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Economy Improving in 4th Quarter

December 24, 2009 Leave a comment

The economy grew 2.2 percent in the third quarter. The U.S. Commerce Department had previously estimated a 2.8 percent growth rate. Officials attributed the discrepancy to consumer caution, saying that consumers simply didn’t spend as much.

Many analysts still believe the economy is likely to improve in the current quarter, growing at an estimated 4 percent, or perhaps, even 5 percent. Fourth quarter results will be released Jan. 29.

Companies stocking depleted inventories will drive fourth-quarter growth, but the results will continue to reflect consumer caution. “We expect a better performance in the fourth quarter, but the core problems for the economy – bust banks and a massively overleveraged consumer – have not gone away,” says Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at High Frequency Economics.

Source: Associated Press, Jeannine Aversa (12/22/2009)

Categories: Finance

Tax Credit Gets Buyers Off the Fence

December 24, 2009 Leave a comment

The new $6,500 move-up Homebuyer Tax Credit is apparently motivating buyers, according to a Campbell Communications survey of 1,500 real estate practitioners.

Existing home owners accounted for 41 percent of home purchases in November, up from 38 percent in October, the survey found.

“Current home owners jumped at the credit,” says survey research director Thomas Popik.

Source: Housing Wire, Austin Kilgore (12/22/2009)

Categories: Finance

Another Big Gain in Existing-Home Sales

December 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Existing-home sales rose again in November as first-time buyers rushed to close sales before the original Nov. 30 deadline for the recently extended and expanded tax credit, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – rose 7.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.54 million units in November from 6.09 million in October, and are 44.1 percent higher than the 4.54 million-unit pace in November 2008. Current sales remain at the highest level since February 2007 when they hit 6.55 million.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the rise was expected. “This clearly is a rush of first-time buyers not wanting to miss out on the tax credit, but there are many more potential buyers who can enter the market in the months ahead,” he said. “We expect a temporary sales drop while buying activity ramps up for another surge in the spring when buyers take advantage of the expanded tax credit, which hopefully will take us into a self-sustaining market in the second half of 2010. In all, 4.4 million households are expected to claim the tax credit before it expires and balance should be restored to the housing sector with inventories continuing to decline.”

Conditions Optimal for Buyers
An NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 51 percent of homes in November, compared with an upwardly revised 50 percent of transactions in October. According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 4.88 percent in November from 4.95 percent in October; the rate was 6.09 percent in November 2008. Last month’s mortgage interest rate was the second lowest on record after bottoming at 4.81 percent in April 2009.

NAR President Vicki Cox Golder said conditions are optimal for buyers in the current market. “Inventories have steadily declined and are closer to balanced levels, which indicate home prices in many areas are either stabilizing or could soon stabilize and return to normal appreciation patterns,” she said. “This means buyers still have good choices but are purchasing near the bottom of the price cycle with historically low mortgage interest rates. Throw a tax credit on top and it really doesn’t get any better for buyers with secure jobs and long-term ownership plans.”

Inventories FallTotal housing inventory at the end of November declined 1.3 percent to 3.52 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.5-month supply at the current sales pace, down from an 7.0-month supply in October. Raw unsold inventory figures are 15.5 percent below a year ago. The last time there was a lower supply of homes on the market was April 2006, when it was at a 6.1-month supply.

“Nearly all markets experienced a solid sales gain from one year ago,” Yun said. “The only markets with measurably lower sales were in San Diego, Riverside, and Sacramento (Calif.), where inventory shortages for lower-priced homes are limiting sales.”

Sales Rise Across the Board
For the second month in a row, sales have risen in all price classes from a year earlier. Prior to October, the only consistent gains were in the lower price ranges. The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $172,600 in November, which is 4.3 percent below November 2008. Distressed properties, which accounted for 33 percent of sales in November, continue to downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes in the same area.

Single-Family Homes
Single-family home sales jumped 8.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.77 million in November from a level of 5.32 million in October, and are 42.1 percent above the pace of 4.06 million in November 2008. The median existing single-family home price was $171,900 in November, down 4.4 percent from a year ago.

CondosExisting condominium and co-op sales in November were unchanged from a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 770,000 in October, but are 60.1 percent above the 481,000-unit pace a year ago. The median existing condo price was $178,000 in November, which is 3.1 percent below November 2008.

By Region
Sales in the Northeast rose 6.6 percent to an annual level of 1.13 million in November, and are 52.7 percent higher than November 2008. The median price in the Northeast was $223,400, down 13.1 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest increased 8.4 percent in November to a pace of 1.55 million and are 53.5 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $140,800, a decline of 0.4 percent from November 2008.

In the South, existing-home sales rose 4.8 percent to an annual level of 2.39 million in November and are 44.8 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the South was $151,400, down 1.4 percent from November 2008.

Existing-home sales in the West increased 10.6 percent to an annual rate of 1.46 million in November and are 28.1 percent above November 2008. The median price in the West was $231,100, which is 4.1 percent below a year ago.

Source: NAR

IRS Sets New Rules for Tax Credit

December 8, 2009 Leave a comment

The IRS has spelled out guidelines for eligibility for the home buyer credit when co-borrowers purchase a property.

When a home-owning parent of an adult child co-signs for a mortgage and both names appear on the note, the IRS says that under some circumstances, the first-time home buyer can qualify for the whole amount.

The IRS says the parent doesn’t qualify for any portion of the credit, but if the child hasn’t owned a home during the three years preceding the current purchase and can qualify based on income, he or she can be allocated the entire $8,000 credit.

When unmarried individuals co-purchase a home and only one of them is eligible for the credit, then the full $8,000 can be allocated to the eligible buyer.
Source: Washington Post Writers Group, Kenneth R. Harney (12/04/2009)

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Nine Consecutive Gains for Pending Home Sales

December 2, 2009 Leave a comment

Pending home sales have risen for nine months in a row, a first for the series of the index since its inception in 2001, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in October, increased 3.7 percent to 114.1 from 110.0 in September, and is 31.8 percent above October 2008 when it was 86.6. The rise from a year ago is the biggest annual increase ever recorded for the index, which is at the highest level since March 2006 when it was 115.2.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said home sales are experiencing a pendulum swing. “Keep in mind that housing had been underperforming over most of the past year. Based on the demographics of our growing population, existing-home sales should be in the range of 5.5 million to 6.0 million annually, but we were well below the 5-million mark before the home buyer tax credit stimulus,” he said. “This means the tax credit is helping unleash a pent-up demand from a large pool of financially qualified renters, much more than borrowing sales from the future.”

By Region
*Pending sales in the Northeast surged 19.9 percent to 100.2 in October and is 44.2 percent above a year ago.
*In the Midwest, the index rose 11.6 percent to 109.6 and is 36.6 percent higher than October 2008.
*Sales in the South increased 5.4 percent to an index of 115.4, which is 31.6 percent above a year ago.
*In the West, the index fell 11.2 percent to 127.7 but is 21.9 percent above October 2008.

Tax Credit Quandaries Answered

December 1, 2009 Leave a comment

The complexity of new home buyer tax credits leaves potential buyers with many questions. Here are answers to some of the most confusing:

Q.1 How does a current home owner qualify for the $6,500 credit?
A. Buyers must have lived in their homes for at least five out of the last eight years. The home they buy must become their primary residence, but buyers don’t have to sell their previous home. They can use the previous home as a rental or a second home and still claim the credit.

Q.2 Does the new home have to be more expensive than the one the buyer currently owns?
A.No. It is fine to use it to downsize. If the property sells for more than $800,000, the buyers don’t qualify.

Q.3 Can buyers who are building a new home claim the credit?
A. Yes, although the contract must be in place by April 30 and the buyer must move in by July 1.

Q.4 Can buyers claim the credit if they purchase a home from a relative?
A. No. The legislation prohibits taxpayers from claiming the credit if the sale is between “related parties,” including parent, grandparent, child, or grandchild.

Source: USA Today, Sandra Block (11/24/2009)

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