News & Events

 

April 8, 2013

Selling your home? The cards are in your favor

NEW YORK (Money Magazine)

Six years after prices collapsed, housing has begun to climb out of its hole. So what are the best moves to make now? In a three-part series, we offer smart strategies for buyers, sellers, and owners in today’s market. 

Selling your home? In most parts of the country, you have finally regained the upper hand.  

To get your best price, though, you need to finesse your timing, list competitively and match your marketing strategy to local conditions.

Lower your sights to make more money.

Rising prices breed rising hopes: In a recent poll, brokers complained that 75% of homeowners think their agent’s recommended listing price is too low. Pricing your property above recent sales to cash in on the momentum may slow down deals, and sitting on the market too long can stigmatize a house.

Catch buyers’ attention — and get multiple offers — by pricing your home in line with comparable sales, says Rick Turley, president of Coldwell Banker San Francisco: “Then let the market take it higher.”

Trading up? Move fast. Downsizing? Go slow.

It’s tempting to postpone selling to hold out for a better price. But if you want to move to a larger place, act sooner rather than later. True, higher-end homes aren’t rising as quickly, but the gap is small. So while you’ll be able to sell your home for more if you wait, the appreciation on the trade-up home will be greater.

When you’re downsizing, the math works the other way, so it pays to wait.

The case for these strategies should strengthen as gains slow for cheaper homes. “Investors are driving the lower end of the market, and there is a point when the investor opportunity becomes less attractive,” says Richard Green, director of the University of Southern California’s Lusk Center for Real Estate.

Smooth out your home’s rough patches.

Repair that leaky roof and address other obvious structural problems, or you’ll have to subtract the cost of doing so from your price. “In today’s economy, many buyers don’t have as much savings left over after their down payment for improvements,” says Teri Herrera, a broker in Bellevue, Wash.

Smaller fixes that pay off the most, according to a HomeGain poll of real estate professionals and consumers: cleaning and decluttering, brightening (adding lamps and clearing window obstructions), and solving electrical and plumbing problems.

Get ready for your home’s close-up.

Sellers who stage their homes — rearranging or replacing furniture to bolster appearance — usually do so just before an open house. The better time to glamorize: right before you post your listing online, where 90% of buyers look first. Says Realtor.com president Errol Samuelson: “Web appeal is the new curb appeal.”

Use a professional photographer and get tight shots of fixtures and other details. The cost: $200 to $500 for a gallery of 30 to 40 photos. Homes between $300,000 and $400,000, shot professionally, sold for about $3,000 more than those with amateur images, Redfin found recently.

Guard against low appraisals.

While rapidly rising prices may attract more buyers, the upswing can make it harder to close a deal. One-third of realtors polled in December reported setbacks from low appraisals, including delays in closing, lowered prices, and cancellations.

The problem: Appraisals can come in low because they’re based on transactions as old as six months — out of date, perhaps, in today’s market.

Solution: Have your agent personally oversee the process, accompanying the appraiser to point out improvements and supplying data about the latest comparable sales.

Help investors find what they’re looking for.

Investors amounted to one-fifth of all homebuyers in January, but are a much larger share of some markets; 38% of deals in Sacramento and 45% in Orlando, for example, involved absentee buyers. Signs of an investor market: a steady stream of resales of foreclosed homes (you can find that info at zillow.com/local-info) and the conversion of many homes in your neighborhood into rentals.

If your area fits the bill, choose an agent experienced in investor sales; she should create a flier that highlights how easy it is to attract tenants, the rents that nearby homes command, and other pertinent bottom-line info. Says Atlanta real estate agent Charlotte Sears: “All investors want to know is what their margins look like.”

Courtesy of Money Magazine: By Beth Braverman

 

April 8, 2013

Housing is back! Best moves for homebuyers

NEW YORK (Money Magazine)

Real estate has finally started to bounce back across the country — even roar back in some places. 

Low mortgage rates and pent-up demand have coaxed buyers back into the market, and homeowners who list their houses are seeing more traffic. That quaint relic of the bubble, the bidding war, has even started to reemerge in some cities.

Consider the mounting evidence that the long national real estate nightmare is over: During the past year, home prices increased in 92 of the country’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, according to data provider CoreLogic, with prices rising as high as 23% in Phoenix and 17% in San Francisco. Sales volume rose in 69 of the top 100 markets, and 35 of those showed double-digit gains.

Yet while most economists agree that the bottom is behind us and the five-year outlook for housing is on solid footing, the shorter term is shakier. “Two thousand thirteen and 2014 are going to be transition years,” says Mark Fleming, CoreLogic’s chief economist. “The market’s improving, but it’s not totally healed.”

BUYERS

Thinking about buying a home? For the first time in more than half a decade, the economics of the market are working against you in most places.

Inventory is tight, and bidding wars are back in some parts of the country. To snag your dream home, you’ll have to pay up and contend with continuing strict loan requirements. The bright side: Despite rising prices and mortgage rates that are edging upward, buying a home is still cheaper than renting in the majority of the top 100 markets.

Don’t waste time with a low-ball offer.

Yes, home prices are still way down from their highs, but the days when you could scoop up a house for 20% less than the list price are long gone. The typical home sells for pretty close to what the owners asked for, and even in shaky markets, sellers have gotten more realistic about pricing.

The median sales-to-list-price ratio in Detroit, for example, is 98%; the national number is 97%. (To find the figure for your market, go to zillow.com/local-info and click on “More metrics.”)

Here’s how to figure out how much to offer initially: In places where homes are still selling below list price but deals are being made in less than two months, come in no more than 2% to 3% below the asking price, says Michael Murphree, a realtor in Birmingham, Ala. Where homes are selling above the listing price, make your first offer the asking price.

Be the winner in a bidding war.

In January and February, 73% of agents with broker Redfin said their clients’ offers faced rival bids, up from 56% who said so in the fall of 2011.

You win bidding wars, of course, by raising your price; it also helps to have few contingencies and to move quickly, since today’s sellers don’t want multiple go-rounds. “You have to give your best offer,” says Dallas real estate agent Mary Beth Harrison. “Step up to the plate or walk away.”

Be flexible about closing too: Quick deals — the median time on the market for homes is 71 days, down from 99 a year ago — have left many sellers scrambling for alternative housing. Leave the closing date blank on your contract for the seller to fill in, or negotiate a leaseback if the seller needs to stay put for a while.

Outsmart the pros who bring cash.

Thinking about investing in a rental property in a downtrodden market before prices there really start to take off?

To beat out the professional investors who have scooped up houses in these areas by offering all-cash deals, lead with your best offer; investors count on nabbing properties at a big discount and are unlikely to boost their bid by more than 5% to 10%. “They’ll just move on to another house,” Harrison says. Also include a bank prequalification letter or statement of funds to show that your money is as reliable as investors’ cash.

Assess the risk in your local market.

Though prices have revived in most areas of the country, they don’t all have the same staying power. In markets that bounced back last year merely because prices had fallen so far, you can’t assume a continued streak; once investors clear out, demand will die down.

“In rebounding markets, recent price gains might not last,” says Trulia chief economist Jed Kolko. Some near-term value setbacks may not be a problem if you plan to stick around for a long time, but a short time horizon calls for greater caution.

To get an idea of a neighborhood’s prospects, start with the foreclosure rate heat map at RealtyTrac.com (click on “Stats & Trends” at the top). The deeper the color you see, the weaker the market’s fundamentals. A broker should also be able to tell you whether cash-only offers dominate — a sure sign of an investor-driven market.

Play bankers off one another.

While it’s old news that credit unions and small banks tend to offer lower rates, they also can be less rigid about their underwriting, says Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance. To obtain your best deal, says Cecala, get a good-faith estimate from one lender (you’ll have to shell out for a credit check). Then show the offer to other lenders and ask if they’ll beat it.

Tactics like this will work, he says, because market conditions have changed: “Some lenders want to build up market share and are willing to offer more aggressive pricing than their competitors.” In the past two months, he says, a few have sliced their profit margins on loans.

Courtesy of Money Magazine: By Beth Braverman 

  

February 4, 2013 

Unheralded Outperformers: 10 Metro Markets That Are Leading the Housing Recovery

Call them the unheralded outperformers that get almost no attention in the national media: Real estate markets where median home prices are affordable and rising much faster than the nation as a whole and where inventories of available homes listed for sale continue to plunge.

Iowa City, IowaNashville, Tenn.;Boise, IdahoTulsa, Okla.; and Shreveport, La., aren’t exactly names that come to mind as leaders in the housing recovery, but they are. Sure, Detroitgets some press, but that’s probably because the city fell so hard and deep during the housing bust and is now clawing its way back.

Yet all the 10 metropolitan markets profiled below are statistical outperformers. They’re not as glamorous or glitzy as Chicago or New York City, but then again, median list prices in both of those cities have actually been falling.

So here are the unheralded top 10, based on data from the latest survey of conditions in 146 major markets by Realtor.com. For perspective, keep this in mind: For the past 12 months through December, median list prices in the US. were essentially flat (down 0.05 percent.)

  1. Detroit. Just as it once was the foreclosure poster child of the bust and recession, Detroit is now the poster child of the rebound. List prices were up an extraordinary 12.37 percent year over year in December, according to Realtor.com. They were also the lowest of any major metropolitan area — just short of $90,000. Though the city is still struggling with a persistent unemployment problem — 11.4 percent — foreclosures are down by 31 percent for the year. People and jobs are moving back into the city, and it’s now experiencing a shortage of available listings — down 23.85 percent for the year. As a result, it takes just 70 days to sell a house after listing, far below the national median of 111 days.
  2. Iowa City. A university town that describes itself as offering “big city amenities with small town hospitality,” Iowa City’s median list price for a home jumped by 11.8 percent in the past 12 months. Almost certainly that is linked to the city’s low unemployment rate of 3.6 percent and the fact that its top employers include major Fortune 500 companies such as Procter & Gamble, Lear and Pearson, the publishing and media giant best known for Penguin books and the Financial Times news group.
  3. Boise. As Idaho’s capital city, Boise’s median prices are up 9.1 percent for the year, houses sell in a median 79 days, and they’re affordable— a $169,000 median price. Like other outperformers, unemployment is well below national norms — 6.2 percent — and the city is home for major employers, including Boise-Cascade wood and paper products, Morrison Knudsen engineering and Micron Technology.

 

Courtesy of Forbes.com, BY: Ken Harney

 

June 11, 2012

 

U.S. Housing Market Finally Reaches a Turning Point

 
RISMEDIA, Monday, June 11, 2012— Home valuations will start to climb again while adjacent consumer industries will capture significant new growth opportunities in 2012 and beyond as the U.S. housing market finally turns the corner, concludes a major new study recently released by The Demand Institute. The recovery of the housing market will have far-reaching impacts in the coming years across the U.S. and international markets as U.S. consumers increase their spending on buying, renovating, furnishing and maintaining their homes.

Launched in February 2012 and jointly operated by The Conference Board and Nielsen, The Demand Institute is a non-profit, non-advocacy organization with a mission to illuminate where consumer demand is headed around the world.

The new report, “The Shifting Nature of U.S. Housing Demand,” predicts that average home prices will increase by up to 1 percent in the second half of 2012. By 2014, home prices will increase by as much as 2.5 percent. From 2015 to 2017, the study projects annual increases between 3 and 4 percent. This recovery will not be uniform across the country, and the strongest markets could capture average gains of 5 percent or more in the coming years.

“In these initial years, the prime driver of recovery won’t be new home construction, but rather demand for rental properties,” says Louise Keely, chief research officer at The Demand Institute and a co-author of the report. “This is a remarkable change from previous recoveries. It is a measure of just how severe the Great Recession has been that such a wide swath of Americans had to delay, scale back, or put off entirely their dreams of homeownership.”

“In the long-term, we don’t expect homeownership rates to change,” says Bart van Ark, chief economist at The Conference Board and co-author of the report. “Over 80 percent of Americans in recent surveys still agree that buying a home is the best long-term investment they can make. What will be intriguing to watch is how their aspirations around homeownership are affected by this period of extended austerity.”

Between 2006 and 2011, some $7 trillion in American wealth was wiped out when home prices dropped 30 percent after a dramatic climb in valuations during the housing bubble. Looking forward, the moderate growth expectations for coming years suggest a return to normalcy. As home prices continue to drop and interest rates fall further, first-time buyers and others who remained relatively cautious will be drawn back into the housing market. 

“As the U.S. housing market strengthens, almost every consumer-facing industry will be impacted in the coming years,” says Mark Leiter, chairman of The Demand Institute. “Business and government leaders will benefit by fully understanding the nature of this recovery. In doing so, they will be better able to anticipate how consumer demand will evolve and to formulate critical business and policy decisions to lead their organizations.”

Key Findings in the Report 
-The recovery will be led by demand from buyers for rental properties, rather than, as in previous cycles, demand from buyers acquiring new or existing properties for themselves. 

-Young people—who were particularly hard hit by the recession—and immigrants will lead the demand for rental properties. 

-Rental demand will help to clear the huge oversupply of existing homes for sale. In 2011, some 14 percent of all housing units were vacant, while almost 13 percent of mortgages were in foreclosure or delinquent. 

-The average size of the American home will shrink. The size of an average new home is expected to continue to fall, reaching mid-1990 levels by 2015. 

-Despite the number of Americans who have been hurt financially by the housing crash, the desire to own a home remains strong. In fact, one survey has revealed that more than 80 percent of Americans recently thought buying a home remained the best long-term investment they could make. 

For more information, visit www.demandinstitute.org.

 

May 11, 2012 

Boise ranked among the best places to live, do business

BOISE — Boise City is once again creating national buzz. Several high-profile publications are ranking the city as one of the best places in the country to do business and live.

Boise was recently ranked by the Brookings Institute, KPMG, and Forbes.

Brookings, a nonprofit public policy organization that specializes in research, named Boise as one of the top 20 fastest recovering cities. The calculation was based on growth, employment and housing prices.

Ada County Association of Realtors Executive Director Marc Lebowitz gave us the key number, “so far this year we’ve sold 1,350 homes.”

Lebowitz says in 2011, home sales were up seven percent overall when compared to the previous year, and the current number of properties on the market is the lowest it has been since 2001.

KPMG studies business environments across the world. The company says in the Pacific U.S., Boise is the lowest-cost place to do business.

“State government has done a good job of keeping costs low,” said Clark  Krause, the Executive Director of the Boise Valley Economic Partnership. 

Businesses have also worked to keep costs down.

“People are really taking the futures into their own hands and really crafting the vision of what they want there community to be,” said Dave Self, the Senior Vice President and Regional Director of PacificSource. 

Part of that vision is not only a business friendly community, but a family friendly one as well.  Forbes Magazine gave Boise the number two spot on its list because of low crime rates and high school quality. 

“You feel the life here,” said Krause. “You feel there is really something special.”

The number one spot went to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

It is hard to pinpoint where all the attention is coming from, but Krause and other local business leaders think there is one common thread– the people in our community.

The ratings are a nice pat on the back for Boise, but it they are also helping to attract more people and businesses to the valley. 

“I need to let them know that this is a logical choice for future expansions for their company,” said Krause.

In the past six months, the Boise Valley Economic Partnership has seen nearly three times as many businesses looking to relocate or expand here. Krause says the recent rankings will play into some of those companies’ final decisions. 

And while Boise is the city named on the lists, business and community leaders say the rankings really extend beyond the city and apply to all of the Treasure Valley.

The entire state of Idaho is also getting some national love from the press. CNN Money just named Idaho as the friendliest state for small businesses.

by Natalie Podgorski, courtesy KTVB.com

May 30, 2012

Boise, Idaho is one of the fasting rising real estate markets in the country according to CNNMoney:

Where home prices are rising fastest

The tide is already starting to turn in some U.S. housing markets, with home prices in these 10 metro areas expected to climb anywhere between 10% and 21% by the end of next year, according to Fiserv.

 7.   Boise, Idaho
 
7 of 10
 
Median home price: $118,000
Drop since market peak: 36.9%
Forecast gain through 2013: 11%
Boise’s housing market has gone through a dramatic rise and fall over the past decade. 

Home prices almost doubled in the five years leading up to 2006. But once the bubble burst, prices plunged, according to Fiserv. 

Some neighborhoods were flooded with foreclosures and the metro area had one of the higher foreclosure rates in the nation in April, according to RealtyTrac. All of those distressed properties should start to attract bargain hunters, including investors, said Steven Peterson, a professor of economics at the University of Idaho. 

There are plenty of reasons for buyers to stay here. Boise has a diverse economy that includes software makers, medical services and agricultural support companies like J.R. Simplot. Chip maker Micron Technology is also based in Boise. 

The unemployment is just a tick above the national rate at 8.2% and has dropped a full percentage point over the past 12 months.

“The road back to housing market recovery is less steep [in Boise] than in high-cost areas,” said Peterson. 

 
BY LES CHRISTIE @CNNMONEY

 

May 25, 2012

Zillow: Home Values See Highest Monthly Increase Since 2006

Zillow issued a released Friday reporting that both national home values and rents rose in the month of April.

According to the April Zillow Real Estate Market Reports, national home values rose 0.7 percent in April to a Zillow Home Value Index of $147,300. This is the largest monthly increase in home values since January 2006, and it makes April the second month in a row in which home values climbed up.

Zillow also reported that rents rose from March to April, increasing by 1.6 percent, according to the Zillow Rent Index. Of the 178 markets covered by Zillow, 78 percent experienced a rise in rents.

The Miami-Fort Lauderdale and Phoenix metro areas saw the biggest increases in home values, rising 1.6 and 1.9 percent, respectively. Values continued to decrease in hard-hit markets like Atlanta, where home values fell 0.7 percent.

“The housing market continues to show positive signs, with home values increasing significantly in April,” said Dr. Stan Humphries, chief economist at Zillow. “The recovery is moving in the right direction, but we caution that negative equity will cast a long shadow over the housing market. With almost one-third of homeowners with mortgages underwater and unable to sell their homes, inventory is having a hard time keeping up with increasing demand in many areas. We’ll continue to watch this signal as increasing home values turn from a blip into a trend.”

Foreclosures also continued to decline in April, with 6.8 out of every 10,000 homes being foreclosed across the U.S. That figure was down from 8 out of every 10,000 in March.

Courtesy of DSNews.com, BY: TORY BARRINGER

 

May 22, 2012

Home Prices Show Strongest Gain in 6 Years: NAR

Existing-home sales rose to 4.62 million (seasonally adjusted annualized rate) in April from a downwardly revised March rate of 4.47 million, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported Tuesday. Economists had forecast the April sales pace would be 4.66 million.

The median price of an existing home climbed 10.1 percent to $177,400 from $161,100 in April 2011, the strongest year-to-year gain since January 2006. The median price in April reached its highest level since July 2010 when it was $182,100.

The inventory of homes for sale in April rose to 2.54 million, the highest level since last November, bringing the months’ supply of homes on the market to 6.6.

The 10.0 percent yearly gain in the sales rate was the strongest since October when sales were up 14.0 percent year-over-year.

Distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts – accounted for 28 percent of April sales (17 percent were foreclosures and 11 percent were short sales), down from 29 percent in March and 37 percent in April 2011, the NAR said. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 21 percent below market value in April (compared with an average discount of 19 percent in March), while short sales were discounted 14 percent in April compared with 16 percent in March.

The months’ supply of existing homes for sale remains well below the July 2010 cyclical peak of 12.4 which had been the highest level since 1982. Inventories as tracked by theNAR are 20.3 percent below their year ago level. However, anecdotal evidence suggests there is still a large “shadow” inventory of homes available for sale, especially bank-owned properties.

Regionally, existing-home sales rose in April in every region of the country led by a 5.1 percent month-to-month increase in the Northeast where sales were up19.2 percent over April 2011. Sales rose 4.4 percent over March in the West (a 7.3 percent year-year gain), 3.5 percent in the South (6.5 percent year-year) and 1.0 percent in the Midwest (14.4 percent year over year).

The median price of an existing home rose month-to-month and year-to-year in all four regions. At $256,600, the median price of an existing home reached its highest level since August 2010. The median price of an existing home in the South rose to $153,400, the highest level since July 2010 and the median price of an existing home in the West rose to $221,700, also the highest since July 2010.

The year-to-year price gain in the West, 15.9 percent, was the strongest since November 2005. The year-to-year price increase in the Northeast was the first since last June.

Courtesy of DSNews.com, BY: MARK LIEBERMAN, FIVE STAR INSTITUTE ECONOMIST

 

May 9, 2012

Home Prices Rise In Half Of U.S. Cities As Markets Stabilize

Prices for single-family homes climbed in half of U.S. cities in the first quarter as real estate markets stabilized.

The median sales price increased from a year earlier in 74 of 146 metropolitan areas measured, the National Association of Realtors said in a report today. In the fourth quarter, only 29 areas had gains.

May 7 (Bloomberg) — Michelle Meyer, a senior economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, talks about the U.S. economy and real estate market. She speaks with Tom Keene on Bloomberg Television’s “Surveillance Midday.” (Source: Bloomberg)

The U.S. housing market is showing signs of bottoming as improving employment and record-low mortgage rates boost demand while inventories of available properties tighten. At the end of March, 2.37 million previously owned homes were available for sale, 22 percent fewer than a year earlier, the Realtors said.

“The housing market is still depressed but it had a good quarter,” Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts, said in a telephone interview today. “We’re on the mend but it’s still something that will take two or three years before we’re back to normal.”

The national median existing single-family home price was $158,100 in the first quarter, down 0.4 percent from the first three months of 2011, according to the Realtors group.

The best-performing metro area was Cape Coral, Florida, where prices increased 28.1 percent from a year earlier. Prices rose 19 percent in Grand RapidsMichigan; 16.9 percent in Palm Bay, Florida; and 16.6 percent in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Biggest Declines

Kingston, New York, had the biggest decline, with the median selling price tumbling 22 percent in the quarter. It was followed by Stamford, Connecticut, with an 18 percent decline; Mobile, Alabama, at 14.7 percent; and Atlanta at 12 percent.

The median selling price is influenced by the mix of homes on the market and probably was boosted by a smaller share of transactions involving distressed properties. Those homes, which sell at discounts, accounted for 32 percent of first-quarter sales, down from 38 percent a year earlier.

Prices are more volatile than normal because they are affected by the prevalence of distressed sales and “sudden upswings” in buyer interest in some areas, said Lawrence Yun, the group’s chief economist.

‘Broad Shortages’

“We have broad shortages of lower-priced homes in much of the country, with very tight supply in Western states for homes through the middle price ranges,” Yun said in the report. “This is good news for many sellers who wish to list now, or for those waiting for prices to improve.”

Sales of previously owned homes rose 5.3 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, according to the report. Purchases climbed 11.7 percent in the Midwest, 6.6 percent in the Northeast, 4.1 percent in the South, and 1.4 percent in the West.

Fannie Mae, the nation’s biggest mortgage-finance company, today reported a $2.7 billion first-quarter profit after a $6.5 billion loss a year earlier, citing smaller declines in home prices as one of the reasons for improvement. The Washington- based company said that it won’t need Treasury Department aid to balance its books for the first time since it was seized by federal regulators in 2008.

To contact the reporter on this story: Prashant Gopal in New York at pgopal2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kara Wetzel at kwetzel@bloomberg.net

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