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Would-be borrowers who have credit scores below 620 are increasingly being denied a mortgage, struggling to meet lenders’ more stringent underwriting standards, says Elizabeth Duke, member of the Board of Governors for the Federal Reserve System.. 

From 2007 to 2012, mortgage originations for borrowers who had a credit score between 620 and 680 fell nearly 90 percent, Duke said. During that time period, mortgage originations fell only 30 percent for borrowers who had credit scores of more than 780.

According to a survey by the Federal Reserve, lenders say they are less likely to originate a mortgage for a borrower with a FICO score in the 620 range. What’s more, lenders say they are less likely to originate the loan even if the borrower has a 10 percent or 20 percent down payment too. 

"The path to easier credit conditions is somewhat murky," Duke said. "Some of the forces damping mortgage credit availability, such as capacity constraints and concerns about economic conditions or house prices, are likely to unwind through normal cyclical forces."

In 2007, the median credit score was 730 compared to 770 in 2013, Duke said. 

source:  HousingWire


As home prices rise, lenders are showing less willingness to grant short sales, RealtyTrac reports. 

The number of short sales has been gradually dropping the last few months. “After a surge in short sales in late 2011 and early 2012, the favored disposition method for distressed properties is shifting back toward the more traditional foreclosure auction sales and bank-owned sales,” says Daren Blomquist,vice president at RealtyTrac. “The combination of rapidly rising home prices — along with strong demand from institutional investors and other cash buyers able to buy at the public foreclosure auction or an as-is REO home — means short sales are becoming less favorable for lenders.”

source:  RealtyTrac and Inman News


Welcome to the AskinsOnline current Housing Trends eNewsletter.

This eNewsletter is specially designed for you, with national and local housing information that you may find useful whether you’re in the market for a home, thinking about selling your home, or just interested in homeowner issues in general.

The Housing Trends eNewsletter contains the latest information from the National Association of REALTORS®, the U.S. Census Bureau and reports, videos, key market indicators and real estate sales statistics, a video message by a nationally recognized economist, maps, mortgage rates and calculators, consumer articles, plus local neighborhood information and more.

For the latest information, click here.


Home buyers showed the money in 2014. The share of buyers using low down payment loans plunged to an 11-year low last year, according to a new analysis of nearly 20 million purchase loans for single-family homes and condos nationwide.

In 2014, 25 percent of home buyers using conventional or Federal Housing Administration loans put less than 3 percent down when purchasing a home – that’s down from 37 percent in 2006 before the housing crisis, RealtyTrac reports in its analysis.

So how much did home buyers put down? In 2014, the average down payment percentage was 15.4 percent, averaging $58,496 on an average purchase price, according to RealtyTrac’s data.

The average percentage down payment over the last decade has hovered in the 13 percent and 15 percent range, according to RealtyTrac. But down payments reached an 11-year high in 2013 when it reached 15.6 percent, as the housing rebound was occurring, says Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac’s vice president.

That means in 2013 on an average purchase price of $291,428, and an average loan amount of $232,527, that translated into an average down payment of $58,900 – the highest of any year since 2004. The average down payment fell only slightly in 2014 to $58,496, for comparison.

Not surprising, the report also confirmed that lower down payment buyers tend to be first-time, entry level buyers. For home purchases with a down payment of less than 3 percent (but more than 0 percent), the average sales price was $190,304. On the other hand, in 2014, borrowers who put down 50 percent or more tended to have an average sales price of $502,213.

Senior loan officer Kathleen Kramer with JMJ Financial in California says it’s too early to tell if the recent changes by mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to allow 3 percent down payment loans will make an impact. Currently, she says there hasn’t been too much activity on the loans yet because they still have strict requirements on who can qualify for them. However, recent changes with the FHA in lowering its annual mortgage insurance premiums by 0.5 percentage points – a savings of about $900 annually to borrowers – has already shown to have an imprint, she says. The move by FHA, which took effect at the end of January, has sparked a string of refinancers and purchasers due to the loans now being cheaper and more affordable to get, Kramer says.

source:  RealtyTrac 


Almost a decade removed from the peak of the housing crisis, some analysts are questioning whether the public still considers home ownership to be part of the American dream.

But the home ownership dream is still alive, according to several surveys. For example, Woodrow Wilson Center found that the majority of Americans rated the importance of home ownership on a personal level at 10 out of 10.

“I think for many people, [housing] is a fundamental piece of the American dream, the ability to even think about owning one’s own home,” says Michael Martin, a host with NPR. “And for most people [it’s] not owning only one home [but] owning a better home.”

The foreclosure crisis and plummeting home prices shook some people’s perceptions of the dream of home ownership, the hosts acknowledged. Many young professionals are now putting home ownership on hold and opting to rent as they get their finances in shape.

But “it's not giving up on home ownership as much as it's moving towards more of the way Germans think about home ownership, which is that a house is something you aspire to get eventually,” NPR's senior business editor, Marilyn Geewax, said. “It's sort of the reward you get after you've established yourself in your career. You don't start by buying a house and work your way up. You work your way up and then buy a house.”

Geewax went on to explain the shift in the perception of home ownership: “In 2001, if you bought a house, it didn't matter what phase [of] life you were in. If you held onto it until 2005, you could flip it and make a profit. Today, home ownership is really returning more to that idea that a house is someplace where you settle down. You're looking for a stable neighborhood. You look at a house as a way to shelter your loved ones, your possessions, and your money. It's a pretty good place to sink your money. Instead of paying rent every month, you put it into the house and you can build equity over time. So if you look at it as shelter and a slow growing, long term investment, financial planners will tell you that owning a house can still make a lot of sense.”

Another survey noted a shift in Americans’ perceptions of home ownership, from a financial perspective to a more emotional one.

“Instead of taking things for granted, people are protective of their jobs, homes, and futures,” says Robi Ludwig, a psychologist in New York who was involved in the study. “And now that we’re picking up the pieces [after the financial crisis], we’re seeing a psychological shift. Instead of looking at homes through the eyes of an economist, we’re realizing that a home doesn’t solely equate to financial return or measure only to a mortgage amount. Instead the home is the emotional center of our lives, and it remains a critical component of who we are.”

source:  REALTOR® Magazine Daily News


Depending on where you live, new single-family homes vary drastically on price, design features, building materials, and even financing, reveals a study from the National Association of Home Builders, using Census Bureau Survey of Construction data.

The priciest homes built for sale can be found in New England, where the median sales price of newly built single-family homes is $400,000. On the other hand, the least expensive new single-family homes can be found in the East South Central (which includes Alabama and Mississippi) and West South Central (Texas and Oklahoma) divisions, where median sales prices of new-homes are $221,000 and $223,000, respectively.

The price of the home doesn’t always correlate to its size. While New England had the priciest new homes, the median size of new homes in the region was fairly small, at 2,240 square feet.

The largest homes can be found in the South Atlantic division (Georgia and Florida), which has a median size of 2,596 square feet. Nationwide, the median square footage for a new home is 2,469 square feet.

"This recent analysis really illustrates the many different types of homes built throughout the country," says NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly, a home builder. "It is fascinating to see how newly built homes can vary significantly not only in design features and building materials, but also in terms of lot size, home prices, and financing methods used, simply based on where a home is built."

Here are some additional findings from the report:

  • Outdoor features: Porches ranked as the most popular outdoor feature nationwide, dominating new-home construction in the West South Central and in the West. Decks are declining in popularity nationwide, but remain the most popular choice for single-family homes built in New England, where 63 percent of new-homes include one.
  • Prices per square foot: Per square foot, new homes are most affordable in the South, where the median sales price per square foot (excluding lot value) are $73 in the West South Central division and $84 per square foot in the South Atlantic division.
  • Siding preferences: Vinyl is the most commonly used primary siding material nationwide, with nearly 31 percent of new single-family homes started in 2013 using it, followed by brick (nearly 24 percent). Regionally, vinyl was the most popular in the Northeast and Midwest; brick most commonly used in the South; and stucco the most popular in the West.
  • Foundations and number of stories: Most homes in colder climates, like the Northeast and Midwest, have basements, unlike homes in the South that are usually built on a slab. Fifty-eight percent of new homes nationwide had two or more stories. The majority of homes in the Northeast are two stories; more than half of the homes started in 2013 in the West also have two or more stories. In the Midwest, however, more than half of new homes started have only one story.
  • Lot sizes: The New England region has some of the largest and priciest lots nationwide. The median lot size in New England is 22,863 square feet – more than three times larger than the national median of 8,712 square feet. The lots are also the priciest there, with the median lot value at $100,000 compared to the $40,000 nationwide median for spec-built homes. On the other hand, the East South Central division has the second-largest lots with a median size of 14,520 square feet, as well as the lowest median value at $30,000 per lot.
  • Financing: The majority of single-family homes nationwide are purchased using conventional loans, but regionally, there are differences among various financing options. Cash purchases are the most common in New England, while FHA-insured loans are the most prevalent in the West and South. VA-guaranteed loans are most common in the South Atlantic and Mountain divisions.

source:  National Association of Home Builders


From a dusty parking lot along Texas 16 near Tilden, Texas, Jose Rodriguez sees what's not yet obvious in the numbers. The Eagle Ford Shale oil field is a shadow of its former self, fading at the edges as the energy industry slashes spending.

Plenty of trucks rumble past Rodriguez - but not as many as before. Workers pull over to browse the merchandise folded on wooden tables - piles of blue jeans, used coveralls and flame-resistant shirts. But Rodriguez's business is down about 40 percent in three months.

"A lot of this I buy off of people that are getting laid off," said Rodriguez, who lives in southern Bexar County but follows oil field workers to Tilden and Pleasanton a few days each week. "There's a lot of turnover in the oil field."

Across South Texas, about 20 percent of the drilling rigs working at the start of the year have gone idle. Once ubiquitous "No occupancy" signs have been replaced by "vacancy" signs. Plummeting hotel room rates mirror the crash in the cost of a barrel of oil: What was $100 last summer now can be had for around $50.

The vast oil field still hums, but at a lower volume than its previous frenetic roar.

When Brenda Ropp and her husband arrived from Pensacola, Fla., in October, they snagged one of the last two available RV slots at the Tilden Trailer Park.

"Now it's like every day people leave," said Ropp, whose husband, Tim, works as a gate guard at a ranch with oil production.

Karr Ingham, the economist who compiles the Texas Petro Index, which tracks the energy industry's waxing and waning, thinks the state could lose tens of thousands of oil-field workers. He expects two-thirds of the 906 drilling rigs that were working in Texas at Thanksgiving will get stacked, a loss of about 600 drilling rigs.

"The dominoes are falling, and there's no stopping them at this point," Ingham said. "This is going to happen. The cycle is going to play out."

Beyond the rig count and ominous layoff announcements, available data aren't yet showing the slowdown. Sales tax collections were up wildly in some parts of the Eagle Ford in January - 60 percent in Dilley over the same month the previous year - but fell elsewhere, including an 18.6 percent drop in Three Rivers.

And even with a rig count that dropped from 200 to 160 in seven weeks, more Eagle Ford oil keeps flowing as wells set in motion months ago move to sales. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects the Eagle Ford to produce 1.73 million barrels of crude oil and other liquid hydrocarbons daily in March, up 17,000 barrels daily from this month.

A fast descent

For some, a reversal of fortune came swiftly.

Zia and Zameer Ali's Grand Eagle Ford Lodge in Tilden once ran at 80 percent capacity. Business was so good with rooms priced at $99 per night that they built more, growing from 44 cabins to 80.

But the Grand Eagle Ford Lodge emptied out nearly as soon as crude oil prices fell Thanksgiving weekend. Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries decided to maintain their 30-million-barrel-per-day quota rather than cutting production to push up worldwide oil prices.

The U.S. domestic benchmark crude, West Texas Intermediate, immediately fell about 10 percent to $66 a barrel, and it kept falling.

"It was like an instant. It was shocking," Zia Ali said. "It was like a panic."

Only eight to 10 of the hotel's 80 rooms have guests now. Most of those staying at the Grand Eagle Ford Lodge were contractors - what's likely to be a hard-hit group in the oil field.

Like the contract workers who frequent their lodge, Zia Ali watches oil prices and gasoline prices daily.

"We have our hopes up like everybody," she said.

Yet Tilden is the seat of McMullen County, which still has 17 drilling rigs working - down four in a week, but still one of the busiest places for drilling in the state. Some businesses have barely hiccuped.

At The Location, a restaurant whose name is a play on the oil field nickname for a work site, contractor pickup trucks filled the parking lot at lunchtime Thursday.

"We've been very lucky," said owner Ricky Alaniz, who left a career as an emergency room nurse to open the restaurant in 2013. The Location started out the size of a roadside fireworks stand but grew into a 2,100-square-foot new building last year.

Alaniz still gets so many requests for catering - people wanting 25 lunch specials for pickup or delivery - that he has to turn away some of the potential business each morning.

Clothing purchases slip

Most other businesses, though, see the change.

At Peggy Van Cleve's ranch store, Peggy's Circle V in Carrizo Springs in Dimmit County, a year ago employers would walk in and purchase six sets of flame-resistant clothing - required on oil field work sites - for each of their workers.

"They'd have 10 people in here at a time," Van Cleve said. "Now the workers are buying their own, and they're buying one thing at a time." January sales were good, though not as robust as last year.

Van Cleve also has eight RV slots that once had a waiting list.

"That was everyone in town," she said. "Now it's slacked off."

Landmen 'go away'

Landman Kip Killough of La Grange said that at least 10 to 15 landmen have come by his Carrizo Springs office looking for work. Killough estimates 300 to 400 landmen in Texas are out of work, most of them self-employed and working on contract.

"They're not fired," Killough said. "There's just no work, so they go away."

At a Carrizo Springs RV park last week, construction contractor Robert Zamora was getting ready to start a job building metal siding over generators and compressors to help protect them from the elements.

"Other than that, it's all dried up," Zamora said.

He thinks that he may go to North Dakota in April, where big construction projects have kept him busy in the past.

"It's hitting a lot of people. You can really feel it and see it," Zamora said. "You're counting your pennies now."

The phones have fallen quiet at Richard Collier's Concan-based pipe business.

"There can be some awfully lonely moments," said Collier, who has been through four or five oil price drops over the years. "It's not fun for anybody who's in it right now. It tests your fortitude.

"A lot of us are going to have a hard time. It's not going to stop with me in the pipe business."

Collier has noticed less traffic while driving to his Zavala County ranch.

"There's no way to compare unless you saw it two years ago," Collier said. "Two years ago, the gravel trucks were lined up as far as you could see to build pads. Getting to the place was a nightmare. The other day, I saw one gravel truck and one trailer with a backhoe on it."

Uncertain future

No one knows if the oil and gas economic engine is conking out or merely sputtering across rough terrain. Forecasts generally call for higher crude oil prices in the second half of the year.

But operators have good reason to pull back quickly. Shale wells come in producing large amounts of oil and gas but plummet more than 60 percent in the first year. Like so many things in the oil patch, the phenomenon has a clever name, the Red Queen, named after the character in Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking-Glass" who tells Alice she must run "Faster! Faster!"

"Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place, " the Red Queen says.

The Red Queen means operators have to add wells to replace their production. But operators that once ran to make $100 oil may walk to make $50 oil.

"The whole play works when you're selling flush production into high dollars and trying to get your well paid out quickly," San Antonio oilman Harvey Howell said. "The play does not work today because you're selling your most oil into low dollars."

In Tilden on Thursday, Juan Fuentes of Laredo stopped to look at Rodriguez's fire-resistant shirts - $15 for what would cost $50 new.

"The economy's tough, so we've got to get our own things," Fuentes said. His employer would have bought it before, but Fuentes said he's glad to still be working.

"I like the oil field," he said.

source:  Houston Chronicle


Spring is approaching, and it's time for your clients to start planning their lawn and landscaping strategy. Before they start cutting and fertilizing, it's a good idea to review these common myths and myth-busting tips from lawn and landscaping professionals:

Myth #1: You can water your lawn and landscape any time of day.

Reality: Water is a valuable resource; make every drop count! Watering the lawn in the early mornings or evenings after sunset minimizes evaporation. It’s the best time for water to penetrate deep into the soil.

Myth #2: It’s ok to cut the grass very short.

Reality:Most landscape professionals advise against cutting more than one-third of the grass leaf at a time. Mowing at a finished cut height of 3 to 3.5 inches throughout the summer is generally recommended. The lawn will need less water, will be more resistant to weeds and will have a deeper, greener color. Use a sharp mower blade to prevent tearing grass blades. A crisp and clean cut will help prevent a “brown tip” appearance.

Myth #3: It’s best to water your lawn every day.

Reality:Watering your lawn every three days is better than daily watering. Deep, rather than shallow watering of your lawn is recommended to nurture the roots. An inch of water to 12 inches of soil is the preferred ratio for watering actively growing grass.

Myth #4: If you want to replace your lawn, you should do it in the spring when plants get ready to bloom.

Reality:The best time to sow seed is in the late summer and early fall when the temperatures are more consistent and when highly competitive weeds, like crabgrass, are at the end of their life cycle.

Myth #5: Early spring is the best time to fertilize the lawn.

Reality:Since different species of grass prefer nutrients at different times of the year, be sure to use the correct fertilizer, at the right rate, at the right time, and in the right place. A slow-release fertilizer allows for more even and consistent feeding over a longer period of time than a quick-release fertilizer. And, remember to use fertilizers responsibly by cleaning up any that lands on streets, sidewalks or driveways where they can be washed into lakes, ponds, rivers and streams.

Myth #6: A garden hose is more cost efficient than installing an irrigation system.

Reality:Many landscape professionals recommend installing an irrigation system with smart controllers which have sensors that water when needed. Smart irrigation can offer a cost savings of 15–20 percent on water bills. Converting irrigation spray nozzles from sprinklers to rotating nozzles will spread heavy droplets of water at a slower pace, which makes them more targeted and effective.

Myth #7: You have to irrigate to have a healthy and beautiful lawn.

Reality:Grasses are built to endure long periods of drought by entering a state of dormancy. When temperatures and moisture levels are at their extreme, the growing point of the grass plant, the crown, will shut off the grass blades, turning them brow. In almost all instances, once the heat and drought stresses have gone, the crowns will begin to send up new shoots. There’s nothing wrong with irrigating to avoid dormancy, but “embracing the brown” for a couple of weeks in the summer is just fine too.

source:  Professional Landcare Network (PLANET), the national trade association representing landscape professionals


Coldwell Banker Real Estate teamed up with Onboard Infomatics to rank the top places for suburbanites, ranking more than 11,000 suburbs on amenities, proximity to good schools, commutes, and safety.

The top suburb on its list?

Cherry Hills Village, Colo., about 10 miles outside of downtown Denver. The city boasts a nearly 100 percent home-ownership rate and has less than a 20-minute average commute for residents who go downtown for work.

The following are the top 10 suburbs making Coldwell Banker’s list:

  1. Cherry Hills Village, Colo.
  2. Clyde Hill, Wash.
  3. Haworth, N.J.
  4. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
  5. Wolf Trap, Va.
  6. Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J.
  7. Indian Hills, Ky.
  8. East Grand Rapids, Mich.
  9. Rossmoor, Calif.
  10. Huntington Woods, Mich.

“Suburban communities continue to appeal to people of all ages, especially as many suburbs are seeing more diversity and re-energized downtown communities,” says Budge Huskey, president and COO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate. “Residents can have it all in many of these suburbs: Great access to recreation centers, schools, and a feeling of community, while only being a short distance to the city.”

source:  RISMedia


The Penske Truck Rental’s list of top moving destinations has plenty of sunny locales.

Here is the list of some of their top cities:

1. Atlanta
2. Phoenix
3. Orlando, Fla.
4. Dallas/Fort Worth
5. Chicago
6. Houston
7. Denver
8. Seattle
9. Sarasota, Fla.
10. Charlotte, N.C.

There are no new market entries.

No region moved up or down more than two positions, with Dallas/Fort Worth dropping two places, from second to fourth. Half the list (Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Sarasota, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C.,) remained in identical positions.

“As this list indicates, U.S. residents continue migrating primarily toward warm weather areas,” noted Don Mikes, Penske’s vice president of rental. “The list is compiled through online consumer truck rental reservations and through our call centers.”