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John Askins
Royce Realty Houston


The past decade's Great Recession didn't shake Americans’ confidence in home ownership, according to a survey of 1,000 adults nationwide by NeighborWorks America.

About two-thirds of survey respondents say their opinion on home ownership has not changed over the past five years. Eighty-eight percent say owning a home is an important element of their “American Dream.” 

“Although the housing market took one of the largest hits ever, with home prices falling nationally and foreclosures rising to more than one million homes annually, home ownership remains a goal many want to achieve,” says Eileen Fitzgerald, CEO of NeighborWorks America. “But it’s important to also note that the poll also underscores that we need to have quality and affordable rental homes available for those people who simply prefer to rent.”

The majority of renters and home owners surveyed say they believe the home buying process is complicated. They attribute the major obstacles to personal finance issues, such as lack of job security or not having enough money for a down payment. One in four surveyed say they have no familiarity with the mortgage products available. 

Still, about half of those surveyed say they feel more prepared today than five years ago to buy a home. Forty percent, though, say they are less prepared. 

“These results tell us that most consumers believe that they know when the time is right for them to buy a home — and feel strongly that home ownership is important — but that their personal situation may have been affected in the past five years and is holding them back from pursuing home ownership,” Fitzgerald says.

sourceNational Mortgage News


What’s the median monthly mortgage payment of home owners?

$1,015, according to the American Housing Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. The survey reveals a range of data, from who is living in homes to characteristics of the homes themselves.

The survey is conducted only during odd numbered years. 2015 numbers will be available during the next year.

Among the survey’s findings: 

  • Home owners paid 2.3 percent more for their homes  -- with the median purchase of price of homes $110,000. Meanwhile, new construction median purchase prices were higher at over $235,000.
  • The median monthly expenses for home owners was $151 for real estate taxes; $121 for electricity; and $58 for property insurance.
  • The median year occupied homes were constructed was 1974.
  • 72.5% of the owner-occupied homes had central air and 46.3% had working carbon monoxide detectors.
  • The highest percentage of homes had three bedrooms and two or more bathrooms.
  • The most popular selected home amenities were porch, deck, balcony, or patio; telephone available; separate dining room; and usable fireplace.

“The last five years remind us how central housing is to each of us personally, to the fiscal health of our cities and counties, and the national economy,” says Kurt Usowski, HUD’s deputy assistant secretary for economic affairs. “From the American Housing Survey, we can see why people chose to move, how often homes need repairs, and the extent to which housing costs are outpacing income growth. All this information can help inform policymaking around continued recovery in the U.S. and in metropolitan areas around the country.”

source:  HUD


A little superstition sometimes is at play in real estate when determining a price for a home. Some real estate professionals believe some numbers hold some luck at getting their listings sold.

For example, Joe DeVito, a real estate broker in Brooklyn, N.Y., says many of his current listings have an eight in the asking price and few have a four. The reason?

"They are priced for the luck and sold for the luck," DeVito told The Wall Street Journal. In the Sunset Park neighborhood, where many of his listings are, several of the residents are Asian. In the Chinese culture, eight is considered lucky while the number four is believed to hold some bad luck.

Sellers in Nevada may be a little superstitious too with their listing numbers and tend to rely on lucky number seven in home sales. A study by Trulia found that homes that had a seven before the zeros are 37 percent more common in Nevada than in the remainder of the country.

The Bible Belt in the South hopes that some lucky numbers will help them channel a higher power to get a property sold. Homes in the Southeast and South-central United States are 27 percent more likely to include the numbers 316 in the listing price -- which reflects John 3:16 from the Bible, according to the Trulia study. Also, ironically in that region, the numbers 666 -- sometimes associated with evil -- are 39 percent more common than anywhere else in the United States.

source:  Wall Street Journal


List a home on Friday and you’ll have a greater chance of success when selling it, according to Redfin, which analyzed 1.2 million listings in 16 markets over 21 months to determine the best day of the week for selling a home. 

In every market analyzed, Redfin found that homes listed on Friday were 12 percent more likely to sell within 90 days. What’s more, the company found that homes listed on a Thursday or Friday sold for slightly closer to the list price: 94.4 percent compared with 93.9 percent for homes listed on a Sunday or Monday. 

Homes listed on Friday were viewed 19 percent more by buyers than homes listed on any other day of the week, according to Redfin’s study. 

"Our theory is that since home buyers tend to tour homes on the weekends (Saturday and Sunday have 2.5 times more tours per day than weekdays), homes listed on Fridays are the freshest in buyers' minds when they're making their weekend plans,” the brokerage said in a blog post about the findings.

“It also seems likely that many home buyers sort their weekend 'must see' lists by date listed, going to see the freshest homes first so they have the best chance of getting in on a potential good deal before other buyers. These factors put homes listed on Friday in front of more touring buyers on the weekend. More tours leads to more offers, and more offers leads to a better price and a better chance of selling.”

source:  Inman News


A survey of 1,793 members of the National Association of REALTORS® by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) reveals that more than 50 percent are excited about homes with new technologies, and nearly 67 percent say that their clients are as well.

More than 90 percent of REALTORS® have aided in the purchase, sale, or showing of a home with advanced technologies. Here are the most common technical systems they cited:

* Monitored security (93 percent)

* Home-theater pre-wire/system (89 percent)

* Energy management (51 percent)

About 50 percent of respondents say they want to be more educated about installed home technologies. Rhonda Daniel of CEA says, "While the market needs to recover before home technologies play a more important role in home sales, the industry can help prepare REALTORS® to be comfortable in discussing these types of systems with their clients."

source:  Virtual Strategy


A home buyer gets ready for settlement day only to discover right before the “Big Day” that they are going to have to bring a lot more cash to close the deal than they originally thought. The surprise can sometimes threaten to derail a deal.

Lenders are required to provide buyers a good faith estimate of closing costs within three days of receiving borrowers’ mortgage applications. But these good faith estimates reportedly are sometimes underestimating—or even greatly over-estimating—the true costs of settlement.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has worked on revamping the good faith estimates and the HUD-1 settlement sheet, which is given to borrowers prior to closing listing the costs. The revamp is to provide more clarity to borrowers on closing costs and also make it easier for borrowers to shop around for their mortgage.

Title professionals report that a lot of the times the estimates provided to borrowers on the good faith estimates over-estimate the true cost of the loan.

“Lenders' estimates for services rendered by third parties such as appraisers and surveyors are supposed to be within 10 percent of the final figures,” The Chicago Tribune reports. “If the charges listed on the HUD-1 exceed the tolerance, lenders are required to eat the difference.”

As such, many title agents report in a recent survey that some lenders “pad” their initial estimates so they ensure they come within that 10 percent limit at closing.

“Overquoting” violates the law, says Michelle Korsmo, American Land Title's chief executive. Korsmo says that even if borrowers aren’t charged for items like document preparation and warehouse fees, lenders who provide inaccurate information on good faith estimates make it difficult for home buyers to shop around for the best closing services.

Also complicating the picture, title agents report in a survey that often times borrowers are receiving more than just one good faith estimate. Sometimes borrowers are receiving two or even up to seven estimates of their potential closing costs.

source:  Chicago Tribune


Marble, big windows, and wine cellars are becoming popular words in listing ads to sell high-end homes, according to a new study by Trulia. The study defined luxury listings as those valued four times the median asking price in an area.

The following buzz words have grown in luxury listings the past two years: 

  • Marble bath: +78%
  • Oversized windows: +56%
  • Ceiling windows: 37%
  • Floor-to-ceiling windows: +39%
  • Wine cellars: +30%
  • Marble floors: +30%
  • Gyms: +28%
  • Private elevators: +24%
  • Tennis courts: +24%

source:  Wall Street Journal

Sales of million-dollar homes are soaring: Deals on existing homes priced above $1 million climbed more than 16 percent in October compared to a year ago, according to National Association of REALTORS® housing data. The increase was bigger than any other price segment.

"There is little volatility in the stock market. It is whoppingly higher, so people in the top 10 percent of wealth are really feeling confident now," says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

Sales are also rebounding for listings in the $750,000 to $1 million range, up 12 percent year-over-year according to NAR. Meanwhile, sales of homes priced under $100,000 dropped 6 percent year-over-year in October.

The largest growth in luxury markets were mostly centered in Miami; Los Angeles; Riverside, Calif.; and New York. International buyers—particularly those from China, Canada, Europe, Russia, and South America—are continuing to help drive up the U.S. luxury market.

Other markets that are often considered “affordable” are seeing bigger pockets of luxury taking hold too. For example, in Houston, the median home price has risen above the national average and landed No. 6 on a survey by the real estate brokerage Redfin of markets with the most million-dollar sales, beating out Boston, Washington, D.C., and Seattle.

"It's the new economy of the energy boom and other industries moving inland and taking dollars with them,” says Nela Richardson, chief economist for Redfin. “Our agents are going crazy in Houston.”

source:  CNBC


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says its new proposal aims to improve mortgage servicers' treatment of home owners who are facing foreclosure. The proposal requires lenders to provide struggling borrowers with foreclosure protections more than once over the life of a loan, if necessary, as well as to take steps to protect borrowers from a wrongful foreclosure sale. The proposal also issues guidelines to lenders to help ensure that surviving family members as well as others who inherit or receive a property have the same protections under mortgage servicing rules as the original borrower did.

“The Consumer Bureau is committed to ensuring that home owners and struggling borrowers are treated fairly by mortgage servicers and that no one is wrongly foreclosed upon,” says CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Today’s proposal would give greater protections to mortgage borrowers.”

Currently, lenders are required to give borrowers certain foreclosure protections only once during the life of the loan, such as offering options to avoid foreclosure. However, CFPB’s proposal hopes to change that by requiring servicers to give those protections to borrowers whenever they are needed, as long as they have brought their loans current at any time since the last loss mitigation application.

“This change would be particularly helpful for borrowers who obtain a permanent loan modification and later suffer an unrelated hardship – such as the loss of a job or the death of a family member – that could otherwise cause them to face foreclosure,” CFPB said in a statement.

CFPB’s latest proposal also would require servicers to notify borrowers when loss mitigation applications have been completed as well as clarify the lenders’ obligations to avoid wrongful foreclosures.

“The rules currently prohibit a servicer from proceeding to foreclosure once they receive a complete loss mitigation application from a borrower more than 37 days prior to a scheduled sale,” CFPB states. “However, in some cases, borrowers are not receiving this protection and servicers’ foreclosure counsel may not be taking adequate steps to delay foreclosure proceedings or sales.  The Bureau is proposing to clarify what steps servicers and their foreclosure counsel must take to protect borrowers from a wrongful foreclosure sale.”

Also in its proposal, the CFPB clarifies when a borrower actually becomes delinquent. Delinquency begins on the day a borrower fails to make a periodic payment, according to the new guidelines. If a borrower misses a payment but later makes it up, the lender applies the payment to the oldest outstanding periodic payment and the date of delinquency then advances.

“The proposal also would allow servicers the discretion, under certain circumstances, to consider a borrower as having made a timely payment even if the borrower’s payment falls short of a full payment by a small amount,” CFPB notes. “The increased clarity will help ensure borrowers are treated uniformly and fairly.”

Download a full summary of CFPB’s proposal. CFPB’s proposed rule will be open for public comment for 90 days before it’s made final.

source:  Consumer Financial Protection Bureau