Mortgage rates hit new lows for the year this past week as 30 year fixed rates averaged 3.97% The 15 year rate fell to 3.18%, and the 5-1 ARM sits at 2.92%

Mortgage Rates Hit New Lows

 

Mortgage Rates Hit New Lows

Forecasters have been prognosticating mortgage rates would begin to rise going into 2015 as the Fed tapers its bond buying program and most believe this is true.  However, we’ve heard fears of deflation and 10 year bond yields have fallen below 2%.  This is due to several factors including an economic slowdown in China, Europe, as well as fears of Ebola.  Ebola is one of those wildcards we’re thrown every once in awhile that makes it difficult to predict what will happen to the world economy.

Buyers are taking advantage of the dip in rates too as we listed and sold several homes this past week that sold in a day.  Buyers who have been shopping for any length of time are tired of getting beat out by other buyers for hot new properties that enter the market.

They’re also watching the interest rate market as a dip in rates means they can afford a larger mortgage with the same monthly payment with the new lower rates.  This is important in a rising price market like we have here in SW Florida.

When prices rise, it raises the monthly payment for a buyer if nothing else changes, or it drops them into a lower tier home if they cannot afford the higher payments.  Lower rates are a nice surprise, especially in a rising market.  Because home prices are expected to be higher next year than this year, and because rates are expected to be higher next year as well, it really pays to jump on that house when it hits the market and go after it hard.  Even if you overpay a little bit now, it can save you thousands in a few months when rates rise and prices rise.

At our team meeting this week our buyer specialists were talking about helping buyers in the $100,000-$120,000 range and how difficult it was for them as each home they were interested in had multiple offers.  Basically it’s come down to setting up alerts on the MLS and notifying our buyers instantly when a new home enters the market and writing an offer within hours.  Multiple offers are still a possibility, but it’s the only way these buyers are going to have a chance at landing a home.  They just can’t go higher and there is limited inventory.

This is happening in several price ranges.  We just had a home come on the market in the $450,000-$500,000 range and it went pending in one day and we have several more buyers begging for a call if anything happens on this transaction.  It’s good news for sellers and terribly frustrating for buyers.

Our advice is work with an agent who will study the market for you and guide you.  If what you’re looking for has limited inventory, jump on a new listing that fits your needs and will work for you, and is priced fairly in the market.  If it’s well overpriced you may not have to worry.  Some sellers are delusional even in a seller’s market and you just have to let those go.

However, the seller may not be as delusional as you might think in some cases.  If the property is unique or has something drawing you to it, chances are it may be drawing other buyers as well.  Views, extended lanais, or remodeled kitchens and baths might bring extra value.  You can’t just look at dollar per square foot.  Appraisers don’t work solely off that and neither should you.  Rather it’s best to make specific adjustments for certain items based on market conditions.

It pays to work with a Realtor that knows the market.  This is true buying or selling.  To search the MLS for free check  www.TopAgent.com  If we can help, please call us at 239-489-4042  Good luck and enjoy the interest rate break!

Good luck and Happy House Hunting!
To view our Listings in Hi Definition, visit www.HomesinHD.TV or click on our playlist below

Visit our Google+ Business Page

Feel free to view our Virtual Tours .

Search All SW Florida Real Estate Market Listings

Listings Sitemap

[idx-platinum-system-link id =”4929-37500″ title =”Link Showcase”]

 

[idx-platinum-system-link id =”4929-37497″ title =”Sitemap”]

By Brett Ellis

RE/MAX Realty Group – Ellis Team

Fort Myers Real Estate Agent

7910 Summerlin Lakes Dr

Fort Myers, FL 33907

239-489-4042

 

Prior to 2007 homeowners who had a short sale or foreclosure were subject to pay income taxes on any amount of forgiven debt. So let’s say a homeowner in 2006 had a mortgage of $400,000 and decided to sale as a short sale for $200,000, that homeowner would have had income of approximately $200,000 according to the IRS. Assuming this put that homeowner in the 25% tax bracket, this homeowner would owe an additional $50,000 taxes to the US government. Keep in mind, perhaps none of this money went into the pocket of the homeowner, it was simply forgiven debt. The same would be true for a bank foreclosure.

Important Tax News Could Save You Thousands
Important Tax News Could Save You Thousands

Back in 2007 the US government signed into law the Mortgage Relief Act which provided homeowners who used their home as a primary residence relief up to $2 million for married couples and $1 million for individuals from any shortage being treated as income by the IRS. In the previous example above, the $200,000 would be free from being treated as income as long as it was their primary residence. The lender must formally forgive the loan.

The US government is giving homeowners until December 31, 2012 to complete a short sale or foreclosure. Starting January 1, 2013 any debt forgiven, even on a primary residence, will be treated as income by the IRS and subject to taxes.

A homeowner doesn’t always control when the bank will take back a home or when the bank will complete the foreclosure transaction, so they cannot guarantee they’ll make the December 31 deadline.

A distressed homeowner does control to a greater extent the execution and timing of a short sale. While there is no guarantee the bank will agree to a short sale, or that the buyer will wait around long enough for the lender to agree, it is generally known the seller has more control over their fate in a short sale than a foreclosure.

Time is running out for many sellers as we have 11 ½ months to complete the short sale. Some short sales go smooth, and others are a bit trickier. Sometimes we have to sell it 2 or 3 times if buyers walk. The bank may respond right away, or it could take several months for the banks to complete their analysis depending on who the lender is, whether there is a 2nd mortgage or equity line involved, and especially if mortgage insurance is involved.

Most people just think the banks are slow, which is true. However, the process can be more complicated as the 1st lender may be due money back on certain losses by a private mortgage insurance company. This takes time for all to evaluate, and it must go in steps.

Some loans are guaranteed by FNMA or Freddie Mac, and there are governmental programs in place the lender must follow. A popular program you may have heard of is HAFA (Home Affordable Foreclsoures Alternative) Program. If the home falls under this program, certain procedures and timelines must be followed. Sometimes it takes time just to see if the loans qualify for this program. There are other programs as well.

This is why a seller should decide soon if they may need to sell their home due to hardship. The decision today could save thousands in taxes for years to come. Waiting too long could cost a seller big time.

A bankruptcy may be a solution to avoid such taxation after 2012, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see bankruptcies rise next year from sellers who miss this deadline.

The good news is lenders have beefed up their short sale department staffs the last few years and are equipped to handle more sales today than they were 5 years ago. We’ve had much success completing short sales, although the buyer must be educated that the bank will take some time, and they may counter the accepted price with the seller a bit higher.

No short sale is complete until the lender(s) sign off and everybody agrees to the terms. Short sales are a way to bring otherwise underwater overpriced property to the market at today’s lower prices. Education is the key for everyone involved. The agents involved, both buyer agent and seller agent must be competent in handling complex short sale transactions as both buyer and seller must be educated about the process.

Sales are already heating up this season, so 2012 could be an interesting ride. We’ll keep you posted on news affecting buyers and sellers in the SW Florida real estate market.

 

On April 17 rates are going up. How do we know the date? We know because that’s the date fees change under guidelines designed to attract private money into the lending system and reduce or eliminate FNMA, GNMA, and Freddie Mac, the three quasi-governmental agencies that insure mortgages and bundle them for securitization. They’re not really governmental, but they might as well be as the government has funded them until now. They are private companies that pay investors profit, but tax payer funded when they lose money, so something had to change.

Big Changes Coming in Mortgage Market

Big Changes Coming in Mortgage Market
Interest Rates Will Rise in April

So what is changing? First off, rates are going up. This will increase yields, which will attract banks, hedge funds, and other large sources of capital into the market. Large companies will actually compete to make more of this money. A lot of money has been bottled up sitting on the sidelines and this may be the conduit to free up that money.

When rates go up, home prices usually go down. Not so fast! In this case, prices could eventually rise. Many ask how this could be. The answer is complicated, but noteworthy, so we’ll do our best to explain.

Under the new guidelines to get the best priced loans, borrowers will have to put more down. The old 20% down will now be 30% down. However, credit scores will also be lowered for qualifying. Imagine many of those people that sold via short sale being told they wouldn’t qualify by FNMA for 5 years. It turns out they may be eligible after just 12 months under certain conditions.

While rates may go from 4 7/8% today to possibly 6.5% in April, more people will qualify. We still have FHA for low down payment options. Some people are predicting another real estate boom coming sooner than later nationwide as pent-up demand for housing intensifies, and more borrowers being eligible to purchase.

Imagine having a 540 credit score and being able to purchase a home. Those days may be coming again, if you can scrape together a down payment. Home prices are artificially too low in SW Florida and are in fact below replacement cost. This has caused multiple bidding situations for prestigious properties in short supply even in the upper price ranges in certain parts. Naples and Bonita have experienced a resurgence in prices, and many feel this is bleeding north up into Estero and Fort Myers. We are currently being driven by 2nd home buyers looking for deals.

As prices get closer to replacement cost, building will begin to pickup, which will bring jobs. As the SW Florida economy grows, the real estate market could gain traction very quickly, especially with Snow Birds and existing residents qualifying sooner than expected for their next mortgage.

Keep in mind 7,000-10,000 people are retiring or entering the social security income stream everyday. Florida stands to gain from the Baby Boom generation relocating or buying 2nd homes.

Many on Wall Street are anxious to cash in on the looming change to the capital markets coming in April. In fact, Wall St is waiting like a tiger to pounce. Some are predicting a feeding frenzy for housing and rapid price gains.

Some people believe the change to FNMA and Freddie Mac will damage the markets by increasing borrowing costs and raising down payment requirements. Others believe borrowing was next to impossible anyway the last few years and banks only lent to those who really didn’t need it. I don’t know who is right, but I will say if we open the door for more people to buy, the market could recover quicker than most expect.

2011 could really be a year to watch and keep an eye on the financing markets. If Wall Street gets greedy like last time, it could be a boom for real estate. The difference is, FNMA and Freddie Mac, and the US taxpayer won’t bail out bad loans, only systemic losses due to financial meltdowns. Hopefully we’ll enjoy the next boom with no meltdown, and higher down payments will help with that. If our markets stabilize like we think they will, even low down payments won’t affect the market because the market won’t be in freefall, and we’ll be adding jobs to the economy versus losing 8 million like we’ve done the past 3 years.

Bottom line, keep an eye out for sunny days ahead in the real estate market and we just might see them sooner rather than later. And mark your calendars for April 17. This will be the beginning of something. Time will judge the ending.

It seems on every appointment we go or every speaking presentation people want to know if our market has stabilized and finally headed up.  The answer is it seems that way, but our market is still in the process of healing.  The more complete answer is we are headed for better days; it’s just a question of where we are in the process.

Sales Prices in Fort Myers Cape Coral Florrida
Sales Prices and # of Sales in SW Florida

To illustrate where we are, we made a new chart that shows a timeline of median sales prices compared to sales volume, or # of transactions.  Sometimes as prices go up or down it can affect transaction volume, so we thought we’d study that and show you.  We’ve also included a graph of the Emotional Housing Cycle we brought to you in a State of the Market Report several years ago.

Emotional Housing Cycle
Emotional Housing Cycle

When we first presented this concept we were illustrating that our market needed to go through a healing process and there would be pain ahead. Back in January 2006 when prices peaked we were in the Euphoria stage.  We went on TV in October 2005 telling people this market had run its course and wasn’t going to sustain price increases and people had better start looking at the fundamentals of the market.  We pulled investors from new opportunities.

We bring all this up because back then it was a herd mentality, and we weren’t afraid to alert the market to a forthcoming change.  People of course made fun of us and said this market was a run away train and we couldn’t stop it, as if we were trying to.  Fast forward to 5 years later and you’ll find that we’ve gone through the painful process and we’re probably past Desperation and approaching Hope.

I know if you’re home is in foreclosure or has been foreclosed and times are desperate, you might not be feeling the hope.  From an overall market perspective, there is hope.  A few weeks ago at the CCIM Outlook a question came from the crowd asking where we are in the foreclosure crisis.  I answered I think we’re at about the 7th inning.  We do see more foreclosures coming, but they are not at the pace and intensity we’ve seen in years past.   Once we get to the point of fewer foreclosures, and fewer short sales, prices can increase rapidly.  We’re not there yet.

We’ll also keep an eye out for signs the overall economy is improving, and of course we always need to pay attention to wildcards like foreign oil supplies, interest rates, and financing availability.  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may be privatized and lower down payment options may dwindle to FHA and VA loans.

2009 was a record year for sales.  If you look at the graph, even though prices are down from last months numbers, transaction volume is higher than 2009.  2009 pumped out foreclosures at a record pace, so we probably will see less volume in 2011 simply because we’re seeing fewer foreclosures.  Short sales are still a tricky proposition and not guaranteed to close in a timely fashion, if at all.  Someday we’ll write a book on all the shenanigans we’ve seen banks play with short sales.  We have sold several, we’re just saying don’t always count on banks to do the logical thing or what’s in the best interests of even the bank.

We wouldn’t be surprised to see a rise in median prices next month and good sales volume as we are seeing a backlog in pending sales.  We’ll be releasing our 2011 State of the Market Report soon which will cover some of these trends.

 

This is the time of year agents are busy selling properties.  If you look at the last two years, historically you will see that sales begin to build each month heading into summer.  The last two years are fairly typical as to how our local market works.  April and May closed sales are results of deals put together in March.  There is typically about a one month lag from contract to closing.  Some closings occur in the same month, and some take longer, especially short sales. 

We think everyone who possibly can buy is attempting to right now for several reasons.  Interest rates are headed higher.  The Treasury Department’s phase-out of buying mortgage backed securities on FNMA and Freddie Mac expires this month.  The last time this happened rates shot up about ¾% in a week or so, so we’re keeping our eye on rates in April and what if anything the government does when they shoot back up. 

We also have the Home Buyer tax credit in place for sales through April 30.  Buyers have a few months after that to actually close these sales, but essentially it allows first time home buyers a credit of up to $8,000 and repeat home buyers a credit up to $6,500.  This is real money, and buyers are acting to receive this money. 

Single Family Home Sales by Month Lee County Florida
Single Family Home Sales by Month Lee County Florida

Additionally, inventory in certain price ranges is drying up, and prices are low.  Buyers from near and far and reaching to scoop up these bargains.  Because these homes are so far below replacement cost, these prices won’t last once the economy improves and builders start building again.  Many of these homes are 40-50% below cost, so there’s a built-in profit for buyers willing to buy now and hold until market improves. 

We know why the market is Hot, but let’s go behind the scenes and explain some things that are affecting the market many people might not know about.   The first major obstacle is appraisals.  Appraisals have been coming up short up to 30% of the time as appraisers not familiar with the neighborhoods are using comparables that are not the best for the subject property.  They are not taking the time to discern if the two neighborhoods are similar, or if the comparables condition is similar.  We’ve seen appraisers use comparables from other neighborhoods that just don’t measure up while ignoring a good comp 2 doors down that closed last week.  We’ve also seen appraisers only use the foreclosures, but they don’t tell the whole picture.  The foreclosures can need lots of work and be in poor condition, and if the appraiser wants to use them as a comp, they need to research its actual condition when property sold. 

The next big issue is we often have multiple offers on each property, and buyers are bidding against each other.  Cash is king, and buyers wishing to finance have a hard time competing with cash buyers.  The seller doesn’t have to worry whether the buyer will get financing when a cash buyer is involved, nor worry about a bad appraisal.  Many of these properties are selling well over asking price, and many buyers are frustrated no matter what they do they can’t land a property.

We also have out of town buyers who believe they can bargain down these homes, and wonder why they lose home after home when the sellers accept someone else’s offer.  Many buyers have said they don’t pay full sticker price, and yet they’re downright frustrated when the seller accepts another buyer’s offer.  Agents I speak with say they are educating buyers right upfront about our market, but buyers often times have to try for themselves.  A buyer can find out the hard way and miss out on their first 6 choices or take their agent’s advice and have a chance at getting choices 1-3.  Even if you offer $10,000 over asking price all cash, there’s no guarantee you’ll get the home, but at least your chances are better.  It pays to study each submarket and determine how each home fits in that puzzle. 

Lastly, title can be an issue.  If you’re buying a foreclosed home, it’s not uncommon for a title issue to creep up and extend the closing out.  Banks don’t always complete the full title process until a contract is secured, and that’s when it could be discovered some outstanding liens, or homeowner associations trying to collect more than the law allows to issue an estoppel letter.  We’ve even experienced a home that needed to be re-foreclosed as it wasn’t done properly the first time. 

If our market wasn’t so challenging, we’d see even higher sales reported.  This market is more complex than ever, but at least it keeps people on their toes and moving.  That’s often little solace to those caught up in a deal when things are going wrong, but I guess it beats having a dead market.  There’s nothing dead about the SW Florida real estate market.