Washington, DC, February 27, 2012
Pending home sales are on an upward trend, which has been uneven but meaningful since reaching a cyclical low last April, and are well above a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, rose 2.0 percent to 97.0 in January from a downwardly revised 95.1 in December and is 8.0 percent higher than January 2011 when it was 89.8. The data reflects contracts but not closings.
The January index is the highest since April 2010 when it reached 111.3 as buyers were rushing to take advantage of the home buyer tax credit.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said this is a hopeful indicator going into the spring home-buying season. “Given more favorable housing market conditions, the trend in contract activity implies we are on track for a more meaningful sales gain this year. With a sustained downtrend in unsold inventory, this would bring about a broad price stabilization or even modest national price growth, of course with local variations.”
The PHSI in the Northeast rose 7.6 percent to 78.2 in January and is 9.8 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest the index declined 3.8 percent to 88.1 but is 10.8 percent higher than January 2011. Pending home sales in the South increased 7.7 percent to an index of 109.1 in January and are 10.5 percent above a year ago. In the West the index fell 4.4 percent in January to 101.9 but is 0.7 percent above January 2011.
“Movements in the index have been uneven, reflecting the headwinds of tight credit, but job gains, high affordability and rising rents are hopefully pushing the market into what appears to be a sustained housing recovery,” Yun said. “If and when credit availability conditions return to normal, home sales will likely get a 15 percent boost, speed up the home-price recovery, and thereby significantly reduce the number of homeowners who are underwater.”
The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
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*The Pending Home Sales Index is a leading indicator for the housing sector, based on pending sales of existing homes. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed but the transaction has not closed, though the sale usually is finalized within one or two months of signing.
The index is based on a large national sample, typically representing about 20 percent of transactions for existing-home sales. In developing the model for the index, it was demonstrated that the level of monthly sales-contract activity parallels the level of closed existing-home sales in the following two months.
An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year to be examined as well as the first of five consecutive record years for existing-home sales; it coincides with a level that is historically healthy.
Also released today are annual data revisions. Each February, NAR Research incorporates a normal review of seasonal activity factors and fine-tunes historic data for the past three years based on the most recent findings. There are no changes to unadjusted or annual data.
The home buyer tax credit and a greater investor share in winter months likely contributed to a larger-than-normal adjustment to the seasonal factors.
NOTE: Existing-home sales for February will be reported March 21 and the next Pending Home Sales Index will be released March 26. The Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey, covering transactions in 2011, is scheduled for March 29; all release times are 10:00 a.m. EDT.
Information about NAR is available at www.realtor.org. This and other news releases are posted in the News Media section. Statistical data in this release, other tables and surveys also may be found by clicking on Research.
REALTOR® is a registered collective membership mark which may be used only by real estate professionals who are members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and subscribe to its strict Code of Ethics. Not all real estate agents are REALTORS®. All REALTORS® are members of NAR.
Real estate: 5 reasons to get a new mortgage in 2012
By Marcie Geffner
Posted: 01/05/2012 05:05:42 PM PST
Updated: 01/05/2012 05:06:59 PM PST
Mortgage interest rates, near all-time lows, are likely to remain attractive throughout 2012. That means opportunities for new homebuyers and for homeowners who want to refinance.
Here are five reasons why you might want to get a new mortgage, and what you should know.
While depressed housing prices and low mortgage rates have made homes more affordable, economic uncertainty and volatile housing markets have discouraged so many homebuyers that mortgage purchase applications dropped to a 15-year low in August, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported.
In qualifying for loans, buyers face hurdles including a down payment and the ability to document at least two years of income, says Justin Lopatin, vice president of Baytree National Bank & Trust in Chicago. Income documentation can be hard for people who’ve suffered temporary unemployment, are self-employed or have irregular wages.
Many investors pay cash to purchase residential rental properties. But some take out a mortgage to increase their leverage, says Julie Miller, sales manager at Prospect Mortgage in Irvine, Calif.
Lopatin says low interest rates are an inducement for investment property buyers.
“If you can take out an investment loan at 4.5 percent and rent out (the property) and make a few dollars a month, annually, the return will be worth the loan,” he says. “Not to mention the tax write-offs and other advantages of owning real estate.”
Mortgage insurance isn’t an option for investment property, so a fat down payment, typically 20 percent or more, is a must.
Investment buyers also need to show that they have enough income and reserves to afford the payments even if the tenant fails to pay the rent or moves out. Lenders typically will count 75 percent of the rent toward the borrower’s income-qualifying ratios, Lopatin says. For example, a monthly rent of $1,000 would count as $750 of income.
Low rates can make rate-and-term refinancing a smart financial move. This type of new loan is exactly what the name implies: a refinance in which the interest rate or term is changed, but the loan amount stays the same.
Another benefit might be locking in a fixed interest rate instead of an adjustable rate.
Homeowners who want to refinance must provide income documentation and have a “decent” credit score, to use Miller’s characterization.
Equity is also required for most loan refinance programs. This hurdle can be troublesome because homeowners don’t control a property’s market value, Lopatin says.
If your loan amount exceeds your home’s value, consider the Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP, part of the federal government’s Making Home Affordable initiative. If your loan is insured by the Federal Housing Administration, the FHA Short Refi program might enable you to refinance in a negative equity position.
A home equity loan or line of credit can be a good way to get cash for financial needs such as remodeling, major home repairs or financing a college education. The benefits, Lopatin says, include immediate cash, low-cost debt and potentially an income tax write-off.
There’s a catch: You can’t borrow against your equity if your mortgage debt exceeds your home’s value.
Taking out cash isn’t free money. In fact, a cash-out refinance increases your debt, which is “just not wise today,” says Alfred McIntosh, principal of McIntosh Capital Advisors, a financial planning firm in Los Angeles.
Co-signing a home loan for someone might sound like a feel-good proposition. But those warm fuzzies are the only benefit to co-signing.
“I see no reason why anyone should co-sign on anything for anyone, unless it’s a relative, because you’re putting yourself in a position to jeopardize your credit,” Lopatin says.
Miller sees “more negatives than positives” because the co-signer is equally responsible for the loan. If the borrower fails to make payments, the co-signer is on the hook.
Mortgage rates fell this week, reaching new record lows as investors seemed to ignore the latest signs of economic recovery.
The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell 3 basis points to 4.18 percent. A basis point is one-hundredth of 1 percentage point.
The 15-year fixed-rate fell 4 basis points to 3.4 percent. The average rate for 30-year jumbo mortgages, or generally for those of more than $417,000, fell 2 basis points to 4.62 percent.
The 5/1 ARM fell 1 basis point to 3.19 percent. With a 5/1 ARM, the rate is fixed for five years and adjusted annually thereafter.
(Reach Marcie Geffner at editors(at) bankrate.com. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service)
Published in the Fredericksburg Freelance Star
Get HELP with your energy bills
Date published: 11/22/2011
WITH ALL the scam artists around, "Caveat emptor"–"Let the buyer beware"–might be a useful tattoo on the back of your hand. When something seems too good to be true, it usually is. But not always. Middle-class homeowners in Greater Fredericksburg are eligible for thousands of dollars in energy-saving improvements to their digs, as some $645,00 in federal money is looking for a good home–to make better.
But you don’t have to get involved with Beltway bureaucrats to claim a share. The George Washington Regional Commission–the Planning District covering Fredericksburg and the counties of Stafford, Spotsylvania, King George, and Caroline–is administering the funds in the form of rebates through the HELP (Home Energy Loss Prevention) program. Yes, there’s a little paperwork and a home inspection to complete, but once the work, which employs local contractors, is done, the GWRC sends full or partial rebates to homeowners in "two or three days," says HELP director Kevin Byrnes.
The Department of Energy-funded program, which uses funds approved under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to upgrade homes 10 years or older, covers the purchase and installation of new water heaters, windows and doors, furnaces, and central air-conditioning systems. It also pays for ductwork insulation, HVAC tune-ups, programmable thermostats, and weatherization.
The real savings, of course, come when a homeowner is able to heat or AC his or her own home rather than the rest of the planet. One HELP beneficiary, Jill Gajarksy of Fredericksburg, recently told The Free Lance-Star that the program not only subsidized her purchase of a new furnace, air conditioner, and other improvements for her home in Fredericksburg’s Normandy Village, but "I will now save up to [a projected] 42.2 percent on my energy bills."
So, middle-income homeowners interested in HELP for basic energy-savings projects (sorry, no solar panels) have until Dec. 31 to apply–either by calling Mr. Byrnes at 540/373-2890 or by visiting the website gwhelp.org. Yes, flim-flam is everywhere. But HELP is all cheese, no mousetrap.
Read more stories about Fredericksburg
Date published: 11/22/2011
Change proffers and boost the economy
Date published: 11/10/2011
There’s been a lot of news about Marion Hicks’ request that the county reduce the existing proffers on his Summerfield property, and nearly all of it has been negative.
Developers and those who generally oppose residential growth are missing the point. The country and the world are in an economic downturn that will most likely take the rest of this decade to fix. The real estate markets and the construction industry have been devastated by the financial crises.
Doing things the way they have always been done is no longer feasible. We must look forward and not back for the answers to the economic problems that afflict the community.
Spotsylvania County and surrounding municipalities must think outside the box and come up with new policies and new plans to assist the business community in the creation of jobs. The old policy of levying ever-greater taxes in the form of proffers on housing will not fix the problem. You cannot tax housing back to health.
Taxes in the form of proffers must be cut in order to provide incentives for capital formation, jobs, and economic growth to occur.
Proffers, left as they exist, provide no incentive for development. The existing levies on Summerfield, in the form of proffers, make it uneconomical to develop. Without relief, the property will just stay as it is, and no economic benefit will be derived. This is a problem that affects not only Summerfield, but also the numerous projects in Spotsylvania County and the region.
They cannot be developed because either the existing proffers are too high, or the existing proffer system renders the project not economical, even if one were to gain approval for development.
The absence of the sound of construction activity around the Fredericksburg area is deafening. Spotsylvania and surrounding municipalities must work together with the real estate, development, and business communities in new ways to assist in the creation of new jobs and economic development. This will require setting the past way of doing things aside and embracing a new way of thinking.
The sounds that we need to hear are those of hammers and machinery that would herald the return of the real estate and construction industries. The sites that we need to be seeing are crowded restaurants and busy shopping areas, filled with people having put in a hard day’s work and mindful of a job well done.
Don’t forget to set your clocks back an hour tomorrow night!
Ever wonder how and when daylight savings time (DST) came into being? Wikipedia has this answer:
Although not punctual in the modern sense, ancient civilizations adjusted daily schedules to the sun more flexibly than modern DST does, often dividing daylight into twelve hours regardless of day length, so that each daylight hour was longer during summer. For example, Roman water clocks had different scales for different months of the year: at Rome’s latitude the third hour from sunrise, hora tertia, started by modern standards at 09:02 solar time and lasted 44 minutes at the winter solstice, but at the summer solstice it started at 06:58 and lasted 75 minutes. After ancient times, equal-length civil hours eventually supplanted unequal, so civil time no longer varies by season. Unequal hours are still used in a few traditional settings, such as some Mount Athos monasteries and all Jewish ceremonies.
During his time as an American envoy to France, Benjamin Franklin, publisher of the old English proverb, "Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise", anonymously published a letter suggesting that Parisians economize on candles by rising earlier to use morning sunlight. This 1784 satire proposed taxing shutters, rationing candles, and waking the public by ringing church bells and firing cannons at sunrise. Franklin did not propose DST; like ancient Rome, 18th-century Europe did not keep precise schedules. However, this soon changed as rail and communication networks came to require a standardization of time unknown in Franklin’s day.
Modern DST was first proposed by the New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson, whose shift-work job gave him leisure time to collect insects, and led him to value after-hours daylight. In 1895 he presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society proposing a two-hour daylight-saving shift, and after considerable interest was expressed in Christchurch, New Zealand he followed up in an 1898 paper. Many publications incorrectly credit DST’s proposal to the prominent English builder and outdoorsman William Willett, who independently conceived DST in 1905 during a pre-breakfast ride, when he observed with dismay how many Londonersslept through a large part of a summer’s day. An avid golfer, he also disliked cutting short his round at dusk. His solution was to advance the clock during the summer months, a proposal he published two years later. The proposal was taken up by the LiberalMember of Parliament (MP) Robert Pearce, who introduced the first Daylight Saving Bill to the House of Commons on 12 February 1908. A select committee was set up to examine the issue, but Pearce’s bill did not become law, and several other bills failed in the following years. Willett lobbied for the proposal in the UK until his death in 1915.
Starting on 30 April 1916, Germany and its World War I allies were the first to use DST (German: Sommerzeit) as a way to conserve coal during wartime. Britain, most of its allies, and many European neutrals soon followed suit. Russia and a few other countries waited until the next year and the United States adopted it in 1918. Since then, the world has seen many enactments, adjustments, and repeals.
My campaign to win the job of Orange County Supervisor from Lake of the Woods and District 5 is moving along very well – we have contributions of time, services and funds – all needed and appreciated – coming in at a steady rate.
There are several upcoming events that I would like for you to know about. If you would like to attend or need more information, please feel free to email me at email@example.com or call my office at 540 318-5002. All events will be held at Lake of the Woods.
9/17/2011 5:00-8:00pm Campaign Kick-off Barbeque
10/15/2011 3:00-6:00pm Oktoberfest Rally
11/06/2011 3:00-6:00pm Get out the Vote Rally
11/08/2011 ALL DAY VOTE FOR SUZANNE BRADY FOR
ORANGE COUNTY SUPERVISORS
As always, please feel free to post a reply, as a question or state a concern. I want to be the Supervisor from Lake of the Woods who does the job for which I am elected: Carry YOUR message to the decision makers of Orange County.
Thank you and See you at the Lake!
Virginia Association of REALTORS
Posted by Stacey Ricks 
Year over year home sales in Virginia declined 1% in July 2010 to 7,065 units sold, as compared to 7,137 sales in July 2010. We can likely expect several more months of 6,000 to 8,000 home sales per month as we finish out the summer and fall home sales seasons.
Despite declines in the pace of home sales, the median sales prices increased again in July 2011 to $247,650.
Click here to download the full July 2011 Virginia Home Sales Report as a PDF.
I realized recently that I had not been receiving Lake of the Woods announcements via email. I sent a quick message to Melanie at the Holcomb building and she let me know that we can subscribe to emails at the LOWA website. Go to www.LOWA.org and, at the bottom of the page, click on Join or Email List spot. It will take you to a page where you can choose what kind of news you would like to receive. Hope this is helpful!
See you at the Lake!