Sequestration will affect real estate and housing markets

by Dan Krell
DanKrell.com
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Housing and Sequestraion(Dan Krell © 2013) Remember the “Fiscal Cliff?” Well, after a two month hiatus, sequestration concerns are again entering (if not intrusively) the minds of those who may be affected. And, if you remain indifferent on the matter, you might consider the local economic effect from looming government budget cuts that may begin on March 1st.

On February 14th, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan provided written testimony to the “Hearing before the Senate Committee on Appropriations on The Impacts of Sequestration” (HUD.gov). Secretary Donovan outlined what he described as the “harmful effects of Sequestration” to not only at-risk populations, but families, communities, and the economy at large, as he concluded, “…Sequestration is just such a self-inflicted wound that would have devastating effects on our economy and on people across the nation.”

As a result, HUD counseling would be limited. According to Secretary Donovan, about 75,000 families would not be able to receive the critical counseling services that include pre-purchase counseling, and foreclosure prevention counseling. According to the Secretary: “…This counseling is crucial for middle class and other families who have been harmed by the housing crisis from which we are still recovering, and are trying to prevent foreclosure, refinance their mortgages, avoid housing scams, and find quality, affordable housing. Studies show that housing counseling plays a crucial role in those 3 efforts. Distressed households who receive counseling are more likely to avoid foreclosure, while families who receive counseling before they purchase a home are less likely to become delinquent on their mortgages.”

FHA has been the workhorse to stabilize the housing market as well as providing the means for affordable home purchases. Those directly affected by sequestration would be home buyers and home owners who are applying for FHA mortgages; as well as those seeking assistance through HAMP and HAFA. In written testimony, Secretary Donovan stated that “…furloughs or other personnel actions may well be required to comply with cuts mandated by sequestration.” As a result, “…The public will suffer as the agency is simply less able to provide information and services in a wide range of areas, such as FHA mortgage insurance and sale of FHA-owned properties.”

Another concern is the possibility of a sharp increase in interest rates. Up until now, home buyers (and those refinancing) have had the benefit of historically low mortgage interest rates. Low mortgage interest rates are one of the reasons why home affordability is also at historic levels. A sharp rise in interest rates combined with FHA mortgage delays could shock the housing and real estate market. The result could be housing activity similar to what we experienced immediately after the financial crisis. Granted, the shock would probably not be as prolonged as what occurred in 2008-2009, but nonetheless significant.

In a region that has been relatively unaffected by unemployment and economic issues due to a strong government workforce, sequestration could essentially put a damper on the local housing recovery. Home buyer activity has already been affected, as those who are concerned about sequestration have either put their home purchase plans on hold, or have changed their housing plans altogether. And of course, over time, the changes to consumer behavior would trickle down to various sectors of the economy.

But don’t worry, although sequestration is set to begin March 1st, budget cuts won’t occur all at once. Unless Congress acts on the matter, you might not immediately feel its effects.

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of February 18, 2013. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.

Hire a real estate agent

hore a real estate agentWhy should you hire a real estate agent? Home buying and selling without an agent is not for everyone.

A somewhat prophetic Howard Schneider proclaimed in a 1995 article “For Better or for Worse” (published in Mortgage Banking; 56(1), 110) that a combination of technology and industry consolidation would drastically change the real estate landscape by the end of the 1990’s.

Schneider discussed technology changing the relationship between Realtors® and consumers such that through the development of technology, home sellers and buyers would be able to interact without the use of a real estate agent. He quoted John Moore, then president and CEO of Genesis Relocation Services, “If you can get the word out about your property efficiently to the mass market, you can avoid paying the full brokerage commission…” and “…within five years, most homes will be able to see listings around the country on interactive T.V.”

What Schneider described actually happened,  and is now called “the internet.” The growth of the internet during the first decade of the 21st century allowed home buyers and sellers to interact with each other like no other time. The technology was a boon for those who decided to go it alone, and not hire a real estate agent.

Of course the internet was only a piece to the larger puzzle of the early 2000’s. It seems that for a very brief time, just placing a sign in the yard was enough to spread the word of your home sale.  Deciding price, financing, and closing all seemed to be a “no-brainer.” But five years after the housing boom, it’s evident that not everyone can sell real estate “by owner.” Many moved back to hire a real estate agent.

One of the top reasons for selling or buying a home without a real estate agent is the perception of saving money. People who decide to sell without an agent don’t see the value of hiring an agent; while some buyers who decide to buy without an agent believe they can reduce their sale price by the commission amount.

Although hiring an agent may not be a god fit for some, many value what an agent can bring to the transaction. Real estate agents are housing-market experts; besides knowing neighborhood trends, they can provide detailed market analyses to assist in formulating a listing or sale price for home sellers or buyers. Agents facilitate offers, transactions, and negotiation. They are up to date on legislation affecting home buyers and sellers; agents know the seller’s/buyer’s obligations, including compulsory disclosures and forms. And of course, there is the time aspect (how much is your time worth?).

Reasons to hire a real estate agent

Talented real estate agents are sales and marketing specialists. These agents know how to interpret home sale data to determine a price, and the best times to list/buy your home. Additionally, they know how to prepare and present your home to prospective home buyers and promote it to grab home buyers’ attention.

Getting back to Schneider’s article, he concluded that regardless of technological advances and the inclination toward mergers to an increasingly centralized industry with few big players. It’s ultimately about nearby professionals who have the knowledge of the local market. It’s basically who can personally assist you through your transaction. Personal attention cannot be under-emphasized, especially when the transaction is demanding or emotionally charged.

Are you better off without a real estate agent? You might think that technology has made it easier for you to go it alone; but, if you want a relatively smooth transaction with little drama – hire a professional.

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2013/01/24/thinking-of-buying-or-selling-a-home-without-an-agent-hire-a-professsional/

by Dan Krell
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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2013 Dan Krell.

Need to know when buying a new home that is built in Maryland

by Dan Krell © 2012
DanKrell.com

New HomesIn today’s housing market, chances are that you may looking to buy a new home rather than a resale;

be prepared and know what you can reasonably expect from the home builder, as well as understanding how to resolve problems with the builder.  Whether or not you have a licensed real estate agent representing you in the transaction; the Maryland Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Division provides consumers guidance, pertinent information and other resources to dealing with a home builder and buying a new home built in Maryland.

Unfortunately, many home buyers believe they do not need representation when buying a new home.  Because the new home builder reps are often friendly, helpful and may appear to be on your side in the transaction; it is understandable how a home buyer may misconstrue the home builder’s sales persons’ loyalties.  However, home buyers must recognize that the builder’s sales people represent the home builder.

Before engaging a home builder and their sales people, you should check out whether or not the home builder is registered with the Home Builder Registration Unit.  Additionally, unless the home builder hires a licensed real estate agent to represent them, the home builder’s sales reps must also be registered with the Home Builder Registration Unit.

Before entering into a contract with a home builder,

you might consider reading the consumer information booklet that home builders are required to provide consumers before entering into a new home sales contract.  The booklet is provided by the Home Builder Registration Unit of the Maryland OAG Consumer Protection Division and discusses: choosing a builder, the contract, how your deposit is protected, custom home contracts, construction of your home, and resolving problems.

The Maryland OAG Consumer Protection Division oversees a Home Builder Guaranty Fund “that allows consumers to seek compensation for losses resulting from an act or omission by a registered builder who constructs a new home for a consumer.”  You may seek compensation from the guaranty fund if your home builder is registered with the Home Builder Registration Unit and you entered into a contract for a new home built in Maryland after January 1, 2009.

New HomesPayments from the Home Builder Guaranty Fund are to cover actual loss that result from “an act or omission by a registered builder as determined by the Consumer Protection Division or a court of competent jurisdiction…”  The Guaranty Fund is not meant to cover such items as: attorney fees, punitive damages, interest, court costs, personal injury, or subsequent damages.  The “actual loss” that is covered refers to “the costs of restoration, repair, replacement or completion that results from the incomplete construction of a new home, a breach of an express or implied warranty, or a failure of the builder to meet certain construction standards or guidelines.”

Guaranty Fund claims must be made “within 2 years after the consumer discovered or should have discovered the loss or damage or within 2 years after the new home warranty expires, whichever comes first. If the consumer files a claim against the home warranty plan, he or she must file the claim against the Guaranty Fund within 4 months after that claims process is exhausted.”

For further information on the Home Builder Registration Unit, consumer information booklet, and the Home Builder Guaranty Fund – visit the Maryland OAG Consumer Protection Division website on home builders (www.oag.state.md.us/Homebuilder/index.htm).

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of September 17, 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.

Home ownership is still valued

by Dan Krell © 2010
homeowner
The shock of the economic crisis is over; however, shock is setting in that the recession is over. Oh, you haven’t heard? The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research declared that the recession ended in June 2009. Although the recession has been declared statistically “over” (because of an uptick in GDP in that quarter) recent indices and polls might suggest otherwise.

Unemployment, GDP and consumer confidence leads gloom and doom indices that may project how many people feel about the current economic environment. For example, the national unemployment rate is 9.6%; while in Maryland unemployment is 7.3%, which is slightly less than the highest mark since the beginning of the recession (bls.gov). Additionally, GDP measures have been low and/or not meeting expectations; estimates from the second quarter of 2010 have been revised to 1.6% (bea.gov). And, consumer confidence has recently declined.

Although these indices do not instill confidence, recent polling data and housing statistics may be good news.

A Harris Poll (published by Harris Interactive; harrisinteractive.com) of consumer spending that was released on October 4th appears to illustrate the state of the economy through planned consumer spending. The Harris Poll indicates that “economic growth will be sluggish” because of careful spending amid continued unemployment concerns; the overall sentiment is that consumers are not planning to increase their spending anytime soon, especially on “big ticket items.”

However, although all indicators of the Harris Poll point to continued consumer caution, the bright side is that an increase number of consumers are planning to purchase a home in the next six months (10% indicated they are planning a home purchase within six months compared to 7% in May 2010).

Additional good news on the housing front includes increased home sales and home prices. According to the National Association of Realtors (realtor.org) home sales increased about 7.6% during August 2010 (however August sales figures remain about 19% lower than August 2009) and home sale prices are up about 2.9% from the same time last year (although slightly lower from July 2010). Locally, home sales are down from a year ago in the Washington, DC Metro area, but median home prices are about 5.4% higher than the same time last year. The economic forecast provided by the NAR indicates very modest home sale and home sale price increases over the next two years (with 2010 being the bottom).

home ownerSigns of housing stability and increased home buyer interest amid continued economic turmoil may not just be a fluke of the polling process. However, it may be an indication of the intrinsic and intangible value that consumers place on home ownership; which is corroborated by research. A recent commentary entitled “Homeownership Matters: Homeownership and Civic Engagement” by Selma Hepp, NAR Research Economist (realtor.org), cited recent studies that purports the benefits of home ownership go beyond home values and is extended into the community. Research indicates that homeowners are more invested and attached to their communities (compared to renters) as evidenced by their increased community involvement and extensive social networks.

Although the shock of the crisis may have subsided, and we have adapted our lifestyles to conform to our expectations of the economy; research and housing indices could indicate that the value of home ownership placed by consumers may transcend the monetary value of the home itself.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of October 4, 2010. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2010 Dan Krell.