Thursday, December 18, 2014

Top 5 Benefits of Using a Professional to Buy a Home

Top 5 Benefits of Using a Professional to Buy A Home | Keeping Current Matters

Every year the National Association of REALTORS releases their Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers, in which they reveal the results of a yearlong survey of buyers and sellers. The latest profile revealed what actual buyers saw as the benefits of using an agent during the home buying process.


Here are the Top 5:


#1: Helped the Buyer Understand the Process

Whether it is your first time purchasing a home, or you’re an experienced buyer, there are over 230 possible actions that need to happen during every successful real estate transaction.
Having someone to guide you through the process who can simply explain what is going on at every step of the way was sited as the top benefit by 63% of all buyers (that number jumped to 83% with first time buyers).

#2: Pointed Out Unnoticed Features/Faults with the Property

When you start the process of buying a home, you may be too excited to see each potential home for what it is, good and bad. An experienced professional can help you realize the potential hidden gems or risks before you make an offer.  Nearly 60% of all buyers listed this as a major benefit of hiring a professional.

#3: Improved the Buyer’s Knowledge of Search Areas

Whether you are looking to relocate to a new state, or just across town, having someone who knows the neighborhoods in which you are looking can be an invaluable asset.

#4: Negotiated Better Sales Contract Terms/Better Price


In today’s market, hiring a talented negotiator could save you thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of dollars. Each step of the way – from the original offer, to the possible renegotiation of that offer after a home inspection, to the possible cancellation of the deal based on a troubled appraisal – you need someone who can keep the deal together until it closes.

#5: Provided a better list of service providers

A great agent has relationships with mortgage professionals, home inspectors, appraisers and other experts that you will need in securing your dream home.


Bottom Line

If you are considering purchasing a home, whether as a first-time or move up buyer, sit down with a local experienced real estate professional in your area and see what they have to offer.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Money Market Recap

MMRecap for December 15th
There were no economic reports released last Monday, but the price of oil and its effect on oil-producing countries grabbed headlines. So has the question of “to frack or not to frack?” Now that oil is cheap, many oil companies are deserting fracking and just continuing to drill. The yield on the 10-year note was down 0.05 points to close at 2.26%.
Tuesday was another “report-less” day -- almost. Wholesale inventories for October came in at +0.4%, the same as in September. But the talk on Wall Street centered on oil and the various effects it can have on the environment as well as on the economies of heavy users of the product. There is little good news available. The Russian ruble has lost 40% of its value vs. the U.S. dollar. It is also troubled by Western sanctions, declining oil prices and high inflation. There are no easy answers. The 10-year yield had dropped four more points to close at 2.22%.
How can this be? Wednesday was yet another day with no meaningful reports! But the price of oil has taken another huge hit, and that’s as much news as we need to know for now. It’s the sole topic of conversation, no matter where you look. The price of oil rose $0.28 a barrel, and the 10-year note fell by 4 basis points to 2.18%.
On Thursday there were finally some economic reports worth talking about. Initial jobless claims for the week ended Dec. 6 fell to 294K from 297K -- a scant 3,000 when compared to previous decreases. However, continuing claims, people applying for a second or more weeks of benefits, for the week ended Nov. 29 jumped to 2514K from the previous 2372K.
The best news came from retail sales in November, which rose 0.7%. Excluding autos, sales were up 0.5%. That’s a relief after a couple of months of grim data.
The importance of other reports went downhill from there. Import and export prices both fell, with exports down 1.2%, excluding agriculture. Imports, excluding oil, fell 0.2%. The 10-year Treasury added one basis point to close at a very friendly 2.19%.
The week concluded Friday with the producer price indices and the first of two consumer sentiment reports from the University of Michigan.
The PPI for November fell 0.2%. Nothing says “no inflation” like a minus sign. The PPI core, which excludes food and energy prices, came in flat, versus a 0.4% increase in October.
The final report from the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment report came in at 93.8, topping not only the previous report of 88.8 but the estimates, as well. The 10-year Treasury dropped to the lowest point of the year so far, and closed at 2.10%.
The MBA reported a significant decline of mortgage applications for November with new home applications decreasing by 22% over October. Interestingly, higher-priced new homes seem to be doing better than the lower-priced entry-level homes as the average loan size increased from $300,000 in October to almost $307,000 in November. Conventional loans, including refinances, accounted for 69.3% of all loan applications.
This week is a relatively quiet week as far as reports go. The Empire State Manufacturing index is the first report released today, and there is some discrepancy on the predictions. That will be followed by industrial production and capacity utilization reports for November. Both should rise, with production expected to hit somewhere between 0.7% and 0.9% in November -- up from -0.1% in October. The Home-builders’ index report is expected to remain flat at 58% in December, but after all, it’s December.
Tuesday we get to the nitty-gritty with housing starts for November. Analysts expect a reading of 1035K, up from the previous 1009K. Building permits for November may come in lower than the 1080K for October, as the predictions are hovering around 1050K.
On Wednesday we’ll look at consumer price indices, but they have barely moved. In October, the CPI was flat, coming in at 0.0%, and is expected to drop perhaps to -0.1% for November. The CPI core, which eliminates food and energy prices, may drop a little, as well.
As usual, Thursday the reports on initial and continuing unemployment figures come out. The Philly Fed report will be released on Thursday, and here there is a big chasm among the predictors. The previous report came in at 40.8. The markets are predicting a drop to 26.5, while the guys are predicting a major drop to 10.0. Either way, that seems to be a big decrease.
As we approach the last two weeks of the year, the reports are slowing down and there are no reports coming out on Friday. This is a good opportunity to take advantage of all those door-buster sales.
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Thursday, December 11, 2014

More Homebuying Options to Come in 2015

More Homebuying Options to Come in 2015

The number of first-time homeowners reached its lowest level in three decades.

According to an annual survey of homebuyers by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), only 33 percent of total purchases this year were by first-timers, down from 38 percent a year ago. The long-term average, dating back to 1981, shows that 4 out of 10 purchases were by first-time buyers.

The reason? "Rising rents and repaying student loan debt makes saving for a down payment more difficult, especially for young adults who've experienced limited job prospects and flat wage growth since entering the workforce," said Lawrence Yun, the NAR’s chief economist. He added that a shortage of homes in affordable price ranges, competition from investors, tighter credit conditions and high mortgage insurance premiums provided additional bumps in the road.

However, recent announcements from the two biggest housing agencies, Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FHLMC), may help this number in the coming year.

Proposed Lending Changes to Encourage Homebuying
In mid-October, changes were proposed by the two government-regulated housing agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. While the agencies don’t directly lend money to consumers, they do buy mortgages made by banks and other financial institutions, which frees up money to lend to more homebuyers. According to a Wall Street Journal report, the proposed changes include looser credit guidelines as well as the possibility for a 3 percent down payment option when buying a home. Stay tuned as the details become clearer in the first quarter of 2015.

This is good news for people in markets where rents are skyrocketing more than they can keep up, and for prospective buyers who had been unable to buy before.

The Bottom Line
Rates are still at advantageous annual lows. If you have any questions regarding housing or know of friends, family or colleagues who are renting and wish to discuss buying a home next year, please get in touch.

By Taum Hemmingsen

Monday, December 8, 2014

Money Market Recap & Forecast

MMRecap for December 8th
Thanksgiving break is definitely over. Now it’s time to get serious again, as there were 19 relevant economic reports last week.
Monday’s lone report was the ISM index, which looks at the health of the manufacturing industry across the country. It came in at 58.7, which was not only close to estimates but very close to October’s 59.0. Otherwise, real news was scant. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose 4 basis points to 2.22%.
Only three reports appeared on Tuesday’s calendar, and just one could influence the markets -- construction spending in October. It shot up 1.1%, beating the -0.1% tallied in September, as well as all estimates. When Treasuries closed, the yield on the 10-year note had risen 6 basis points to a still-low 2.28%.
Wednesday there were several releases, but no real market-changers. The yield on the 10-year Treasury went up a point to close at 2.29%.
On Thursday, initial and continuing jobless claims were released. First-time claims for the week ended November 29 were down by 17K, registering 297K compared with 314K from the prior week. Continuing claims recorded for the week ended November 22 actually went up to 2362K, which was a good-sized jump from the 2323K from the week before.
The other piece of financial news on Thursday: the European Central Bank is delaying the start of its quantitative easing program (if it starts at all) until it further studies the impact of falling oil prices and other economic factors that could affect European growth and wages. Don’t look for a statement about this until at least March. The 10-year Treasury yield dropped 4 points to close at 2.25%.
Friday’s employment reports for November were an early holiday present for just about everyone. Nonfarm payrolls added 321K jobs in November, and the unemployment rate held at 5.8%, the lowest since 2008. Hourly earnings were up 0.4%. The 10-year Treasury yield closed last week at 2.31%, up 6 basis points from Thursday.
This week is a relatively quiet one, and market-moving reports don’t start coming in until Thursday. There are no reports today, and the only significant release coming out tomorrow is the report on wholesale inventories for October, which are expected to rise 0.2%. This is not a market mover.
Wednesday, too, is practically a non-event, but the fun starts Thursday with several reports rolling in. As always, we get the initial and continuing jobless claims reports. Initial claims for the week ended December 6 may drop by 2K; the analysts are predicting this report to come in at 295K. Continuing claims are predicted to come in at 2350K, about 12,000 less than the 2362K from the previous week.
November retail sales and retail sales excluding autos are also scheduled for Thursday. Expectations range from gains of 0.4% to 0.7%, and contain some of the most important data for November. So far it’s been disappointing, but these numbers could increase expectations. Retail sales ex-auto could come in anywhere from +0.2% to +0.5%. Export and import prices in November are also on tap, but they almost never surprise. Business inventories follow, and they fall in the same category. If inflation were to edge up a couple of points, you wouldn’t hear many complaints.
Two reports on producer price indices at the manufacturing level are due Friday, and many would like to see them rise just a bit. This is one area where higher prices would be welcomed.
The final report for the week is the University of Michigan consumer sentiment report, which attempts to determine the moods of those surveyed. If they feel confident about their financial futures for the next several months, the numbers will be in the high 80s or even the low 90s. Anything below that would be a disappointment. The sentiment for November was 88.8.
So, all in all, nothing very exciting is expected this week.
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Monday, November 24, 2014

Money Market Recap and Forecast

MMRecap for November 24th
Last week we had a marathon of 17 economic reports released. Monday kicked off with November’s New York Empire State Manufacturing index. The index rose to 10.2. Not bad, considering that the previous report came in at 6.2.
Twin reports, industrial production and capacity utilization, both disappointed. Production fell 0.1% from the +0.8% from the prior report, while capacity utilization edged down to 78.9% from 79.2.
When the markets closed, results were mixed, with no big winners or losers. The yield on the 10-year note rose 2 basis points to close at 2.34%.
On Tuesday the producer price index came out, and we actually saw some movement in October. It rose 0.2% from -0.1% in September. The PPI core, which eliminates food and energy prices, also moved up to 0.4% from 0.0%. The final report came from the NAHB; its index jumped to 58 from 54 in October. That was good news.
Wednesday was a relatively calm day, as only two reports were published -- building permits and housing starts for October. Housing starts fell to an annual rate of 1009K, likely weather-related. This was down from the 1038K starts in September. Building permits had a more impressive result, as they jumped to an annual rate of 1080K -- an increase of 49,000 units from September.
There were no expectations regarding Wednesday’s FOMC meeting, but it sounded like it might have gotten a little dicey. The whole idea behind QE2 was to lower interest rates as well as lowering the percentage of unemployed. Low interest rates did perk up the economy, but the unemployment rate has a ways to go, and some FOMC members seem to feel the cut off was premature. Either way, the Fed will make rate hikes in the future -- likely beginning in 2015.
Thursday featured seven reports, all close to predictions. First-time jobless claims for the week ended Nov.15 led off at 291K, 2,000 fewer claims than the previous week. Continuing claims fell by 73K to come in at 2330K for the week ended November 8.
Consumer price indices for October followed. The bare-bones CPI dipped to 0% from 0.1% in September. Meanwhile, the core CPI, which eliminates food and gas prices, edged up 0.2% from 0.1% the previous month. Still no inflation worries here!
The next report showed existing home sales jumping to a higher-than-expected annual rate of 5.26M units in October; that’s 80,000 homes sold.
If the Philly Fed Index was like any other report, it would have set the markets on fire. It is an important report concerning manufacturing in the eastern seaboard area, but it’s not in the same class as Chicago, for instance. However, in November the index rose to 40.8 from 20.7. This is a very notable increase which shows that manufacturers are humming along. This is a good sign for the economy.
The final report for the week was leading economic indicators for October. It rose to 0.9% from 0.7%, but it has zero impact on the market.
There were no economic reports issued Friday, but there was news that sent stocks to record highs, again. The feared recession in Japan is now a reality, but a surprise rate cut by China’s central bank, the first in more than two years, sent the European markets up; the U.S. markets followed.
Despite the short Thanksgiving week, there are several reports being released. No reports come out today, and tomorrow we have just a few, starting with the second estimate of the Q3 GDP. The markets expect that report to come in at 3.3%, while the briefing forecasters are thinking more along the line of 3.0%. This compares with the 3.5% reported from the prior report issue. Next in line is the Case-Shiller 20 city index for September. The prognosticators are expecting a slight downturn in this number to anywhere between 4.2% and 4.6% compared with the 5.6% that was reported previously. We also get the consumer confidence report, which is looking good right now. The report is expected to show our confidence level rising to 96.0 in November, up from 94.5 from October.
Wednesday we’ll get some reports that normally come out on Thursday, in addition to Wednesday’s reports. We’ll start the day with the initial and the continuing jobless claims reports. Initial claims are expected to go down, a result of temporary employment during the holiday shopping season. It is anticipated that initial claims will be at 285K for the week ended November 22, down from the 291K the week before. Continuing claims may go up to 2350K for the week ended on November 15, compared to the 2330K the week prior.
The durable orders report for October is next. A 0.7% decrease is expected. This follows a 1.3% decrease in September, so it’s a little bit better. The durable goods ex-transportation report follows and is expected to show an increase to 0.3%, which is better than the -0.2% decrease from the previous report.
The personal income report for October looks like we might be making a little more money. The forecasters are predicting this number to rise between 0.4% and 0.5%, compared to 0.2% from the prior statement. Personal spending is also predicted to be on the upswing, showing that we might be spending as much as 3% more in October.
The Chicago PMI report comes out next and covers November. This report might be a little less than the previous report, coming in around 65.0 compared with the 66.2.
Continuing on Wednesday, the final University of Michigan sentiment report for November is released. Only minor changes are expected, as the report might come in at 90.5 versus the 89.4 on the previous report.
The next announcement is on new home sales for October. There’s a huge discrepancy in predictions from the “experts.” The markets are anticipating an increase to 469K over the 467K from September, while the briefing forecasters are predicting a major decrease to 450K new homes sold. It’ll be interesting to see the actual result here. Pending home sales also demonstrate another discrepancy between forecasters. The markets would like to see pending home sales up by 0.8% while the briefing guys are thinking more like 0.5%. Still, these numbers are an improvement from the 0.3% last reported.
We want to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving. Be safe!
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Monday, November 3, 2014

MMRecap for November 3rd
Last Monday was a relatively quiet day, with only September pending home sales released. They rose 0.3%, which was better than the previous -1.0% decline; it was, however, far short of expectations, which ranged from 0.5% to 1.0%.
Although the Dow gained 12.53 points, that was about as good as it got. The Nasdaq closed up 2.22 points, and the S&P 500 fell 2.95 points. The 10-year Treasury slid to 2.27%.
Tuesday gave us the report on durable goods; it came in far better than the previous report of -18.3%. This report showed durable goods down only by -1.3%, a disappointing number when compared to the hopes of the forecasters that durable goods sales would improve by 0.5% or 0.6%. Orders for durable goods ex-transportation fell -0.2% on this report, far lower than the 0.7% from the prior report.
Case-Shiller reported that home sale prices rose 5.6% for the month of August. This was slightly down from the 6.7% rise in prices from July. We also had the consumer confidence report for October that came out Tuesday. Good news here! The report showed an increase in consumer confidence with a score of 94.5. This was a nice jump from 89.0. All this good news had a positive effect on the markets as the Dow rose 187.81 points, or 1.12%, the Nasdaq gained 78.36 points, or 1.75%, and the S&P 500 closed up 23.42 points, or 1.19%. The 10-year yield rose 3 basis points to finish the day at 2.30%.
Wednesday morning the Fed announced that QE3 was finished, done, over with! That was the only report that counted, and the markets reacted a bit, but nothing drastic. When the markets closed, the Dow was down 31.44 points, the Nasdaq closed at -15.07 points and the S&P 500 slipped slightly, closing at -2.75 points. The 10-year yield rose 4 basis points to end the day at 2.34%.
On Thursday we had the usual reports on initial and continuing jobless figures, as well as the GDP report. Initial jobless claims came in at 287K -- 3000 more new claims than the week before. Continuing claims, those receiving unemployment benefits for a second or more weeks, also went up, and the results for the week ended October 18 came in at 2384K, compared with 2355K the prior report.
The GDP report for Q3 was disappointing as the economy only grew 3.5%. This was better than had been forecasted but down from the 4.6% from the previous quarter. This news didn’t seem to affect the markets much, as all of the indices were up for the day. When the bell rang on Thursday, the Dow was up 221.11 points, or 1.30%, the Nasdaq rose 16.91 points, or 0.37% and the S&P 500 went up 12.35 points, or 0.62%. The 10-year yield dropped 2 basis points to close at 2.32%.
Friday was a busy day in spite of it being Halloween. Lots of reports came out to end the month. The first report was on personal income for the month of September. Although it was up by 0.2%, that was less than the expected amount of 0.3%. Not a big deal. On the other hand, personal spending took a dip to -0.2%, after a +0.5% increase in August. So apparently the people who went out and spent some of their income in August took a breather in September.
No surprise on the PCE report, which came in as expected for September and remained at 0.1%. The employment cost index for Q3 held at 0.7%. This has been constant for the last two quarters. The Chicago PMI had good news and reported an increase to 66.2 for October. This is up from the 60.5 reported for September. Finally, the month ended with the Michigan sentiment report for October. More good news, as the report inched up to 86.9 from 86.4. Though not earth-shaking, an increase in confidence is always a welcomed sign. The markets were happy last Friday, and all of the indices ended up. The Dow closed up 195.10 points, or 1.13%. Nasdaq closed up 64.60 points, or 1.41%, and the S&P 500 closed up 23.40 points, or 1.17%. The 10-year yield rose 3 basis points to close the week at 2.35%.
According to the MBA, mortgage applications for the week ended October 24th decreased by 6.6% on a seasonally adjusted basis from the previous week. Refinance applications also decreased by 7% from the prior week. The refinance share of mortgage activity remained unchanged at 65% of total loan applications. The average contract for a conforming 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased to 4.13% from 4.10%.
Although Halloween is over, we have another scary week coming up, as there are 16 reports scheduled. Some of these reports are market movers, some aren’t.
Today’s first report is the ISM index, a look at manufacturing in the U.S. during October. It had previously dipped to 55.7 from 56.6. That will be followed by the report on construction spending in September, which already made a good recovery from August, rising 0.7% vs. 0.8% the previous month.
On Tuesday we get a peek at the trade balance, which had been edging down in an effort to reduce the $40.1B deficit. It was slowing a bit, but the last couple of months it has returned to its evil ways, and that is expected to continue. The next report is factory orders for September which are predicted to drop -0.5%; but that’s a lot better than the August report of -10.1%.
Because the employment numbers come in on Thursday, the ADP employment change report for October will be released Wednesday, along with the October ISM index on the service sector. This is a far less important report than the manufacturing ISM. Neither one of these reports generally affect the markets much.
On Thursday we have the initial and the continuing jobless claims reports. Thursday’s final report will be on Q3 productivity and unit labor costs. Last month the productivity level came in at 2.3%. The analysts are predicting this report to show only about 1.5%. The unit labor cost is expected to go up to 0.9% from the previous -0.1%.
Friday is the biggie, with the unemployment report for October to be released. Unemployment dropped below 6.0% (actually it came in at 5.9%) in September for the first time since July, 2008. It is expected to stay about the same. Next up is the nonfarm payrolls report, and the analysts are divided about their predictions. Some believe the figure will come in at about 235K, while the other group is betting on 275K. The previous report indicated 248K jobs in the nonfarm payrolls.
That wraps it up for this week.
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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Real Estate Regrets: 80 Percent of Homebuyers Want a Do-Over

Every house-hunter has a wish list, and every homeowner probably has a “wish I researched” list. In fact, 80 percent of homebuyers have at least one major regret about their new home, according to a recent survey of 2,000 U.S. adults at least 25 years old. Only 20 percent of respondents said they had no regrets about their home.

Among the most common regrets: Nearly 16 percent said their home was too small. More than 9 percent said their home didn't have enough storage or closet space. Smaller percentages weren't happy with their neighbors or school system or felt their home had too few bathrooms, a too-small yard, not enough natural light or too-high maintenance costs. Fewer than 3 percent said their home was too big.

Most people know they'll have to give up something they want, says Bunni Longwell, a Realtor at Keller Williams Realty St Pete in St. Petersburg, Florida. "Everybody's wish list is 'I want a pool, I want 2,500 square feet, I want to be on the waterfront and I want to pay $100,000.' If we can't find all those things, what would you sacrifice?" Longwell says.

The few buyers who seemed to get everything they wanted apparently were willing and able to pay more to achieve that goal. Rather than sacrifice any major item on their list, they're willing "to come up on their price if 98 percent of their wish list is covered," Longwell says.

Future needs

Buyers' regrets don't always surface right away, adds Jake Russell, a Realtor with Keller Williams Realty in Waco, Texas. Only later do buyers figure out their once-adequate home is too large or too small for their family, which might include an aging parent moving in or an adult child moving out. "People don't think about what they'll need three or five years down the road," Russell says. Other issues come up, too. "People don't buy a master bath with enough amenities or a kitchen with enough storage. Those are the type of thing that, until you live in a home, you don't realize," Russell says.

Daily regrets

For some buyers, regrets are just a minor annoyance. For others, however, they're a significant irritation. Nearly 36 percent of survey respondents who expressed regrets said they thought about their disappointment only occasionally. But more than 37 percent thought about their regret frequently, and almost 22 percent thought about it every day.

Buyers can avoid some regrets by spending more time inside for-sale homes, says Ken Pozek, a Realtor with Keller Williams Realty in Northville, Michigan. "You can only see so much online. You have to touch it and feel it," he says.

Research matters

Buyers' regrets typically weren't directly due to inadequate research. Yet in some cases, more research might have helped. More than 60 percent of survey respondents said they researched local schools, property taxes, commuting distances, home insurance costs or characteristics of neighborhoods or neighbors. But large proportions admitted they'd overlooked factors they later wished they'd reviewed more carefully, though 10-14 percent said one or more issues wasn't relevant to their situation.

The survey found:

25 percent of homebuyers wished they had researched their new neighborhood or neighbors.

22 percent wished they'd researched homeowner insurance costs.

More than 20 percent wished they'd researched property taxes.

14 percent wished they'd researched local schools.

Resale regrets

Almost 47 percent of survey respondents said they'd researched sex offender registries. But another 30 percent said they didn't research that information and later wished they had.

While that information might not seem immediately relevant -- 23 percent of the buyers said it didn't apply to them -- it can become be important later on.

"It's a terrible thing for a child predator to be in your neighborhood," Russell says. "If you have kids, it's beyond terrible. Some people are at a time in their life when it's bad, but (they decide to purchase the home anyway). When they want to sell, everyone who wants to buy has kids, so it's no deal."

Local factors

Homeowners also manage to overlook research related to specific local concerns. Longwell cites flood insurance as an example. "In Florida, we have homeowner insurance and flood insurance," she explains. "That's completely off the radar when buyers look at areas. They've done research. They know where they want to live. Then the Realtor tells them they have to add $150 a month for flood insurance, and they say they never thought of that."

By: Marcie Geffner,