Buyer beware – sellers are back!

California home prices reach 4-year high

For-sale inventory hits lowest level in 7 years

Inman News, Inman News, September 17, 2012, link

<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?id=97614617">Sunny housing outlook</a> image via Shutterstock.Sunny housing outlook image via Shutterstock.

Persistently declining for-sale home inventory helped push the median price of California homes up to its highest level in four years in August, according to a report released today from the California Association of Realtors.

Closed sales of existing single-family homes in the Golden State also saw gains, rising 2.3 percent on an annual basis in August to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 511,240 units. That’s a 3.4 percent decline from July, but the fifth straight month to see a year-over-year increase.

“A lack of inventory remains an issue, as the housing supply fell more than 30 percent from last year,” said LeFrancis Arnold, the association’s president, in a statement.

“Inventory levels are at the lowest levels we’ve seen in seven years, and we are starting to see the supply shortage conditions having a negative impact on sales in the Central Valley and the Inland Empire, where REO (real estate owned) properties are in short supply.”

For-sale inventory fell to a supply of 3.2 months at the current sales pace in August, down from a revised 3.5 months in July and a revised 5.2 months in August 2011, CAR said. A supply of six months is considered to be a “normal” market where buyer and seller demand is roughly equal. Last month, only homes selling for more than $1 million were in normal territory with a supply of 6.1 months. Homes under $300,000 had the lowest inventory, with a supply of 2.8 months.


Source: California Association of Realtors. 

It took a median 41.1 days to sell a single-family home in August, down from 43.2 days in July and a revised 52.5 days a year ago.

The median price of an existing single-family home rose for the sixth straight month in August, up 15.5 percent year over year to $343,820. That’s a 3 percent increase from July, the largest annual price jump in more than two years, and the highest median since August 2008.

“The median price is gaining in part because of a shift in the mix of what is selling,” said CAR Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young in a statement. “The increasing share of sales in higher-priced coastal markets at the expense of the inventory-scare distressed markets has been the primary factor in fueling the statewide median price.”

Higher-priced markets with a “robust economy” are experiencing strong demand and posting double-digit year-over-year price increases, but sales were stagnant or declined in lower-priced markets that rely more on distressed properties, Appleton-Young said.

Sales of homes under $200,000 saw a 13.6 percent year-over-year decrease in August, while sales in every other price range rose. Homes above $500,000 saw the biggest jump, nearly 30 percent.


Source: California Association of Realtors.

Itching to remodel? Here’s a great financing option…

More lenders offering FHA 203(k) rehab loans

Impac Mortgage, Prospect Mortgage announce new initiatives

Inman News, Inman News, September 14, 2012, link

<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?id=99842459">Rehab project</a> image via Shutterstock.Rehab project image via Shutterstock.

With distressed and bank-owned properties often in need of work to make them move-in ready, more lenders are offering renovation loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration.

Irvine, Calif.-based Impac Mortgage says it will offer both standard and streamline FHA 203(k) loans through its consumer lending division starting in September.

Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Prospect Mortgage is opening a correspondent lending division to help lenders serve customers in search of FHA renovation loans.

“With so many REO and foreclosure properties available today, renovation lending has grown from a niche product to one of the best financing solutions in today’s market,” said Doug Long, president of Prospect Mortgage Retail and Correspondent Lending, in a statement.

Correspondent lenders originate and fund loans in their own name and, after closing, sell those loans to other, larger lenders.

“Through our new correspondent division, we’re excited to share our experience — and our commitment to renovation opportunities — by helping lenders offer the 203(k) product to capture new business and help more homebuyers,” Long said.

The FHA Section 203(k) program insures loans made by FHA-approved lenders for the rehabilitation and repair of single-family properties. Prospect Mortgage’s new correspondent lending division will focus on funding FHA 203(k) loans.

Impac Mortgage — the “doing business as” name of Excel Mortgage Servicing Inc., a subsidiary of Integrated Real Estate Service Corp. — say’s it’s entered into a relationship with another company, RenovationReady, to provide services to home buyers who want to renovate or rehabilitate their homes.

RenovationReady, a joint venture between Granite Companies and Chadron Group LLC, provides property certification, loan fulfillment, and risk management services for banks and mortgage professionals originating renovation loans, including FHA 203(k) and Fannie Mae HomeStyle or HomePath loans.

“With 70 percent of America’s housing stock being built before 1992 and too many foreclosed properties damaged and uninhabitable, we see a tremendous opportunity to meet the demands of an underserved market,” said Impac Mortgage President William Ashmore in a statement.

Prospect Mortgage is backed by Sterling Capital Partners, a private equity firm with about $5 billion of assets under management and offices in Chicago, Baltimore, and Miami. Citing HUD data, Prospect Mortgage says it is the second-largest FHA 203(k) loan originator in the country.

“We’ve … achieved this position by focusing on our renovation lending platform and consistently supporting it with a team of sales and operations specialists with more than a quarter century of renovation lending expertise,” Long said.

In July 2011, Prospect Mortgage agreed to pay $3.1 million to settle allegations by federal housing regulators that the company entered into sham affiliated business arrangements in order to pay kickbacks to real estate brokers, agents, banks, mortgage servicers and others who referred business to it. The company denied the allegations and agreed to dissolve the affiliated businesses.

It’s not too late for record rates…

Mortgage rates unchanged, still near record lows

MARCY GORDON, Associated Press, September 13, 2012, link

WASHINGTON — The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage held steady this week, staying slightly above the lowest level on record. Low mortgage rates have aided a modest housing recovery.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan was unchanged at 3.55 percent. In July, the rate fell to 3.49 percent, the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, slipped to 2.85 percent, down from 2.86 percent last week. That’s above the record low of 2.80 percent.

Cheap mortgages have helped lift the housing market. Sales of new and previously occupied homes are well above last year’s levels. Low rates have also allowed people to refinance, which lowers monthly mortgage payments and helps boosts consumer spending.

Home prices are increasing more consistently this year, largely because the supply of homes has shrunk while sales have risen. And the number of Americans who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth declined in the second quarter.

Still, the housing market has a long way back. Home sales are below healthy levels. And many people are still having difficulty qualifying for home loans or can’t afford larger down payments required by banks.

Mortgage rates are low because they tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. A weaker U.S. economy and uncertainty about how Europe will resolve its debt crisis have led investors to buy more Treasury securities, which are considered safe investments. As demand for Treasurys increase, the yield falls.

To calculate average rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country on Monday through Wednesday of each week.

The average does not include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

The average fee for 30-year loans was 0.6 point, down from 0.7 point last week. The fee for 15-year loans was changed at 0.6.

The average rate on one-year adjustable rate mortgages was steady at 2.61 percent. The fee for one-year adjustable rate loans also was unchanged, at 0.4 point.

The average rate on five-year adjustable rate mortgages fell to 2.72 percent from 2.75 percent. The fee declined to 0.6 point from 0.7.

Shadow inventory shrinks, next up for banks to sort: short sales…

Bankers shift from foreclosures to short sales

John W. Schoen, NBC News, September 13, 2012, link

The pace of completed home foreclosures slowed a bit in August nationwide, as banks increasingly turned to so-called short sales to avoid the lengthy process of seizing, maintaining and selling properties.

The pace of home seizures still varies widely on a state-by-state basis. Illinois had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation last month at  roughly one out of every 300 homes in some stage of the process, with both foreclosure starts and completions rising. Florida, California, Arizona and Nevada were also among the top five states with the highest foreclosure rates in August, according to the latest figures from RealtyTrac, a research firm that tracks foreclosures.

The wide variation reflects both the regional nature of the housing bust and differing state laws governing the foreclosure process. Some states have passed laws that have slowed the process.

As the pace of home seizures eased, foreclosure starts across the country edged up 1 percent from July, to about 99,000. But that pace is still 13 percent lower than August last year, according to RealtyTrac.

The foreclosure process slowed sharply in many states that require courts to review home seizures after a barrage of legal challenges to the process lenders use to seize homes. As those backlogged cases work their way through the system, in states like Florida and New York, the pace has picked up again. In many so-called non-judicial states, like California and Arizona, where there have been fewer cases backlogged, the number of foreclosure starts has declined.

 

The loss of homes remains highly concentrated in a handful of hard-hit states, with nearly half of all completed foreclosures in July coming in just five states, California, Florida, Michigan, Texas and Georgia, accounting to a separate report from CoreLogic.

While the pace of foreclosures is expected to continue to decline gradually, that trend won’t necessarily slow the pace of households losing their homes.

“Servicers increasingly rely on alternatives to the foreclosure process, such as short sales and modifications,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic.

Short sale
In a short sale, a lender agrees to accept less than the full mortgage balance when a home is sold. The process saves the lender the cost of maintaining and reselling a foreclosed property.

The decline in the pace of foreclosures also comes as five of the biggest U.S. lenders — Bank of America Corp, Wells Fargo & Co, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc and Ally Financial Inc — ramp up alternatives called for in a landmark $25 billion settlement with states reached in April. Last month, the monitor overseeing the settlement reported that those lenders provided $10.6 billion mortgage relief in the first four months of the program, most of which represented approval of short sales.

Attorneys general in the 49 states that negotiated the deal had hoped the settlement would prod more lenders to modify loans and write down principal balances for underwater homeowners. So far, lenders have provided $1.3 billion in those writedowns, according to the monitors report.

Bank of America Corp., which is required by the settlement to provide the largest portion of the relief, $8.6 billion, hadn’t completed any modifications of first-lien mortgages or refinancings as of June 30, according to the report.

The pace of principal writedowns has also been slowed because the federal regulator overseeing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has refused to allow the writedowns. Fannie and Freddie hold more than half of all residential mortgages.

The $1.3 billion in principal writedowns by the five big lenders is a drop in the ocean of underwater mortgages.

Nationwide, homeowners with mortgages owed some $689 billion more in the second quarter than their homes were worth, according to CoreLogic. The recent uptick in home prices is providing minimal relief; that number dropped by just $2 billion from the first quarter to the second quarter. Of all homeowners with mortgages, some 10.8 million – more than one in five – were still underwater in the second quarter, according to CoreLogic.

Much as foreclosures remain concentrated in a few states, borrowers are most likely to be underwater in states that suffered the steepest house price declines. In Nevada, nearly 60 percent of mortgaged properties are underwater, followed by Florida (43 percent), Arizona (40 percent), Georgia (36 percent) and Michigan (33 percent). Those five states account for just over a third of the so-called “negative equity” in the U.S.

Most of those borrowers, nearly 85 percent, are still paying their mortgages, according to CoreLogic.

Great news for homeowners…

Over Half-Million Underwater Mortgages Turned Positive in Q2

Jann Swanson, Mortgage News Daily, Sep 12 2012, link

The proportion of homeowners with negative or near equity in their homes declined in the second quarter of the year with 600,000 borrowers reaching a state of positive equity during the quarter making a total of 1.3 million so far this year.  Negative equity refers to a mortgage with a balance greater than the value of the home.

CoreLogic released a report Wednesday morning showing that 10.8 million homeowners, or 22.3 percent of those with a mortgage, were underwater at the end of the quarter, down from 11.4 million or 23.7 percent at the end of the first quarter.  An additional 2.3 borrowers* were classed as near-negative with less than 5 percent equity in their home.  Twenty-seven percent of all mortgaged homes nationwide had negative and near-negative equity mortgages at the end of the second quarter compared to 28.5 percent a quarter earlier.

The dollar value of negative balances was $689 billion at the end of the quarter, down $2 billion from Q1.  CoreLogic attributed the decline largely to improving house prices.  Despite their negative equity position 84.9 percent of these homeowners continue to pay their mortgages, a slight increase from 84.8 percent in the previous period.  In a report earlier this week, LPS noted that negative equity is, however a leading indicator of mortgage delinquencies.  The CoreLogic chart below reinforces that correlation.

“The level of negative equity continues to improve with more than 1.3 million households regaining a positive equity position since the beginning of the year,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Surging home prices this spring and summer, lower levels of inventory, and declining REO sale shares are all contributing to the nascent housing recovery and declining negative equity.”

“Nearly 2 million more borrowers in negative equity would be above water if house prices nationally increased by 5 percent,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “We currently expect home prices to continue to trend up in August. Were this trend to be sustained we could see significant reductions in the number of borrowers in negative equity by next year.”

CoreLogic said that 6.6 million underwater borrowers hold only a single mortgage compared to 4.2 million who hold both first and second mortgage liens.  The average homeowner in the first group has average underwater equity of $51,000 and account for $689 billion in aggregate negative equity; those in the second group are upside down by $84,000 for a total of $353 billion.

The bulk of negative equity is concentrated in the low end of the housing market. For example, for low-to-mid value homes (less than $200,000), the negative equity share is 32 percent, almost twice the 17 percent for borrowers with home values greater than $200,000.

At the end of the second quarter, just over 17 million borrowers had LTVs between 80 and 125 percent which would qualify them for refinancing through the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) under the original requirements first introduced in March 2009. The lifting of the 125 percent LTV cap via HARP 2.0 opens the door to another 5 million borrowers.

Nevada had the highest percentage of mortgaged properties in negative equity at 59 percent, followed by Florida (43 percent), Arizona (40 percent), Georgia (36 percent) and Michigan (33 percent). These top five states combined account for 34.1 percent of the total amount of negative equity in the U.S.

*Elsewhere in the report CoreLogic states, “As of Q2 2012, there were 1.8 million borrowers who were only 5 percent underwater. If home prices continue increasing over the next year, these borrowers could move out of a negative equity position” This number appears to be reflected in Nallathambi’s quote.

Thinking about Refis? I’ve got you covered…

Record Breaking Refis!

 CallToni, September 10, 2012, link


When HARP 2.0 passed in March of 2012, most were skeptical about it’s effectiveness. FHFA announced Friday that from January to July of this year over half a million loans were refinanced with the program. These new numbers are on track to meet, and surpass, original estimates by the end of this year. In fact, in just 7 months the program has far surpassed the 400,024 HARP refinances completed in all of 2011.

The program’s success has been attributed to record low interest rates and to several key changes in the HARP policy – most notably the removal of the Loan to Value ceiling, or LTV. In HARP 1.0 homeowners who were current, but underwater more than 125% were not eligible for a refinance. HARP 2.0 however, has no limit on LTV.

In June and July over half of borrowers who refinanced with HARP were underwater by more than 105%.

It’s hard to know for certain how long government programs like HARP will be in place, especially in an election year. If you think you may qualify to refinance under HARP 2.0 don’t wait to take advantage of record low interest rates.

Starting to live up to their name?

Short Sales Get Shorter

August 23, 2012, link


It looks like short sales may actually start living up to their name.

On November 1st 2012, as part of FHFA’s Servicing Alignment Initiative, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will implement new short sale guidelines to make the approval process faster and easier for eligible borrowers.

Here are the new changes:
– Streamlined documentation requirements (borrowers who are delinquent 90 days or more and have a credit score lower than 620 will no longer be required to prove hardship).
– The right to pursue deficiency judgements waived
– Freddie and Fannie to offer up to $6,000 to second lien holders as incentive to approve the short sale
– Borrowers who face specific hardships like loss of a co-borrower, divorce or legal separation, illness, disability, military or a job relocation of more than 50 miles will be eligible for a short sale even if they are not behind in payments.

If your loan is serviced by Fannie or Freddie you may also be eligible for upwards of $5,000 under the HAFA program.

Call us today if you have questions about the new program or to find out if your lender qualifies.