home sales fell 3.1 percent, the first annual drop in four years. The housing market has struggled to maintain momentum since stagnating in the second half of 2013 following a run-up in mortgage rates.

At December’s sales pace it would take 4.4 months to clear all available houses from the market, down from 5.1 months in November and the lowest since January 2013.

However, a decline in mortgage rates, an easing of lending standards and the resurgent health of the U.S. economy over the last few months has spurred optimism that sales could strengthen this year.

And the outlook for the economy remains upbeat. In a separate report the Conference Board said its Leading Economic Index rose 0.5 percent last month after a 0.4 percent increase in November.

December’s jump was driven by gains in most of the index’s components, suggesting the short-term outlook is getting brighter and the economy continues to build momentum, the Conference Board said.

Source: Reuter





2014 Northeast Florida Housing Market Report

23 01 2015

The 2014 Annual Report on the Northeast Florida Housing Market is out.  The sales price and inventory showed improvement but the market recovery was not as strong as in 2013.  We saw moderate inventory gains.

Overall, pending sales increased 10.3 percent. That’s the 5th consecutive year of sales gains. Median Sales Price of single-family homes were up 3.0 percent while condos and townhouses increased 4.8 percent.

In almost every community, foreclosure and short sale activity is declining and is near multi-year lows.

In 2015, watch for stronger seller activity to increase inventory levels.

The report is available for download at http://www.nefar.com/filebin/2014MktStatsAnnlRpt.pdf





Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to Accept 3% Down Payment Mortgages

21 10 2014

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are close to allowing consumers to buy a home with as little as a 3 percent down payment and still have the mortgages backed by the two agencies.

More details are expected to be announced in coming weeks, but the move from a 5 percent down payment could increase the ability of creditworthy but cash–strapped consumers to become homeowners and help a faltering housing market regain its traction. Both agencies at one point had accepted 3 percent down payments. Fannie Mae stopped accepting loans with 3 percent down payments last year, while Freddie Mac stopped accepting them in June 2011.

“Through these revised guidelines, we believe that the enterprises will be able to responsibly serve a targeted segment of creditworthy borrowers with lower down payment mortgages by taking into account compensating factors,” said Mel Watt, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Fannie and Freddie’s overseer, during a speech Monday at the Mortgage Bankers Association’s annual convention in Las Vegas. “It is yet another much-needed piece to the broader access-to-credit puzzle.”

Watt also announced other policy initiatives to make lenders more comfortable with the federal government’s mortgage purchase guidelines in the hope it will loosen their purse strings.

“It’s a very big deal,” said Dan Gjeldum, a senior vice president at mortgage lender Guaranteed Rate. “It will dramatically reduce the expense for a first-time homebuyer. The easier it is to do business with the agency, the easier it’s going to be for consumers to work with mortgage companies.”

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do not originate mortgages directly to homebuyers. Instead, lenders sell mortgages that meet certain criteria to the two agencies, which in turn package them into securities and sell them to investors. The investments are guaranteed, which means that investors recoup losses if the homeowner defaults. Fannie and Freddie can force lenders to repurchase bad loans.

The upshot of those assurances is a more cautious lending environment that is leaving some would-be buyers on the sidelines.

Watt said Monday the FHFA was taking steps to clarify the circumstances under which Fannie and Freddie could force a lender to repurchase a loan, in an effort to reduce lender confusion. “I hope our actions provide sufficient certainty to enable your companies to reassess existing credit overlays and more aggressively make responsible loans available to creditworthy borrowers,” Watt said in prepared remarks distributed by the FHFA.

In its most recent report, the FHFA said the average FICO credit score of borrowers was 744 for Fannie Mae and 742 for Freddie Mac, lower than at the end of 2013. FICO scores range from 300 to 850.

Borrowers who put down less than 20 percent on a home purchase typically pay mortgage insurance that continues until their equity in the home reaches 20 percent. Reducing the down payment requirement to 3 percent from 5 percent will require a longer period of mortgage insurance and benefit mortgage insurance providers.

Homebuyers with lesser credit scores and smaller down payments traditionally flocked to mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration that required down payments of only 3.5 percent. However, to aid the agency’s finances, the upfront fees and monthly insurance premiums associated with those loans have increased, reducing demand for them and keeping more first-time buyers on the sidelines.

Watt’s announcement is the latest step in the federal government’s effort to continue a housing market recovery that has stagnated lately, confounding industry watchers. Last month, Fannie Mae shortened the waiting period that homeowners who have gone through a bankruptcy, a foreclosure or a short sale must wait before they can again purchase a home.

Addressing the convention earlier Monday, David Stevens, president and CEO of the mortgage bankers, noted that 2014 purchase loan originations are expected to be more than 10 percent below last year’s level.

Even billionaire Warren Buffett has recently weighed in on the market’s malaise, saying he didn’t understand why low interest rates and economic improvement weren’t fueling a housing market recovery. “You would think that people would be lining up now to get mortgages to buy a home,” he said at a conference this month.

At one point, there was speculation that the average interest rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage would hit 5 percent by year’s end, but analysts now think that threshold won’t be hit until halfway through 2015. Last week, the average fixed interest rate on a 30-year mortgage was 3.97 percent, the lowest it’s been since June 2013.

However, most consumers rarely see rates that low because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as extra-cautious lenders, tack on credit overlays tied to consumers’ down payment amounts and credit scores.

“Mortgages are still tough to get,” said Pradeep Shukla, president of the Mainstreet Organization of Realtors. “Lenders are still extra cautious. On the whole, what is most important is consumer confidence and that is still lacking.”

Source: Chicago Tribune





Delinquent Homeowners Two Years Behind on Mortgage Payment Can Now Qualify For Loan Modification

21 10 2014

Florida borrowers two or more years late on their mortgage payments could get another chance to save their homes following a change in loan modification rules by the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Federal mortgage backers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced the elimination of an eligibility cap that forbid loan modifications to people with delinquencies of 720 days or more.

The change was made to the “streamlined modification” program, which was created in 2013 and billed as a more automatic route to lower mortgage payments because no application or exchange of paperwork is required.

It’s estimated that nearly half of borrowers nationwide who are ineligible because of the 720-day cap, would otherwise be able to get a loan modification through the program, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Lenders must comply with the cap elimination by April 1, 2015, but are being encouraged to make the change immediately. Borrowers who were previously denied a streamlined modification because they were more than two years late on payments must be reevaluated, according to letters sent to lenders and mortgage servicers Oct. 1.

“We’ve had multiple clients receive approvals under this program,” said Paul Baltrun, director of corporate development for the Law Office of Paul A. Krasker in West Palm Beach. “It’s very little paperwork, mostly just phone conversations with the lender, and the turn time is quicker.”

The streamlined modification program was developed because of consistent complaints from borrowers that banks repeatedly lose loan modification paperwork in a bureaucratic process that can take years to complete. Banks have also said obtaining the correct employment and payment documents from borrowers can be a hurdle in completing a modification.

Under the program, lenders send contracts to borrowers with new payment amounts. The modification could include a fixed interest rate, an extension of the loan to 40 years, and possibly deferring a portion of the debt owed to the end of the loan so it’s not included in current payment calculations.

Also, borrowers are encouraged to apply for other loan modification plans, such as the Home Affordable Modification Program, which could offer a better deal.

If the borrower agrees and makes three on-time payments, the modification becomes permanent.

Baltrun said it’s hard to gauge how many people the change will affect. Although the worst of the foreclosure crisis is over, he said a significant number of homeowners are still looking for modifications because they have lost jobs, or have used up their savings trying to stay in their home.

“I think it will help a small number of people in specific circumstances,” said Baltrun, who believes removing the cap is a good change. “Why would someone who is 721 days late be declined when someone who is 719 days late is approved?

Other eligibility requirements for the streamlined modification include homeowners must be at least 90 days late on their mortgage and can’t have more than 20 percent equity in their home.

About 3 percent of Florida homeowners with mortgages were 90 days late or more on payments during the second quarter of this year, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Nearly 10 percent were either 90 days delinquent, or in foreclosure.

While that’s still the second highest foreclosure and serious delinquency rate in the nation behind New Jersey, it’s an improvement from where Florida was at the end of 2011 when 18 percent of mortgages were in the same position.

Streamlining modifications is increasingly important in Florida where foreclosure courts are moving cases more quickly through the system. That means less time for negotiating with the bank before a final foreclosure judgment is issued.

“You can’t even keep people in their homes very long anymore,” said Deerfield Beach-based attorney Bonnie Lynn Canty, who defends foreclosures. “Used to be four years out before you were looking at a (foreclosure) sale date. Now, it’s at the most two years.”

Source: Palm Beach Post, Bloomberg BusinessWeek








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