Archive for July, 2012

Work with jumbo mortgages? Here’s a useful webinar

image On Tuesday, August 7 at 3:00 PM, NAR and PNC Bank are hosting a free one-hour webinar about the jumbo mortgage market – PNC products in particular, but the information will apply (for the most part) across the board.

Participating in the webinar will be a loan originator (“to talk about the main weaknesses he sees in home buyers’ applications”), a Realtor who specializes in the jumbo market, and a PNC exec to discuss bank policy.

Also appearing will be NAR economist Ken Fears to talk about trends in the jumbo market.

Registration is free, but it’s required. Even better, if you register but can’t make it, you’ll get a recording of the webinar to watch at your leisure.

Click here to register.

Dueling headlines

Ah, economics — where anyone can make a case for anything affecting everything.

Witness these two headlines (and accompanying stories):

From Dan Green, we have “Pending Home Sales Index : With Low Mortgage Rates, Sales Rising

With 2012 half-over, home sales remain brisk. From San Francisco, California; to Phoenix, Arizona; to Miami, Florida, low mortgage rates and rising prices are helping to get buyers off the fence and into new homes.

While DS News reports, “Capital Economics: Low Mortgage Rates Aren’t Affecting Demand

In recent months, data from the Mortgage Bankers Association, Freddie Mac, Bankrate, and other firms has shown mortgage rates steadily falling, hitting new lows week after week in some measures. However, Capital Economics contends that there is actually little evidence to suggest that this activity is translating into heavier demand.

So which is true?

...back to teacher's dirty looks.If you’ve got clients who have just moved to Virginia — maybe trying to get into a new house before the school year starts — don’t forget to remind them about Virginia’s upcoming back-to-school tax holiday August 3-5.

School supplies $20 and under, and clothing/footwear $100 and under will be exempt from Virginia’s 5% local sales tax — that includes stuff like pens, notebooks, backpacks, even jeans and T-shirts.

Off with her head! An HOA in Denver has fined a resident $200 for having brown spots on her lawn — in the middle of a severe water shortage.

The city of Denver has declared a “Stage 1 drought,” meaning “customers are asked to voluntarily cut back outdoor water use to help reduce the risk of more severe watering restrictions.”

But the Green Valley Ranch Homeowner’s Association doesn’t care about any stinkin’ water restrictions — those are for other people. So it’s fined Lori Worthman $200 for having those brown spots on her lawn, which HOA president James Tanner said means the house “looks like trash.”‘

To be fair, Worthman had been warned before about her lawn color not meeting neighborhood specs.

“I’m glad to try to reseed again when it cools off, but we’re in the middle of a heat wave,” she said.

Interestingly, it’s illegal for Colorado residents to catch the rainwater that falls on their property unless they have a well and don’t get “city water” — and they can only use the collected water for drinking and bathing, not something like watering a lawn or garden.  Utah and Washington impose similar restrictions.

[Updated to clarify Colorado's water-collection law.]

NAR: Pending home sales up 9.5% in June

NAR’s June Pending Home Sales Index, which counts contracts (not closings) was up 9.5% over June 2011. This might indicate a coming rise in sales, which typically follow contracts by a month or two.

A nifty Realtor gadget: Impress your clients for about $8

imageHere’s a nifty little tool you might want to stick in your pocket or purse for when you’re checking out a property: An ultraviolet flashlight.

They cost less than 10 bucks, and they can be quite an eye-opener.

What do they do? They make bodily fluids glow green. If you’ve watched CSI you’ve seen them at work, although you probably won’t be looking for blood (or other) stains after a murder.

I got one of these from the good folks at Battery Junction. (I can’t praise the store enough. Good prices, great selection, and incredible customer service. And no, they aren’t paying me to say that.) It uses AAA batteries and should last virtually forever.

First use: Check out my nine-year-old’s bathroom. I turned off the main light, shined the UV flashlight around the toilet, showed him what I saw, and instructed him to clean. (He was not nearly embarrassed enough, in my opinion.)

But what made me realize the value of this as a Realtor tool was when I took it to the carpet downstairs. We have dogs and cats, and they, sadly, have accidents. I figured I could find any spots that needed attention and take the carpet cleaner to them.

Well, the previous owners also had dogs, and apparently also had issues. Because I found not the few spots I imagined, but lots. And lots. Green glowing sections all over the place — more so than our animals could have made in the few months we’ve been here.

See, the UV light detects these things long after they’ve dried. So what appeared to be a beautifully clean carpet turned out to have, well, a history. imageAnd this was after multiple uses of a carpet cleaner. Scary, huh?

What this tells me is that I need to get hold of some serious Nature’s Miracle, which should actually break down the long-dried urine and let me clean it out for good. Luckily, there’s no way to tell these hidden stains are there without the light. There’s no smell — but now that I know they’re there, I must destroy them.

So, can you imagine taking one of these lights with you with a buyer? Shine it on the carpet and see how clean those carpets really are.

Oh, and heavy-duty versions of these lights are used by some hotels, too, to make sure the rooms are really clean. Still, I’m taking mine with me next time I stay in one, although I’m afraid to shine it on the bedspread.

Meanwhile, The Boy’s bathroom is clean, although he says he’s never going barefoot in the house again.

Click here for the light I bought — it’s $7.95 with discounts if you buy 10 or more. Brokers take note.

Starts, new-home sales both up in June

Nationwide new-home sales jumped 15.1% in June from 2011 according to the Census Bureau and HUD.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department reports that housing starts were not only up in June, but hit their highest level in 3 1/2 years.

Home sales = pickup sales

 I was a lonely, teenage broncin' buck with a pink carnation and a pickup truck. We talk a lot about how housing drives the rest of the economy, and here’s a great example. The Wall Street Journal points out how there’s a direct correlation between home sales (particularly new homes) and pickup truck sales. To wit:

Home construction is the most important driver of light-truck sales, and pickups are big profit makers for General Motors, Ford Motor Co., and Chrysler Group.

“Auto makers,” the paper says, “are encouraged by the latest housing indicators. In June, the rate of new-home construction rose to the highest level in four years, on pace for 760,000 on an annual basis. A continuing recovery in home construction should translate into even faster growth in truck sales in the second half and in 2013.”

The timing is good, too:

A boost in truck sales in the U.S. could increase profits enough to balance out falling sales in Europe and South America.

Read all about it.

A few changes coming to Buzz

In the interests of giving people the most interesting and useful information, we’re going to be making some minor changes here.

1. There are so many stats coming out every week that writing about anything other than the unexpected and unusual is probably not called for. So as new numbers come out, I’ll just pop them up in a quick post:

New home sales

The Department of Whatever says new home sales are up 12.3%. [link]

Change must come from within. Or not. I’ll save the longer posts for trends, oddities, and the like.

2. I’m going to try to make posts easier to read, probably by simply boldfacing the most important text. That’ll make it more skimmable. There may be some minor design changes, too, for that reason.

3. Unless there’s a hue and cry, I’m not going to report as much about refinancings and other issues of the housing market that aren’t Realtor focused. There’s a ton of data about it, thanks to all the programs out there, but it strikes me that Realtors are more interested in sales than in refi. (I could be wrong. Please tell me.)

4. Look for more interactive stuff – polls, quizzes, etc. Just because.

And… that’s about it.

Part of VAR’s mission is to keep you informed about the real estate environment, and I want to do that in the best way possible. But the only way I’ll know if I’m doing it right is if you tell me. So please do — drop me a note if you have ideas. I’m very, very interested in them.

Home sales up 11%, prices up 7% in 2012-Q2

The Second Quarter 2012 Virginia Home Sales Report has been released and nearly all state-wide indicators show a much improved housing market in the Commonwealth.

As shown above, the pace of home sales in the second quarter of 2012 marked an 11% improvement over the second quarter of 2012.

The median residential sales price increased 7.5% in Virginia over the past year and has increased by 6.8% over the past three years.

The median residential sales price increased 7.5% in Virginia over the past year and has increased by 6.8% over the past three years.

Click here for full report.