3 reasons why higher mortgage rates won’t slow the housing recovery

June 20, 2013: 10:36 AM ET CNN Money

 

History tells us a gradual rise in interest rates won't likely deter homebuyers.

FORTUNE – U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech Wednesday will likely push mortgage rates higher in the coming months. The central bank isn't going to raise interest rates soon, he assured, but if the economy continues improving the way it has, it will consider trimming its monthly bond purchases from the current level of $85 billion a month by the end of this year.

Bernanke's remarks roiled markets around the world.

U.S. Treasury bonds continued falling, with the 10-year yields hovering at 2.41% — the highest point in two years. Because mortgage rates tend to follow the 10-year, the borrowing costs of home loans will almost surely rise. For the first time in about a year, the 30-year mortgage rate jumped above 4% to 4.15% during the first week of June, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Some might worry higher mortgage rates could derail recovery of the housing market, but that will depend how quickly rates rise. And if history tells us anything, paying more is unlikely to hurt homeowners and buyers. Here's why:

Interest rates alone don't drive home prices.

If the past few economic recoveries say anything about interest rates, it's that the costs of taking out a home loan have almost no bearing on home prices.

Across 20 cities tracked by the Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller home price index, prices in May posted the biggest gains since 2006; the index rose 10.2% during the first three months this year.

The rebound has been driven by factors beyond borrowing costs, particularly as banks have tightened lending standards. For one, job growth has helped make families more willing to buy. Even though unemployment remains relatively high, employers have added jobs for 32 months in a row.

MORE: Bernanke won't blow up bond market

Also, the number of homes for sale remains unusually low for various reasons — there's been little construction in the last few years; many who still owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth have been reluctant to sell at a loss; and the number of foreclosures sold at deep discounts and short sales have declined.

True, higher interest rates do make buying a home more expensive; the rule of thumb is that for every one-percentage-point increase in mortgage rates, homebuyers pay 10% more. If interest rates rise too rapidly it could certainly slow home sales.

More broadly, though, a slower rise isn't likely to stall the housing market's recovery, experts say. During the last housing boom, interest rates were markedly higher than today's rate: The 30-year mortgage hovered between 5.5% to 7% between 2005 and 2006.

Higher rates aren't likely to stall homebuilders either. During recoveries following recessions in 1982 and 1991, interest rates were also far higher — 17.3% and 9.5%, respectively, says Patrick Newport, economist with IHS Global Insight. And yet, housing starts during both periods ran about an annual rate of 900,00 — roughly levels seen today, he adds.

It's (mostly) a mortgage-less recovery, anyway.

Home sales have steadily risen, but investors armed with cash have played an unusually large role. They're buying up foreclosed properties on the cheap — at times, known to compete with first-time buyers in full-on bidding wars, as The New York Times highlighted recently.

The percentage of homes bought with cash surged in many U.S. cities. Nearly a third of all homes sold in Los Angeles during the first three months this year were bought with cash, compared with a mere 7% in 2007. The same story has played out in Miami, where 65% of homes sold were cash deals, compared with 16% six years ago.

MORE: How to teach Americans to save? Treat them like children

It's easy to see the imbalance between investors and individual buyers. Record-low interest rates have spurred a refinance boom, where borrowers re-negotiate their existing mortgage to lock in the market's lower rates.

While higher rates have dampened the number of refis, they still make up a bulk of all mortgage applications. In May, refinance applications made up 73% of all mortgage applications, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Mortgage rates are still plenty low.

Even with the recent jump, mortgage rates are still super slow — close to half-century lows, as the Wall Street Journal noted Wednesday.

How big of an additional cost you'll incur with higher rates will largely depend on the price of your dream home, but as the Journal has calculated, a 4.15% rate for a 30-year mortgage works out to an additional $50 a month for a $192,800 home — the median price in April of a previously owned home.

And recall, mortgage rates today are about what they were in the spring of 2012, when many thought the cost of borrowing was still amazingly low. Interest rates will likely continue rising. Whether it derails the housing market's recovery will depend how gradually, experts say. By late 2014, the rate for a 30-year mortgage is forecast to rise up to 5.6%, says Celia Chen senior director at Moody's Analytics.

Even then, that's still lower than the average annual rate of 5.87% in 2005 and 6.41% in 2006 for 30-year mortgages recorded by Freddie Mac.

Posted on June 20, 2013 at 9:10 pm
Shelia Simmons | Category: Economic News, Real Estate News, Uncategorized

More homes listed anew; prices up 16 percent

By Kurt Batdorf HBJ Editor
Published: Friday, June 7, 2013 

EVERETT — Median sales prices on homes and condominiums in Snoho­mish County jumped by $40,000 in May from a year ago, due in no small part to the continuing decline in active listings.

New listings rose from 1,258 in May 2012 to 1,564 this May, an increase of 24 percent, but total active listing volume of 1,777 single-family homes and condos was still down by more than 25 percent year over year, Northwest Multiple Listing Service data released June 5 showed.

“There are still homeowners who want or need a higher equity position in order to sell their home, so they may continue to wait and watch,” said Dan Gunderson, broker with Windermere Everett.

That reluctance helped drive up median prices for homes and condos across the county by more than 16 percent, from $245,000 to $285,000. Median prices in the Bothell-Clearview-Maltby area were the highest in the county at $400,000, up 23 percent from $325,000 last May.

Closed sales rose from 1,000 to 1,310 units, an increase of 13.1 percent.

“We currently have significantly less inventory of bank-owned and short-sale properties,” Gunderson said. “New construction is currently about 15 percent of the inventory and we would like to see it at 20 percent. Supply is certainly a driver of the increased property values. Affordability, low interest rates and the job market in this region are contributing to the increased value as well.”

Ed Wendling, with Wendling Real Estate Services at Windermere Real Estate GH LLC in Edmonds, noted a number of drivers in the continuing price run-up.
Distressed properties, defined as short sales or lender-owned, accounted for 39 percent of closed sales at the end of the first quarter of 2013, down from 48 percent of the total market in 2011, Wendling said.

“Nondistressed sellers have the choice to sell, but many fear with the low inventory they will be unable to find a good replacement home and could be caught in the cold if their home were to sell quickly,” he said.

There is another segment of sellers who are on the cusp of being solvent with their home’s value.

“They are not delinquent and have strong desire to move but would have to bring money to closing in order not to be short,” Wendling said. “This would not allow them the necessary down payment for their next home so they need to sit on the sidelines waiting for home prices to rise.”

Across the rest of the 21-county Northwest MLS service area, inventory showed signs of improving with the addition of 11,445 new listings during May, the highest number since April 2010. May’s total outgained the year-ago figure of 9,861 new listings for a 16 percent improvement.

The increased inventory is “cooling some buyers,” said George Moorhead, managing broker at Bentley Properties in Mill Creek and a member of the MLS board of directors.

“We also have buyers who are stepping back as they are frustrated with current inventory and multiple offers going well above asking price,” he said.

That shows in the county’s MLS numbers of pending sales for May. They fell from 1,579 homes and condos to 1,487, a decrease of 5.8 percent.

“It has been refreshing to see more listings coming on the market, but with overall inventory remaining low, the competition among buyers is still fierce for homes that are priced properly,” said Northwest MLS director Kathy Estey, the managing broker at John L. Scott in downtown Bellevue.

Well-priced homes continue to draw multiple offers and sell at a brisk pace around Western Washington as buyers react to recent upticks in interest rates and asking prices, MLS brokers said.

“The economy has picked up to a level allowing home owners to feel financially secure,” Wendling said. “Together with the lack of inventory, pent-up demand and interest rates at historic lows, still below 4 percent, there are simply more buyers than sellers.”

Moorhead said increased activity is noticeable, with mixed outcomes.

“We are seeing multiple offers at 5 to 12 percent over list price in highly sought after areas,” he said. “But there are other homes on the market that are not selling, with no real reason why.”

Estey said recent interest rate increases are “adding fury to the already frenzied buyers who must finance their purchase.”

Federal officials have downplayed rising interest rates. In a recent interview, Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, addressed the issue.

“While this may slow some of the refinance momentum, rates are nonetheless low and home-buyer affordability high, which should further aid home sales and construction in coming weeks,” he said in a published report. “The rates are also lower today than they were a year ago at this time.”

Kurt Batdorf: 425-339-3102; kbatdorf@heraldnet.com.

Posted on June 14, 2013 at 6:56 pm
Shelia Simmons | Category: Uncategorized

Competition among home buyers “still fierce;” rising interest rates adding to fury

NWMLS, Kirkland, WA, June 5, 2013 – Well-priced homes continue to draw multiple offers and sell at a brisk pace around Western Washington as buyers react to increases in interest rates and asking prices. 

Northwest Multiple Listing Service reported double-digit gains in several key indicators it tracks for the 21 counties in its service area. Compared to a year ago, the number of new listings climbed 16 percent, pending sales increased about 10 percent, closed sales jumped nearly 22 percent, and prices rose more than 13 percent. Despite gains in listing activity, inventory remains tight.

Commenting on the latest report, brokers said the fast pace is frustrating some buyers — and surprising sellers with unrealistic expectations. One broker cautioned against an overheated market. "We do not want a market that escalates too fast and topples again," commented Frank Wilson, Kitsap district manager at John L. Scott Real Estate and branch managing broker for its Poulsbo/Kingston office.

"Overly aggressive sellers find themselves disappointed when no or low offers are presented," remarked Northwest MLS director Kathy Estey, the managing broker at John L. Scott in downtown Bellevue. 

With inventory apparently improving, some would-be buyers are staying on the sidelines. The increased inventory is "cooling some buyers," reported George Moorhead, managing broker at Bentley Properties in Mill Creek and a member of the MLS board of directors. "We also have buyers who are stepping back as they are frustrated with current inventory and multiple offers going well above asking price," he added.

Inventory showed signs of improving with the addition of 11,445 new listings during May, the highest number since April 2010. May's total outgained the year-ago figure of 9,861 new listings for a 16 percent gain.

"It has been refreshing to see more listings coming on the market, but with overall inventory remaining low the competition among buyers is still fierce for homes that are priced properly," commented Estey.

At month end, there were 21,943 total active listings in the Northwest MLS database, a drop of 4,248 from the same time a year ago for a decline of more than 16 percent. 

Buyers looking for condominiums will find slim pickings. Condos currently account for only about 10 percent of the available inventory. The area-wide selection, which numbers 2,253 listings, is down more than 26 percent from a year ago.  

Brokers reported nearly as many pending sales system-wide (10,045) as new listings (11,445). Nine counties reported year-over-year gains in pending sales that exceeded 30 percent (Clallam, Cowlitz, Ferry, Grant, Grays Harbor, Island, Kitsap, Lewis, and Okanogan).

Most metro area counties had more modest gains in pending sales: King (up 6 percent) Snohomish (down 5.8 percent) and Pierce (up 10.6 percent).

Closed sales continue to track well ahead of a year ago. During May, members tallied 7,349 completed transactions, outpacing the year ago total of 6,027 by nearly 22 percent. 

Prices jumped 13.4 percent from twelve months ago, rising from an area-wide median selling price of $242,500 to last month's price of $275,000. The median price for homes and condos that sold in both King County and San Juan County was $375,000 ($100,000 higher than the area-wide figure). In King County, that represented a gain of 15.4 percent, while for San Juan County prices edged up only about 1.8 percent compared to a year ago.

"We're seeing the trajectory of home prices beginning to soften and the number of days on the market decline," observed Mike Grady, president and COO of Coldwell Banker Bain, adding, "The trends suggest inventory levels are slightly more sustainable, but we're still clearly in a seller's market. For the foreseeable future, buyers will continue to pay more the longer they wait to purchase a home."

Frank Wilson, who is also a board member for Northwest MLS, said recent market activity is affecting home values. In Kitsap County, where his office is located, brokers added 575 new listings to inventory during May, improving on the year-ago total of 515. During the same period, MLS members reported 567 pending sales to soar past the year ago figure of 414 sales for an increase of nearly 40 percent. Median selling prices in Kitsap County rose 5.3 percent, from the year-ago figure of $228,000 to $240,000. 

"Slow and steady is the key here," Wilson cautioned, while also raising concern about low appraisals, which he described as the "inchworm effect" of the market. "As prices begin to appreciate we will continue to see challenges with low appraisals," he predicted.   

Moorhead said increased activity is very noticeable, with mixed outcomes. "We are seeing multiple offers at 5-to-12 percent over list price in highly sought-after areas," he reported, but also noted "there are other homes on the market that are not selling with no real reason why."

Some brokers also commented on rising interest rates.

Wilson said the biggest effect of the upswing in the real estate market has been the erosion of a buyer's buying power. In May alone, interest rates jumped almost 0.75 percent, he noted, which reduces a buyer's ability to purchase a $350,000 home by almost $31,000. Coupled with an increase in price, he said it "creates a compounding affect, which will frustrate buyers in today's market."  

Estey said interest rate increases are "adding fury to the already frenzied buyers who must finance their purchase."  A one-half percentage point increase in interest rates reduces buying power by 5 percent, she explained, adding, "so as prices increase about a percentage a month, the feeling of urgency mounts too." 

Commenting on the challenges buyers are encountering, Estey said, "The joy of buying a home in today's market is in the long-term result of settling in, but the competitive process is sometimes not so joyful! Hiring the right broker who can add some fun elements and insights while wisely guiding buyers through the decision process can make a huge difference," she suggests.

Federal officials are downplaying rising interest rates. In a recent interview, Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac's chief economist, commented on the latest rise that marked three consecutive weeks of increases. "While this may slow some of the refinance momentum, rates are nonetheless low and home-buyer affordability high, which should further aid home sales and construction in coming weeks," he remarked, adding, "The rates are also lower today than they were a year ago at this time."

Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member real estate firms, is the largest full-service MLS in the Northwest. Its membership includes more than 21,000 real estate brokers. The organization, based in Kirkland, Wash., currently serves 21 counties in Washington state.

###

Statistical summary and sources quoted follow.

Statistical Summary by Counties: Market Activity Summary – May 2013

Single 
Family
Homes 
+ Condos
LISTINGS PENDING
SALES
CLOSED SALES MONTHS
SUPPLY
New
Listings
Total 
Active
# Pending
Sales
#
Closings
Avg.
Price
Median
Price
 

King

4,352

4,832

4,041

3,122

$457,903

$375,000

1.20

Snohomish

1,564

1,777

1,487

1,131

$309,112

$285,000

1.20

Pierce

1,576

3,025

1,648

1,116

$234,875

$210,000

1.84

Kitsap

575

1,426

567

345

$286,870

$240,000

2.51

Mason

206

759

94

71

$178,045

$149,900

8.07

Skagit

245

785

226

149

$238,902

$220,020

3.47

Grays Hrbor

165

807

114

68

$143,411

$139,000

7.08

Lewis

187

700

90

74

$150,977

$134,500

7.78

Cowlitz

164

455

134

83

$174,330

$169,000

3.40

Grant

145

547

92

76

$169,412

$157,840

5.95

Thurston

506

1,121

482

332

$241,093

$225,500

2.33

San Juan

67

415

25

19

$519,047

$375,000

16.60

Island

279

834

199

117

$281,624

$240,000

4.19

Kittitas

150

447

66

60

$285,393

$217,995

6.77

Jefferson

123

466

53

40

$308,200

$298,750

8.79

Okanogan

114

447

48

28

$193,686

$147,950

9.31

Whatcom

552

1,448

398

279

$290,196

$250,000

3.64

Clark

83

149

69

54

$255,812

$229,000

2.16

Pacific

91

436

36

27

$136,736

$121,000

12.11

Ferry

11

76

4

5

$139,600

$151,000

19.00

Clallam

104

415

68

62

$191,923

$181,000

6.10

Others

186

576

104

91

$217,902

$179,900

5.54

MLS TOTAL

11,445

21,943

10,045

7,349

$343,639

$275,000

2.18

4-County Puget Sound Region Pending Sales (SFH + Condo combined)
(Totals include King, Snohomish, Pierce & Kitsap counties)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2000 3706 4778 5903 5116 5490 5079 4928 5432 4569 4675 4126 3166
2001 4334 5056 5722 5399 5631 5568 5434 5544 4040 4387 4155 3430
2002 4293 4735 5569 5436 6131 5212 5525 6215 5394 5777 4966 4153
2003 4746 5290 6889 6837 7148 7202 7673 7135 6698 6552 4904 4454
2004 4521 6284 8073 7910 7888 8186 7583 7464 6984 6761 6228 5195

2005

5426 6833 8801 8420 8610 8896 8207 8784 7561 7157 6188 4837

2006

5275 6032 8174 7651 8411 8094 7121 7692 6216 6403 5292 4346

2007

4869 6239 7192 6974 7311 6876 6371 5580 4153 4447 3896 2975
2008 3291 4167 4520 4624 4526 4765 4580 4584 4445 3346 2841 2432
2009 3250 3407 4262 5372 5498 5963 5551 5764 5825 5702 3829 3440
2010 4381 5211 6821 7368 4058 4239 4306 4520 4350 4376 3938 3474
2011 4272 4767 6049 5732 5963 5868 5657 5944 5299 5384 4814 4197
2012 4921 6069 7386 7015 7295 6733 6489 6341 5871 6453 5188 4181
2013 5548 6095 7400 7462 7743              

__________
Copyright © 2013 Northwest Multiple Listing Service

Posted on June 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm
Shelia Simmons | Category: Economic News, Real Estate News, Uncategorized

Seattle is nation’s 10th-fastest moving residential real estate market

May 23, 2013, 5:27am PDT on  Puget Sound Business Journal by  Contributing Editor- Puget Sound Business Journal  Email

With 47 percent of its homes selling in two weeks or less in April, Seattle is the nation's 10th-fastest-moving real estate market, and the third fastest outside of California.

Seattle-based Redfin ranked the nation's top 23 markets in April for how fast homes are selling, and San Jose, Calif., topped the list, with 65 percent of homes there selling in two weeks or less.

Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Philadelphia tied for being the nation's slowest-moving real estate markets, with only 10 percent of homes there selling in two weeks or less.

In Seattle, 34 percent of homes sold in one week or less in April, which only trailed the housing market of Washington, D.C., where 37 percent of homes there sold in one week or less. Seattle had 52 homes sell in 24 hours or less; Los Angeles led the country last month, with 236 homes selling in a day or less.

Nationally, Redfin's survey determined that 33 percent of homes in April sold in two weeks or less, and 20 percent sold in one week or less.

Posted on May 30, 2013 at 10:58 pm
Shelia Simmons | Category: Economic News, Real Estate News, Uncategorized

Snohomish County Real Estate Area 770 – May 2013

 

I thought you might like to see an update for our area Real Estate Market. Our inventory of available homes is very low and values continue to show increases. Area 770 or NW Snohomish County covers Marysville, Arlington and Stanwood on the west side of Highway 9 to the Skagit County line. Please call me if you have any questions.

~ Shelia

 

Facts and TrendsTM – Published May 2013*

Location: Northwest Snohomish County (770)
Property Types: Single Family Homes – All Property Statuses – All Properties – All Properties
Price Range: $0 – No Limit SQFT Range: 0 – No Limit Bedrooms: 0 – No Limit
Full Baths: 0 – No Limit Half Baths: 0 – No Limit Year Built: 0 – No Limit

 

Posted on May 23, 2013 at 3:20 pm
Shelia Simmons | Category: Economic News, Real Estate News, Uncategorized

3 Financial Reasons to Buy a Home NOW! (Part I)

 

by THE KCM CREW on MARCH 25, 2013
see post here

This week, we are going to look at the three financial reasons to buy a home now instead of waiting: prices are rising at an accelerated rate, interest rates are increasing and rents are skyrocketing. – The KCM Crew

Part I – Prices Are Rising at an Accelerated Rate

prices upThe price of a home is the major consideration when deciding whether or not it makes financial sense to purchase a house. Experts are not only projecting that house values will increase in 2013. They are also more optomistic in the level of appreciation they are projecting as the market begins to heat up. Here are some examples:

The Home Price Expectation Survey

The latest survey of a nationwide panel of 118 economists, real estate experts and investment and market strategists reveals they project home values to end 2013 up an average of 4.6% according to the first quarter. This is after they had projected a 3.1% increase just three months ago.

Bank of America

In a report titled, Someone Say House Party?, Bank of America analysts revised their projections upward:

“Home prices continue to show momentum amid shrinking inventory and record high affordability, prompting us to revise up our original forecast of 4.7% for home prices this year. We now expect national home prices, as defined by the S&P Case Shiller home price index, to increase 8% this year.”

Capital Economics

According to a report in DSNewsCapital Economics also upgraded their prediction:

“Strong demand and tight inventory have brought existing home sales back to ‘normal’ levels, and further gains are possible, according to the latest market report from Capital Economics. Additionally, market conditions may prompt lenders to “loosen the purse strings slightly” and lend a little more freely.

These conditions, combined with broader economic indicators, lead Capital Economics to revise its previous forecast of a 5% price gain this year up to 8%.”

Morgan Stanley

In an article from HousingWireMorgan Stanley joined the party:

“Strong momentum in home prices as well as housing activity gave Morgan Stanley analysts enough confidence to upgrade their home price appreciation projections to roughly 7% (from 5%) for 2013, according to its latest global securitized credit report…

“The momentum in most metrics of housing activity is running well ahead of the pace we had expected,” said James Egan, Jose Cambronero and Vishwanath Tirupattur, analysts for Morgan Stanley.”

Not only are prices projected to appreciate. Experts are actually revising their projections upward as demand maintains its momentum.

Tomorrow, we will look at increasing interest rates.

Posted on March 27, 2013 at 4:48 pm
Shelia Simmons | Category: Uncategorized

Home Prices Continue to Gain Strength:

By Regina Ludes, Tuesday, 26 February 2013 – 1:41pm





The 2012 year ended on a high note with U.S. home prices increasing 7.3 percent in December from December 2011, according to the latest S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index. However, U.S. home prices were down 0.3 percent from the third quarter of 2012.

The 10-City and 20-City Composites reported positive annual returns of 5.9 percent and 6.8 percent in 2012, while 19 of the 20 metro areas posted positive year-over-year growth. New York was the only city that showed a decline for the year, falling 0.5 percent. Phoenix continued its impressive growth, closing the year with 23 percent annual gain in 2012 and posting eight consecutive months of double-digit annual growth.

On a month-over month basis, both composites gained 0.2 percent in December from November. Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Miami posted the biggest monthly gains during December, while Chicago and Detroit recorded the biggest declines.

Posted on March 5, 2013 at 4:48 pm
Shelia Simmons | Category: Uncategorized

Hottest Months to Sell a Home

March and April are always the Hottest Months in our area.  February is a close second and by the end of May we are moving into the summer market.  If you are getting your home ready to go on the market, I recommend that you work hard so you don't miss the best time to sell that we have seen in a few years! 

 

Posted on February 26, 2013 at 4:43 pm
Shelia Simmons | Category: Uncategorized

The Weekly Economic & Real Estate Forecast – 02/18/13 to 02/22/13

By : Gardner Economics

A Discussion on the Seattle Economy & Real Estate Market

What I Saw Last Week

 Retail Sales rose by 0.1% in January -matching my forecast while the core rate (that excludes vehicle sales) increased by 0.2%.

The expiration of the payroll tax cut and the increase in taxes on high income earners as a result of the fiscal cliff — which will eventually reduce average incomes by roughly $1,000 per household over the whole of 2013 — was first felt in the beginning of January.  However, it was interesting to note that the negative effect from the income loss was not enough to drive overall spending levels lower in January.  The fact that spending held relatively strong in the face of declining incomes should be looked at as a net positive for overall economic conditions.

As a counterweight to this, however, in order for spending growth to stay positive in January, consumers were forced to dip into their savings.  Since many consumers were unaware that their tax rates were going to increase – namely because they did not realize that the payroll tax cut was not permanent – it is quite possible that consumers budgeted for January spending at their previously higher income levels.  Now that households understand that their income has permanently declined, the spending cuts that come with any drop in income may occur this month.

Initial Unemployment Claims fell from an upwardly revised 368,000 for the week ending February 2 to 341,000 for the week ending February 9. That is the lowest initial claims reading — excluding the biases from poor seasonal adjustment figures in the beginning of January — since February of 2008 and well below my call for a modest drop to 366,000.

The continuing claims level fell from 3.244M for the week ending January 26 to 3.114M for the week ending February 2.

The Department of Labor is not reporting any unusual factors that caused the initial claims level to drop below the 350,000 – 400,000 range where it has been for the better part of the last year.  If claims stay at this level for the next couple weeks, I would have to suggest that it would be a clear signal that labor market conditions are improving.

However, it is possible that the drop in the claims level was not due to normal market conditions and that winter storm Nemo disrupted businesses and may have played a role in causing the initial claims level to break out of its previous range.  Now, if this is the cause of the drop in claims, then the initial claims level will likely spike next week before settling back around 365,000 by the end of the month.

Consumer Sentiment strengthened in February moving from 73.8 to 76.3.  The February reading was the first improvement in sentiment since the fiscal cliff scare came to the forefront of consumers’ minds in December and was above my forecast for a slight drop in the index.

The Expectations Index increased to 68.7 from 66.6 in January while the Present Conditions Index rose to 88.1 from 85.0.

I am offering a word of caution.  As we get close to the beginning of the sequestration on March 1, damaging media reports about the economy may temper any further gains in sentiment.

What to Watch for This Week

After holding at 47 in December, the National Association of Home Builders Market Index for February should rise by one notch to 48.  Builders are feeling somewhat happier, albeit cautiously so.

Data on Housing Starts and Building Permit activity in January will be an interesting barometer on the overall economy.  Starts grew by 12.1% in December – the most starts since June of ’08.  I believe that the January figure will show a very slight contraction to 980,000 (SAAR).

Permit activity grew, albeit modestly, in December and I expect this number to continue to rise.  Look for a figure of around 918,000 (SAAR).

Initial Unemployment Claims will head back up to the recent average level.  Look for 358,000.

Inflation – as measured by the Consumer Price Index – has been declining or flat since October with the core rate (that excludes food and energy) flat for several months.  I do not believe that price trends are likely to shift in the coming months, therefore look to a figure of plus 0.1%.

Existing Home Sales in the US disappointed in December with a drop of 1% over the previous month, but were still 9.2% higher than seen in 2011.  I am not expecting much movement as inventory limitations are affecting sales volumes.  Look for the figure to remain at 4.94M units (SAAR).

Posted on February 18, 2013 at 6:35 pm
Shelia Simmons | Category: Uncategorized

February Title FAQs:

Why do I need title insurance?
A title search and examination ensures that all parties have a clear understanding of their interest before the transaction is completed. It enables them to resolve any potential defects and title claims before they result in losses. The policy insures the owner against loss caused by encumbrances of defects in the title.
 

How long does title insurance last?
Title insurance last as long as the insured has an interest in the property.  For the buyer, the policy is in effect for as long as the buyer or the buyer’s heirs own the property. For the lender, the policy is in effect until the loan is paid in full.

How much does it cost?
The title insurance premium is determined by the amount and type of coverage to be provided. Unlike other types of insurance, the premium is paid only once.

Who pays for title insurance?
Typically, the seller pays for the title insurance premium that will protect the buyer’s title to the property. This is by custom, not law, and the buyer and seller may negotiate who will bear the cost. If the buyer is obtaining a loan to purchase the property, the buyer is responsible to pay for the lender’s policy.

 

 

Posted on February 14, 2013 at 10:22 pm
Shelia Simmons | Category: Uncategorized