Pending Home Sales Index Continues To Show Strength

Pending Home Sales Index 2009-2012

Nationwide, homes continue to sell briskly.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, the Pending Home Sales Index read 99.2 for August -- the fourth straight month in which the index hovered near its benchmark value of 100.

A "pending home" is a home that is under contract to sell, but has not yet closed. The index measures with fair accuracy the future strength of the U.S. housing market.

For today's Marietta home buyers, the August Pending Home Sales Index is relevant for several reasons.

First, the index remains near its highest point since April 2010, the last month of that year's federal home buyer tax credit. This implies that the current housing market is performing nearly as well as the "stimulated" market of two years ago -- except without the accompanying federal stimulus.

The housing market is standing on its own, in other words.

Second, the Pending Home Sales Index suggests that today's housing market is among the strongest of the last decade. We can make this inference because the Pending Home Sales Index is a relative index, benchmarked to the value of "100" which represents the housing market as it behaved in 2001.

2001 was strong year in housing. With today's Pending Home Sales Index remaining near 100, it tells us that 2012 is similarly strong.

And, third, the Pending Home Sales Index is relevant because it's a forward-looking housing metric -- one of the few that are regularly published. As compared to the Case-Shiller Index or Existing Home Sales report which both report on how housing fared in the past, the Pending Home Sales Index projects 30-60 days to the future.

Based on August data, therefore, we can expect for home sales volume to remain high as 2012 comes to a close.

If you're currently shopping for a home, you've likely noticed a change in the market. Multiple-offer situations are more common and sellers are regaining negotiation leverage. The longer you wait to buy, therefore, the more you may pay for a home.

Read the complete Pending Home Sales Report on the NAR website


New Home Supply Remains Firmly In "Seller's Market" Territory

New Home Supply chartThe market for new construction homes remains strong nationwide.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of new homes sold slipped 0.3 percent in August 2012 to a seasonally-adjusted, annualized 373,000 units sold — just 1,000 units less than July 2012 and the second-highest reading since April 2010.

April 2010 was the last month of that year's tax credit which granted home buyers up to $8,000 off of their federal tax bill.

As compared to one year ago, sales of new homes are higher by 28%.

Furthermore, during the same time frame, the median sale price of a new home moved higher by 17 percent. The rising prices, in part, are the result of a shrinking national new home inventory. 

When August ended, there were just 141,000 homes for sale nationwide -- a 12% drop from the year prior. This suggests that home builders have stopped building without buyers; that some lessons were learned in last decade's homebuilding frenzy.

At today's pace of home sales, the entire stock of new homes nationwide would sell out in 4.5 months. As a comparison point, in January 2009, the new home supply reached 12.1 months.

With home supply below 6.0 months, analysts say, it signifies a "seller's market" and home supplies have not been north of 6.0 months since October 2011. And, based on recent homebuilder confidence surveys, supply doesn't appear headed back over 6.0 months anytime soon.

Builders in Georgia and nationwide report that prospective buyer foot traffic is at its highest point in 6 years. Low mortgage rates and affordable housing choices have held demand for new homes strong. Rising rents contribute, too.

For today's home buyers of new construction, then, shrinking supply amid rising demand portends higher home prices into 2013 and beyond. If you're a buyer of new construction, therefore, think about moving up your time frame. 

The best deals left in housing may be the ones you grab while the calendar still reads 2012. By January, low prices may be gone, and low rates may be, too.


Home Price Index Shows Values Rising 3.7% From One Year Ago

Home Price Index from peak to presentTuesday, the Federal Home Finance Agency's Home Price Index (HPI) showed home values rising 0.2% on a seasonally-adjusted basis between June and July 2012, and moving +3.7% on an annual basis.

Home values have not dropped month-to-month since January of this year -- a span of 6 months.

For today's home buyers and sellers throughout Canton , though, it's important to recognize on what the HPI is actually reporting.

Or, stated differently, on what the HPI is not reporting. The Home Price Index is based on home price changes of some homes, of certain "types", with specific mortgage financing only.

As such, it excludes a lot of home sales from its results which skews the final product. We don't know if home values are really up 0.2% this month -- we only know that's true for the home that the HPI chooses to track.

As an example of how certain homes are excluded, because the HPI is published by the Federal Housing Finance Agency and because the FHFA gets its access to home price data from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, it's upon data these two entities upon which the Home Price Index is built.

Home price data from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), from local credit unions, and from all-cash sales, for example, are excluded from the HPI because the FHFA has no awareness that the transaction ever happened.

In 2006, this may not have been a big deal; the FHA insured just 4 percent of the housing market at the time. Today, however, the FHA is estimated to insure more than 20% of new home purchases. Furthermore, in August, more than 1 in 4 sales were made with cash.

None of these home sales were included in the HPI.

Furthermore, the Home Price Index excludes certain home types from its findings.

Home sales of condominiums, cooperatives, multi-unit homes and planned unit developments (PUD) are not used in the calculation of the HPI. In some cities, including Chicago and New York City, these property types represent a large percentage of the overall market. The HPI ignores them.

Like other home-value trackers, the Home Price Index can well highlight the housing market's broader, national trends but for specific home price data about a specific home or a ZIP code, it's better to talk with a real estate agent with local market knowledge.

Since peaking in April 2007, the Home Price Index is off 16.4 percent.


Existing Home Sales Leap To 2-Year High

Existing Home Sales By Price Tier, August 2012

The home resale market put forth another strong data set last week. Home sales prices are higher nationwide and sales volume has moved to a 2-year high.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, 4.82 million "existing homes" sold on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis in August, representing a near 8 percent improvement from the month prior and a nine percent jump from August 2011.

An existing home is a home which has been previously occupied.

Home sales were unevenly split across price tiers, with more than half of all homes selling for less than $250,000. This suggests that the first-time home buyers and real estate investors continue to be active in today's market as a foundation for growth is built.

According to the Existing Home Sales data :

  • First-time buyers accounted for 31% of all home sales
  • Real estate investors accounted for 18% of all home sales
  • Other, repeat buyers accounted for 51% of all home sales

Also noteworthy is that "distressed homes" accounted for the smallest percentage of overall home sales since the real estate trade group starting tracking such data.

In August, homes in various stages of foreclosures accounted for 12% of all sales and sold at an average discount of 19 percent below market value. Short sale homes accounted for 10% of all sales and sold at an average discount of 13 percent below market value.

Of all the data in the August Existing Home Sales report, though, perhaps most relevant to today's buyers is the shrinking national housing supply.

At August's end, there were 2.47 million homes listed for sale nationwide, a three percent increase from the month prior. However, because the pool of available home buyers is increasing more rapidly than the number of homes for sale, housing supplies fell 0.3 months to 6.1 months.

This means that at the current pace of sales, the entire housing supply would be sold by March 2013.

For today's home buyers, home affordability appears poised to worsen. Mortgage rates and home prices remain low today, but market conditions like these rarely last long. Talk to your real estate agent about what options you have ahead of you. 2012 is coming to a close.

By 2013, the housing recovery may be fully underway. 


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : September 24, 2012

Existing Home Sales Mortgage markets improved for the second consecutive week last week as demand for U.S. mortgage-backed bonds remained high. A series of economic reports showed strength in housing and a stability in jobs.

Wall Street looked past it, however, to send mortgage rates to their lowest levels in history.

One week into the Federal Reserve's newest bond-buying program, the stimulus appears to be working.

According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate slipped to 3.49% last week for borrowers willing to pay an accompanying 0.6 discount points at the time of closing. Discount points are a one-time closing costs where 1 discount point is equal to one percent of your loan size.

3.49% marks a new all-time low for the 30-year fixed rate mortgage. 

The 15-year fixed rate mortgage rate fell to a new all-time low last week, too, dropping to 2.77% with the same accompanying 0.6 discount points.

Mortgage rates in Georgia fell despite strong housing data.

  • Housing Starts rose 5.5% to a 2-year high
  • Existing Home Sales rose 7.8% to a 2-year high
  • Building Permits rose 0.2%

Notably, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, the national existing home supply slipped to 6.1 months last month -- very close to the 6.0-month marker which separates a "buyer's market" from a "seller's market".

If supplies continue lower, home prices may rise more quickly than expected into 2013. Median home sale prices are already 9.5% higher as compared to one year ago.

This week, more housing data is set for release including the home value-tracking Case-Shiller Index and FHFA Home Price Index. Both are expected to show rising home prices as compared to the last recorded month, and one year ago. In addition, the National Association of REALTORS® releases its Pending Home Sales Index.

Lastly, and likely most important to mortgage rates and home affordability in Marietta , the government releases its Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) report Friday. PCE is the Federal Reserve's preferred inflation gauge. An unexpected increase is expected to move mortgage rates higher.


30-Year Fixed Rate Mortgage Drops To 3.49% -- An All-Time Low

Freddie Mac mortgage rates

For the first time in 9 weeks, mortgage rates have made new lows.

According to Freddie Mac's weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate fell 6 basis points to 3.49% this week, tying the all-time low set in late-July. The 15-year fixed rate mortgage also dropped, moving to 2.77%. This, too, marks an all-time low.

The Federal Reserve's plan to pressure mortgage rates down may be working.

However, depending on where you live, your access to these all-time rates may be limited. This is because the Freddie Mac "published rate" is a national average based on the government-backed group's survey of more 125 banks.

Mortgage rates can vary by region.

For example, this week, mortgage applicants in the West Region are most likely to get the lowest rates of anyone.

In the West Region, 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates are averaging 3.43 percent with an accompanying 0.6 discount points. By contrast, applicants in the Southeast Region are most likely to get the highest rates with the 30-year fixed rate mortgage is averaging 3.53% with an accompanying 0.7 discount points.

1 discount point is a fee equal to one percent of your loan size. Loans with more accompanying discount points pay higher total closing costs.

This week's record-low rates are a boon to home affordability and, as compared to last September, mortgage rates are much improved :

  • September 2011 : Average rate of 4.09%
  • September 2012 : Average rate of 3.49% 

Over the past 12 months, this 60-basis point mortgage rate improvement has increased the maximum purchase price of a Marietta home buyer by roughly 7%. Home prices, however, may soon catch up.

Earlier this week, the Census Bureau reported Housing Starts at a multi-year high and the Existing Home Sales report from the National Association of REALTORS® showed the same. Housing is in recovery and prices are on an upward trajectory.

Take advantage of low mortgage rates while they last. Talk to your loan officer today.


Housing Starts Move To 2-Year High

Housing Starts chartThe new construction housing market continues to make gains.

Wednesday, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Housing Starts for single-family homes up 5.5 percent in August to a seasonally-adjusted, annualized count of 535,000 units nationwide.

The report marks the fifth month of six that single-family starts increased, and marks the highest starts tally since April 2010 -- the last month of that year's federal homebuyer tax credit program.

A "housing start" is a new home on which construction has started and the steady growth in single-family starts suggests a stronger Georgia housing market into 2013.

All four U.S. regions showed single-family housing start growth on both a monthly basis and on an annual one :

  • Northeast Region : 4.5% monthly growth; 31.4% annual growth
  • Midwest Region : 15.6% monthly growth; 74.5% annual growth
  • South Region : 3.2% monthly growth; 17.2% annual growth
  • Midwest Region : 4.6% monthly growth; 23.9% annual growth

The data is just the latest in a series of signals that today's Marietta new construction housing market has put its worst days behind it.

The nation's home builders appear to agree, as well.

Earlier this week, the National Association of Homebuilders released its Housing Market Index, a monthly metric which measures homebuilder confidence in the new construction market.

The homebuilder trade association put the HMI at 40 -- a 6-year high. Builders expect a strong finish to 2012 and for momentum to carry into 2013 and beyond.

The new construction market -- like most of housing -- has been fueled by a combination of the lowest mortgage rates in history, ample access to low- and no-downpayment mortgages, and an ever-shrinking supply of new homes for sale.

In July there were just 142,000 new homes for sale nationwide, down 14% from the year prior. As supply shrinks, all things equal, new home prices rise.

If you've been considering new construction, therefore, talk to builders sooner rather than later. As demand for homes heats up, prices are likely to rise.


Homebuilder Confidence Rises Again; Tops 40

HMI September 2010 - 2012Home builder confidence continues to make new highs. 

As reported by the National Association of Home Builders, the Housing Market Index, a measure of builder confidence, rose to a reading of 40 in September -- its highest mark since June 2006.

The index is now higher through five straight months and 11 of the last 12.

For home buyers in Marietta , the survey may be signaling higher new home prices ahead; when builders are more confident in housing, they're may be less likely to make concessions in price, and to "sweeten" deals with free upgrades and/or subsidized mortgage rates.

The Housing Market Index is published monthly, based on responses to a 3-question survey that the NAHB sends to its members. The questions cover three distinct parts of a builder's business, each requiring a simple, one-word answer.

Builders are asked to respond with "Good", "Fair" or "Poor"; or, "High", "Average", "Low" to the following three comments :

  • Rate market conditions for the sale of new homes today
  • Rate market conditions for the sale of new homes 6 months from today
  • Rate the foot traffic of prospective new home buyers

All three survey components showed an increase from August with buyer foot traffic rating at its highest point in more than 6 years. This is especially noteworthy because as the number of prospective buyers increases, so does competition for homes for sale.

There are currently just 142,000 new homes for sale nationwide, the stock of which will "sell out" in 4.6 months at the current pace of sales.

Not since October 2011 has the national home supply been above six months, the consensus dividing line between bull and bear market. Today's new construction market favors builders and builders know it.

If you're planning to buy new construction in Georgia later this year or into early-2013, consider moving up your time frame. Homes may be for sale, but they won't likely be as inexpensive as they are today.


Foreclosures Remain Concentrated In Just A Few States

Foreclosure concentration August 2012The national market for foreclosed homes remains strong.

According to foreclosure data firm RealtyTrac, foreclosure activity increased 1 percent in August as compared to the month prior, climbing to just above 193,500 units nationwide.

1 in every 681 U.S. households received some form of foreclosure filing last month where a "foreclosure filing" is any one of the following foreclosure-related events : A default notice on a home; a scheduled auction for a home; or, a bank repossession of a home.

Default notices climbed in August which indicates that more U.S. homeowners are falling behind on payments.

However, for the 22nd consecutive month, the number of bank repossessions fell. This suggests that lenders are reaching alternative outcomes to foreclosure more frequently, and with more success, reducing the number of homes for sale nationwide.

Fewer homes for sale is one reason why U.S. home prices have been rising.

Like everything in real estate, though, foreclosures are a local event. In August, just six states accounted for more than half of the country's bank repossessions. Those six states -- California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan and Arizona -- account for less than 31% of the U.S. population.

Clearly, foreclosures remain concentrated. However, bank-owned homes can still make for "good deals" across all 50 states. This is because foreclosed homes are typically sold at steep discounts versus comparable, non-distressed homes.

Just be sure to do your foreclosure research first.

Buying a home in foreclosure is different from buying a home not in foreclosure. The contract and negotiation phases are different, and foreclosed homes are often sold as-is.

"As-is" is real estate-speak for "this home may be defective and/or uninhabitable".

Therefore, if you plan to buy foreclosure, talk with a real estate professional first. You can learn a lot about a foreclosure by doing research online. However, when it comes time to write a contract, you'll want to have an expert on your home-buying team.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : September 17, 2012

Fed Funds Rate 2006-2012Mortgage markets improved last week as the Federal Reserve introduced new economic stimulus. The move trumped bond-harming action from the Eurozone, and a series better-than-expected U.S. economic data.

The 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate dropped last week for most loan types, including for conforming, FHA and VA loans. 15-year fixed rate mortgage rates improved, as well.

Mortgage rates are back near their lowest levels of all-time.

Last week's main event was the Federal Open Market Committee's sixth scheduled meeting of 2012. Wall Street expected the Fed to launch a third round of quantitative easing (QE3) after its meeting and the nation's central banker did not disappoint.

It launched QE3 and did so with such scale that even Wall Street was shocked.

The Federal Reserve announced a plan to purchase $40 billion monthly of mortgage-backed bonds indefinitely, a move aimed at lowering U.S. mortgage rates in order to stimulate the housing market which can create more jobs in construction and other related industries.

The Fed will continue to buy mortgage bonds until it deems such purchases no longer necessary. The Fed also announced a commitment to holding the Fed Funds Rate in its current target range of 0.000-0.250% until mid-2015, at least.

Mortgage rates responded favorably to the stimulus, falling to their lowest levels of the week. It masked a rise in rates from earlier in the week tied to the German court's clearing of the European Stability Mechanism -- the Eurozone "bailout fund".

The action clears the way for debt-burdened nations including Spain and Greece to get the support necessary to remain solvent.

Mortgage rates were also pressured higher by a strong consumer confidence report. When consumers are more confident in the economy, they may be more likely to spend and consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy.

This week, mortgage rates throughout Georgia face competing pressures. The Fed's bond-buy has started and that will lead rates lower, but with Housing Starts and Existing Home Sales data set for release, data could pull rates up.


Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (September 13 , 2012)

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishThe Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its current target range of 0.000-0.250 percent Thursday. For the eighth consecutive meeting, the vote was nearly unanimous.

Just one FOMC member, Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker, dissented in the 9-1 vote.

The Fed Funds Rate has been near zero percent since December 2008. 

In its press release, the Federal Reserve noted that the U.S. economy has been expanding "at a moderate pace" in recent months, led by growth in household spending. However, "strains in global financial markets" remain a significant threat to growth in the near-term, a remark made in reference to the Eurozone and its sovereign debt and recession issues.

The Fed's statement also included the following economic observations :

  1. Growth in employment has been slow with unemployment elevated
  2. Inflation has been subdued, despite rising gas and oil prices
  3. Business spending on equipment and structures has slowed

In addition, the Fed addressed the housing market, stating that there have been signs of improvement, "albeit from a depressed level".

The biggest news to come out of the FOMC meeting, though, was the launch of the Fed's third round of quantitative easing (QE3).

QE3 is a program by which the Federal Reserve will purchase $40 billion in mortgage-backed bonds monthly, with no defined "end date" for the program. So long as the Fed believes that the market needs support, it will keep QE3 in place.

In the near-term, QE3 is good for Marietta rate shoppers and home buyers. With the Fed in line to buy $40 billion in mortgage bonds each month, demand for bonds is expected to remain strong which, all things equal, leads mortgage rates lower.

We're seeing this already today. Mortgage pricing is improving post-FOMC, with rates nearing their lowest levels of the week.

The Fed also used its meeting to announce that it intends to hold the Fed Funds Rate near its target range of 0.000-0.250 percent until mid-2015, at least. At its last meeting, the Fed has marked an end-date of "late-2014".

The FOMC's next scheduled meeting is a two-day event, October 23-24, 2012.

FOMC Expected To Announce New Stimulus Today

FFR vs 30-year FRM

The Federal Open Market Committee ends a 2-day meeting today, the group's sixth of 8 scheduled meetings this year. As a Atlanta home buyer or would-be refinancer, be ready for mortgage rates to change.

The Federal Open Market Committee is a 12-person sub-committee of the Federal Reserve. Led by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, it's the group within the Fed tasked with voting on U.S. monetary policy.

The act for which the FOMC is most well-known is its management of the Fed Funds Rate. The Fed Funds Rate is the interest rate at which banks borrow money from each other overnight. It's one of several interest rates under Federal Reserve management.

"Mortgage rates", however, is not among them.

The Federal Reserve does not set or make mortgage rates -- Wall Street does. Further, there is no historical correlation between the Fed Funds Rate and the average conforming 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate. At times, the two benchmark rates move in the same direction. Other times, they diverge.

They've been apart by as much as 5.29 percent, and have been as near as 0.52 percent.

Today, the spread between the Fed Funds Rate and the 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate is roughly 3.34%. That will change beginning at 12:30 PM ET today. This is the time at which the FOMC adjourns and releases its public statement to the markets.

The FOMC is expected to announce no change in the Fed Funds Rate, leaving it within its current target range of 0.000-0.250%. How mortgage rates throughout Georgia respond to the Fed, though, will depend on whether the nation's central banker adds new market stimulus in the form of a third round of quantitative easing.

If the Fed adds new stimulus and it's deemed large enough to be propel the economy ahead, stock markets will gain and bond markets should, too. This would lead mortgage rates lower. Conversely, if the size of the stimulus is deemed too small to be effective, mortgage rates will rise. Maybe by a lot.


Improving Market Index Climbs To 99

Improving Market Index September 2009The number of U.S. housing markets showing "measurable and sustained growth" has increased by 19 this month, according to the National Association of Homebuilders' Improving Market Index.

The Improving Market Index is a monthly report meant to identify U.S. markets in which economic growth is occurring broadly -- not just in terms of home prices.

The IMI's conclusions are based on three separately-collected data series, each from a different division of the U.S. government and each tied to specific local economic conditions.

In this way, the Improving Market Index gives a better idea of which markets will outperform averages in the months and years ahead.

The three data series incorporated into the Improving Market Index are :

  1. Employment Statistics (from the Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  2. Home Price Growth (from Freddie Mac)
  3. Single-Family Housing Growth (from the Census Bureau)

The National Association of Homebuilders evaluate the reports for each major metropolitan area and then deems a given one "improving" if two conditions are met. First, all three data series must indicate growth in the current month and, second, at least 6 months have passed since each of the data points' respective "bottoms".

The IMI ignore short-term spurts, in other words, and attempts to identify those areas showing long-term, sustainable growth. For relocating home buyers, "improving" cities may also offer better long-term employment and income opportunities. 

33 states are represented in the September Improving Market Index, as well as the District of Columbia. 31 new areas were added to the list as compared to August and just 12 dropped off.

The newly-added areas include Sacramento, California; Jacksonville, Florida; and Waco, Texas. Cities falling off the list for September include Dover, Delaware.

The complete Improving Markets Index is available for download at the NAHB website. For a better gauge of what's happening in Atlanta on a local level, however, talk to a local real estate agent.


Simple Tips To Keep Your FICO High

FICO recipeFor today's home buyers and refinancing households, the value of "good credit" has never been higher.

Mortgage approvals hinge on your FICO score, as does your final mortgage pricing.

If you're shopping for a home in Georgia , therefore, or contemplating a refinance, be aware of how everyday credit behaviors can affect your FICO. Even small events can make a big impact.

Here are some common-sense steps to help improve your credit score.

First, keep a "cushion" on your credit cards.

30 percent of your credit score is linked to "Amount Owed" and a big part of Amount Owed is a raw calculation of (1) What you owe in dollar terms, against (2) How much credit you have at your disposal. The credit bureaus want to see at least 70% of your credit "available". 

If you can keep your cards at least 70% available, your credit scores should improve.

For example, if all of your credit cards give you access to a combined $50,000 and you are using $10,000 of that available credit, you have 80% of your credit available to you and this is "good".

Raise your balances to $30,000 and this is "bad".

Second, don't make major purchases on credit prior to making a mortgage application. This includes opening a store charge card to save 10 percent or more on a washer/dryer set, for example; or for any other appliance or furniture piece.

The reasons why are two-fold. One, store charge cards are often opened with a limit matching your initial charge, rendering them 100% utilized. This is bad for a FICO, as discussed above. And, two, opening a new charge cards has a negative FICO impact anyway.

Charge cards are associated with high default rates. 

Third, make all of your monthly payments on time -- even the ones in dispute. You may not want to pay that $80 wireless phone bill, for example; the one that you think you owe, but remember that Payment History accounts for 35% of your credit score. Even one late payment -- or payment in collection -- and your credit score can drop.

It's often less expensive to pay a bill in dispute than to be relegated to a higher mortgage rate. The payment is dispute is remedied today. The payment on that mortgage rate lasts for 30 years.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : September 10, 2012

FOMC meets this weekMortgage markets worsened slightly in last week's holiday-shortened week. As expected, Wall Street took its cues from Europe and from the U.S. jobs market, and mortgage rates moved across a wide range.

Home buyers in Atlanta and would-be refinancing households were greeted with wildly varying mortgage rates, depending on which day they loan-shopped.

According to Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage rate survey, 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates averaged 3.55% nationwide last week, with an accompanying 0.7 discount points.

That is, until Thursday's meeting of the European Central Bank. 

The ECB is similar to the Federal Reserve in that, among its primary functions, it provides liquidity to banking systems in times of crisis. Thursday, the European Central Bank intervened with force.

To aid Spain and Italy, the third- and fourth-largest Eurozone economies, the European Central Board launched a bond-buying program meant to reduce speculation that the two nations -- and the Euro itself -- would fail.

The move calmed investors and sparked a broad equities market rally.

U.S. mortgage rates did not fare so well, however, climbing as much as 0.25% and leaving that "Freddie Mac mortgage rate" in the dust. If you tried to lock a loan Thursday, you may have been greeted with a rate nearing 4.000 percent.

Fortunately, those rising rates were short-lived.

Friday morning, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its August Non-Farm Payrolls report and mortgage rates dropped. Far fewer jobs were created in the U.S. than was expected. 96,000 net new jobs were made in July. Wall Street had expected 130,000. This increases the likelihood of new Fed-led stimulus -- perhaps as soon as this week.

The Federal Open Market Committee meets for the 6th of eight times this year later this week; a 2-day get-together scheduled for September 12-13. The Fed may announce a new round of market stimulus. If it does, mortgage rates should fall. If it doesn't, mortgage rates may rise.

Other news affecting potential housing payments this week includes the release of key inflation data Thursday and Friday, and Friday's Retail Sales data.


Coming Next Week : New, Mandatory Loan Fees For All Conforming Mortgages

New g-fees threaten low mortgage ratesBeginning as soon as next week, new, mandatory mortgage fees will push mortgage rates higher throughout Marietta and nationwide. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are raising their respective "guarantee fees".

Guarantee fees are fees that mortgage-backed securities providers charge to lenders for mortgage-related services including the bundling, selling and reporting of mortgage-backed bonds. 

Guarantee fees are also used to insure providers against credit-related losses.

As announced by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, effective for all conforming loans delivered to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, beginning November 1, 2012, guarantee fees will be raised by an average of 10 basis points per loan.

Conforming mortgages already average close to 30 basis points in guarantee fee per loan.

This is the second time this year that the FHFA has raised guarantee fees, with the most recent increase translating into an approximate 50-basis point worsening in consumer mortgage pricing. That today's home buyers and refinancing households will soon pay higher loan closing costs as a result.

To use a real-life example, Freddie Mac reported that the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.55% nationwide this week for borrowers willing to pay an accompanying 0.7 discount points. 

Once the new g-fee is implemented, the discount points change : 

  • Prior to guarantee fee increase : 3.55% with 0.7 discount points
  • Post guarantee fee increase : 3.55% with 1.2 discount points

Post-increase, in other words, an identical Freddie Mac loan requires an extra half-point to get to closing, or $500 in additional closing costs per $100,000 borrowed.

These fees will soon appear on rate sheets, if they haven't already.

Lenders know that it can take up to 60 days to lock a loan, approve it, fund it, then package it for delivery. Loans locked today, therefore, will likely be delivered to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac after the November 1, 2012 deadline. As a result, mortgage pricing will soon include the effects of the g-fees.

Perhaps as soon as this morning.


Case-Shiller Index Shows Huge Home Price Gain

Case-Shiller Index June 2012

Home prices continue to rise nationwide. 

According to the Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller Index, home prices rose 6.9% between the first and second quarter of 2012, the largest quarter-to-quarter gain since the home-value tracker's 1987 inception and another signal that the housing market is in recovery.

The private-sector metric's results are similar to what the government's Home Price Index showed for June, too -- values rising quickly. In addition, for the second straight month, each of the Case-Shiller Index's 20 tracked markets showed month-to-month improvement.

June would have marked three straight months if not for Detroit's value-setback in April.

The top performing markets in June, as tracked by the Case-Shiller Index were :

  1. Detroit, Michigan : 6.0 percent gain
  2. Minneapolis, Minnesota : 4.8 percent gain
  3. Chicago, Illinois : 4.6 percent gain

However, it should be noted that the Case-Shiller Index pulls from a limited sample set. It does not include condominiums or multi-unit homes in its findings, nor does it account for new construction. These exclusions make a material impact on the results of both Minneapolis and Chicago, as examples. Both cities feature a large concentration of condos.

Overall, though, the June data looks sound. Said a spokesman for the Case-Shiller Index, "The market may have finally turned around."

Furthermore, home buyers in Bridge Mill and nationwide can corroborate what the Case-Shiller Index has uncovered. Falling home inventory and rising home demand have helped to move home prices higher in many U.S. markets.

Low mortgage rates make new homes affordable and rising rents are turning the Rent vs Buy equation on its head. In July, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, first-time home buyers accounted for 34% of all home resales.  This trend is expected to continue into 2013.

As compared to one year ago, today's home buyers have 8% more purchasing power and, with rising home prices, they're going to need it.


Making Coupon-Free Savings At The Supermarket

The average family puts 10-15 percent of its monthly spending toward food, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Department of Agriculture, with most of that food purchased at a supermarket.

The amount spent on food is less than the typical amount spent on housing each month but what makes food costs different from housing expenses is food costs are not "fixed".

How much you spend on food each month is up to you and, using savvy shopping tactics plus coupons, you can lower your monthly food spend. Saving money on food leaves money for other purposes including savings, clothing and transportation.

In this 4-minute piece from NBC's The Today Show, you'll learn several easy-to-implement methods which can reduce your supermarket bills, as well a few "common sense" tactics you may have overlooked.

Among the topics covered in the video :

  • The importance of shopping with a list, and of avoiding "the inner aisles"
  • The value of generic brands, which are often near-copies of "brand name" products
  • Why you should buy toiletries at a drugstore instead of at a supermarket
  • Using "per unit" prices to compare different-sized packaging of the same product
  • Buying fruit that's in-season versus fruit that's out-of-season

Another shared money-saving tip is to shop at grocery store without children. It can be fun for the family to shop together, as noted in the interview, but bringing children to the supermarket is a sure-fire way to raise your grocery bill.

Recent inflation data shows that the typical cost of food is rising in Canton and nationwide. With these tips, perhaps you can lower your bill.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : September 4, 2012

Jobs Report In FocusMortgage markets improved last week for the second consecutive week.

With no news coming from Europe, Wall Street was focused U.S. economic data and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's planned public speech from the Fed's annual retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Rate shoppers and home buyers in Marietta caught a break.

The housing market was shown to be improving last week, as was the average household income nationwide -- two events which would have typically moved Georgia  mortgage rates higher. But, because the Fed Chairman used his speech to signal that new economic stimulus may be imminent, mortgage rates dropped.

The Fed is expected to launch a bond-buying program that would create new demand for mortgage-backed bonds. Mortgage-backed bonds are the basis for most U.S. mortgage rates and the new-found demand would result in lower rates nationwide. 

According to Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage rate survey, the 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate fell to 3.59% last week for borrowers willing to pay 0.6 discount points plus a full set of closing costs, where 0.6 discount points is a one-time closing cost equal to 0.6 percent of your loan size.

Conventional mortgage rates open this week at a 4-week best. Threats to low rates remain, however.

A European Central Bank meeting is scheduled for Thursday and the release of the August Non-Farm Payrolls report is due Friday. Both events could have negative repercussions on mortgage rates. 

For example, the ECB is expected to announce new aid measures for some its struggling member nations, including Greece, Spain and Italy. If the aid package "ends" the sovereign debt issues which have plagued the European Union since 2010, equity markets would rally on the news at the expense of bond markets. This would drive U.S. mortgage rates higher as investors dump their bond holdings.

Similarly, if the August jobs report is deemed "strong", it would lower the likelihood of new Fed-led stimulus. This, too, would lead mortgage rates higher -- perhaps by a lot.

Economists expect to see that 130,000 net new jobs created last month. The jobs report will be released Friday at 8:30 AM ET.