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I'm John Askins of Royce Realty in Houston, or text me directly at (832) on my blog I'll keep you updated on the latest trends and info about our local and state real estate market. Member - HAR Technology Advisory Group

Nearly eight out of 10 prospective home buyers still believe buying a home is a good financial decision, despite ongoing challenges with the economy and housing market. Despite economic uncertainty, a wide majority of those surveyed by NAR still believe now is a good time to buy a home; continuing low mortgage interest rates may be attracting buyers to the housing market – more than one-fourth of renters said they are thinking more about buying a home than they were a year ago. Sixty-three percent of renter respondents said that owning a home is a priority in their future, and nearly 40 percent said it was one of their highest priorities.

Also, the percentage of renters who are worried that the cost of housing is getting so unaffordable that they will never be able to buy a home has decreased steadily since 2007.

Despite improved affordability, respondents still consider having enough money for down payment and closing costs to be among of the biggest obstacles to buying a home. Another obstacle is a lack of confidence in their ability to be approved for a loan..

The good news is that Americans are seeing more stability in the real estate market. Nearly seven out of 10 believe that home values have stabilized in their area; the same number expects home sales to remain about the same through the end of the year.

The rate of foreclosures is also seen as stabilizing; respondents cite the recession, loss of jobs and the poor economy as the main reason for the ongoing foreclosure problem.

source: NAR






As home equity rebounds, cash-out refinances are making a comeback, The Los Angeles Times reports. In the wake of the housing boom, cash-out refinancing was derided as a practice wherein home owners used their home's equity like an ATM. But the situation has changed somewhat, as today's transactions are occurring under much tighter lending guidelines.

Quicken Loans estimates that about a quarter of new refinances are from cash-out refinancing. Home owners are opting to use cash-out refinances for more financially sound purposes than in the past, says Bob Walters, chief economist for Quicken Loans. Walters says many of their borrowers are using it for debt consolidation. Charles Brown, Insignia Bank's chief executive, says many of their borrowers are using the money from the cash-out refinancings to consolidate high-cost credit card, mortgage, and other floating-rate debt into fixed-rate home loans.

But another type of cash-out client also is emerging, notes Paul Skeens, president and owner of Colonial Mortgage. Skeens says they're seeing investors from the recession who had purchased homes at bargain prices with little or no cash. These investors have built up equity in the past few years and are now looking to take out some cash to make new investments.

source:  Los Angeles Times


Mark Oct. 8 in your calendar. That's the best date to close on a home at a bargain price, according to a new study by RealtyTrac.

On average, buyers have purchased 10.8 percent below estimated market value on this date for the last 15 years, the study shows. The next best buying dates for house hunters are Nov. 26 (10.1 percent below market value); Dec. 31 (9.7 percent); Oct. 22 (9.6 percent); and Oct. 15 (9.1 percent). RealtyTrac analyzed more than 32 million sales of single-family homes and condos to come up with the data.

Overall, October offered the most promise for bargain hunters. Over the last 15 years, the 2.7 million sales that have closed in October carried an average sales price 2.6 percent below the average estimated full market value at the time of sale. After October, the best deals are in February, July, December, and January.

Meanwhile, the worst month of the year to buy a home — but the best to sell — is April. On average, buyers who purchased in April over the last 15 years bought their home at a premium of 1.2 percent above estimated market value at the time of sale.

The study also found the best weekday to buy a home is on a Monday. Of 5.5 million single-family home and condo sales in the past 15 years that closed on a Monday, buyers saw an average discount of 2.3 percent below full estimated market value at the time of sale. Friday is the next best weekday, with buyers seeing an average discount of 2 percent.

Thursday, on the other hand, was found to be the worst day of the week to buy, with a 1 percent average discount. 

By date, RealtyTrac found that the worst days of the year to close on a home purchase were Jan. 19 (buyers paid an average 9.6 percent premium above estimated market value); Feb. 16 (9.5 percent); April 20 (9.5 percent); April 6 (8.4 percent); and April 27 (8.2 percent).

source:  RealtyTrac


When building a new home, home buyers may quickly find themselves over-budget and over-stressed. U.S. News & World Report recently highlighted some of the most common financial mistakes when building a new home:

1. Don't overbuild. "I meet potential clients in my office almost weekly who tell me, 'We built a 6,000 square-foot home, but now we're dying to downsize to something smaller,'" says Andy Stauffer, owner of Stauffer and Sons Construction, a homebuilder in Colorado Springs. "Most families don't even need 5,000 square feet, and a home as small as 2,500 or 3,000 square feet won't feel small if it's designed properly. A larger house is just more expensive and harder to maintain and clean. According to the National Association of Home Builders, a custom home in the U.S. costs an average of $105 per square foot to build. That means by eliminating even 500 square feet in a home that you don't need, you'll save over $50,000."

2. Consider the resale value at the beginning. "It's simply a fact of life. Most of us don't know for sure where we'll be in 10 or 15 years, as much as we'd like to think we do," Stauffer says. "I recently spoke to a real estate agent who had some clients that built a five-story custom home. They loved it, but when it was time to sell, they had to drop the price by tens of thousands of dollars and sell at a significant loss because nobody wanted to buy a five-story home and walk up and down the stairs all day long. So build your dream home, but don't make it a nightmare for someone else."

3. Weigh the upgrades. Buyers may have to teeter on too conservative or not conservative enough when choosing their extras. "You will be surprised at how quickly a $200,000 home becomes $400,000 in upgrades," Joan Fradella, a family mediator in West Palm Beach, Fla., who built a new home in 1998 told U.S. News & World Report.

Brian Brunhofter, president of Meritus Custom Builders in Chicago, says buyers need to carefully consider what upgrades are must haves. "For example, carpet can always be switched out to hardwood floors later, but a full basement is something you should decide on now," he says. That said, some buyers may want to do some of those upgrades now while lending is relatively inexpensive at the moment. As long as you don't go overboard, it may "be much more economic to stretch and plan for those features in your budget now," he says.

4. Monitor the progress. "Visit the site during construction," advises Nicole Cannon, a resident architect in Los Angeles. "Make sure things are matching your expectations and ask questions if they don’t. The worst option is to remain quiet and end up with something that you are unhappy with or have to pay to fix after the fact."

View more new-home financial mistakes at U.S. News & World Report.

source:  U.S. News & World Report


Millennials deep down may be suburbanites after all. In recent years, economists and demographers have argued that members of Generation Y will have a longer love for city living in smaller living quarter than their predecessors. But a newly released survey by the National Association of Home Builders discounts that, suggesting that what millennials really want is a single-family home outside of the urban center – just like other generations.

The survey of more than 1,500 people (born since 1977) found that 66 percent of millennials want to live in the suburbs; 24 percent want to live in rural areas; and only 10 percent prefer to live in a city center.

“While you are more likely to attract this generation than other generations to buy a condo or a house downtown, that is a relative term,” says Rose Quint, NAHB’s assistant vice president of survey research. “The majority of them will still want to buy the house out there in the suburbs.”

One of their main draws to suburbia?

They “want to live in more space than they have now,” Quint says. Eighty-one percent said they want three or more bedrooms in their home.

“The preference for the suburbs suggests that future demand will be in the form of single-family homes rather than condominiums more prevalent in cities,” David Berson, chief economist with Nationwide Insurance Co., told The Wall Street Journal. “That’s also good news for future suburban single-family sellers, many of whom are baby boomers.”

NAHB’s survey reflected responses only from millennials who purchased a home within the past three years or intended to do so soon; the survey did not include responses from young people who  intend to rent for several more years.

source:  Wall Street Journal 


Forbes reveals the healthiest cities, taking into account such factors as clean air quality, residents’ health, and a community’s promotion of exercise and healthy living. Here are the top seven cities to make its “healthy cities” list: 

1. Minneapolis

From Forbes: “Minneapolis residents breathe clean air, prioritize exercise, and keep their weight down, supported by a city that was among the first to add bike trails and ban smoking in public places.”

2. Washington, D.C.

From Forbes: “The plentitude of large parks is just one factor ... Capital residents are less likely to be obese and more likely to bike or walk to work or take public transportation to work.” 

3. Boston

From Forbes: “With 80 percent of the population reporting they've exercised in the past 30 days and 47 percent describing themselves as at least moderately physically active, Bostonians get out there and move.”

4. Portland, Ore.

From Forbes: “Portland ranked high for the city's vast amount of park land, high number of farmers' markets, availability of health care, and popularity of walking or biking to work.”

5. Denver

From Forbes: “Denver ranked high in the health of its residents, 61 percent of whom are ranked as in 'excellent or very good' physical health.”

6. San Francisco

From Forbes: “San Francisco residents smoke in record low numbers (8 percent compared to a national average of 18 percent), have access to a ton of open space and park land, are more likely to walk or bike to work, are less likely to be obese or have diabetes, and have access to plenty of primary care providers.”

7. Hartford, Conn.

From Forbes: “Swimming pools, ball diamonds, golf courses, and recreation centers are all available to Hartford residents in much higher numbers than average, perhaps accounting for the high percent of residents who are active and in tip-top health.

source:  Forbes


New mortgage disclosure rules will take effect this weekend on Oct. 3, and lenders and real estate brokerages are quickly preparing for what has been predicted to be big changes to home closings.

Mortgage lenders will be required to begin using new consumer disclosure forms this Saturday, Oct. 3. The changes will merge the HUD-1 Settlement Statement, the Good Faith Estimate, and the Truth-in-Lending disclosure form into two new closing forms: a Loan Estimate and a Closing Disclosure.

Consumers will have more time to review the total costs of their mortgage prior to closing. The Loan Estimate form is due to consumers three days after they apply for a loan, while the Closing Disclosure form is due three days prior to closing. The Loan Estimate form shows the loan amount and interest rate, what the borrower’s monthly payment will be, estimated taxes and insurance, and how much cash is required to close.

Borrowers will face delays to closing if there are any last-minute changes with the financing of their loan. For example, if borrowers decide to change loan products at the last minute – such as switching from a fixed-rate mortgage to an adjustable-rate loan – borrowers will face a three-day delay in the closing to allow for reviews of the new Closing Disclosure form. Borrowers will not have a choice to waive the three-day review period.

Some mortgage experts are recommending that borrowers lock in their mortgage rates 45 or 60 days, rather than the more common 30-day lock, in case there is any delay in closing. 

“There's going to be a little bit of a learning curve in the beginning,” says Tammy Felenstein, the executive director of sales for Halstead Property in Stamford, Conn. Consumers should “go with a lending institution that has prepared for these changes and knows what they’re doing.”

Consumers may face slightly longer closing times as the industry adjusts to the new process. The new rules will require lenders, title companies, real estate professionals and insurance representatives to all come together sooner in the process to ensure the disclosures do get out in time. 

As such, some real estate professionals say they’re planning to write contracts with 45-day closings instead of 30. About 56 percent of REALTORS® say they plan to change their purchase agreements to allow for a longer timeline for the closing process due to the upcoming changes from new mortgage disclosures rules, according to a new survey by the National Association of REALTORS®. Thirty-one percent of real estate professionals surveyed said they would also add contingencies to the contract.

Eighty-two percent of real estate professionals also say they've taken some training to prepare for the "Know Before You Owe" initiative.

To try to avoid a closing delay from the new rules, 30 percent of real estate professionals surveyed by NAR say they plan to share contracts and amendments sooner with lenders, title insurers, and closing agents. Thirty-three percent plan to perform final or pre-closing walk-through home inspections earlier, and 37 percent say they plan to develop a plan with lenders and title agents to ensure a smooth transition.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has published a new guide for real estate agents detailing all the changes with the upcoming "Know Before You Owe" mortgage initiative. CFPB's toolkit for agents includes sections on how to have on-time closings, an overview of what has changed and the new loan documents, and the ability to share resources with your clients about the new rules.

Also, view a slideshow at to see additional examples of the new disclosure forms. 

source:; New York Times and REALTOR® Magazine Daily News


A new article at® is warning home owners about an influx of storm-chasing contractors who may be indirectly pushing up home insurance prices in their area. These contractors may knock on home owners' doors and say they need a new roof or siding due to wind and hail damage – all cosmetic damage repairs that may not be necessary.

Home insurance companies often classify dents, dimples, and dings in roof vents, shingles, or aluminum siding as "cosmetic damage" to a property, says Billy Van Jura, an insurance broker in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

"When several claims for this type of work are submitted in a single region, the price everyone pays (including those who haven’t filed a claim) can increase because the insurer sees the region as having greater risk of additional claims," the article at® cautions. "There's nothing you can do about a widespread storm that damages several homes in your area and ultimately raises everyone's rates. But you can help curb your own annual home insurance costs with a little-known option called 'cosmetic damage exclusion.'"

The American Association of Insurance Services created the cosmetic damage exclusion in 2013 – available in nearly all states – that aims at protecting consumers from scammers and tries keep home insurance rates more affordable. It makes cosmetic damage coverage optional. Home owners can then decide if they want to pay for cosmetic-only wind and hail damage. If the damage impacts the safety or structural functionality of the home, the home insurance policy will kick in.

By adding this exclusion to cosmetic damage, home owners stand to save money on their annual premiums – anywhere from $100 to $200 or more, says Troy Thompson, an independent insurance broker with Pinnacle Insurance Agency in Coon Rapids, Minn.

Hail and wind damage claims alone contribute to about 40 percent of all home insurance claims in the last five years, according to the Insurance Information Institute. And many of those claims may be for minor cosmetic repairs, such as a few nicks in the siding that home owners may be made to believe are more urgent than they actually are.

Home owners may choose to submit a claim for cosmetic damage covered by their home insurance policy, but they need to be aware that they may then be responsible for paying any applicable deductibles, insurance agents say.




Ninety percent of renters say they expect to buy a home in the future, but the majority are fearful of their ability to qualify for a mortgage at today’s stringent underwriting standards, according to a new survey conducted by Fannie Mae. In fact, 42 percent of those who intend to buy a home one day say they don’t think they’ll be able to do so for at least five years. 

"Younger renters who prefer to own are much more likely than their older counterparts to say that they are renting mainly to make themselves financially ready to own," according to the survey. 

The majority of renters surveyed said that if they had trouble qualifying for a mortgage, they would take steps to improve their credit score or financial situation, or consider buying a less expensive home. Only a quarter of renters said that if they were denied a mortgage, they would stop pursuing a mortgage altogether.

The survey showed that renters believe home ownership is better than renting in terms of privacy, security, and for raising a family. Fifty-one percent of renters say that owning makes more sense than renting when comparing both the financial and lifestyle benefits, according to the survey. 

"The strength of the economy, particularly job creation and real income growth, as well as the favorability of credit conditions should play significant roles in determining if and when many of these renters will see the fruit of their efforts to become home owners," says Sarah Shahdad, analyst of Economic & Strategic Research at Fannie Mae.

source:  HousingWire


Fifty-two percent of Americans admit they’ve had to make at least one major sacrifice in order to pay their rent or mortgage within the last three years, according to new research commissioned by the nonprofit John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

These sacrifices include everything from having to get a second job, curb savings for retirement, cut back on health care, accumulate credit card debt, move to a less safe neighborhood or one with worse schools to afford their rent or mortgages, according to the “How Housing Matters Survey.”

At least 15 percent of American home owners say they’re living in housing markets where the monthly mortgage payment on a median-priced home requires more than 30 percent of the monthly median household income. Anything 30 percent or above a home owners’ median household income is often considered “cost-burdened” when it comes to affording housing costs.

In some areas of the country, home owners and renters are finding housing costs are eating up even more of their household incomes. For example, in New York county/Manhattan, mortgage payments represent 77 percent of the median income and 70 percent in San Francisco County, according to data from RealtyTrac.

“Affordability issues are a real and major hurdle,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of REALTORS®, told The Wall Street Journal. Home prices have jumped 20 percent over the last two years while wages have mostly stayed stagnant, he says.

“Only by adding more new supply, via housing starts, can home prices be tamed,” he says. (Read: Shrinking Inventory May Raise Prices Again)

source:  Wall Street Journal