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The Lesson of Megan

Posted by Dean Hartman, http://www.KCMBlog.com

This upcoming weekend, my daughter Megan, the eldest of our four children is graduating from Binghamton University. When these type of life events happen, I like to reflect upon both “How did we get here?” and “What are the best actions I can take to make sure things stay on the right path?” As I thought about it, parallels to people thinking about buying a home popped into my head.

The “How did we get here?” question had me pondering the time before Megan was conceived. There were plenty of reasons NOT to pull the trigger- with economic uncertainty being the leading concern. How would we pay for the increased expenses with less of an income? How would our personal time be compromised? Shouldn’t we wait until we had more in our savings account? If we applied conventional wisdom to our situation, we would have waited; but by not waiting, the benefits we gained were far greater than we ever imagined. Being a parent (especially of a kid like Megan) is the greatest gift anyone can have…and cheating ourselves of that, for even a day, would have been a tragedy. Sure, we sacrificed some vacations or nights out, but the joy of beginning our family (which later added three sons to the mix) gave us such an upgraded life. I can hardly remember the drawbacks and can only celebrate the great memories of laughter, song, and hugs.

So, my advice to people looking to take somewhat of a leap of faith into homeownership (or moving up) is that if you wait for everything to be perfect, you will cheat yourself of the memories you could be starting today. Seriously, what a terrific opportunity to start the new chapter of your future:

  • Incredible Inventory – The amount of available homes to choose from is staggering, but waiting for the “perfect” house is costing you time….the time you will enjoy your home.
  • Amazing Prices – In some parts of the country, prices are back to 2005 levels, some 2003, and some even 2001. What else can you buy for the same price as 7-11 years ago?  Maybe some personal electronic equipment that is outdated today.
  • Awesome Interest Rates – Rates are back to all time lows. What are you waiting for?

 

Now, I’ll move to the “What are the best actions I can take to make sure things stay on the right path?” question. Megan wants to be a teacher. She will be a great teacher, but jobs on Long Island are tough to find with all the budget cuts and such. So, Megan has decided to continue her education and get her Masters, while working at our office, as she waits for improvements in the job market. She is positioning herself to be better prepared for her future opportunities. Good decision.

As I talk to prospective homebuyers, it’s about being pre-approved.  Having a seasoned mortgage professional review their income, assets and credit to help position them in the best light, so that when they find that special opportunity, they are poised to act on it.

Buying a home, many times, begins with the emotional decision to change one’s life. After deciding to take the plunge, we use numbers and logic (inventory, affordability, and interest rates) to justify the emotion. Add to that, taking the care to prepare by working for a solid pre-approval, and I want to tell everyone…. “Go make your Megan!”

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Is the Housing Market Actually Recovering?

From the KCM Crew at http://www.KCMblog.com

Everyone wants to know if the housing market is truly showing signs of a recovery. There are conflicting headlines every day. One day, we hear sales are up. The next day it is reported that prices are down. Is the real estate market coming back? The answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

There are two aspects that must be evaluated: house sales and house prices. They will not recover at the same time. Sales are already increasing rather nicely while prices will still soften in many markets through 2012.

Home Sales

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) issues a Pending Home Sales Report each month. We can see by the graph below that sales have been increasing nicely over the last twelve months. Real estate professionals across the country are reporting that activity has increased compared to last year. The sales side of the recovery is starting to show great promise.

Home Prices

Many price indices have shown that national home prices are continuing to stumble. Even with demand increasing, we must look at where the supply of housing stock stands. Though ‘visible’ inventory (homes currently on the market) is shrinking, there is still a large overhang of ‘shadow’ inventory (foreclosures about to come to market as a result of the National Mortgage Settlement). This increase in inventory will outpace the increase in demand and thereby cause prices to continue to soften in many parts of the country.

Bottom Line

Housing is coming back. However, sales will come back before prices. We will not see prices appreciate until we work through the oversupply of homes on the market.

How the Serenity Prayer Applies To Selling a Home

Posted by The KCM Crew, http://www.KCMBlog.com

You may believe that selling your home is impossible in today’s market. You may feel powerless to the process. What could YOU possibly do to turn this housing market around? There is no doubt that today’s real estate market is extremely difficult to navigate. However, we want you to know that thousands of homes sold yesterday, thousands will sell today and thousands will sell each and every day from now until the end of the year.

It is totally within your power to guarantee that your house will sell even in the current market.

“How?”, you ask. Let’s look at the simplicity of the famous Serenity Prayer and apply it to selling a home in today’s real estate market.

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

Accept the things you cannot change

The two main reasons that the housing prices have softened:

  1. the current economy
  2. the inventory of distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales)

As an individual homeowner, there is no way for you to impact either of those two situations. The best think-tanks in the country are struggling to discover solutions.

Have the courage to change the things you can

There is not a vacuum of buyers in the market. There is a vacuum of homes a buyer in today’s market will purchase. Let us explain: could you sell your home today for $1? … $1,000 … $10,000? Of course you could. There are plenty of buyers in the market for a home they consider priced correctly. You have to decide what the correct price is for your home if you truly want to sell. If you want your house sold, you must list it at a price a buyer will pay for it. Not a buyer from 2006 but today’s buyer who has plenty of homes from which to choose.

It will take courage to sit with a real estate professional and honestly decipher the true value of your home. If you want to sell, you must have that courage.

The wisdom to know the difference

We all realize that the economic situation will take some time to correct. If we want to wait for prices to return to 2006 levels, we will probably have to wait for 5-7 years.

Look at the reason you decided to sell in the first place and decide whether the extra money you would get from the sale is worth that wait. Is money more important than being with family? Is money more important than your health? Is money more important than having the freedom to go on with your life the way you think you should?

This is where your wisdom must kick in. You already know the answers to the questions we just asked. You have the power to take back control of the situation by pricing your home to guarantee it sells. The time has come for you and your family to move on and start living the life you desire. That is what is truly important.

5 Great Reasons to Sell Your House Today

 

From The KCM Blog

We are often asked “Is it time to sell my home?” The answer to that question is based on what your family’s goals are. If you don’t need or want to move for a few years it might make sense to wait for the housing industry to recover and prices to appreciate. However, if you wish to move within the next six to eighteen months, it is probably better to sell sooner rather than later. Here are five reasons why:

Your House Will Get More Exposure Now Than the Winter

Housing sales usually level off in the summer and then regain momentum in September and October. The spring buyers’ market has passed. Don’t miss the early fall market. It has consistently outperformed the winter season.

Distressed Properties Will Impact Prices

Distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) on the market will increase this fall and winter. This will put tremendous downward pressure on prices for at least the next 12-18 months. Get your home sold before they become your competition.

Mortgages Will Become More Difficult to Attain

Lending standards are continuing to tighten. There is legislation currently being considered that will make it even harder for buyers to qualify. Less demand will equate to lower prices.

It is the Perfect Time to Move-Up

With prices where they are and interest rates at all time lows, there may have never been a better time to move-up into your dream home. If you move into a more desirable home now, you will be in position to gain larger equity as prices eventually appreciate.

You Get to Move On with Your Life

Probably the most important reason to sell is so you can get on with your life. You are considering selling for a reason. Do not allow a less-than-stellar housing market prevent you from reaching your goals as an individual or as a family. Think about the reasons you are thinking about moving. Are these reasons really important to you? If you have to take less than you were originally hoping to get for your house, your family has a question to ask each other: Is the dollar difference in sales price worth putting off our plans? Only you and your family know the answer to that question.

House Prices: Explaining the Recent Uptick

by The KCM Crew, www.KCMBlog.com

Several pricing indices have reported that, on a month-over-month basis, home values have ticked up slightly over the last quarter. This has caused some to call the bottom to the housing market – at least from a price standpoint. We must realize that prices are determined by supply and demand.

Demand has indeed shown improvement in many parts of the country. However, the supply side of the formula is being impacted by legal issues. The number of foreclosures coming to market has been slowed dramatically by the courts as the banks still struggle with improperly filed paperwork. This inventory will eventually find its way to the market and again put downward pressure on values.

Bottom Line

If you are selling, there currently is a window of opportunity to get your best price before the distressed properties are released.

A Window of Opportunity for House Sellers

From KCM Blog

There has been much confusion as to where housing prices are headed. We have actually blogged on the issue recently. Today, we want to give our opinion on this subject for the short term. We believe sellers have a window of opportunity for the next 90-120 days in which to sell their homes for maximum price. We believe there will be increased downward pressure on home prices later this year and the first half of 2012.

Why renewed downward pressure?
Any item’s price is determined by ‘supply and demand.’ In many parts of the country existing housing inventory is already high and actually increasing. In addition, an inventory of distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) will be coming to market later this year. This inventory has been delayed for the last several months because of faulty paperwork by the banks when they originally attempted foreclosure proceedings on these homes.

Celia Chen, of Moody’s Analytics explains:

  • “Foreclosures are weighing on the outlook for U.S. house prices, and the slow resolution of issues surrounding the so-called robo-signing scandal is keeping distressed homes off the market”.

The New York Times also recently reported on this issue. They looked at the delays in certain states. As an example, this is what they found in New York:

  • “Last September, before the documentation crisis, nearly 1,500 New Yorkers lost their houses as a result of foreclosure, according to LPS. The average over the last six months: 286. That is far lower than at any point since the recession began.”

Banks are now correcting these errors.
There is evidence that the banks are getting their documentation in order and about to again increase their foreclosure repossessions. Housing Wire reported:

  • “Since major lenders delayed foreclosures to fix a broken process late last year, the amount of filings declined, but in May signs emerged the effect might be wearing off.”

They went on to quote RealtyTrac CEO James Saccacio:

  • “…lenders are somewhat unevenly pushing batches of bad loans through foreclosure as they overhaul their paperwork and documentation procedures and as they determine that some local markets are able to absorb more foreclosure inventory… Foreclosure processing delays continue to mask the true face of the foreclosure situation, although there were some clues in the May numbers of what lies behind that mask.”

What will this mean to home prices?
As this inventory comes to market, it will impact prices in two ways:

  1. It will provide discounted competition for buyers
  2. It will impact the appraisal values of all homes in the area

Again, we quote Celia Chen:

  • “It is quite possible that house prices will pick up slightly in the second or third quarter of this year, as foreclosure sales remain depressed while nondistress sales pick up…By the fourth quarter of this year, however, the distress share will rise, sending the house price index back down…
    House prices will founder until early next year and start rising in earnest at the end of 2012.”

Bottom Line
There is a window of opportunity currently which sellers should take advantage of. Waiting until later this year or until next year will not guarantee a higher sales price. If anything, it probably guarantees the exact opposite.

House Prices Will Continue to Tumble

From KCM Blog

We have written several blogs recently quoting numerous sources saying now is the time to buy a home. We agree that now is definitely the time to buy. This is NOT because we are calling the bottom for real estate PRICES. What we have said is that the COST of purchasing a home is probably near a bottom or has hit the bottom.

The difference is that COST is determined by two components: the price of the home and the expenses associated with mortgaging that home. As we have put forth in several posts, we believe that the expense of obtaining a mortgage will increase as the year goes on.

We also believe strongly that, in most parts of the country, prices will continue to soften. Here are the reasons why:

Existing Months’ Supply of Inventory Is Still Too High
A balanced market (where prices are stable) can handle 5-6 months worth of active inventory. Anything less than 5 months constitutes a seller’s market as there are not enough houses to meet buyer demand. This usually results in price appreciation. Anything more than 6 months constitutes a buyer’s market as there are not enough buyers for the number of houses on the market. This usually results in price depreciation.

Currently, as per the National Association of Realtors (NAR), there is a 9.2 month supply of inventory. This alone would put downward pressure on prices.

Distressed Property Inventory Is About to Enter Market
There are over over 4 million homes that have the potential to become a distressed property sale (foreclosure or short sale) over the next few years. A percentage of these properties are set to enter the market before year’s end. No one knows exactly how many will come to market in each region but the common belief is that the number will be substantial.

These properties will sell at a discount thereby attracting a portion of buyers in the market. After they close, they can also be used in an appraisal to help establish values of other homes which sell in the area. A short sale sells for approximately 90% of it’s non-distressed value. A foreclosure sells for approximately 65% of full value.

Bottom Line
The inventory of homes currently for sale added to the inventory of distressed properties about to come to market will far exceed demand for the next twelve months. When there is less demand for any item then there is supply of that item, prices fall. Check with a local real estate professional to see how this may impact the value of your home over the next year.

Will the Cost of Buying Increase Even If Prices Fall?

From KCM Blog

We have discussed the proposed modifications to the mortgage process several times in this blog already. We want to make sure our readers understand the potential impact to the cost of financing a home these changes will have. The cost of buying a home may increase even if prices continue to soften. The total cost of a home is determined by two factors:

  • the price of the property 
  • the expense of financing the purchase (assuming you are not paying all cash)

Check with a local real estate professional to determine where prices are headed in your region for the type of home you are considering. However, even if prices are predicted to soften further in your area, the COST of the home may rise because of increased expenses in financing. These expenses could increase rather dramatically.

Interest Rates
Interest rates have remained at historic lows for over a year. As the economy improves, there will be less need for the government to keep rates low. Many are predicting interest rates will increase from 1/2 point to 3/4 of a point before the end of the year. We may also see an additional increase in rate for loans deemed ‘less qualified’.

New Mortgage Standards
The government has proposed a new definition for a ‘qualified residential mortgage’. The new standard would set a bar much higher than we have today. Anyone not meeting these requirements would not be eligible for the ‘best’ rates available. What could be the difference in interest rate? In a white paper released last week by a group that included the Center for Responsible Lending and the National Association of Realtors:

Some private estimates have concluded that 5 percent risk retention could result in a three-percentage point rise in interest rates for loans funded through securitization. In other words, today’s 5 percent market would become an 8 percent interest-rate market.

Even if the rates for these loans are only one percentage point higher than the best rate, the additional cost to a buyer could be dramatic.

Impact of Interest Rates on Mortgage Payment
The interest rate you receive obviously plays a big role in determining your monthly mortgage payment. How big a role? Here is a chart showing how your payment is impacted even if home prices fall:

 Bottom Line
You may have delayed your home purchase decision because of concern over where PRICES may be headed. To make the best financial decision for you and your family, also take into consideration where the overall COST of the purchase may be headed.

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