Pending Home Sales Rise For 3rd Straight Month

Pending Home Sales 2009-2011Buyers are writing contracts at a furious pace nationwide.

On a seasonally-adjusted basis, the Pending Home Sales Index rose 2 percent last month to reach its highest level since March.

A "pending home sale" is a home under contract to sell, but not yet closed. 

The forward-looking Pending Home Sales Index is up 11 percent from its low of the year, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, and well ahead of its rolling 6-month average.

Unfortunately, national data isn't always helpful for buyers and sellers in Kennesaw and nationwide. To help make data more relevant, therefore, the official Pending Home Sales Index report includes a region-by-region breakdown

Between May and June 2011, results were mixed:

  • Northeast Region: -0.4%
  • Midwest Region : -3.7%
  • South Region : +4.4%
  • West Region : +6.4%

However, even the value of regional data may be dubious.

The West Region, for example, which showed big gains in June, is comprised of multiple states containing thousands of cities and towns. Some of those areas outperformed the region, and some of them underperformed. The Pending Home Sales Index doesn't show which towns did which. It can't.

For everyday buyers and sellers in BrookStone , it's the local data that matters.

The Pending Home Sales Index shows that more contracts were written in June than in April or May -- a good sign for housing overall. And because 80% of all contracts close within 60 days, we can expect the summer's home resale activity to be high.

This leads home prices higher.

With mortgage rates low and home sales spiking, now may be the best time to buy a home in 2011. Home prices appear to be rising and mortgage rates should, too.


16 of 20 Case-Shiller Cities Show Improvement In May

Case-Shiller Index May 2011

Standard & Poors released its May 2011 Case-Shiller Index this week. The index measures change in home prices from month-to-month, and year-to-year, in select U.S. cities.

May's Case-Shiller Index showed a 1 percent increase from April 2011. Home values rose in 16 of the Case-Shiller Index's 20 tracked markets. Only Detroit, Las Vegas and Tampa fell. Phoenix was flat.

Don't look too far into the findings, though. Like the FHFA's Home Price Index, the Case-Shiller Index is rife with flaws.

The first flaw of the Case-Shiller Index is its limited geography. Despite being positioned as a national housing index, Case-Schiller Index is sourced from just 20 cities nationwide. There are more than 3,100 municipalities nationwide.

The Case Shiller Index's second flaw is that it ignores all home types excepts for single-family, detached homes in its findings. Condominiums, multi-family homes, and new construction are not included in the Case-Shiller Index.

In some markets, these excluded home types outnumber the included ones.

Furthermore, the Case-Shiller Index is flawed in that it takes 60 days to release.

The Case-Schiller Index reports on a housing market from 2 months ago -- hardly helpful for today's buyers and sellers in Atlanta , trying to make sense of today's real estate market data. 

When you want real-time housing market data, therefore, for Vinings or anywhere else, look past the Case-Shiller Index and talk to a real estate professional instead. It's where you'll get your best, most relevant information.


New Home Supplies Keep Shrinking; Prices Pressured Higher

New Home Supply 2010-2011Home builders are slowly reducing inventory.

According to Census Bureau data, the number of new homes slid 1 percent from May. On a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, home buyers bought 312,000 newly-built homes last month.

It's the third straight month of falling sales and the headline data casts the Marietta housing market in a negative light.

Upon closer inspection, however, the numbers appear quite strong. 

First, sales are down marginally. Total units sold have dropped just 2 percent from the highs of the year. And, second, the number of newly-built homes for sale is down markedly from last year

There are 22% fewer new homes for sale today as compared to June 2010

At today's sales pace, the complete new home inventory would be sold in 6.3 months -- the quickest sell-out window since the expiration of the 2010 federal home buyer tax credit.

Builders are feeling better about their business, too.

After falling to a 9-month low, homebuilder confidence rebounded this month, boosted by expectations for a strong fall season. For buyers across Georgia , this could be seen as a market-shifting signal.

When builder confidence rises, negotiating for upgrades and price reductions can be tougher; "good deals" get scarce.

If you're a home buyer and are considering new construction, don't let the headlines fool you. Sales figures are slipping, but that's because there are fewer homes are for sale nationwide. The inventory is shrinking and that can push home prices higher.

With mortgage rates still low, today's market may be your best value of the year.


Is An FHA Mortgage Better Than A Conforming One?

FHA vs Conforming Mortgage Rates 2005-2011

The FHA is insuring a greater percentage of loans than during any time in recent history. In 2006, it insured roughly 5 percent of the purchase mortgage market. Today, it insures one-quarter. "Going FHA" is more common than ever before -- but is it better?

The answer -- like most things in mortgage -- depends on your circumstance.

Like its conforming counterpart, an FHA-insured mortgage is available as a fixed-rate loan and as an adjustable-rate one. Payments are made monthly and come without prepayment penalties.

That's where the similarities end, however, and decision-making begins. For homeowners and buyers across Atlanta , FHA mortgages carry a different set rules as compared to conforming loans through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac that can render them more -- or less -- attractive for financing.

For example:

  • FHA mortgages can be assumed by a subsequent buyer. Conforming loans may not.
  • FHA mortgages require mortgage insurance, regardless of downpayment. Conforming loans do not.
  • FHA mortgages do not have loan-level pricing adjustment. Conforming loans do.

FHA mortgages also require smaller downpayment requirements versus a comparable conforming mortgage. FHA calls for a minimum downpayment of 3.5%. Conforming mortgages often require 5 percent or more.

And, lastly, FHA mortgages are priced differently from conforming ones. Since 2005, the average FHA mortgage rate has been below the average conforming mortgage rate more than 50% of the time, meaning that an FHA mortgage's principal + interest payment is lower than a comparable Fannie/Freddie loan.

Today, conforming mortgage rates are lower.

So, which is better -- FHA loans or conforming ones? Like most things in mortgage, it depends. FHA-insured loans can be big money-savers or money-wasters. To find out which is best for you, ask your loan officer for today's market interest rates and study the results.

With less than 20% equity, the answer is often clear.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : July 25, 2011

Congress debates the debt ceilingMortgage markets worsened last week as the Greek sovereign debt situation came closer to final resolution, and as the U.S. housing market showed signs of life.

After many weeks, European leaders agreed on a financial package for Greece that featured favorable loan terms designed to slow Eurozone contagion, along with a built-in, 37 billion euro "haircut" for private-sector investors.

The accord pleased Wall Street. Equities rallied after the announcement. Mortgage bonds sank.

Bonds also sank after a strong home builder confidence report Monday. 

Last week, conforming and FHA fixed mortgage rates increased in Georgia and for the first time in 3 weeks. Adjustable-rate mortgages slipped slightly.

The interest rate spread between the Freddie Mac 30-year fixed rate and 5-year ARM is back near its all-time high.

This week, mortgage rates will be guided by Congress's on-going U.S. debt ceiling debate. The United States government is expected reach its legal $14.294 trillion debt limit August 2, 2011. Congress must either vote to raise the debt ceiling, or take steps to reduce debt prior to August 2.

The debt ceiling was last raised February 12, 2010.

It's unclear in which direction Congress will vote. Therefore, mortgage rates may be erratic until a deal is reached. If the debt limit is raised, expect mortgage rates to rise. This is because carrying high levels of debt can devalue the U.S. dollar and mortgage bonds are less valuable as the dollar weakens.

On the other hand, if Congress votes to make cuts in the budget, mortgage rates should fall. This is because fewer treasury securities will be issued, creating fewer inflationary pressures on the U.S. economy. Inflation is linked to higher mortgage rates.

Also this week : New Home Sales (Tuesday), Pending Home Sales (Thursday), Consumer Sentiment (Friday), plus Treasury auctions of 2-year, 5-year and 7-year notes. Each event can move mortgage rates so be ready to lock at a moment's notice. 

Mortgage rates remain low. By August 2, they could be much higher.


Home Prices Rise For The 2nd Straight Month

Home Price Index since the April 2007 peakA strong spring season helped home values recover, says the government.

According to the Federal Home Finance Agency's Home Price Index, home prices rose a seasonally-adjusted 0.4 percent from April to May.

It's the HPI's second straight increase, and puts the monthly index at its highest point since January 2011.

As a home seller in Atlanta , you may appreciate news such as "rising home prices", but it's important to remember that the Home Price Index has a several built-in flaws -- the biggest of which its age.

Today, the calendar nearly reads August, yet, we're still discussing May's housing data. A 2-month delay does little to help buyers and sellers wanting to know the "right now" of housing.

Unfortunately, the Home Price Index data is even more aged than that.

Because the FHFA's Home Price Index measures home prices as recorded at closing, the actual sales prices included in the index are from real estate contracts written 30-60 days prior.

In other words, when we look at the Home Price Index report for May, what we're really seeing is a snapshot of the housing market as it existed in March. March's housing market has little to do with the forces driving home prices today.

Today's real estate market is driven by today's economics.

The Home Price Index is a useful gauge for economists and law-makers; it shows long-term national trends in the housing market which can be used to allocate resources to a project, or to form new policy. For home buyers across the state of Georgia , though, it's less helpful.

For today's real estate buyers and sellers, there's no substitute for real-time data. For that, talk to a real estate professional.


Existing Home Sales Fall To 8-Month Low

Existing Home Supply June 2010-June 2011

Home resales slipped for the 3rd straight month, according to data from the National Association of REALTORS®.

The Existing Home Sales posted a 1 percent drop from May as the number of homes sold fell to a seasonally-adjusted, annualized 4.77 million units. It's the monthly report's lowest reading since November 2010.

The report also showed the national supply of homes for sales rising to 9.5 months -- also its highest reading since November 2010.

Home Supply is the amount of time it would take to exhaust the complete home inventory at the current pace of sales.

June's Existing Home Sales data would have been stronger if not for a high contract cancellation rate. As compared to May's 4 percent rate, June's cancellation rate was 16 percent; an elevated figure that "stands out in contrast" to what's typical, according to the REALTOR® trade group.

By region, home resale activity varied:

  • Northeast : -5.2% from May 
  • South :+0.5% from May
  • Midwest : +1.0% from May
  • West : -1.7% from May

This disparity from region-to-region highlights an important housing market concept. Namely, that all real estate is local. Because just as the Existing Home Sales varies on a regional level, it varies on a state-wide level, too.

What's true for California housing is not necessarily what's true for Florida housing, for example. Each of the 50 states has its own trends, and within those 50 states, there are thousands of cities and neighborhoods, each with their own trends, too.

The "national housing market" doesn't exist, so national data is rendered somewhat useless.

For data in Marietta or your local market, talk to your real estate agent.


GA Housing Starts Surge 9 Percent; Signal A Strong Fall Season

Single-family housing starts
Georgia Builders are busy once again, but not like 2007
According to the Census Bureau, Single-Family Housing Starts rose to 453,000 on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis in June -- a 9 percent spike from the month prior and the highest reading in 3 seasons.
A "Housing Start" is defined as a home breaking ground on new construction.
June's reading is largest one-month jump since June 2009. The reading surprised Wall Street despite that the Homebuilder Confidence survey may have foreshadowed the results.
Monday, the National Association of Homebuilders reported that builders are more confident about the future of the new home sales market, and forecast a large increase in sales over the next 6 months.
For buyers of new construction, the news is mixed. Rising confidence may mean that builders in Kennesaw are less willing to negotiate on upgrades and/or price, but rising construction levels add inventory to an already fragile market.
Adding to the nation's home supply without a corresponding increase in buyer demand shifts negotiation leverage away from builders.
The Census Bureau also reported on Building Permits.
In June, permits for single-family homes rose by 1,000 units nationwide on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. This, too, bodes well for housing because 89 percent of homes with permits start construction within 60 days.
Momentum should carry forward into fall.
If you're buying new construction in Georgia , ask your real estate agent about local home supply, and how the market is trending. With mortgage rates low and the fall buying season approaching, you may find some of your best deals in the next few weeks.


Led By Expectations Of A Strong Fall Season, GA Homebuilder Confidence Bounces Back

Housing Market Index (Homebuilder Confidence)
Georgia Homebuilder confidence is bouncing back.
One month after an unceremonious dip highlighted by poor sales figures and dim prospects for the future, the National Association of Homebuilder's Housing Market Index rebounded two points to 15 in July.
The monthly Housing Market Index is scored on a 1-100 scale. Readings above 50 indicate favorable conditions for homebuilders and the "new home" market. Readings below 50 indicate unfavorable conditions.
The Housing Market Index has not read higher than 50 in more than 5 years.
As a housing metric, the HMI is actually a composite of three separate surveys, self-reported by builders. The surveys ask about current single-family home sales volume; projected single-family home sales volume; and current buyer foot traffic levels.
In July, the responses read as follows :
  • Current single-family sales : 15 (+2 from June)
  • Projected single-family sales : 22 (+7 from June)
  • Buyer foot traffic : 12 (Unchanged from June)
The most noteworthy reading is the rapid rise in Projected single-family home sales. Although builders aren't experiencing more foot traffic, they think sales will spike between now and the New Year.
That could spell bad news for Kennesaw home buyers.
When builders harbor higher expectations for the future, they're less willing to make concessions for upgrades and/or price. Your likelihood of getting "a great deal" as a buyer diminishes.
That's why it's good that mortgage rates are still so low. Low mortgage rates help with home affordability and can offset slight jumps in sale price.
Mortgage rates remain just above their lowest levels of 2011, and of all-time.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : July 18, 2011

Greece roiling mortgage marketsMortgage markets worsened last week as concerns for the global economy drove new rounds of "safe haven" buying. Fear continues to dominate mortgage bond market movement and Georgia rate shoppers are benefiting.

Conforming and FHA mortgage rates fell for the second straight week last week, and closed out Friday with favorable momentum to the downside. 

There were three main mortgage market drivers last week.

The first is tied to the Eurozone.

Although the Greek Parliament reached agreement on austerity measures for the nation-state two weeks ago, concerns that a debt crisis could spill into Italy, Portugal, Ireland, and/or Spain resurfaced last week. The debt of both Ireland and Portugal was downgraded to Junk status, and Italy and Spain may follow soon.

U.S. bond markets gained on the news.

The second story was the just-released Fed Minutes. Notes from the FOMC meeting showed that Ben Bernanke & Co. debated a slowing U.S. economy, the weakening domestic jobs market, and whether a third round of economic stimulus would be necessary. This, too, dragged mortgage rates lower.

The third story is one that's still forming -- the U.S. Debt Ceiling Debate. For now, the issue remains on the market periphery, but as the August 2 debt limit deadline nears, expect more influence over day-to-day mortgage rates. 

Other factors in mortgage rates this week include the Existing Home Sales report; Housing Starts data; Homebuilder Confidence Survey; and, Jobless Claims.

Mortgage rates are low but remain volatile. If you're wondering whether now is a good time to lock your rate, consider that it's better to be safe than sorry. If mortgage rates rise this week, the rise may be permanent.

Rates can only stay low for so long.


Atlanta, GA Retail Sales Rise For 12th Straight Month In June

Retail Sales 2010-2011The American Consumer will not be deterred.
Despite worsening jobless figures and an increase in the Cost of Living, Retail Sales are climbing. In June, for the 12th straight month, retail receipts rose, excluding cars and auto parts.
Analysts expected no change from May. Instead, receipts topped $321 billion -- an all-time record.
For home buyers and would-be refinancers in Atlanta , this is a bit of unwelcome news. Mortgage rates are rising in the wake of the Retail Sales data release.
This is because Retail Sales account for roughly half of consumer spending, and nearly one-third of the economy overall. A rise in Retail Sales, therefore, suggests stronger growth ahead.
Here's how it happens.
As consumers spend more money, businesses sell more product. So, to accommodate burgeoning demand, business hire additional employees, and are forced to make additional capital expenditures as well.
This rise in spending prompts other businesses to hire and spend; to meet their own respective demand surges. There's a chain reaction-like effect.
Then, with businesses carrying larger payrolls and bigger staffs, federal, state and local governments realize bigger tax bases and can fund new and existing projects.
This, too, leads to hiring and the cycle repeats.
A weak economic outlook dragged down mortgage rates last week. This week's Retail Sales data reversed that flow. Mortgage rates are higher by 1/8 percent -- roughly $8 per $100,000 borrowed.
Retail Sales are up 8 percent from a year ago.


For The 9th Straight Month, Georgia Foreclosure Filings Fall

Foreclosure changes 2010-2011
For the 9th straight month last month, foreclosure activity slowed.
According to foreclosure-tracking firm RealtyTrac, the number of foreclosure filings dropped 29 percent nationwide on an annual basis in June. The phrase "foreclosure filing" is a catch-all term, comprising default notices, scheduled auctions, and bank repossessions.
June marked the ninth consecutive month of sub-300,000 filings after 20 months above it -- a promising signal for the housing market in Georgia and nationwide.
It's also noteworthy that each of the 10 most foreclosure-heavy states showed fewer foreclosures in June 2011 as compared to June 2010, led by Florida's 54% decline. Florida is one of 4 states on the leading edge of foreclosure activity since 2007.
The other 3 states performed similarly well in June:
  • California : -22% on an annual basis
  • Arizona : -7% on an annual basis
  • Michigan : -25% on an annual basis
The decrease in foreclosure filings comes at a time when buyer demand is highest. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, "distressed properties" account for more than 30 percent of all home resales and no wonder -- homes in various stages of foreclosure or sold by short sale are selling with discounts of 20 percent versus comparable non-distressed homes.
For buyers in search of foreclosures in the Vinings area , talk with a licensed real estate. Buying homes in foreclosure follows a different process path as compared to buying a "traditional" home. Make sure you seek the help of a professional.


Fed Minutes Hint At New Economic Stimulus

FOMC Minutes June 2011The Federal Reserve released its June 2011 Federal Open Market Committee meeting minutes Tuesday. It contained no surprises and, as such, mortgage rates in Georgia have idled in the hours since.

The Fed Minutes is published 8 times annually, three weeks after each scheduled Federal Open Market Committee meeting. It's the official log of the meeting's conversations and debates.

The Fed Minutes is the lengthier companion piece to the FOMC's more well-known, post-meeting press release. As compared to the brief-and-focused press release,by comparison, the Fed Minutes are long and detailed.

June's press release was 458 words long. Its minutes totaled 6,889 words.

The June minutes reveal some interesting perspectives from within the Federal Reserve, too.

  • On growth : Economic recovery had been slower than the committee expected
  • On housing : The market remains depressed. Foreclosures are "holding back" construction.
  • On rates : The Fed Funds Rate should remain low for an "extended" period

In addition, the Federal Reserve discussed whether a new round of economic stimulus was necessary. Committee members agreed that a poor outlook for employment in the medium-term would make this move more likely.

There was little that surprised Wall Street in the June Fed Minutes. This is why market reaction has been muted since its release.

The FOMC meets next August 9. If jobs data continues to weaken between now and then, expect the stimulus chatter to continue. It's unclear, however, how this would impact mortgage rates.

For now, mortgage rates remain near their all-time lows, and they have much more room to rise than to fall. If you're shopping for a loan, therefore, the timing is right for a lock.


WHY is APR (annual percentage rate) is not the way to compare interest rates.

Truth-In-Lending snapshot
WHAT IS APR ?More commonly called APR, Annual Percentage Rate is a government-mandated mortgage comparison tool. It measures the total cost of borrowing over the life of a loan into dollars-and-cents.

A loan's APR is printed in the top-left corner of the Federal Truth-In-Lending Disclosure, as shown above. When quoting an interest rate, loan officers are required by law to disclose a loan's APR, too.
APR is meant to simplify the process of choosing between two or more loans. The theory is that the loan with the lowest APR is the "best deal" for the applicant because the loan's long-term costs are lowest. However, the loan with the lowest APR isn't always best.
APR makes assumptions in its formula that can render it moot. One the biggest and most important items in on a  purchase is the when a seller is paying part or all of your closing costs and or prepaids. The APR means nothing because you as a buyer are NOT paying the closing costs, but the government form is not designed to show that so it renders it moot. Here are a few other items.

First, APR assumes you'll pay your mortgage off at term, at never sooner. So, if your loan is a 15-year fixed rate, its APR is based on a full 15 year term. If you sell or refinance prior to Year 15, the math used to make your loan's APR becomes instantly flawed and "wrong".
Example: Let's compare two identical loans in Georgia -- one with discount points and a lower interest rate; and one without discount points and a higher mortgage rate. The loan with discount points will have a lower APR in most cases. However, if the homeowner sells or refinances within the first few years, the loan with the higher APR would have been the better option, in hindsight.

Second, APR can be problematic  the loan process. Better than the past years but certainly not perfect.
Because the APR formula accounts for third-party costs in a mortgage transaction, and third-party costs aren't always known at the start of a loan, a larger bank can inadvertently understate or overstated them. This would make the APR appear lower than what it really is, and may cause confusion for the  consumer.

And, lastly, APR is particularly unhelpful for adjustable-rate loans. Because the APR calculation makes assumptions about how a loan will adjust during its 30-year term, if two lenders use a different set of assumptions, their APRs will differ -- even if the loans are identical in every other way. The lender whose adjustments are most aggressively-low will present the lowest APR.

Summarized, APR is not the metric for comparing mortgages -- it's a metric. For relevant comparison points, talk to your loan officer.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : July 11, 2011

Net New Jobs 2009-2011Mortgage markets improved in roller coaster-like trading last week. And, not surprisingly, the week's two big stories were the same two stories roiling mortgage markets since March -- Greece and Jobs.

In both instances, rate shoppers won. Conforming mortgage rates in Georgia improved for the first time in 3 weeks last week.

Early in the week, mortgage rates fell as doubts resurfaced on the just-completed Greece aid package. Although an agreement had been reached by the Greek Parliament, investors are wondering if it's a bona fide solution, or delaying an inevitable default.

Talk like this triggers a flight-to-quality, and last week, it led mortgage rates lower.

Then, mid-week, a strong preview of the Friday jobs report led to a reversal. Mortgage markets sold off sharply with the prospect of a blow-out Non-Farm Payrolls number. Analysts upped their estimates 50% -- from 80,000 net new jobs created in June to 120,000 -- and mortgage rates spiked in anticipation.

The rate rise was short-lived, however, because when the actual jobs report was released, it showed just 14,000 jobs added in June. Mortgage markets reversed and mortgage rates sunk to their best levels in 2 weeks.

This week, Greece should remain in the headlines, but there's other rate-changing news, too:

  • Tuesday : FOMC Minutes
  • Wednesday : 10-Year Treasury Auction
  • Thursday : PPI; 30-Year Treasury Auction; Jobless Claims
  • Friday : CPI; Consumer Sentiment

If you're still floating a mortgage rate, today marks a good week to lock. Mortgage rates could fall this week and next, but there's more room for rates to rise than to fall. 

Lock up today's low rates while they're still available.


Mid-Year Review : Were The Experts Right About The Market?

Predictions are risky businessThe year is half-over. It's an opportune time to take stock of analyst predictions made at the start of the year, and to recognize that the "experts" can be wrong as often as they are right.

For as much experience and authority an expert brings to the conversation, though, nobody can accurately predict the future.

As such, there's often disagreement.

Looking back to December, some housing analysts called for a market rebound this year; while others called for a fall. With respect to mortgages, some said rates had nowhere to go but up; while others expected more dips.

As a layperson, how do you know who will be right?

In short, you can't.

Predictions are a tricky business because they're guesses about the future based on the world as it exists today. When the predictions listed earlier were made, the world was a different place.   

A lot has changed since January:

  • Slowing job growth has suggested to slower U.S. economic growth
  • Food and energy costs have spiked, adding inflationary pressures to the economy
  • Eurozone debt issues have grown, punctuated by a near-Greek default
  • Tsunamis have caused widespread damage in Japan
  • Earthquakes, floods and volcanoes have harmed economic output

None of these events had occurred as of December, when the original predictions were made. Yet, each of these developments has made a deep impact on housing, and on the economy.  

So, what's a Kennesaw homeowner to do? Think of the present instead.

First, mortgage rates are low today -- extremely low by historical standards. Second, home values have been slow to rebound through most U.S. markets. Combined, these factors have made homes more affordable than it any time in recorded history. It's not only cheap to buy a home right now, it's cheap to refinance one, too.

Analysts are saying the home prices will rise this year, and mortgage rates will, too. Those predictions may ultimately be proven true. Until the future arrives, though, those predictions are just guesses.


Economy Expected To Have Added 80,000 Jobs In June

U.S. job growth since 2000

Friday morning, at 8:30 AM ET, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its June Non-Farm Payrolls report. If you're currently shopping for a mortgage, or floating a mortgage rate, be prepared. Mortgage rates can change following the monthly report's release.

Often, by a lot.

More commonly called "the jobs report", Non-Farm Payrolls reports on the U.S. workforce by sector, summarizing its findings in terms of total workforce size, and as a national Unemployment Rate. Jobs are considered a keystone in the continuing U.S. economic recovery. 

More working Americans means:

  1. More consumer spending, a boost to businesses
  2. More tax collection, a boost to governments
  3. More personal savings, a boost to households

For June, analysts expect the government to report 80,000 net new jobs created, and no change in the 9.1% Unemployment Rate.

Although these figures are slightly below than what can be considered "strong growth", that's not what should concern Atlanta rate shoppers. Mortgage markets react to a deviation from estimates more than to the actual results themselves.

This is because Wall Street placed bets in advance of the jobs report's release. If jobs growth tallies more than 80,000, therefore, it signals better news for the economy than what was expected. This will push banks and investors towards equities, and away from bonds -- including the mortgage-backed kind.

With less demand for mortgage bonds, mortgage rates will rise.

Conversely, if jobs growth is less than 80,000, mortgage rates should fall.

Mortgage rates remain near their lows for the year, but if the June Non-Farm Payrolls report beats estimates of 80,000 jobs made in June, look for mortgage rates to spike. The safe move is to lock today.


What To Know Before You Move To A New Neighborhood

As home buyers in the Atlanta area , we tend to research homes a lot. We look at square footage; at upgrades; at landscaping; at community statistics; and, at every other "number" on which we can get our hands.

But those are just statistics. What about the home's "feel"? 

In this 5-minute piece from NBC's The Today Show, you'll learn a dozen complementary home-shopping techniques to help you review and evaluate a home for purchase. Each is focused on findings you won't see listed on a website.

For example, instead of scheduling your second showing for the same time of day as your first one, revisit a home during an "opposite" time. if you originally saw the home in daylight, go see it at nighttime. If you first saw a home on the weekend, go see it during the work week.

By seeing a home in two distinct settings, you can get a better feel for what the home and neighborhood are really like.

Some of the other tips from the video include:

  1. Visit during Rush Hour and on a Saturday night. This will help you gauge sound levels of the street.
  2. Go to Google Maps and study the aerial shot of the home. What's nearby?
  3. Talk to neighbors. They'll share everything about the neighborhood with you -- good and bad.

When you buy a home, you committing to more than just the property. You're committing to the neighborhood, too. Armed with the methods described in this video, you'll be better prepared to make a good decision.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates : Week Of July 5, 2011

Jobs will be in focus this weekMortgage markets worsened last week as Wall Street's renewed optimism pushed equities to their best one-week gain in 2 years. The change in  sentiment was bad news for rate shoppers, however, as investors pored into stocks at the expense of bonds.

Last week, for the first time since February, mortgage rates rose 5 days in a row. By the time bond markets closed for the 3-day weekend, conforming fixed mortgage rates in Georgia had climbed to their worst levels since mid-May.

Mortgage rates are now at 7-week highs.

The biggest reason for last week's mortgage rate turnaround is that lawmakers in Greece approved a national austerity plan. Reaching an accord on spending cuts and tax increases was a necessary step for the nation-state to avoid defaulting on its debt and falling into bankruptcy.

Until last week, it wasn't clear whether the Greek Parliament would reach this agreement, and this fear is why mortgage rates were down through May and June. Faloout from a default would have created global economic uncertainty and uncertainty tends to be good for mortgage rates.

With agreement reached, though, that uncertainty is minimized. Mortgage rates are reversing. 

This week, the big news will be June's Non-Farm Payroll report, set for release Friday morning. If jobs growth is stronger-than-expected, stock markets should continue to post gains and mortgage rates should continue to rise.

The jobs report is a market-mover. If you're floating a mortgage rate and wondering whether to lock, it may be prudent to lock ahead of Friday's release.


5-Year ARM Falls To Historic Lows

30-year fixed vs 5-year ARM

The interest rate differential between fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages continues to widen and has now reached historic levels.

There's never been a better time to lock an ARM.

According to Freddie Mac's weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey, homeowners in Kennesaw who lock their mortgage rate today will save 129 basis points on rate, on average, by choosing a 5-year ARM as their mortgage product as compared to a 30-year fixed rate loan.

The average 30-year fixed rate is 4.51%. The average 5-year ARM rate is 3.22%.

It's the biggest interest rate spread between fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgage rates in Freddie Mac's recorded history; a gap which is the result, in part, of the 5-year ARM dropping to all-time lows this week.

Rates for the 5-year ARM are even lower than during last year's historic Refi Boom.

Putting today's "spread" in action against a hypothetical $250,000 loan size, a homeowner that chooses an ARM over a fixed-rate loan would save $184.30 monthly, and would have $500 fewer closing costs.

That's a 5-year savings of $11,558 -- nearly triple what you would have saved just 2 years ago.

The main reason why today's adjustable-rate mortgages are priced so aggressively relative to comparable fixed-rate loans is that Wall Street expects the economy to drag for the next several quarters, after which it expects an acceleration. 

ARMs tend to reflect short-term expectations for the U.S. economy which is why short-term mortgage rates are dropping.  Fixed products, by contrast, take a longer view and expectations for an economic rebound are pulling fixed-rate mortgage rates up.

For now, mortgage applicants can exploit the difference -- especially those who plan to move within the next 5 years -- but adjustable-rate mortgages aren't right for everyone. ARMs carry particular risks about which you should be aware before locking.

Before you choose an ARM, therefore, talk it through with your loan officer.