Freddie Mac announced yesterday that for the first time in history, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage has dropped below 4.00%  to 3.94%.  Rates for 15-year fixed rate mortgages are even lower, at 3.26%.  Last year at this time the 30-year rate was 4.27%  and the 15-year at 3.72%.

When you combine the low rates with prices that have generally declined throughout the county you have a great opportunity to buy more home for less money.   On a $300,000 mortgage the principal and interest payment at 4.27%  is $1479 per month.  At 3.94%  the monthly payment is $1421 per month.   That is a savings of $58 per month which may not sound like much, but over the length of the mortgage, that is a savings of over $20,880.

So whether you’re looking for your first home, a move-up, or an investment property, now is a great time to buy!  Curious about what’s available?  Give me a call and I’ll be happy to send you some listings of homes and investment opportunities throughout San Diego County.

Overall, August was a good month and sales of detached and attached homes were up compared to August of 2010.  However, it’s the year-to-date numbers that tell the real story.

Compared to 2010, our year-to-date volume is down by 8.9%  for condos and 1.9%  for detached homes, and values have also slipped.  The median price for an attached home in August was $208,000 which is down significantly from a year ago when it was $220,500.  Detached homes have done slightly better, but the median price of $370,000 is nearly 4% down from $385,000 last year.

Some areas of course have fared better than others:

The year-to-date median price for a detached home in Cardiff  by The Sea is $892,500, up from $825,000 a year ago. Carmel Valley is also doing well with a median price of $915,500 up from $905,000.  And there has been little change in either Del Mar or La Jolla over the last year…both are holding steady at a bit over $1.3 million.

For most of the rest of the county however, home values have dropped.  We especially see this in areas that were new in 2005-2006.  Many of the homes purchased at the top of the market have now become foreclosures or short sales which tend to pull down the overall values in any neighborhood.

If you have questions about a specific area, just give me a call. 

 

 

Anyone who knows me would probably say that I’m a fairly optimistic person, but lately it seems as though the real estate market is developing into a vicious cycle with no way to correct itself.   In a report released on Monday, the researchers at Capital Economics said that we could expect nationwide home prices to fall an additional 3% this year, bringing the year’s total decline to about 5%.  So, despite the fact that some markets inSan DiegoCountyhave seen modest gains in home prices over last year, overall, the picture is less than rosy.

So what are the driving forces behind this downward spiral?  Well, the obvious answer is that there are many complicated factors at play, but the cycle we’re seeing is really pretty simple:   Housing prices are falling due to low demand and too much inventory. Normally after a recession, home sales start to pick-up, but that’s not what we’re seeing.  Instead, demand is being strangled by increasingly stringent lending requirements which restrict buying power.  So instead of more buyers coming into the market to take advantage of the low interest rates, we’re seeing fewer that are able to qualify because of high credit score and/or high down payment requirements.   Even existing homeowners looking to sell and buy up or down are caught in a stalemate as most have limited or no equity to leverage against a new property. 

The cycle picks up momentum every time prices drop.  Lower prices, mean less equity for existing homeowners and for those with a mortgage, an increasing number of borrowers are choosing strategic default.  These voluntary defaults are adding to the foreclosure inventory already on the market and the estimated 5 million foreclosed homes lurking in the shadows.  And so the cycle continues; more foreclosures create a bloated inventory.  With an insufficient number of buyers able to buy, sales drop and prices fall, which breeds more foreclosures, and on, and on.

As I’ve noted before, I’m no economist and certainly don’t have all the answers, but there are clearly two actions that could put the brakes on falling prices and encourage increased sales:

  1. Congress should oppose the Quality Residential Mortgage (QRM) requirements being proposed.   The QRM would require an unnecessarily high down payment of 20% and impose a very stringent debt-to-income ratio for conventional loans.  The result would be that more borrowers would seek FHA loans, which in turn would likely raise qualification standards and insurance requirements.  The bottom line result will be fewer qualified buyers and fewer sales.
  2. Banks need to address the issue of negative equity by offering programs that provide principal reductions.  When a borrower feels that he/she is paying on lost equity that they will never recoup they are more likely to choose to default, adding to the inventory glut.

Do you have any ideas about breaking the cycle of falling prices?  I’d love to hear from you!

 

A recent study by analytics company CoreLogic reported that nearly 25% of all mortgage borrowers owe more than their home is worth.  The aggregate amount of negative equity in the U.S. was a whopping $750 billion at the end of last year.   This lost equity prevents homeowners from refinancing or moving, and according to the report, is the “dominant factor” driving the real estate market.

If you’re among the millions who are paying each month for negative equity, you probably have some questions about your options.  To help address this issue, I’m offering a FREE workshop here in San Diego covering the following:

  • Should I wait for home values to increase?  What is the future of San Diego real estate?
  • What about a loan modification?  What programs are available, how do I qualify, and how many loan modifications are actually approved?
  • If I can’t afford my payments, what are my options?
  • What is involved in the foreclosure process?  How long can I stay in my home? How will it affect my credit?
  • Will filing Bankruptcy save my home?
  • What is a strategic default?  What are the risks?
  • What is a Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure?
  • Is a short sale better than foreclosure?  What is the process? What is a HAFA short sale?
  • What about deficiency judgments and 1099s?  When can I qualify to buy again?

Saturday, June 25th  10:00 – 11:30 a.m. 

San Diego County Library, 4S Ranch

10433 Reserve Dr, San Diego, CA 92127

There is no fee or obligation for attendance, but space is limited.  Advance registration is required.  Homeowners will receive comprehensive workshop materials.

Call 1-888-464-1820 x104 to Register Today

As mentioned previously, I’m not an accountant or lawyer and you should always consult the appropriate professional before making any major decision about your home.

 

Back in November, and then again in December, I predicted that San Diego had seen the bottom and we would continue to see small gains in home values in 2011.  Over the first quarter however, there has been a lot of talk and statistics about home prices falling nationwide and some folks seemed anxious to prove me wrong. 

Well this morning, I can happily say I was right.  The just-released Standard and Poors/Case-Schiller Home Price Index for January reveals a 1.00% decrease in home values over the previous month…….except for two cities, Washington, D.C. and San Diego!  The index tracks values in 20 cities and overall, values were down 3.10% over January 2010 – only Washington, D.C., and San Diego showed a year-to-year gain.

So, to all of you who are waiting to buy in San Diego, fearful that values will continue to drop, pay attention.  Now is the time to buy….unless of course you want to pay 2.00-4.00% more at a higher interest rate a year from now.  Just a thought.

Once again, Santa forgot to bring me a crystal ball.  So this look into the future of the housing market is based on trends from the past year, projections from those that crunch the numbers, and my gut feelings based on life in the real estate trenches.

Foreclosures continued to be the top story in 2010 with robo-signing and questionable practices making headlines.  In 2011 so-called shadow inventory will be making news as it grows and clogs the pipeline.  This includes borrowers that are 90 days or more delinquent, homes in foreclosure, and bank-owned properties not yet on the market.  S & P estimates that it will take 41 months to clear the backlog, continuing to slow the recovery.

Short sales will increase as the government and lenders try to stem the deluge of foreclosures that add to the shadow inventory.   Right now about 35% of defaults end in a cure or short sale.  I see that number growing as banks and the government iron out the problems with HAFA (Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives), and the processing of short sales is streamlined.

Loan modifications will continue to be largely unsuccessful.   There is some hope for small improvement in the numbers if the FHA principal reduction program can be expanded.

Mortgage interest rates jumped this last month, but are gradually heading down.   Frank Nothaft, chief economist for Freddie Mac foresees rates staying below 5.00% throughout the year.  Let’s hope he’s right.

Home sales will increase, especially for first-time buyers, provided interest rates remain low and the economy continues to improve.  If unemployment continues to decrease and incomes increase we should see an increase in home sales over 2010 by the 2nd half of the New Year.

Home values throughout most of the country will reach the bottom by mid-year and many areas, such as San Diego County will see modest gains of 2.00 – 4.00%.  The exception continues to be the luxury home market where home prices in locations such as La Jolla and Rancho Santa Fe will continue to decline.

My advice?  If you own a home and are not terribly upside-down, hang tight.  Looking to buy?  Do it now!  This is a great time to purchase your first home or pick-up an investment property.  Struggling with your payments?  Let’s explore your options, before it’s too late.  Overall, I’m cautiously optimistic.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

This year alone U.S. homes are projected to lose $1.7 trillion in value.  Since the market peaked in 2006 there has been over $9 trillion in lost equity, according to Zillow.  But let’s put that in perspective.

Zillow cites a report by the Congressional Research Service, which says that from 2001 to the end of September of this year, the war in Iraq has cost the U.S. $750.8 billion.  This means that since 2006, the dollar value of home equity lost by U.S. homeowners is greater than the cost of 12 Iraq wars!

Now some might argue that home equity in 2006 wasn’t “real” money, and that inflated prices only created the illusion of equity.  Well, most of the country based many financial decisions on that illusion and by the end of the 3rd quarter 2010; more than 23.2% of homeowners owe more than their house is worth.

Looking forward into 2011, Dr. Stan Humphries, Zillow’s chief economist, doesn’t see the market settling into a natural equilibrium of supply and demand any time soon.  “Unfortunately, with foreclosures near an all time high in late 2010, and negative equity persisting, it does not appear that the first part of 2011 will bring much relief,” he said.

One bright spot for San Diego emerged however.  Out of the 129 market areas tracked by Zillow, only one-quarter showed any increase in value in 2010, led by Boston with a spike in residential home values of $10.8 billion and San Diego metro with an increase of $10.2 billion.

The message for San Diego homeowners:  Hang-on if you can and you’re not too far underwater.  For would-be buyers:  Don’t wait!  Prices and interest rates are on the rise.