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  • DOC New Home Sales and NAR Existing Home Sales

    The Department of Commerce reported July sales of new homes dropped by 2.40 percent over June to a four month low. Analysts noted that although July's reading of 412,000 new homes sold fell short of expectations and June's reading, the new homes sector is volatile and subject to change. DOC New Home Sales and NAR Existing Home Sales

    June's reading of 406,000 new homes sold was revised to 422,000 new homes sold; expectations were based on the original reading. Three of four regions posted a slower rate of growth for home prices with only the South posting a gain.

    The average price of a new home in the U.S. rose to $269,800, which is 2.90 percent higher than June's average home price. Inventories of new homes increased to a six-month level based on current sales pace.

    This was the highest inventory of new homes available since 2011. Strict mortgage credit requirements and an elevated national unemployment rate contributed to the lower rate of home value appreciation and higher inventories of new homes.

    The good news: New home sales increased by 12.90 percent year-over-year in July.

    Existing Home Sales Rise: Steady Mortgage Rates, Rising Rents Cited

    The National Association of REALTORS® reported that July sales of previously-owned homes rose from June's revised figure of 5.03 million sales to 5.15 million sales and achieved the highest reading for 2014.

    The existing home sales readings are calculated on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. Existing home sales were 4.30 percent lower than for July 2013, which had the highest reading for existing home sales in 2013.

    Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR, said that a growing inventory of available pre-owned homes for sale and strengthening labor markets contributed to sales growth. Mr. Yun said that July's pace of sales was expected to continue based on mortgage rates holding steady and rising rents for apartments.

    The inevitable rise of mortgage rates and increasing home prices were cited as factors that could cool existing home sales in coming months. With the Fed scheduled to complete its asset purchase program in October and changes to the Fed's target federal funds rate expected within months, mortgage rates are expected to rise. Affordability looms as an obstacle to sales; home prices continue to rise as wages grow at a slower pace than home prices.

    The national median price for existing homes was $222,900, which was a year-over-year increase of 4.90 percent. This was the 29th consecutive month for year-over-year price gains for existing homes. The inventory of existing homes for sale increased by 3.50 percent to 2.37 million available homes and represents a 5.50 month supply. Unsold inventory of existing homes is 5.80 percent higher year-over-year. As compared to July 2013's reading of 2.24 million available pre-owned homes.

    Homes sold through foreclosure or short sales have steeply declined from 36 percent of existing home sales in 2009 to approximately 9 percent in July and were down from 15 percent of existing home sales in June.

    BOB ELLIOT - REALTOR® CRS, GRI, e-PRO, CDPE

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  • What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - Aug 25, 2014

    Last week's economic news brought several reports related to housing. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Wells Fargo Housing Market Index for August rose by two points to 55, which was its highest reading in seven months. Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Aug 25 2014

    Components of the NAHB HMI include builder surveys on conditions related to upcoming sales of new homes, which rose by two points for a reading of 65. Builder sentiment concerning present sales conditions also rose by two points to 58.

    Builder views on prospective buyer traffic rose from 39 to 42. Readings above 50 indicate that more builders viewed housing market conditions as positive as negative.

    NAHB cited job growth and low mortgage rates as conditions driving higher builder confidence in market conditions.

    Housing Starts, Building Permits Up in July

    According to the Commerce Department, housing starts and building permits rose in July. Housing starts increased to 1.09 million from June's reading of 945,000 and exceeded expectations of 975,000. This reading reflects higher builder confidence and could contribute to easing demand for housing as new homes expand the inventory of available homes.

    Construction of single family homes accounts for about 75 percent of new home construction. July's reading was 656,000 single family housing starts on an annual basis. Regionally, housing starts declined by 25 percent in the Midwest, but rose by 44 percent in the Northeast, 29 percent in the South and 18.60 percent in the West.

    Building permits issued in July rose to an annual rate of 1.05 million, which was an increase of 8.10 percent over June's reading of 973,000 permits issued. Permits for single family homes increased by 0.90 percent to a reading of 640,000 permits annually.

    July's readings for housing starts and building permits are in line with overall economic growth and suggest that housing markets may improve in coming months as the supply of new homes increases.

    Let's add more icing to the cake. The National Association of REALTORS® reported that existing home sales rose to 5.15 million on a seasonally adjusted annual basis against predictions of 5.00 million existing homes sold and June's reading of 5.05 million sales of previously owned homes.

    Mortgage Rates Fall, FOMC Minutes Indicate Economic Improvement

    Freddie Mac's weekly survey of mortgage rates reported that average rates fell across the board: The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by two basis points to 4.10 percent with discount point lower at 0.50 percent.

    The rate for a 15-year mortgage dropped by one basis point to 3.24 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by two basis points to 2.95 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.

    The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve released minutes from its July meeting. Highlights included the committee's 9-1 vote in favor of continuing the slow pace of reducing economic stimulus.

    The minutes indicated that the committee intends to keep the federal funds rate below normal levels for "some time." Previous FOMC statements have consistently indicated the Fed's intention to maintain very low short-term interest rates after asset purchases under QE3 end in October, but FOMC has not released a specific time frame or details of its intentions concerning the federal funds rate.

    The Fed acknowledged economic improvements, but cited lingering concerns over unemployment, which remains higher than average.

    More Good News: Jobless Claims Lower, Economic Indicators Up

    Weekly jobless claims fell to 298,000, lower than expectations of 300,000 new jobless claims and the prior week's reading of 312,000 new claims. Leading economic indicators (LEI) rose by 0.89 percent in July after increases in May and June. Analysts interpreted this reading as a further indication of stronger economic conditions.

    What's Ahead

    This week's scheduled economic reports include New Home Sales, the Case-Shiller Home Price Index and FHFA House Price Index. General economic reports include the Consumer Confidence Index and the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index. It will be interesting to see whether consumer views of the economy are consistent with recent economic improvements.

    BOB ELLIOT - REALTOR® CRS, GRI, e-PRO, CDPE

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  • Saving the Best for Last: Why You Want to Save the Best Rooms in Your Home for the End of the Showing

    Do you remember when you were buying your first home? Saving the Best for Last: Why You Want to Save the Best Rooms in Your Home for the End of the Showing

    You may have looked at dozens before you settled on the perfect home for your family to live and grow in. Perhaps another home came in a close second, but you ultimately settled on that house or apartment – the one you're now selling.

    Chances are you don't remember anything much about most of the homes you viewed, and the things that stand out are the best (that bedroom with a fireplace!) or as bad as they can be (remember the sofa placed over the cigarette burn in the carpet?).

    When you're staging your own home and giving tours to prospective buyers, it's important to give them something to remember, and saving the best for last is one way to do it.

    First In, First Out

    When it comes to memories, older isn't necessarily better.

    In fact, research shows that the brain clears out older memories to make room for new ones. That's why what you did today is fresh in your mind, but things get hazy when you think about last week or try to remember life as a child.

    If you show off the best rooms in the house toward the end of the tour, it will stick in the buyer's mind after she leaves.

    Just like you make sure the first impression is good - this is known as 'curb appeal' - you'll want to end on a high note. This helps sell your home faster.

    Doorway To The Mind

    Entering a new room causes you to forget why you're there in the first place. Researcher Gabriel Radvansky from Notre Dame completed a year-long study about this phenomenon, which is also known as 'event boundaries.' In essence, your brain compartmentalizes data to a specific location.

    When you're indoors, the walls around you literally become mental boundaries. As soon as you step through a doorway, you forget that you meant to put the phone back on the hook. For home buyers, every new doorway acts as an event boundary.

    If you put the bedroom with the fireplace or the outdoor jacuzzi in the first half of your tour, buyers will walk through a lot of doorways after seeing some of the best parts of your home.

    Every doorway is an opportunity for their brains to forget something that might help you when it comes to getting the sale closed. Put fewer doorways between the strongest architectural or design features and the end of the tour to make the biggest impact.

    If you have further questions about staging, contact your real estate agent today for advice and strategies.

    BOB ELLIOT - REALTOR® CRS, GRI, e-PRO, CDPE

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  • What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - Aug 18, 2014

    Last week's economic news brought little housing-related content, but several economic reports in other sectors contributed to overall perceptions of the economy.What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Aug 18 2014

    In a speech given in Sweden, Fed Vice President Stanley Fischer noted that the economy might be in a period of "secular stagnation." This condition is expected to keep interest rates low for longer than expected.

    A survey of small business owners showed that confidence increased by 0.70 in July. Job openings for June increased from 4.60 million to 4.70 million. Readings for several reports fell shy of expectations and new jobless claims were higher than expected.

    Economic Readings Lower Than Expected, Weekly Jobless Claims Rise

    Retail sales for July were flat and fell shy of June's reading of 0.20 percent, which was also the expected reading for July. Retail sales except autos were also lower in July with a reading of 0.10 percent against the expected reading and June's reading of 0.40 percent.

    Weekly jobless claims were reported at 311,000 against expectations of 300,000 new claims and the prior week's reading of 290,000 new jobless claims. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, this was the highest reading since June.

    New jobless claims were close to pre-recession levels which suggested a slower pace of layoffs. The four-week average of new jobless claims, which presents a less volatile reading than for weekly reports, rose by 2000 new jobless claims to a reading of 285,750.

    Mortgage Rates Lower

    Freddie Mac's weekly survey reported lower mortgage rates last week. Average rates were as follows: 30-year fixed rate mortgages had a rate of 4.12 percent and were two basis points lower than the previous week.

    Discount points averaged 0.60 percent against the prior week's reading of 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.24 percent as compared to the prior week's reading of 3.27 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.60 percent.

    The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 2.97 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.

    A couple of good news bytes from last week included an increase in small business sentiment in July. The National Federation of Independent Business Index for July increased from June's reading of 95.00 points to 95.70 points.

    The federal government also reported that job openings increased from 4.60 million in May to 4.70 million in June.

    What's Ahead

    Several housing-related reports are set for release this week. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) will release its Home Builder Index for August, which measures builder confidence in market conditions for newly built homes.

    The Department of Commerce will release Housing Starts for July, and the National Association of REALTORS® will release its Existing Home Sales report for July. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve will release the minutes of its most recent meeting on Wednesday; this could provide details concerning the Fed's recent monetary policy decisions, which include the wind-down of asset purchases under the current quantitative easing program.

    BOB ELLIOT - REALTOR® CRS, GRI, e-PRO, CDPE

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  • What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - Aug 11, 2014

    Last week's housing related news was minimal, but a Federal Reserve survey of senior loan officers revealed that although credit standards for commercial and industrial loans as well as credit cards are easing, current mortgage credit standards are more stringent than in 2005. This could be a contributing factor to slowing housing market gains while other sectors of the economy are recovering at a faster pace. Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Aug 11 2014

    Qualified Mortgage Rules Impact Non-Conforming Mortgages

    The Senior Loan Officers survey also noted that qualified mortgage rules have slowed approval of prime jumbo mortgages and non-traditional home loans. This suggests that applicants falling outside of stringent qualified mortgage rules can expect challenges when buying or refinancing their homes.

    In other housing news, Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey reported that last week's mortgage rates were mixed. Mortgage rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.14 percent with discount points of 0.70 percent against last week's reading of 4.12 percent with discount points of 0.60 percent. 15-year mortgage rates averaged 3.27 percent with discount points of 0.60 percent. This was an increase of four basis points, although discount points fell from 0.70 percent to 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was 2.98 percent, a drop of two basis points, with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.

    Fewer Jobless Claims, Service-Related Business Growth Exceeds Expectations 

    The weekly Jobless Claims report brought a lower than expected reading of 289,000 new claims as compared to predictions of 305,000 new jobless claims. In other economic news, the Institute for Service Management (ISM) reported that its non-manufacturing index rose from June's reading of 56.00 percent to 58.70 percent in July. Analysts had forecasted July's reading at 56.50 percent. July's reading represented the highest growth rate for service-related businesses since 2005.

    According to the Department of Commerce, June factory orders rose by 1.10 percent over May's reading of -0.60 percent against an expected reading of 0.60 percent. As business expands and factory orders increase, it's likely that jobs and hiring will also grow. Steady employment is a compelling factor for most home buyers and positive reports in labor and industrial sectors could boost housing markets as more buyers increase demand for homes.

    What's Ahead

    Next week's economic reports include retail sales, retail sales excluding automotive, industrial production and the weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. While there isn't much housing news expected next week, readings in other economic sectors can suggest potential trends in housing markets

    BOB ELLIOT - REALTOR® CRS, GRI, e-PRO, CDPE

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  • How to Avoid Insulting a Home Seller when Making a Low Offer

    Buying a home is a huge step for people who are ready to make an investment in their future. Getting a great deal on a home is just as important and knowing how much to offer could be confusing. It is important to make sure the home seller is not insulted by the lowball offer and is ready to negotiate to make sure everyone wins. Lowballing 101: How to Avoid Insulting a Home Seller when Making a Low Offer for Their House or Condo

    Make a List of Necessary Improvements

    One of the best ways to validate a lowball offer on a home is to list improvements that need to be made to the property. If the home needs a new roof or a new heating and air conditioning system, these are reasons to offer less than the asking price. Sometimes a home may also need new flooring, paint, or matching appliances which all cost money. The buyer can make a lowball offer stating additional expenses of making sure the home is move in ready.

    Explain Any Issues with the Location

    Another option when considering a lowball offer is to point out problems with the location. If the home is on a busy street or close to a manufacturing district, the buyer has legitimate concerns. In the offer, list the potential problems of living too close to fast food restaurants, train tracks, or airports. A less desirable location could equal a great buy on a new home.

    Provide Pricing for Comparable Homes in the Area

    A knowledgeable real estate agent can help compare homes that have sold in the area. When you are writing up a lowball offer, look at the lower priced homes that have sold in the same neighborhood. A seller will quickly realize that if he wants to sell the home, he will need to accept a reasonable offer or risk letting his house sit on the market for weeks or months.

    Consider the Seller's Reasons for Selling

    Finally, the seller's situation can also be key in getting a good deal on a home. If the seller is desperate to sell because of a job relocation or if he has already bought a new home this can be the perfect reason to make a low offer and take the home off the seller's hands. Without insulting the seller, the buyer can make an offer for less than the asking price and agree to a quick closing.

    Buying a home can be stressful and getting a good deal on the property without insulting the seller can take some negotiating. Working with a knowledgeable real estate agent will make the experience more enjoyable. Call today to make your dreams come true.

    BOB ELLIOT - REALTOR® CRS, GRI, e-PRO, CDPE

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  • What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - Aug 4, 2014

    Last week's economic news included a number of housing related reports. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, pending home sales dropped by 1.10 percent in June. The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports for May noted that home prices are growing at a slower rate of 9.30 percent year-over-year than April's year-over-year growth rate of 10.80 percent. Construction spending was also lower in June. Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Aug 4 2014

    The Fed's FOMC statement indicated that asset purchases connected to quantitative easing will cease in October, but that the current target federal funds rate is expected to stay in place "a considerable period" after asset purchases conclude. FOMC noted its concern over housing markets, which was based on slower home price growth and market activity.

    Pending Home Sales, Home Price Growth Slower

    Pending home sales dropped by 1.10 percent nationwide in June. This was the first decrease in four months. Pending home sales rose by 1.10 percent in the Midwest and 0.20 percent in the West, but dropped by 2.90 percent in the Northeast and 2.40 percent in the South. Pending sales are measured by signed purchase contracts and provide an indicator of future completed sales and mortgage loan activity.

    The 20-city Case-Shiller Home Price Index for May fell by 1.50 percent to a year-over-year reading of 9.30 percent from April's 10.80 percent. No cities in the 20-city index reported declining home prices.

    Construction spending fell by 1.80 percent in June against projections of an 0.30 percent increase in spending and May's reading of an 0.80 percent increase. Reasons cited for lower construction spending included builder focus on high-demand areas. Builders have also indicated concerns about rising mortgage rates and tight loan requirements that impact numbers of home buyers that can qualify for home loans.

    Mortgage Rates Little Changed, Fed Continues Wind-Down of Asset Purchases

    According to Freddie Mac's weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey, rates were little changed last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.12 percent as compared to 4.13 percent the prior week. Discount points were unchanged at an average of 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by three basis points to 3.23 percent with discount points higher by 10 basis points at 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by one basis point to 2.38 percent with average discount points of 0.40 percent unchanged.

    The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve issued its customary post-meeting statement on Wednesday. The FOMC plans to continue reducing asset purchase under the current quantitative easing program until the purchases cease in October. Although some analysts were concerned that the Fed may consider raising its target federal funds rate based on lower than expected unemployment figures, the FOMC said it doesn't plan to raise the target federal funds "for a considerable time" after the QE purchases cease, but no specific timeline was given.

    Labor Sector News

    The Department of Commerce's Bureau of Labor Statistics posted a national unemployment rate of 6.20 percent for July, which was higher than expectations of a 6.00 percent national unemployment rate and June's reading of 6.10 percent. To put these readings in perspective, the Fed had established an unemployment rate of 6.50 percent as a benchmark for winding down its asset purchases and potentially raising the target federal funds rate.

    Non-farm payrolls reported 209,000 jobs added in July against projections of 235,000 jobs added and June's reading of 298,000 jobs added. While July's reading was lower, analysts said that job growth suggests ongoing recovery for labor markets. Labor markets have been cited in recent months as reasons for slower demand for homes and home builder skepticism.

    Next week's scheduled economic news contains no housing-related reports other than Freddie Mac's mortgage rates report.

    BOB ELLIOT - REALTOR® CRS, GRI, e-PRO, CDPE

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  • The Guide to Boosting the Number of Offers on Your Home in a Slow Sales Market

    The economy and the real estate market are finally on the upswing after the 'Great Recession'. However, in many locations, the housing market is still slow. The Definitive Guide to Boosting the Number of Offers on Your Home in a Slow Sales Market

    Homeowners who want their houses to sell need to do some homework before putting up that For Sale sign. Here are several tips to help your house sell sooner rather than later.

    The Price Is Right

    A house priced too high will languish on the market. Before listing your home for sale, make sure the price is appropriate.

    Look at the prices of recently sold homes in your neighborhood. Focus on houses of similar size and condition to yours to find the best comparable sales prices.

    Also, it may be worth having your home appraised to ensure that the list price is close to the actual market value.

    Lean, Mean, Cleaning Machine

    Prospective buyers want to see a pristine house. Make your home look perfect, inside and out, before you list it. Stop putting off all those repairs. Replace the cracked window, and fix that leaky faucet!

    Curb appeal is a huge selling point. Your yard should be neatly trimmed and completely clean. It's time to put away the garden gnome. Consider hiring a professional landscaper to make your house stand out from the crowd.

    The inside of your house should be spotless. Research home staging or hire a professional stager to prepare your home for listing. At the very least, de-clutter your house and remove all personal items. Prospective buyers want to imagine a house as their home, not yours.

    Strike A Pose

    Photographs accompanying a MLS listing are typically a buyer's first introduction to a house. Buyers often dismiss a house based on photographs alone, so make sure that yours are the best quality possible. Make sure your house is clean and well-staged. More photos are always better than less.

    Agents Sell

    A good real estate agent is key to selling your house quickly. Find an agent experienced in selling homes in your community and who has a well-organized marketing plan. A good agent will not only give you the above tips, but will also customize them to the demands of your neighborhood.

    Pick up the phone today and chat with a real estate agent for more information while weeding the flower bed or de-cluttering the den. Soon enough, you'll be loading boxes onto a moving van as you journey onto your next adventure.

    BOB ELLIOT - REALTOR® CRS, GRI, e-PRO, CDPE

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  • Three Ways That Your Credit Score Affects Your Mortgage (and Your Chance of Obtaining One!)

    If you're thinking of buying a home, you've probably been thinking a lot about your credit score as well. Credit scores control so much of what we do in the world of finances, but what does your credit score really have to do with your mortgage? Here are three ways that your credit score could impact your mortgage application. Three Ways That Your Credit Score Affects Your Mortgage (and Your Chance of Obtaining One!)

    Your Credit Score Affects Your Ability To Get A Mortgage

    The first thing your credit score tells a lender is whether they should lend to you at all. In some cases, if you have a very low credit score, you may not be able to obtain a mortgage at all.

    Different lenders will have different criteria for determining safe and unsafe lending situations. Typically, if you have a score below the 600 mark, you'll have trouble obtaining a mortgage.

    If you're worried about a low credit score, don't despair - you can still get a mortgage, you just might have to work a little harder to get one. Some lenders will still lend to people with lower credit scores (just make sure you're approaching legitimate lenders and not mortgage scam artists). Or, if time is on your side, you can work toward building up your credit score so that when it comes time to take out a mortgage, your score will be more appealing to lenders.

    Your Credit Score Affects What Types Of Mortgages You Can Obtain

    The second thing a lender learns from your credit score is which types of mortgages you qualify for. If a lender sees you as a higher risk, they won't necessarily be willing to offer you just any old mortgage.

    In most cases, if you have a credit score of less than 620, you won't qualify for a conventional mortgage. In addition, if you have a lower credit score, you may have to make a larger down payment in order to qualify for the type of mortgage you want.

    Your Credit Score Affects Your Interest Rate

    The final thing that a lender learns from your credit score is what type of interest rate they're willing to offer you. As a general rule, the higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate.

    However, just because you have a high credit score, that doesn't mean you'll automatically get a great mortgage rate. There's more that goes into the price of a mortgage than just the interest rate, so watch out for additional factors like extra fees, mortgage insurance, lock-in periods, and so on.

    Your credit score tells a lender a lot about what type of borrower you are. Ultimately, a higher credit score means that you'll be able to borrow money at a lower interest rate. But if your score is low, don't worry - there's a lot you can do to bring up that score before you apply for a mortgage, so don't throw in the towel just yet!

    BOB ELLIOT - REALTOR® CRS, GRI, e-PRO, CDPE

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  • What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - July 28, 2014

    FHFA Home Prices Grow at Slower Rate, Existing Home Sales Higher than Expected 

    The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported that the average sale price of homes associated with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac grew by.40 percent in May with year-over year growth of 5.90 percent. While national home price readings continue to rise, they are doing so at a slower pace since 2013's rapid appreciation of average home prices. Home cooling costs

    Sales of previously owned homes reached their highest level in eight months in June. Existing home sales surpassed expectations and May's reading in June, with sales of pre-owned homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million units. Analysts forecasted sales of existing homes at 5.00 million against May's reading of 4.91 million existing homes sold.

    New Home Sales Fall Short in June

    New home sales did not achieve the expected volume for June. The reading of 406,000 new homes sold was less than the expected reading of 475,000 new homes sold. Projections were based on the original May reading of 504,000 new homes sold, but this was downwardly revised to 442,000 new homes sold in May. Builders were said to be cautious about over-extending themselves are focused on new home construction in high-demand areas where home prices are higher. Homes are less affordable in such areas, which impacts lower sales volume.

    Freddie Mac: Mortgage Rates Steady for 30-year FRM

    The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was unchanged at 4.13 percent with average discount points also unchanged at 0.60 percent according to Freddie Mac's weekly survey of mortgage rates. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by three basis points to 3.26 percent with discount points higher at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 2.99 percent with discount points ten basis points higher at 0.50 percent.

    Weekly Jobless Claims Lowest since 2006

    A major consideration for home buyers is stable employment. Recent reports suggest that the labor market is expanding; the Weekly Jobless Claims report continued this trend with a lower than expected reading of 284,000 new jobless claims filed against expectations of 310,000 new claims and the prior week's reading of 303,000 new jobless claims. Analysts found the declining number of new jobless claims consistent with lower unemployment rates, but cautioned that sustained weekly jobless claims readings lower than 300,000 are more consistent with a national unemployment rate of 5.00 percent or less.

    What's Ahead

    This week's scheduled economic news will add further insight to housing market trends with the release of Pending Home Sales for June and the Case-Shiller Home Price Index report for May. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will also release July's Non-Farm Payrolls report and National Unemployment report. The Federal Reserve is set to release its customary statement in the aftermath of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting that concludes on Wednesday.

    BOB ELLIOT - REALTOR® CRS, GRI, e-PRO, CDPE

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  • National Association of REALTORS Existing Home Sales Exceed Projections

    According to the National Association of REALTORS®, existing home sales surpassed both May sales and expectations for June. Sales of previously owned homes increased by 2.60 percent in June and reached a seasonally adjusted annual level of 5.04 million sales. June's reading was the third consecutive monthly increase in sales of existing homes and was the highest reading for existing home sales in eight months. Existing home sales remain 2.30 percent below the June 2013 reading of 5.16 million sales of existing homes. National Association of REALTORS

    Analysts projected sales of 5 million existing homes for June against May's initial reading of 4.89 million sales of previously owned homes; the May reading was later revised to 4.91 million sales. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS® said that market conditions are becoming "more balanced," and noted that inventories of existing homes are at their highest level in over a year and that price gains have slowed to much more welcoming levels in many parts of the country.

    Housing Market Headwinds Declining

    After a particularly harsh winter and lagging labor reports, analysts forecasted lower annual sales of existing homes for 2014 than for 2013. Labor markets are stronger according to recent labor market reports and a declining national unemployment rate. Steady work is an important factor for families considering a home purchase; as labor markets improve, more would-be homeowners are expected to become active buyers.

    Housing markets are not without challenges. In recent unrelated reports, the Federal Reserve has noted higher than anticipated inflation may cause the Fed to raise its target Federal Funds rate in the next several months. Gas and food prices, important components of consumers' household budgets continue to rise and could slow save toward a home for some families. Steve Brown, president of the National Association of REALTORS®, said that first-time and moderate income buyers continue to deal with affordability due to increased FHA costs and tight mortgage credit. Relief may be in sight as a slower pace of home price growth suggests that more buyers may be able to afford homes.

    FHFA House Price Index Reports Gain in May Home Sales

    FHFA released its May index of home sales connected with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The index posted a month-to-month gain of 0.40 percent in May and a year-over-year gain of 5.90 percent year-over-year. FHFA said that increased sales were driven by a 9/60 percent increase in sales in the Pacific region and that average home prices remain 6.50 percent below April 2007.

    BOB ELLIOT - REALTOR® CRS, GRI, e-PRO, CDPE

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  • Understanding the 'Qualified Mortgage' or QM and Why It's Important to New Home Buyers

    Are you shopping for a home or a new mortgage? If you are interested in finding the best possible financial product, it is important to consider the benefits of selecting a Qualified Mortgage. With so many different types of loan products to choose from and financial terms to learn, schooling yourself on the mortgage market before you buy your first home or apply for your first refinance mortgage may seem like a daunting task. Understanding the 'Qualified Mortgage' or QM and Why It's Important to New Home Buyers

    Luckily, there are resources that are designed to help you learn the basics of products and terms so that all consumers have the power to inform themselves before securing a loan.

    What is a Qualified Mortgage?

    There are many different categories of home loans that individual loan products can fall into and one of these categories is simply referred to as a Qualified Mortgage. Qualified Mortgages, also referred to as the QM in the industry, is a product that has been approved as a qualified product because it has stable features that benefit you as a borrower.

    All lenders who are interested in offering a Qualified Mortgage must make a good-faith effort to assess your income and your debt-to-income ratio to ensure that you are able to repay the loan before you take the loan out. All lenders must meet a long list of certain requirements that are free of harmful features that could affect a borrower's ability to pay.

    Common Requirements of Qualified Mortgages

    The main purpose of a qualified mortgage is to protect borrowers from forms of predatory lending. The standards that the loan must meet are set by the Federal government. In addition to assessing the borrower's ability to pay before approving an application, lenders must meet loan product requirements that are very specific in nature. Some of the harmful features that a QM product is not permitted to have include:

    Negative Amortization: This feature affects consumers by allowing principal to increase over time.

    Interest-only Periods: Where payments are only applied to interest on the money borrowed.

    Balloon payment requirement: A requirement where borrowers must pay a large payment at the end of the loan term.

    Long Terms: Loans cannot have terms longer than 30 years.

    A Large Debt-to-Income Ratio: There is a limit in how much income that can go to monthly debt payments. This limit is 43% for a QM.


    How Can a QM Benefit a New Home Buyer?

    As you can see, there are safeguards built into a Qualified Mortgage that are designed to protect you from entering into a long-term binding loan contract that puts you in an unfair position. There are also legal protections that are designed to protect lenders who are committed to designing qualified mortgage products. You can sign a loan that you can afford to repay, have payments applied to your principal as well as interest, and become a homeowner without unnecessary stress. 

    BOB ELLIOT - REALTOR® CRS, GRI, e-PRO, CDPE

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  • What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - July 21, 2014

    Last week's economic news offered a variety of indications that the economic recovery continues, but some readings missed their expected levels. The Philadelphia and New York branches of the Federal Reserve Bank reported higher than anticipated manufacturing for their respective regions and new jobless claims were lower than expected. Mythbusters: 5 Reasons Why Diet Sodas Might Not Be as Healthy as You Think

    Fed Chair's Senate Testimony Hints at Coming Interest Rate Hike

    Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testified that the Fed might have to raise interest rates sooner than expected if the economy continues to outperform the Fed's projections. Ms. Yellen said that the central bank presently estimates that the first rate increases will take place approximately one year from now.

    The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Fed has repeatedly stated that members will continue to review data and economic conditions changing monetary policy. Ms. Yellen said in last week's remarks that this holds true whether economic conditions improve or decline.

    In other Fed-related news, the Philadelphia Fed released its manufacturing index for July with higher than expected results. The Philly Fed's reading for July was 23.90 as compared to expectations of 16.50 and June's reading of 17.80.

    The New York Fed reported a similar trend for July with a reading of 25.60 as compared to an estimated reading of 17.50 and June's reading of 19.30. This is good news after the Northeast's economy was slammed by severe weather last winter. Weather conditions stalled area housing and labor markets.

    Weekly jobless claims were lower at 303,000 than expectations of 310,000 new jobless claims and the prior week's reading of 305,000 new jobless claims.

    Home Builders Post Positive Confidence Reading for July

    The National Association of Home Builders posted its highest builder confidence reading in six months for July with a reading of 53 against the expected reading of 50 and June's reading of 49. Numbers above 50 indicate that more builders surveyed have a positive outlook than not.

    Housing Starts for June were reported lower than expected at an annual level of 893,000 against an expected reading of 1.02 million and May's reading of 985,000 housing starts.

    Mortgage Rates Lower

    According to Freddie Mac's weekly survey, average mortgage rates were slightly lower last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 4.13 percent. Discount points were 0.60 as compared to the prior week's reading of 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.23 percent as compared to the previous reading of 3.24 percent.

    Discount points for a 15-year mortgage averaged 0.50 percent against the prior week's reading of 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by two basis points to 2.87 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

    The University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Index for July fell just short of expectations at 81.3. Analysts expected a reading of 83.0, based on June's reading of 82.50. Analysts said that although labor markets are improving, consumers continue to face rising costs for gasoline and food, which likely explained the dip in confidence for July.

    What's Ahead

    This week's economic news releases include Existing Home sales from the National Association of REALTORS®, New Home Sales from the Department of Commerce and the FHFA House Price Index. The Chicago Fed is set to release its National Activity Index. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and New Jobless Claims will be released Thursday as usual.

    BOB ELLIOT - REALTOR® CRS, GRI, e-PRO, CDPE

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  • A Quick Guide to Assessing Your Home's Foundation for Cracks - And What to Do if You Find Them

    When purchasing a home, there are a number of considerations that need to be taken into account. One of those considerations is the foundation of the home. No matter how perfect or suitable a property looks, taking the time to properly inspect the property for foundation problems can save homeowners thousands of dollars in repairs later on. A Quick Guide to Assessing Your Home's Foundation for Cracks - And What to Do if You Find Them

    While foundation cracks are usually present in older homes, that does not mean that newer and even brand new homes aren't prone to them. When choosing a property, the following tips can help homebuyers find signs of foundation problems and take the right action if any are found.

    Concrete Weakness

    One of the easiest ways to check for a damaged foundation is to check the concrete of the home. When the foundation is strong and safe, the concrete is not brittle and breakable. To test this, when trying to poke the foundation with a screwdriver, the foundation should be rock solid. If it isn't, then there may be a foundation issue.

    Posts Should Be Sturdy

    If the house has a basement, then the posts that hold up the basement and crawl space should stand firmly in place. The bottom of the post should be unmovable and the post should stand straight and tall. If the posts do not do so, then there is a problem with the foundation.

    Uneven Floors

    The next component of the house that should be inspected is the floors. All of the floors within the house must be solid, straight, and not slanted. If the floor is slanted or separates from the wall in any place, then the foundation is unable to support the home properly and there is a serious issue.

    Exterior Cracks

    The walls are also a way to examine for foundation issues. Take a tour around the outside of the home and inspect for any cracks to the exterior. Each wall on the outside of the home should be smooth, solid, and free of any cracks. However, if there is a crack, this may mean that the foundation has shifted and the home is uneven.

    Windows and Doors

    Next, inspect every window and door on the property. Each should be attached to the surrounding wall and they must also open and close without any difficulty. If there is a difficulty in opening and closing windows and doors, there may be a foundation problem like shifting or uneven ground that is unable to support the property.

    Moist Ground Around the Property

    Lastly, another sign that there is a foundation problem is if the ground around the property is moist. A strong foundation will usually be set upon ground that is completely solid. When the ground is moist, the dirt particles are porous and unable to bind together, leading to shifting, cracks, and major damage to the home.

    Choosing the right home is not a difficult process and making the right assessments of the property can save thousands of dollars in future repairs. To help with assessments, foundation repairs, and to get the right information about how to deal with a cracked foundation in a potential property, then contacting a trusted and professional real estate agent is the best solution when purchasing a property.

    BOB ELLIOT - REALTOR® CRS, GRI, e-PRO, CDPE

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  • Getting Ready to Retire? Six Tips for Downsizing from Huge House to Efficient Condo

    If you're getting ready to retire, you may be thinking about downsizing. Having a large house makes sense when you're raising kids, but once you reach your golden years, it usually makes sense to move into a smaller, more efficient condo. While downsizing may seem impossible, these six tips will help you reach your goal. Getting Ready to Retire? Six Tips for Downsizing from Huge House to Efficient Condo

    1. The Six-Month Rule

    If you're finding it hard to figure out what to keep and what to get rid of, stick to the six-month rule - if you haven't used an item within half of a year, you probably don't need it. Seasonal items aren't used as much, but if you haven't used them within a year or two, it's safe to get rid of them.

    2. Measure Twice

    Measure your furniture, your current room sizes and your future room sizes. After you've done that, do it again. Nothing's worse than wrestling with your heavy sofa for hours on end to find out that it won't fit in your new living room after all.

    3. Pre-Arrange Big Items

    Once you know where your new home is going to be, get the floor plan or draw one up yourself. Use measurements from your furniture and other big items to figure out where you're going to put things. If it looks crowded on paper, it will probably look even more crowded in person, so make sure your plans look okay before you decide to hire a mover or move everything yourself.

    4. Get With The Times

    With all the new technology coming out, it's easy to transfer almost all of your physical media to electronic form. While you might want to keep your all-time favorite books and movies in physical form, you can put most of your reading material on an e-book reader and most of your movies on a computer or external hard drive.

    5. Multiples Multiply Headaches

    Yes, you need to have a soup ladle, but you don't need five of them. If you have more than one of the same item, consider getting rid of the multiples. You'll probably find that your kitchen is the biggest culprit as far as multiples go, but you may also find that you have three tops that are very similar in color and style or four laundry baskets even though you only do one load at a time.

    6. Use Your Resources

    If you're moving to a neighborhood with a great library, plan to use it instead of bringing all of your books and movies with you. If you're going to have a gym virtually next-door and can afford a membership, it may be time to give away your home gym equipment.

    Don't forget that your real estate agent can be an invaluable resource when downsizing, so be sure to get in touch with them before you make the jump. In summary: moving is hard enough, but downsizing is even harder. By following these tips, though, you should be able to pare down your belongings so that you will be able to live comfortably in your new home during the best years of your life.

    BOB ELLIOT - REALTOR® CRS, GRI, e-PRO, CDPE

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