Don’t buy into a false economy

by Dan Krell
DanKrell.com
© 2012
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Auction Stories about housing and real estate often reported in local media are entertaining and sometimes informative. However, some stories can create an erroneous impression about what’s happening in the marketplace. If you are not careful, you may be lead to buy into a false economy; using a Realtor® in today’s market is vital to get real time neighborhood information to make the best decisions.

A recent story highlighted a DC foreclosure that reportedly received over one hundred offers, and the accepted offer was more than double the list price. The story appeared to use this home sale as an example of a hot DC market. And make no mistake – that neighborhood is a hot market for various reasons (including the limited number of active homes for sale); but there’s missing information that could distort your perspective.

First, understand that the story referred to the sale of a HUD owned property, which was most likely a FHA foreclosure. The fact that there were reportedly 168 offers on the property is not unusual for a HUD owned property located in a neighborhood with very active buyers; although some HUD properties don’t get much attention, it is not unusual for many such homes to attract a lot of attention, as well as many offers.

Most offers on HUD homes are usually at list price or below, not only because savvy buyers are seeking a foreclosure bargain; but because of financing limitations. HUD appraises these properties so as to know the market value, and usually lists the home at that price. HUD foreclosures that are eligible for FHA financing use that appraisal, and are therefore limited to that price.

The MLS listing for this home indicated that it was listed “Insured with Escrow,” which means that the home was eligible for FHA financing. And looking at recent neighborhood comps, it looks as if the home was priced competitively. Additionally, the repair escrow indicates that the home requires repairs to meet FHA guidelines.

AuctionAlthough there are some buyers who pay over list price for an “Insured” HUD foreclosure, they know they need to pay cash or find alternate financing; so unless the buyer of this home has cash, the buyer could encounter issues obtaining alternate financing. Furthermore, although the story reported that the home sold, the MLS listing indicates that the home is under contract with contingencies (home inspection). So, the home is far from settled, and it remains to be seen if this contract falls through (or remains owner-occupied as required for this sale).

Although the story about this home sale was interesting, it is not typical for the housing market. The story does not indicate that the reported 14% DC median home sale price increase compares November 2012 sales to November 2011. There is also no mention that “luxury” home sales could have impacted November’s home sale price figures; GCAAR (gcaar.com) reported that DC single family home sales priced at $1.5M and above increased about 111%! Also, according Realestate Business Intelligence (rbintel.com), the November 2012 average DC sale price is about 97% of list; the average sale price is not over list.

Don’t get me wrong, this was a good story. But the story may be about buying into a false economy and buyer’s remorse; the real story may ultimately be how you should consult with your Realtor® before making a purchase or sale.

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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 December 24, 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.

Missing pieces to a housing recovery

by Dan Krell
DanKrell.com
© 2012
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Home salesAs the housing market expectantly slows for the winter months, we can start reflecting on this year’s housing statistics.  Home sale figures appear to point to a year ending slightly better than last.  But it may be that local home sale stats may not best those posted during the 2009-2010 period.  It appears that there are missing pieces to the housing market, which if not put into place, could result in a new real estate norm.  Let’s take a look at the puzzle…

First, the National Association of Realtors® (Realtor.org) reported that national pending home sales have been elevated most of the year; and although national existing home sales have increased during October, the numbers fluctuated throughout the year.  Of course, trying to determine the local state of housing through the national market snapshot may be like trying to see a local road map by looking at the solar system; but there is truth to what NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun described as “…rising consumer confidence about home buying…”

Second, New home sales have increased compared to last year.  Although the existing home sales statistics reported by the NAR may have co-mingled some new home figures in the data (due to the methodology), the U.S. Census Bureau (census.gov/construction/nrs/) reports new home sales.  Not surprisingly, October new home sales increased about 17% compared to October 2011, and 2012 year to date new home sales increased about 20% compared to 2011.

A forthcoming piece to the puzzle, which may likely be reported in the latter weeks of December, is that November was another positive month for real estate.  And more importantly – November may have been a brilliant month locally.  A preliminary analysis of Montgomery County MLS (Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc.) home sale figures (all inclusive) point to a marked sales volume increase in November compared to November 2011, as well as an increase in the average monthly home sale price (dankrell.com/realestate).

AnotNew Home Salesher piece to the local real estate puzzle is home buyer behavior.  Home buyers in the market are increasingly demanding about what they are getting for their money.  Given the lack of home listings in the resale market (down about 27% from 2011 year to date through October for Montgomery County single family homes: gcaar.com), combined with variances in home sale prices and the cost for renovations and updates on many homes; home buyers perceive value in purchasing new homes compared to buying a resale in today’s market.  This is an unacknowledged reason for the surge of new home sales this year, and why new home builders have rebounded before the resale market.

The missing pieces to improving the resale market are inventory and home prices.  As mentioned, a lack of home inventory continues.  If resale inventory were to match those of previous years, it stands to reason that resale inventory would also increase.  Inventories are lackluster most likely because many home owners have put their selling plans on hold until they are convinced that home prices have stabilized.

It’s welcome news that the 2012 housing market is slightly better than the 2011.  And although the landscape of the local market has improved, home sale figures are not much better than those posted during 2009-2010.  If resale inventory does not increase, the resale market of 2013 will probably be much like that of 2012.

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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 December 3, 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.

Has the housing market improved in the last four years

Dan Krell, Realtor®
DanKrell.com
© 2012

HousingIn retrospect, the beginning of the global recession in late 2007 was the end of the housing boom and may have spawned the foreclosures crisis and the financial crisis of 2008.  And although this period of time will undoubtedly become the basis of many future dissertations examining the “Great Recession;” you might ask “how much has the state of housing improved since 2008?”

If you recall, the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA) was anticipated to have wide reaching changes in the mortgage and housing industries as well as supposed to have assisted struggling home owners.  This multifaceted piece of legislation consolidated many individual bills addressing issues that were thought to either be the cause or the result of the financial crisis.  Besides raising mortgage loan limits to increase home buyer activity, the historic legislation was the beginning of changes meant to “fix” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as “modernizing” FHA to make the mortgage process easier for home buyers and refinancing easier for struggling home owners. Additionally, this law was the origination of the Hope for Homeowners program to assist home owners facing foreclosure (www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/110/hr3221).

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), originated from HERA, has been the “conservator” of the then sinking Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Since the FHFA took control, there has been conjecture as to what would become of the mortgage giants: some talked about closing their doors, while some talked about changing their role in the mortgage industry. Since FHFA became the oversight agency, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has strengthened their role in maintaining liquidity in the housing market by helping struggling home owners with their mortgages as well as freeing up lender capital by the continued purchases of loans (fhfa.gov)

The inception of Hope for Homeowners was the beginning of a string of government programs designed to assist home owners facing foreclosure, or assist underwater home owners refinance their mortgage.  Although there have been individual success stories, there has been criticism that these programs did not assist the expected numbers of home owners.  A January 24th CNNMoney article by Tami Luhby (money.cnn.com) reported that “…the HAMP program, which was designed to lower troubled borrowers’ mortgage rates to no more than 31% of their monthly income, ran into problems almost immediately. Many lenders lost documents, and many borrowers didn’t qualify. Three years later, it has helped a scant 910,000 homeowners — a far cry from the promised 4 million…” and “HARP, which was intended to reach 5 million borrowers, has yielded about the same results. Through October, when it was revamped and expanded, the program had assisted 962,000…” (money.cnn.com/2012/01/24/news/economy/Obama_housing/index.htm).

HousingDespite the recent slowdown in foreclosure activity, there is disagreement about the projected number of foreclosures going into 2013.  A March 29th Corelogic news release (www.corelogic.com/about-us/news/corelogic-reports-almost-65,000-completed-foreclosures-nationally-in-february.aspx) reported that there have been about 3.4 million completed foreclosures since 2008 (corelogic.com).  And although an August 9th RealtyTrac® (www.realtytrac.com/content/foreclosure-market-report/july-2012-us-foreclosure-market-report-7332) report indicated a 3% decrease from June to July and a 10% decrease from the previous year in foreclosure filings; July’s 6% year over year increase in foreclosure starts (initial foreclosure filings) was the third straight month of increases in foreclosure starts.

So, if you’re wondering if housing is better off today than it was four years ago, the answer may be a resounding “maybe;” It all depends on your situation.

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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 3 , 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.

Real estate pent up demand or pent up optimism

by Dan Krell © 2012
DanKrell.com

housing marketThe National Association of Realtors® latest news release of April 26th stated that March’s increased pending home sales figures is an indication that the housing market is recovering. The NAR reported that March’s Pending Home Sale Index (the PHSI is a “forward looking number indicating contracts signed”) increased from February’s PHSI and is much higher than the PHSI a year ago. Lawrence Yun, NAR Chief Economist, claimed; “The housing market has clearly turned the corner. Rising sales are bringing down inventory and creating much more balanced conditions around the county, which means home prices, will be rising in more areas as the year progresses…” (realtor.org).

Regardless of the newly sparked optimism for the housing market, a news release of one week prior (April 19th) indicated although March’s existing home sales were better than the previous year, the number of home sales declined from February’s totals. Dr. Yun cautioned that, “We were expecting a seasonal increase in home listings, but a lack of inventory has suddenly become an issue in several markets with not enough homes for sale in relation to buyer interest”…“Home sales could be held back because of supply factors and not by demand…”

My local market (Montgomery County MD, which includes Bethesda, MD, Chevy Chase MD, and Rockville MD) is part of the one of the stronger housing markets in the country, and pending sales are strong. The April 2012 Montgomery County Single Family Home Housing Report released by the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (gcaar.com) indicated that the number of contracts increased 12.4% compared to the same time last year, as well as increasing 8.5% year-to-date compared to the same time last year.

However, when looking at closing sales, pending sales may not be converting. Although the number of settlements of single family homes in Montgomery County is reported to have increased 5.8% in April 2012 from April 2011, the number of settlements year-to-date has decreased 1.6% from the same time last year.

Additionally, housing inventory continues to pose a problem for the market. Montgomery County single family home new listings decreased 14.6% in April 2012 from April 2011; while total actives reported for year-to-date through April 2012 decreased 15.1% for the same time last year. A diminished housing inventory is not so much an issue of meeting an increased buyer demand, as Dr. Yun has stated; but rather the issue may be that the declining housing supply may be lowering to meet buyer demand.

housing statsHowever, if housing inventories were not meeting an increased buyer demand, then we might be experiencing something akin to what occurred 2005 through 2006 (when homes sold relatively quickly, the average time on market was less than 30 days, and home prices were increasing). But we’re not experiencing the activity of 2005-2006. Additionally, the average single family home sale price for Montgomery County as reported by GCAAR is $496,144 for the month of April 2012 (compared to $515,161 for the same time last year).

I remember (and reported) similar optimisms declared in recent years; for example, an October 2009 report indicated that the PHSI was proclaimed to be at the highest level since March 2007. Enthusiasm for a market turning point would surely be welcome; but the data is inconsistent. And in fact, maybe current reports of pent up home buyer demand may be indicative of something else- a projection of pent up optimism.

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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 May 7, 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.

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The Market Forecast for 2007 and Beyond

by Dan Krell © 2007

The first quarter of 2007 is almost at an end. Tax returns are due in a few weeks. Spring Training has begun. And the spring real estate market is in full swing. Or is it?

Yes and no. Home buyers are looking. However, many of the homes that have languished on the market through the winter are still unsold, or have gone under contract at greatly reduced prices. If this is happening now, what are we to expect in the future?

Looking back to 2006 we all agree the market slowed down a bit and almost to a stand still by winter. Although it was a sluggish year, the National Association of Realtors considered 2006 to be a respectable year. Looking at the numbers nationwide, it was indeed a respectable year. Although existing home sales decreased 8.4% last year, it was the third best year on record for such sales. Additionally, new home sales decreased 17.3% and recorded the fourth best year on record for new home sales. Believe it or not, the NAR reports that homes prices increased nationally 1.1% for 2006, which is a record thirty-nine consecutive years of home price gains.

For 2007, the NAR forecasts a year much like last. Existing home sales will be consistent, but not as strong as last year, while there will be a slight increase in home prices. It is uncertain, however, how new home sales will manage (Realtor.org).

Fortune’s picture for the immediate area isn’t as rosy. Their December 21, 2006 forecast of home prices for the Washington area predicts a decrease of 3.8% in 2007 and 3.2% decrease in 2008. The forecast for the Bethesda-Gaithersburg region predicts a 2.7% decrease in 2007 and 4.3% decrease in 2008.

As a whole, economic forecasts point to a stable economy with stable employment and minimal to moderate growth. As you can imagine, many reports indicate that housing will continue to be a burden on the national economy. Reports predict that the burden will continue, however, through mid year 2007 and remain stable through 2008.

Prognosticators projected that the spring market for 2006 would be business as usual. Locally, the market preformed inconsistently. The spring market for 2007 will be inconsistent as well. As the local real estate market attempts to find its balance the market will continue to be slow through spring. Unless there is a major disaster, the sales pace will pick up in May as the market levels off.

Contributing to the continued lethargy is the fallout in the sub-prime mortgage industry. The tightening of credit guidelines due to over zealous speculators in the secondary mortgage markets has recently reduced the already shrunken pool of home buyers. Like most market commodities, investors will one day again find their appetite for sub-prime mortgages.

Home prices will continue to adjust, having an effect of tightening the available housing inventory. As many home sellers are already offering their homes at a break-even price, some home sellers will find that they cannot afford to sell as they would lose money on the sale effectively taking them out of the market.

By the end of the summer 2007, the effect of a tightening market will bring about the balance that we have been waiting for – hopefully.

This column 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 March 19, 2007. Copyright (c) 2007 Dan Krell.