Friday, June 25, 2010

Top 10 Fastest Growing U.S. Counties

The fastest-growing counties in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, are mostly in suburban areas outside of urban centers.

The census numbers govern the distribution of more than $400 billion in federal money each year.

Here are the 10 fastest-growing counties:

1. Kendall County, Ill. (Chicago), 92.1 percent
2. Pinal County, Ariz. (Phoenix), 89.7 percent
3. Rockwall County, Texas (Dallas), 88.9 percent
4. Flagler County, Fla. (Jacksonville), 83.9 percent
5. Loudon County, Va. (Washington, D.C.), 77.6 percent
6. Forsyth County, Ga. (Atlanta), 77.4 percent
7. Lincoln County, S.D. (Sioux Falls), 70.7 percent
8. Paulding County, Ga. (Atlanta), 67.4 percent
9. Williamson County, Texas (Austin), 64.3 percent
10. Douglas County, Colo. (Denver), 64 percent


Mortgage Rates Hit an All-Time Low

Average interest on a 30-year fixed mortgage fell to an all-time low of 4.69 percent this week, down from 4.75 percent a week ago, reports Freddie Mac.

Although rates have held below 5 percent since early May, Michael Fratantoni of the Mortgage Bankers Association notes that demand for purchase loans has fallen in six of the past seven weeks and now is at a 13-year low. Consumers have grown used to low rates, he explains, adding that they balk at buying because they are more concerned about stagnant wages and high unemployment.

Source: Washington Post

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tips for Your Clients Who Garden

Garden improvements don’t have to dig your clients into a deep financial hole. Help them plant a lush yet dirt-cheap garden by passing along 10 tips for saving money in the garden now available in the June “ABCs of Landscaping” article package at the REALTOR® Content Resource. Here are just two of the tips now available on gardening on a budget:

1. Understand your land. Before shelling out money for new plants, look at what has thrived and what has died in your garden over time. If you’re new to the area, ask neighbors with similar growing conditions what has worked for them.

Keep in mind that even plants appropriate for your growing zone might not work in your personal patch, depending on the soil composition, sunlight patterns, microclimate, pests, and available water. Your local cooperative extension service can analyze your soil and recommend amendments and suitable plantings.

2. Avoid invasives. No matter how big your hurry to see your garden fill in, be wary of a plant billed as a “fast grower” or “aggressive.” Often that’s code for an invasive species—a non-native plant that makes its way into the landscape and crowds out the locals by stealing their nutrients, light, and water.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture maintains a list of invasives, which include various ivies, grasses, weeds, vines, self-seeding varieties of bushes and shrubs, even seemingly innocuous herbs like mint. Your county extension service can steer you toward the species best suited to your plot. Tip: If you love growing mint in the garden, contain it in a pot.

Also available in the June “ABCs of Landscaping” article package now available at the REALTOR® Content Resource are tips on saving money with an edible garden, using a calendar for lawn maintenance, landscaping for curb appeal, and seven gardening mistakes to avoid.

The REALTOR® Content Resource, the new tool brought to you by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, is an exclusive NAR member benefit that entitles you to download free homeownership content to your consumer Web site, blog, or e-newsletter. HouseLogic is the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS’® no-topic-left-uncovered consumer website geared to helping home owners make smart decisions to maintain, protect, and increase the value of their home.

Source: NAR

Continued Strong Pace for Existing-Home Sales

Existing-home sales remained at elevated levels in May on buyer response to the tax credit, characterized by stabilizing home prices and historically low mortgage interest rates, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Gains in the West and South were offset by a decline in the Northeast; the Midwest was steady.

Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops, were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.66 million units in May, down 2.2 percent from an upwardly revised surge of 5.79 million units in April. May closings are 19.2 percent above the 4.75 million-unit level in May 2009; April sales were revised to show an 8.0 percent monthly gain.

Buyers Face Purchasing Delays
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said he expects one more month of elevated home sales. “We are witnessing the ongoing effects of the home buyer tax credit, which we’ll also see in June real estate closings,” he said. “However, approximately 180,000 home buyers who signed a contract in good faith to receive the tax credit may not be able to finalize by the end of June due to delays in the mortgage process, particularly for short sales.

“In addition, many potential sales are being delayed by an interruption in the National Flood Insurance Program. Florida and Louisiana, also impacted by the oil spill, have the highest percentage of homes that require flood insurance.”

As the leading advocate for homeownership issues, NAR is supporting Senate amendments to extend the home buyer tax credit closing deadline through September 30 for contracts written by April 30, and to renew the flood insurance program. “Sales and related local economic activity would have been higher without delays in the closing process or flood insurance issues,” Yun noted.

Housing Still Affordable
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 4.89 percent in May from 5.10 percent in April; the rate was 4.86 percent in May 2009.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $179,600 in May, up 2.7 percent from May 2009. Distressed homes slipped to 31 percent of sales last month, compared with 33 percent in April; it was also 33 percent in May 2009.

NAR President Vicki Cox Golder said home prices have been stabilizing all year. “With distressed sales at roughly the same level as a year ago, the gain in home prices is a hopeful sign that the market is in a good position to stand on its own without further government stimulus,” she said. “Very affordable mortgage interest rates and stabilizing home prices are encouraging home buyers who were on the sidelines during most of the boom and bust cycle.”

Pending home sales are expected to decline notably in May and June from the spring surge, but Yun added that job growth and a manageable level of foreclosures are keys to sales and price performance during the second half of the year.

Inventory Falling
A parallel NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 46 percent of homes in May, down from 49 percent in April. Investors accounted for 14 percent of transactions in May compared with 15 percent in April; the remaining sales were to repeat buyers. All-cash sales were at 25 percent in May, edging down from a 26 percent share in April.

Total housing inventory at the end of May fell 3.4 percent to 3.89 million existing homes available for sale, which represents an 8.3-month supply at the current sales pace, compared with an 8.4-month supply in April. Raw unsold inventory is 1.1 percent above a year ago, but is still 14.9 percent below the record of 4.58 million in July 2008.
Single-family home sales declined 1.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.98 million in May from a pace of 5.06 million in April, but are 17.5 percent above the 4.24 million level in May 2009. The median existing single-family home price was $179,400 in May, which is 2.7 percent above a year ago.

Single-family median existing-home prices were higher in 16 out of 20 metropolitan statistical areas reported in May from a year ago. In addition, existing single-family home sales rose in 18 of the 20 areas from May 2009.

Existing condominium and co-op sales fell 6.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 680,000 in May from 730,000 in April, but are 32.6 percent above the 513,000-unit pace in May 2009. The median existing condo price was $181,300 in May, up 3.4 percent from a year ago.

By Region
Existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 18.3 percent to an annual level of 890,000 in May from a surge in April, but are 12.7 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $240,200, down 2.2 percent from May 2009.
In the Midwest, existing-home sales were unchanged in May at a pace of 1.33 million and are 22.0 percent above May 2009. The median price in the Midwest was $150,700, up 2.2 percent from a year ago.
In the South, sales increased 0.5 percent to an annual level of 2.15 million in May and are 22.9 percent above a year ago. The median price in the South was $159,000, up 1.0 percent from May 2009.
Existing-home sales in the West rose 4.9 percent to an annual rate of 1.29 million in May and are 15.2 percent higher than May 2009. The median price in the West was $221,300, up 7.4 percent from a year ago.

Source: NAR

Friday, June 18, 2010

Home Prices in California Jump in May

Median home prices in California rose to $278,000 in May, up 20.9 percent from May 2009, according to MDA DataQuick, which tracks real estate data in the state.

Low mortgage rates and the tax credits encouraged the sales of lower- and higher-priced homes, pushing up the median price, says DataQuick President John Walsh.

Walsh cautioned that there are many homes in foreclosure that haven’t been repossessed by lenders. If lenders take control of these properties and put them on the market, those sales will have a very negative effect on prices, he says.

Source: Associated Press, Jacob Adelman (06/17/2010)

Buyers Drive Hard Bargains in a Tough Market

Unrealistic buyers are ruining the deal for sellers who are unwilling to make extreme concessions, some real estate practitioners complain.

''We see buyers who must have learned their moves from the World Wrestling Federation,'' says Glenn Kelman, CEO of the online brokerage Redfin. ''They think the final smack-down occurs at the inspection, where the seller will be reluctant to refuse any demand because the alternative is putting the house back on the market as damaged goods.''

But buyers say they're simply being smart.

''We had the position, 'If the seller is willing to come down enough, we will buy this home.' If they weren't willing, we would have just moved on. In this market, you have a lot of options,'' says Chris Dunn, a consultant in Chicago, who sought a 10 percent reduction on a property priced at more than $500,000.

Source: The New York Times, David Streitfeld (06/17/2010)

California Economy

California’s economy to see sluggish recovery this year, UCLA economists say East Bay Real Estate.

Los Angeles Times

California’s unemployment rate, currently at 12.4 percent, will not return to single-digit levels until 2012 and the state’s inland areas will continue to be impaired by excess housing inventory and state budget cuts, according to a forecast released Tuesday by UCLA’s Anderson School of Business.


• California’s economic recovery is contingent on consumer shopping behavior nationwide, as retail spending drives traffic at California’s ports and logistics centers, which are both substantial employers throughout the state, the report said. However, consumers are unlikely to increase spending until businesses begin hiring again, which many economists believe will only happen gradually over time.

• The coastal areas of the state will benefit from growth in health care, education, and technology, while inland areas will be constrained by excess housing inventory and state budget cuts, impacting rural inland areas where government workers account for a significant percentage of the workforce, according to the forecast.

• The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) recently issued its mid-year housing market forecast. Based on C.A.R.’s forecast, the median home price in California is expected to rise 9.1 percent this year compared with last year, while sales of existing, single-family homes will decline 4.7 percent. Rates on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages will rise to 5.3 percent compared with 5.1 percent in 2009 and 15-year mortgages will average 4.2 percent compared with 4.7 percent last year, according to the forecast

To read the full story, please click here:,0,6824904.story