30-Year Rates Down For Third Consecutive Week

McLean, VA –Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE) today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS) in which the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.99 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending January 21, 2010, down from last week when it averaged 5.06 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 5.12 percent.

The 15-year FRM this week averaged 4.40 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 4.45 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 4.80 percent. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 4.27 percent this week, with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 4.32 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 5.24 percent.

The 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 4.32 percent this week with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 4.39 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 4.92 percent.

“Fixed mortgage rates followed bond yields lower for the third consecutive week, pushing 30-year mortgages below 5 percent once more,” said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist. “Similarly, ARM rates eased along with shorter-term rates, as the federal funds futures market indicates no increase in the Federal Reserve’s target rate following its upcoming committee meeting on January 26th and 27th.

“Because of reduced sample sizes and work disruptions that occur with severe weather, housing starts tend to be more volatile during winter months. And, indeed, housing starts declined 4.0 percent in December, falling short of the market consensus of no change. Building permits, which are less vulnerable to weather interruptions, unexpectedly jumped 10.9 percent.”

– Copyright © 2010 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

How to Repair Your Home Without Damaging Your Wallet

Written by Phoebe Chongchua

Some homeowners have a long laundry list of to-do repairs and, interestingly enough, many of those items don’t get addressed until (or if at all) it’s time to sell the house. In hot real estate markets, repairs are sometimes not done before the sale. Remember bidding wars over properties that needed work? Well, today sellers are looking for the advantage that makes their home stand out. Even though housing inventory declined toward the end of last year, it’s expected to rise as more foreclosures tumble into the marketplace this year.

While fixing up a home to sell can be costly, there are some ways to reduce the damage to your wallet. Cheryl Reed from Angie’s List spoke to me about important repairs that shouldn’t be overlooked. They are: changing your furnace air filters regularly, fixing leaky faucets/toilets, repairing caulking issues in the bathroom and defective electrical outlets/wiring.

“Our experts in the heating ventilation air conditioning industry tell us that 60 percent of all their service calls start because it’s a dirty filter issue. If you have a dirty filter, it affects the efficiency of your furnace,” says Reed. She says that it’s a simple and easy repair that improves the air quality and saves you money.

“You can save about $100 a year if you just change those filters when you should.” She recommends checking your air filter every time you get your energy bill. “If it’s dirty and you can tell, you can see it; just switch it out. You can buy a number of air filters ranging from moderately good to really expensive and high efficiency, in terms of cleaning the air. You have a number of different options, depending on your budget,” says Reed. She also says, depending on health conditions of those living in the home, changing filters more frequently might be necessary. The second repair is annoying and easy to spot. “If you’ve got a leaky faucet or running toilet, that’s going to cost you,” says Reed. “If you don’t get it fixed you’re going to be paying more and more. It can also lead to mold damage. It can lead to a loss of your cabinetry—the flooring in your cabinetry can be rotted away and that can affect your floor underneath and the walls. So you can have a big issue if it’s not fixed soon,” says Reed.

If there are problems with your home when you begin to show it, buyers will spot them. Reed says, “People who come to your house to check out whether they’re going to buy it or not are looking really closely and they’re listening really closely too.” With plenty of housing inventory on the market, buyers are likely to move on if they feel the house needs a lot of repairs.

“You have to put forth your best impression. These small relatively inexpensive fixes are really important,” says Reed.

Dirty tiles and damaged caulking can send a message to buyers that the house may be in need of even bigger repairs. “You’re first going to have an aesthetic issue and second that’s an indication that you’ve got a problem that could lead to mold and nobody wants mold in their house anywhere at all—it will grow if you don’t have proper seals in your bathroom,” says Reed.

“Those are things that you can see every day—sometimes we get so used to seeing them that we forget about them,” says Reed. However, buyers don’t.

Reed offers this advice, “Pretend you’re going to try to buy your own home; what do you see that you wouldn’t tolerate?” She says it’s worth it to take the steps to fix the problems. Buyers don’t want to fix those problems any more than sellers do. Check for defective outlets. Electrical problems are not only irritating but also can be very hazardous. “An electrical fire can destroy your home,” says Reed.

Who should do the job? Of course, saving money is always key. Reed says some of these repairs might be suitable for a handyman but she cautions homeowners to be sure that the level of the repair matches the expertise of the person you hire.

“You’re going to pay more in the end if you don’t check out the person you hire to help you. Make sure that person has a good reputation and if it’s required for him or her to be licensed in your area, you really should [use] a licensed person, even if it’s more expensive,” says Reed. Reed says, you may pay more but you’ll get the job done right the first time.

– Copyright © 2010 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Real Estate Resolutions 2010

Written by Broderick Perkins

Sure you can lose weight, get in shape, launch a business or find a new job. But haven’t you also procrastinated long enough about buying a home?

How long has it been since you upgraded your home with a new roof, spiffed up landscaping or pulled some other home improvement?

And that post-World War II ranch home of yours could certainly use a few energy efficient do-overs.

Look to low mortgage interest rates, bargain home prices and other favorable market conditions to give you the resolve to consider home sweet home in your list of must-dos next year.

  • Join the nearly 18 percent of Americans who say they’ve resolved to become a first-time homebuyer in 2010, according to a new Move.com survey. That’s both a smart move and a timely one. Mortgage rates are at record lows, prices are down and the $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit has been extended until April 30, 2010. It’s also been expanded to include a $6,500 tax credit to move-up buyers.
  • More than 15 percent of those who responded to the survey said saving money to purchase a new home is their top real estate resolution for the New Year. Resolve with them to learn the best way to budget, plan ahead and save money.
  • Nearly 40 percent say No. 1 on their list of resolutions is starting a home improvement project. Cheap home equity money should help them not only start, but also complete the job.
  • The Move.com survey also found 9.1 percent most wanted to fix their credit so they can buy a home next year. To get started all you need to do is take a look at your next credit card statement for a toll free number directing you to counseling help. That’s part of the new, but little-known mandated disclosure provisions in the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act).
  • Nearly 16 percent are wisely considering buying an investment property as their top resolution. They couldn’t have picked a better time in the last half decade. Another Move.com survey recently found more than 12 percent of homebuyers today plan to purchase a home as an investment, compared to less than half, only 5.6 percent, just seven months ago, thanks to more attractive investment conditions.

“If you anticipate inflationary conditions in the future, investment property could be a good bet to hedge against it,” said Nancy Osborne, chief operating officer of Erate.com, a Santa Clara, CA-based financial information publisher and interest rate tracker.

– Copyright © 2010 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Move-Down Buyers Can Be Eligible For Tax Credit Too

Written by Bob Hunt

Move up, move down, move sideways; it just doesn’t matter. Whichever direction you move, financially, you may still qualify for the new tax credit available to current homeowners. It is unfortunate that the credit has too often been characterized as a credit for “move-up” homeowners. The phrase carries the implication that the new home must cost more than the sale price of the former one. Indeed, even the November 6 White House Press Release said that the credit would be available to qualified homeowners who “wish to step up to a new home.” Same implication.

So, it is worth emphasizing that the credit is equally available to homeowners who are moving down, cost-wise.

The move-down homebuyer is not an unusual phenomenon. For years retirees have been known to move from a larger home to one that is smaller and often less expensive. Moreover, it is reasonable to think that current economic conditions may lead to even more move-down buyers. Just as thousands of families have found it necessary or desirable to downsize with respect to their cars and their general lifestyle, so it may be when it comes to considering the costs of owning and maintaining a larger house than they really need.

The same requirements apply to both move-down and move-up buyers.

First of all, the previous home must have been occupied as the buyer’s principal residence for at least five consecutive years out of the past eight years. Two examples: (1) Suppose that during the past eight years you occupied the property for three years, then rented it out for two years (perhaps because of a job transfer or temporary assignment), and then occupied it again for three years up until now. Even though you had occupied the property as your principal residence for six of the past eight years, you would not be eligible because you had not occupied it for five consecutive years. (I’m not saying this makes sense; I’m just reporting on the requirements.) (2) Suppose you bought a home eight (or more) years ago, you occupied it as a principal residence until two years ago when you sold it. Would you qualify? Yes, because you had occupied it as a principal residence for at least five consecutive years of the past eight.

There are important issues of timing as well. You must have purchased (that is closed on) the replacement home sometime after 11/6/2009 and before 4/30/2010. With one exception: the new home will also qualify if you had entered into a binding contract no later than April 30, 2010 and you closed no later than June 30, 2010.

The time the previous home sold doesn’t matter. Indeed, it doesn’t even have to be sold. You might, for example, keep it as a rental.

The tax credit is for 10% of the purchase price up to a maximum credit of $6,500 for joint filers and $3,250 for those filing separately. There is a full credit for singles whose income does not exceed $125,000 and for couples whose income is no more than $225,000. A phase-out applies to higher incomes up to $145,000 and $245,000 respectively.

The cost of the new home may not exceed $800,000.

The new home must be used as a principal residence for a three year period subsequent to closing, or else the credit must be repaid.

This program won’t help everyone, of course; but it’s pretty nice for those to whom it applies.

– Copyright © 2010 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.