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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

Ten metros are standing out for strong price appreciation, housing inventory increases, and a rise in home sales that are far outpacing the more moderate gains in the national housing market, according to®'s National Housing Trend Report for June.

"National housing trends are masking some of the excitement we're seeing in individual markets," says Jonathan Smoke,®'s new chief economist. "For the last two years, listing shortages constrained home sales and frustrated buyer demand. Our June data shows monthly inventory picking up in markets already experiencing price increases and fast property turnover. These dynamics will result in strong home sales and extend the buying season past the usual June/July peak to later in the third quarter."

Reno, Nev., has seen the largest year-over-year increase in home prices — nearly 18.5 percent — while homes in Charlotte, N.C., are selling 14 days faster than a year ago, at a median of 64 days, according to®'s report.

"The markets where we expect significant third-quarter home sales are all very different, ranging from small to large, affordable to expensive, previously distressed to minimally affected by the downturn," Smoke says. "Diversification in the areas experiencing healthy real estate economies is a key indicator that the housing recovery has become more sustainable."

Nationwide, median list prices edged up 7.6 percent in June compared to a year ago, according to®. But the following 10 markets are expected to continue to see "significant growth" in home sales:  

  • Albany-Schenectady-Troy, N.Y.
    Median listing price: $226,025
  • Baton Rouge, La.
    Median listing price: $188,000
  • Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, N.C.-S.C.
    Median listing price: $209,000
  • Columbia, S.C.
    Median listing price: $162,500
  • Des Moines, Iowa
    Median listing price: $179,900
  • Philadelphia, Pa.-N.J.
    Median listing price: $187,000
  • Portland-Vancouver, Ore.-Wash.
    Median listing price: $299,000
  • Reno, Nev.
    Median listing price: $295,000
  • Spokane, Wash.
    Median listing price: $198,000
  • Washington, D.C.-Md.-Va.-W.Va.
    Median listing price: $429,000



The nation’s largest mortgage lender is raising commissions of its loan officers in the hopes that the added perk will spur its officers to issue more loans for home purchases.

Wells Fargo & Co. is looking to ramp up the number of its mortgages for home purchases, to make up for a big drop in refinancing applications the past year due to rising rates. Refinancings helped Wells Fargo reach record-breaking annual profits but now that business is softening. In fact, nationwide, loans to refinance existing loans is expected to fall to $96 billion in the fourth quarter, about 75 percent less than in the first three months of 2013, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Meanwhile, mortgages for new home purchases is rising, expected to reach $195 billion by the third quarter of 2015  compared to $115 billion in this year’s first quarter, MBA says.

By offering added commission on performance, “we created a lot of desire for the loan officers to go out and get that extra production,” Franklin Codel, who oversees mortgage origination for Wells Fargo, told Bloomberg. “This creates that little extra incentive.

But to court more of that business, banks are urging loan officers to draw more referrals from real estate professionals and home builders and to expand their networks.

source:  Bloomberg News 


While housing markets may be uneven in many parts of the country, more buyers are placing an emphasis on green -- with some studies showing that green homes can sell for higher dollar than non-green homes. 

In Portland, OR., an analysis from the Earth Advantage Institute found that green-certified new homes sold, on average, for 8 percent more than non-certified green homes--and in one of the counties included in the study even more than 23 percent higher. Earth Advantage Institute analyzed sales data from from the Portland Regional MLS. 

The study found that the sales price was even higher for existing homes outfitted green -- an average of 30 percent more, and one county reporting a more than 61 percent premium on green-certified homes. 

The green certifications on the homes were from Energy Star, LEED for Homes, Earth Advantage, or an Earth Advantage/Energy Star combination. 

This was the fourth year that the Earth Advantage Institute has conducted such a study and has found green-certified homes sell for higher prices than non-certified homes. 

“There's certainly a premium there to be had,” says green builder Josh Wynne from Sarasota, Fla. “Clients are naturally skeptical of green building. If you're disingenuous or sell green as an upgrade like a granite counter,” it won't work.

But the hook, experts say, is to promote the upgrades by showing the energy savings that green homes can offer. (Learn more from NAR’s GREEN certification program.)

source:  EcoHome


Homes continued to grow in total square footage last year, but according to an NAHB analysis, the increase is likely driven by move-up and luxury buyers rather than first-time home buyers, who tend to dominate the market.

According to Census data, 39 percent of new single-family homes last year had four or more bedrooms, and 28 percent of the new homes had three or more bathrooms. Fifty-four percent of the new homes last year were also two stories or taller.

But home builders say the data needs to be kept in perspective: Upscale buyers likely skewed the figures, they note. They note that bigger homes don’t really reflect the trend they’re seeing in the new-home market with the majority of buyers.



Government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been working through the REO inventory load they hold on their books, a move that helped them report a profit yet again in the latest quarter.

In the second quarter of this year, Fannie Mae’s REO inventory stood at 96,796 compared to 166,787 properties it held in the third quarter of 2010. Freddie Mac is also reporting a large decrease: In the second quarter of this year, it held 36,134 REOs on its books compared to its peak of 74,897 in the third quarter of 2010.

REO numbers have been steadily dropping over the last few quarters as foreclosures continue to fall nationwide.

Fannie Mae says that in the first half of this year it has seen a “modest increase in REO prices” compared with the “significant increase” in REO prices it saw during the second quarter and first half of 2013.

As the housing market improves, the GSEs are continuing to report profits. In the second quarter, Fannie Mae reported a net income of $3.7 billion while Freddie Mac reported a net income of $1.4 billion, its 11th consecutive quarter of positive earnings. Tim Mayopoulos, Fannie Mae’s chief executive, told reporters on a recent conference call that he expects Fannie Mae to remain profitable for the “foreseeable future.”

Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac came under government conservatorship in 2008. The GSEs must turn over their profits to the U.S. Treasury, a requirement for the government bailout. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will make their latest payments to the U.S. Treasury in September, which will amount to $218.7 billion to taxpayers in return for the $187.5 billion in aid they had received during the height of the financial crisis, Reuters reports.

source:  Calculated Risk blog and Reuters


FICO, the nation’s most popular credit-scoring system, announced it is tweaking some of the criteria used in coming up with consumers’ scores, which could help consumers save more money in qualifying for mortgages and other types of loans.

The changes include reducing the toll that overdue medical bills can take on credit scores, as well as removing other past penalties from consumers who have paid off debts that had been assigned to collection agencies. A consumer whose only major delinquency comes from an unpaid medical bill could see their credit score rise by 25 points due to the changes.

The changes come after a recent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau study, which found that both paid and unpaid medical debts were unfairly penalizing consumers’ credit ratings. An estimated 64 million Americans have a medical collection item on their credit reports, according to Nick Clements of Magnify Money, a personal finance site.

The FICO changes will go into effect this fall, but borrowers may have to wait a year or more until they see the impact of the changes in their scores, lenders say.

The changes may help consumers with blemished past credit histories or high medical debts qualify for mortgages more easily. Consumers with higher scores also might qualify for a lower rate, housing experts say.

"In recent years the [credit score requirement] has been dialed so tightly that only fairly upper-tier consumers were able to qualify for a loan," says Lawrence Yun, National Association of REALTORS®’ chief economist. "We're looking at people who are currently being denied potentially being offered a mortgage because of this."

In June, the average FICO score for a closed mortgage was 728, a drop from 742 a year prior, according to data from Ellie Mae, a company that processes mortgage applications for lenders. FICO scores range from 300 to 850.

Borrowers with higher FICO scores can usually expect to pay less in interest on a loan. A borrower with a FICO score of 675 may nab a 4.75 percent interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, which would be about  $2,086 a month in payments on a $400,000 loan, according to Informa Research Services. In comparison, a borrower with a 700 FICO score may qualify for a rate of 4.212 percent, which could drop the monthly payment to $1,959 and bring a $127 savings.

The credit scoring changes will not remove any unpaid debts from a credit report, so some lenders may still be able to factor that information into their lending decision.

“This move will ultimately make a real difference in the lives of millions of Americans, who have been shut out of the housing market or forced to pay higher mortgage interest rates because of flawed credit scores,” Steve Brown, NAR’s president, said in a statement. “Since the housing crash, overly restrictive lending has been the greatest obstacle to home ownership. NAR will continue to support efforts to broaden access to credit for qualified homebuyers.”

In other news, two of the big national credit bureaus Experian and TransUnion recently reported they’ve  added verified rental payment data into credit files, which will be used to compute a consumers’ score when applying for a mortgage. A recent TransUnion study showed that the inclusion of rental data could raise some consumers’ scores. For example, nearly 20 percent of renters’ scores rose by 10 points or more after just one month.

source:  Los Angeles Times


If the bank or government can’t save a person from foreclosure, can a crowd?

“Crowdfunding” sites are on the rise as desperate home owners turn to trying to raise money from friends, family, and strangers to try to stay current with their mortgage payments. 

“Listings asking donors to ‘Help save my children's home’ and ‘Help avoid foreclosure’ are popping up across dozens of fundraising Web sites like GoFundMe, Indiegogo, FundRazr, and GiveForward,” CBS reports. 

The sites were created as a way to help people fundraise for specific causes, such as medical bills, youth sports, education, or now saving a home. The sites will take a portion of the donations collected, about 4 to 10 percent. 

Foreclosures are sometimes viewed as an “avoidable crisis,” so troubled home owners are having mixed luck on the sites so far, CBS reports. For example, CBS notes that in about 100 campaigns on GoFundMe, less than 1 percent have been able to raise enough to save the home. However, one couple has been able to raise on GoFundMe more than $7,500 of the $15,000 they need to save their home from foreclosure. 

source:  CBS

Homeowners who fall behind on their property taxes may be tempted to take out a loan to pay off those taxes. However, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) strongly recommends doing a little homework first.

According to the BBB, the homeowner should:
  • Call the taxing agency first. Most government agencies are willing to create payment plans and make other arrangements with those behind on tax payments. Certain individuals may even qualify for a property tax deferral. The homeowner should make sure every means of assistance available through the agency has been exhausted before considering a loan.
  • Understand the process. A property tax loan provider will pay off the taxing entity, but that doesn’t mean taxes are paid. The tax lien simply transfers to the private lender.
  • Pay attention to the terms. Find out how much, in total, the private lender will charge in interest and fees. The homeowner could end up paying more than he would have paid the taxing entity.
  • Check other avenues. A property tax loan provider is not the only option. Check with banks for a lower-interest loan, or see if the balance can be paid with a credit card. The interest rate may be higher with a credit card, but the homeowner will keep the home should he default or file bankruptcy.
  • Consult an attorney. A lawyer can help the homeowner negotiate with a taxing entity and understand the terms of a property tax loan, or help the homeowner decide whether or not to file bankruptcy. provides information to help those who cannot afford legal counsel, and can help find low-cost representation.
  • Check out a lender’s BBB business review at to see how many complaints have been filed against it before doing business. Also ensure the lender is licensed by the State of Texas.

    source:  Wilson County News

U.S. home construction rebounded in July, rising to an eight-month high and offering hope that housing has regained momentum after two months of declines.

Construction increased 15.7 percent in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.09 million homes, the Commerce Department reported. That was the fastest pace since November and followed declines of 4 percent in June and 7.4 percent in May.

Applications for building permits, considered a good sign of future activity, also showed strength in July, advancing 8.1 percent to an annual rate of 1.05 million, after declines of 3.1 percent in June and 5.1 percent in May.

The July rebound reflected strength in single-family home construction, which rose 8.3 percent, and in apartment construction, which was up 33 percent.

The strength in July was led by a 44 percent rise in construction starts in the Northeast. Housing construction was up 29 percent in the South, recovering from a 26.8 percent plunge the month before blamed in part on heavy rains in that part of the country. Sales rose 18.6 percent in the West but fell 24.8 percent in the Midwest.

Economists noted that the July performance was much better than expected, and June was revised significantly higher, both good signs for the future.

Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said solid job growth and a recent decline in mortgage rates were helping boost construction. But he said weak wage growth and tight lending standards were still depressing activity, especially among first-time buyers.

A report Monday indicated homebuilders are feeling more confident about their sales prospects, a hopeful sign that home construction and sales of newly built homes could pick up after stalling in recent months.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index rose in August to 55, up two points from a revised 53 for July. That is the third straight monthly increase and put the index at its highest reading since January, when it was 56. Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good rather than poor.

Builders' views of current sales conditions for single-family homes, their outlook for sales over the next six months and traffic by prospective buyers all increased in August, brightening the outlook.

Sales of new homes are running behind last year's pace. They fell 8.1 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 406,000.

A mix of rising home prices, higher mortgage rates and weak wage growth have made it more difficult for potential buyers to buy a newly built home. These factors have particularly depressed demand by first-time buyers.

But economists are still looking for a rebound, given the fact that the U.S. economy has been adding jobs at a healthy clip with gains topping 200,000 jobs for six straight months through July.

Housing, while still a long way from the boom of the last decade, has been recovering over the past two years. Though new homes represent only a fraction of the housing market, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in tax revenue, according to data from the Home Builders.

source:  Houston Chronicle


How happy are Americans with their housing, compared to the rest of the world? According to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), we’re pretty well off in that arena.

The OECD has been collecting responses to its Better Life Index for the last three years, and finds that Americans’ “housing conditions and spending” ranking is 7.8, coming in at the top of the 180-country list. However, Americans rank their own satisfaction with housing at one percent less than the OECD average of 87 percent. Nations where residents ranked themselves more satisfied included Germany, Ireland, Spain, and Belgium.

Apparently, Americans don't know how good they have it. So what makes U.S. dwelling so great on a world scale? Americans spend less of their gross adjusted disposable income on housing; only 19 percent compared with the 21 percent OECD average. The facilities are on average a bit nicer as well, with 99.9 percent of people in the United States living in dwellings with private access to an indoor flushing toilet. Also, the United States came in fifth in terms of overcrowding, with around 2.3 rooms per person.

The report, which tracks a variety of factors that help determine a country’s overall happiness, puts a great deal of importance on housing: “Living in satisfactory housing conditions is one of the most important aspects of people’s lives. Housing is essential to meet basic needs, such as shelter, but it is not just a question of four walls and a roof. Housing should offer a place to sleep and rest where people feel safe and have privacy and personal space; somewhere they can raise a family. All of these elements help make a house a home.”

According to survey respondents, the most important factor for American happiness is “life satisfaction,” with the topic of housing coming in at in position number nine. The group has collected 10,070 responses from people living in the United States, and hopes to continue to collect responses to its survey, accessible online here.

source:  REALTOR® Magazine Daily News