This Week in Real Estate: April 27, 2015

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Good Morning!

The major headline for This Week in Real Estate​ is for the second straight year, real estate is named the best long-term investment. Below are a few of the highlights from the week of April 20, 2015 that influence our business:

* Americans Agree: Real Estate Best Long-Term Investment. Signaling growing confidence in the housing recovery a majority of Americans, for the second straight year, named real estate the best long-term investment. Today real estate is either the top choice or tied for the top choice as the best investment among all major gender, age and income groups. Real estate leads with 31% of Americans choosing it, followed by stocks/mutual funds at 25% and gold at 19%. Full story…
http://www.gallup.com/poll/182819/americans-again-say-real-estate-best-long-term-investment.aspx?utm_source=Economy&utm_medium=newsfeed&utm_campaign=tiles

* Sales of Existing U.S. Homes Rise to Highest Level Since 2013. Sales of previously owned homes jumped in March by the most in four years, putting the U.S. residential real estate market on firm footing heading into the busiest time of year. The gain in March was the biggest since December 2010. Sales of single-family homes increased 5.5 percent to an annual rate of 4.59 million, the most since August 2013. Figures from the Mortgage Bankers Association on Wednesday showed stronger demand is extending into April. The group’s index of purchase applications climbed last week to the highest level since June 2013.  Full story…
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-22/sales-of-existing-u-s-homes-rise-to-highest-level-since-2013

* Housing Recovery Steady In 2015, Will Pick Up Pace Next Year. Solid employment gains, attractive mortgage rates, a growing economy and pent-up demand will help keep the housing market forward throughout 2015 and into next year, according to economists who participated in yesterday’s National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) 2015 Spring Construction Forecast Webinar. “This should be a good year for housing, buoyed by sustained job growth, rising consumer confidence that is back to pre-recession levels and a gradual uptick in household formations,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “We expect 2016 to be even better, due to a significant amount of pent-up demand and an economy that will be entering a period of reasonable strength and consistency.” Full story… http://www.nahb.org/news_details.aspx?sectionID=148&newsID=17232

* Home Prices Are Climbing Faster and Faster, but This Is Not a Bubble. During the peak years of the housing bubble, from 2003 – 2005, the data on supply versus price appreciation looked very similar to what we are seeing now. But there are key differences. Full story… http://www.realtor.com/news/home-prices-climbing-faster-but-this-is-no-bubble/

Have a productive week!

Jason

 

 


This Week in Real Estate: April 20, 2015

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Good Morning!

Better than expected consumer confidence results, lowest quarterly level of distressed properties in 8 years and low interest rates dominate the headlines This Week in Real Estate​. Below are a few of the highlights from the mid-way point in April that influence our business:

* First Quarter U.S. Foreclosure Activity Drops to Lowest Quarterly Level in Eight Years. Foreclosure filings – default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions – were reported on 313,487 U.S. properties in the first quarter of 2015, down 7 percent from the previous quarter and down 8 percent from the first quarter of 2014 to the lowest quarterly total since the first quarter 2007. March did realize a 20 percent month-over-month increase in foreclosure filings from a 104-month low in February. The increase in March was driven primarily by a jump in bank repossessions (REOs). “The March increase is continued cleanup of distress still lingering from the previous housing crisis; not the beginning of a new crisis by any means,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “Some of the most stubborn foreclosure cases are finally being flushed out of the next foreclosure pipeline and we would expect to see more noise in the numbers over the next few months as national foreclosure activity makes its way back to more stable patterns by the end of this year.” Full story… http://www.realtytrac.com/news/foreclosure-trends/march-q1-2015-foreclosure-market-report/​

* Builder Confidence Rises Four Points in April. Homebuilder sentiment reversed a three-month slide in April and rose to its best monthly showing of 2015, the National Association of Home Builders said on Wednesday. Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes in April rose four points to a level of 56 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) released Wednesday. “The HMI component index measuring future sales expectation rose five points in April to its highest level of the year,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. Derived from a monthly survey the NAHB has been conducting for 30 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair” or “poor.”  Full story… http://www.nahb.org/news_details.aspx?newsID=17225

* Mortgage Rates Little Changed Remain Near 2015 Lows. Thursday Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey showing average fixed mortgage rates moving largely unchanged amid a light week of economic releases and remaining near their 2015 lows. Full story…
http://freddiemac.mwnewsroom.com/press-releases/mortgage-rates-little-changed-remain-near-2015-low-otcqb-fmcc-1188498?feed=429e0be3-9aef-4a3a-9775-43f8e470d510

* Mortgage Applications End 3-Week Winning Streak. Applications for purchase mortgages have ended three straight weeks in which their volume increased an average of 6 percent. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) said today that those applications dropped by 3 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis during the week ended April 10th. They did however remain 7 percent higher than in the same week in 2014. Full story… http://www.mortgagenewsdaily.com/04152015_application_volume.asp

* U.S. consumer sentiment rises in April. U.S. consumer sentiment rose more than expected in April, a survey released Friday showed. Consumer optimism reached a 10-year peak of 95.5 during the first quarter of 2015, its highest level since 2004. The University of Michigan’s preliminary April reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment came in at 95.9, up from the final March read of 93.0. Analysts were looking for a reading of 94.0. Full story… http://www.cnbc.com/id/102596403

Have a productive week!

Jason

 


This Week in Real Estate: April 13, 2015

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Good Morning!

​Following a strong finish to the first quarter This Week in Real Estate offers every reason to be excited and optimistic for a huge Q2 and Q3 selling season. Below are a few of the highlights from the first full week of the second quarter that influence our business: ​

* Solid Real Estate Growth Predicted Through 2017. The real estate industry is expected to remain on a sustainable course of solid growth for 2015 through 2017, according to a new three-year forecast from the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Center for Capital Markets and Real Estate. The outlook is based on a survey of 43 of the industry’s top economists and analysts representing 32 of the country’s leading real estate investment, advisory, and research firms and organizations. “Almost all U.S. real estate participants would be very pleased if the future unfolded as predicted by the ULI consensus forecast,” says William Maher, ULI leader and director of North American strategy for LaSalle Investment Management in Baltimore. “The forecast represents almost the perfect combination of strong economic and property market fundamentals, combined with an orderly wind-down of monetary stimulus. Although the potential exists for progress to be hampered by obstacles such as economic downturns, foreign crises, interest rate spikes, or oversupplies, real estate pros predict three more years of smooth sailing for U.S. real estate,” he says. Full story…
http://uli.org/press-release/uli-real-estate-consensus-forecast-april-2015/

* MBA: New Home Purchases Jump 17% in March. Mortgage applications for new home purchases increased by 17% relative to the previous month, the March Mortgage Bankers Association’s Builder Application Survey said. “Overall, applications for new home purchases during the first quarter of 2015 increased 20 percent relative to the first quarter of last year. Continued strength in builder applications raises the likelihood that housing starts will be strong over the next few months,” said Lynn Fisher, MBA’s vice president of research and economics. “Although the March employment report showed a smaller net gain in jobs, job openings are up, wages are beginning to increase more robustly, and mortgage rates remain low, all of which contribute to stronger housing markets,” said Fisher. Full story…
http://www.housingwire.com/articles/33508-mba-new-home-purchases-jump-17-in-march

* Mortgage Credit Eases, Applications Rise. The latest Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI) report from the Mortgage Bankers Association says that mortgage credit availability increased in March. Based on data from Ellie Mae, the MCAI rose 121.4, an indicator that mortgage credit is loosening. A finding under 100 means that lending standards are tightening. “All four component indexes of the MCAI increased last month: jumbo, conforming, conventional, and government,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s Chief Economist. “Although credit remains tight by historical standards, this increase in availability, coupled with low rates and job market strength, should lead to stronger home purchase activity this spring.” Full story… ​
http://realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/mortgageadvice1/item/34230-20150410-mortgage-credit-eases-applications-rise

* Overview of Changes to RESPA/TILA Disclosures. ​August 1 will be here before we know it. On that date the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rule integrating the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) and Truth in Lending Act (TILA) disclosures and regulations will go into effect. The final rule integrates existing disclosures with new requirements from the Dodd-Frank Act to improve consumer understanding of the mortgage process, aid in comparison shopping, and help to prevent surprises at the closing table. Below are links to Highlights of the New Rule and a very good webinar hosted by the National Association of Realtors. This is a significant change to the closing process that we will all want to be very familiar with. Please be on the look out for training opportunities.
http://www.realtor.org/articles/overview-of-changes-to-respa/tila-disclosures
http://www.ksefocus.com/billdatabase/clientfiles/172/4/2265.pdf
http://www.realtor.org/webinars/nar-respa/tila-march-webinar

Have a productive week!

Jason

 


This Week in Real Estate: April 6, 2015

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Good Morning!

This Week in Real Estate ended with a weaker than expected March employment report. The result? The lowest mortgage rates in two months. Below are a few of the highlights from the first few days of April that influence our business:

* New Indicator Says Housing Is Healthy, Downturn Unlikely. Nationwide said on Tuesday that the overall housing market is healthier than at any time since 2001, the earliest point for which data is available and that data suggests there is little reason to fear a national housing downturn over the next year. The insurance and financial services organization unveiled a new housing market indicator, the Leading Index of Health Housing Markets (LIHHM). Nationwide calls the LIHHM “a data-driven view of the near-term performance of housing markets based upon current health indicators for the national housing market and 373 metropolitan statistical areas.” The company says the index focuses on the entire housing market rather than merely projecting house prices or home sales. The indicator is calculated using local level data in four categories, employment, demographics, mortgage market, and house prices. Full story…
http://www.mortgagenewsdaily.com/03312015_housing_market_health.asp​

* House Prices Record Annual Gains, Expected To Rise In The Future. The recent release by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) shows that its measure of house prices, House Price Index – Purchase only, rose by 5.1% on a 12-month seasonally adjusted basis in January 2015. This marks the 36th consecutive month of year-over-year growth. Over this nearly three-year period, house prices have risen by 20.1%. Similarly, the recent release from Standard and Poor’s (S&P) and Case-Shiller indicates that their measure of national house prices, the House Price Index – National, rose by 4.5% on a year-over-year seasonally adjusted basis. This is the 33rd consecutive month of year-over-year increases in the house price index. Over this period of more than two-and-a-half years, house prices have risen by 22.1%. Full story…
http://eyeonhousing.org/2015/04/house-prices-record-annual-gains-expected-to-rise-in-the-future/

* The March Jobs Report. The U.S. economy added 126,000 jobs in March, ending a streak of 12 straight months of job growth exceeding 200,000, a level of job creation that hasn’t been seen since a 13-month run back in 1994-1995. The unemployment rate in March remained unchanged at 5.5%, while a broader gauge of underemployment that includes workers who have part-time jobs but would like full-time work ticked down to 10.9%, the lowest level since August 2008. The positive news reported last month notwithstanding (CPI), this labor report will give the Fed pause as it considers the timing of interest rate increases (FOMC). The weakness of this report raises the probability that the much anticipated Fed action increasing interest rates will be delayed. Full story… ​
http://www.npr.org/2015/04/03/397189016/march-employment-report-expected-to-show-continued-job-growth

* Mortgage Rates Officially Hit 2-month Lows After Jobs Data. Mortgage rates scored a major victory on Friday at the expense of the labor market. Recent examples of the Employment Situation Report have been surprisingly strong. That presented major problems for rates in February and March as it ramped up expectations for a Fed rate hike. But those expectations have come crashing down in the past few hours. The report wasn’t just moderately weaker, it was the biggest month-over-month drop in well over a year. There’s always a risk that rates will move higher, but days like today suggest that such a move is, by no means, a foregone conclusion. Full story…
http://www.mortgagenewsdaily.com/consumer_rates/450267.aspx

* Buy Like Buffett: A Love Story. Below is a link to a video played at the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Convention earlier this month. Forbes produced the video telling one couple’s love story through Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. brands ending with a BHHS sign in front of the house the couple purchased. It is very cool how Forbes linked all the various Berkshire Hathaway companies ending with real estate. ​https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EIM4d_GgBs​

Have a productive week!

Jason

 

 


This Week in Real Estate: March 30, 2015

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Good Morning!

As the first quarter of 2015 comes to an end, it is safe to contend that Q1 2015 compared to the same time period the prior year is much more favorable leading into the peak selling season of Q2 and Q3. This Week in Real Estate covers a wide spectrum of topics from consumer confidence to new construction sales to the ever pending interest rate increase. Below are a few of the highlights from the last, full week in March that influence our business:

* February new-home sales highest in seven years. Builders signed contracts on more homes in February 2015 than any time since early 2008 according to the Census Bureau and HUD. February seasonally-adjusted annual new home sales topped out at 539,000, up 7.8 percent from a healthy 500,000 in January. Full story…
http://eyeonhousing.org/2015/03/new-home-sales-surge/​

* Mortgage applications rise 9.5 percent from one week earlier. Stoked by the lowest interest rates in several weeks the volume of applications for mortgages to both purchase and refinance homes increased by the largest percentages than at any time since early January. The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 9.5 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. The Refinance Index increased 12 percent from the previous week. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 5 percent from one week earlier to its highest level since January 2015. Full story…
https://www.mba.org/2015-press-releases/mortgage-applications-increase-in-latest-mba-weekly-survey-x89405

* 5 quotes from Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen’s speech at the San Francisco Fed on Friday. Janet Yellen offered a cautious message on the prospect of interest rate increases in a speech this week, saying the central bank expects to begin raising rates this year and then proceed gradually after that. Here are five key quotes from her prepared remarks. Full story… http://blogs.wsj.com/briefly/2015/03/27/5-quotes-from-janet-yellens-speech-to-the-san-francisco-fed/

* U.S. consumer sentiment at 93.0 in March vs. 92.0 estimate. Consumer optimism reached a 10-year peak of 95.5 in the first quarter of 2015, its highest level since 2004. “While there is a widespread expectation that interest rates will begin to rise later in the year, few consumers anticipated that the size of the increases will dampen their credit sensitive purchase plans.” Full story… http://www.cnbc.com/id/102540745?__source=mnd|news|&par=mnd

* Rising rents are finally forcing Millennials to buy houses. Expect the open-house crowds to skew a little younger during this year’s spring homebuying season. Millennials made up 32 percent of the U.S. housing market in 2014, up from 28 percent two years earlier, and have pulled ahead of the older Generation X as the largest segment of buyers, according to the National Association of Realtors. About 5.2 million renters say they expect to purchase a house in 2015, up from 4.2 million a year earlier. The U.S. rental vacancy rate hit a 21-year low at the end of last year, according to the Census Bureau, giving landlords leverage to charge more. Full story…
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-25/millennials-start-shift-to-homeownership-as-rents-soar

Have a productive week!

Jason

 


This Week in Real Estate: March 23, 2015

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This Week in Real Estate is highlighted by the news that more than a million homeowners regained their equity in 2014 and the foreclosure activity is at its lowest level since the summer of 2006. What does that mean for those renting? Below are a few of the highlights from the third week in March that influence our business:

* U.S. foreclosure activity at lowest level since July 2006. RealtyTrac released its U.S. Foreclosure Market Report for February this week, which shows foreclosure filings down 9 percent from a year ago to the lowest level since July 2006. “Given that August 2006 was the peak of the housing bubble, this eight-and-a-half year low in foreclosure activity is a significant milestone and a sign that nationwide foreclosure activity is on track to return to historic norms this year – and is possibly even headed below historic norms given the skinny-jeans-tight lending standards over the past five years,” said Darren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. Full Story… http://www.realtytrac.com/news/foreclosure-trends/february-2014-foreclosure-market-report/

* 1.2 million U.S. borrowers regained equity in 2014. This week Corelogic released new analysis showing 1.2 million borrowers regained equity in 2014, bringing the total number of mortgaged residential properties with equity at the end of Q4 2014 to approximately 44.5 million or 89 percent of all mortgaged properties. Full Story… http://www.corelogic.com/about-us/news/corelogic-reports-1.2-million-us-borrowers-regained-equity-in-2014.aspx

* Why renters may be in trouble. The gap between rental costs and household income is widening to unsustainable levels across the country. NAR evaluated income growth, housing costs, and changes in share of renter and owner-occupied households over the past five years in metropolitan statistical areas across the U.S. Over the last five years, a typical rent rose 15 percent, while the income of renters grew by only 11 percent, according to their research. “Current renters seeking relief and looking to buy are facing the same dilemma: Home prices are rising much faster than their incomes,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. Meanwhile, those who were able to buy a home in recent years have been insulated from the rising housing costs since they were able to lock-in a low 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a set monthly payment, according to NAR’s study. Full Story… http://www.realtormag.realtor.org/daily-news/2015/03/17/why-renters-may-be-in-trouble

Have a productive week!

Jason

 


This Week in Real Estate: March 16, 2015

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The most pressing question in This Week in Real Estate is: will this be the best year for home sales in nearly a decade? As the first quarter prepares to close in just over 2 weeks, Freddie Mac believes the answer is yes. And, if you have not read the 2015 National Association of Realtor’s Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study that was released this week, I encourage you to. Below are a few of the highlights from the second week in March that influence our business:

* Freddie Mac: 2015 best year for home sales in 8 years. “We expect this year to be the best year for home sales and new home construction since 2007 when we saw total home sales about 5.8 million for the year,” said Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist with Freddie Mac. Reasons Freddie Mac is optimistic: high affordability, improving labor markets, rising rents and expanded credit availability. Full Story… http://www.housingwire.com/articles/33221-freddie-mac-2015-best-year-for-home-sales-in-8-years

* Home buyers borrowing more than ever before. The average loan size for home purchases reached $294,000 last week, the highest amount since the Mortgage Bankers Association started keeping records 25 years ago. While the loan amounts increased, so did the cost of borrowing money. The average rate for a 30-year, fixed rate loan last week was 4.01 percent, the highest level so far this year and up from 3.96 percent the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. The association expects mortgage rates to continue marching upward as strong jobs data reinforces expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates as soon as June. The organization predicts long-term mortgage rates will reach 4.6 percent by the end of this year and 5.4 percent by the end of 2016. Full Story… http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2015/03/11/Home-Buyers-Borrowing-More-Ever

* NAR Generational Survey: Millenials Lead All Buyers, Most Likely to Use Real Estate Agent. For the second consecutive years, NAR’s study found that the largest group of recent buyers was the millenial generation, those 34 and younger, composed 32 percent of all buyers (31 percent in 2013). Generation X, ages 35 – 49, was closely behind with a 27 percent share. Regardless of their age, buyers used a wide variety of resources in searching for a home, with the internet (88 percent) and real estate agents (87 percent) leading the way. Millennials were the most likely to use a real estate agent, mobile or tablet applications, and mobile or tablet search engines during their search. Although the internet was the top source of where millennials found they home they purchased (51 percent), they also used an agent to purchase their home at a higher share (90 percent) than all other generations. Gen X homeowners represented the largest share of sellers (27 percent) followed by older boomers (23 percent) and younger boomers (20 percent). A combined 60 percent of responding sellers found a real estate agent through a referral by a friend, relative or neighbor, or used their agent from a previous transaction. Eighty-three percent are likely to use the agent again or recommend to others. Full Story… http://www.realtor.org/reports/home-buyer-and-seller-generational-trends

* The bitter divorce of ListHub and the Zillow Group was completed in a California courtroom on Thursday. The two parties have settled and ListHub’s listing data will now disappear from Trulia on April 7, the same day it was already set to disappear from Zillow. Full Story… http://www.housingwire.com/articles/33235-zillowtrulia-settles-with-move-listings-will-disappear-in-april

Have a productive week!

Jason

 


This Week in Real Estate: March 9, 2015

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Hello!

Following the report this week of another strong month of job growth in February the noteworthy news for This Week in Real Estate  centers around the increasing speculation of just when the Fed will raise interest rates. Also, a very fascinating report offered by Goldman Sachs about millennials and how they will impact the economy. Below are a few of the highlights from the first week in March that influence our business:

* U.S. labor market flexes muscles as February payrolls soar. The jobs report released Friday confirms that the U.S. labor market is continuing an impressive, if not historic, favorable run. The 295,000 gain in payrolls for February solidly outperformed the consensus expectation of 235,000. This is particularly impressive when you take into account the range of recent headwinds confronting the U.S. economy, from disruptive weather to a relentlessly stronger dollar. February was the 12th straight month of job gains exceeding 200,000, the longest such run since 1994. Equally impressively, this report increases the three-month moving average to around 290,000. The unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a percentage point to 5.5 percent, the lowest since May 2008. Full Story… http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/06/us-usa-economy-idUSKBN0M20E620150306​

* Wall Street firms more convinced of June rate hike. Many of Wall Street’s biggest banks are more convinced the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in June after a strong February jobs report on Friday pointed to sustained economic growth and as the jobless rate hit a more than 6-1/2 year-low. “The strength of the jobs data today argues in favor of the Fed allowing itself the flexibility to soon drop the word ‘patient'” from its statement, said Dana Saporta, economist at Credit Suisse, who expects a June rate hike. Full Story… http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/06/us-usa-fed-reuterspoll-idUSKBN0M22DB20150306?feedType=RSS&feedName=businessNews

* Property tax rates highest for homeowners who have owned between five and fifteen years. It seems that taxes on real property reflect not only the value of the property itself, but also how long the owner has held title. That was one finding of a study released this week by RealtyTrac, which it called its ‘first-ever U.S. Property Tax Rates Report.’ RealtyTrac cut the data in several ways and came up with some interesting findings. First, it found that owners of very high end and very low end homes pay the highest property tax rates. The report found significant correlation between years owned and tax rate. The report found that homeowners who have owned 5 to 15 years had the highest effective property tax rates while those who have owned more than 20 years had the lowest effective property tax rates. The average effective property tax rate was 1.35 percent for homeowners who have owned between 10 and 15 years, and it was 1.34 percent for homeowners who have owned between 5 and 10 years. Meanwhile, the average effective property tax rates was 1.18 percent for homeowners who have owned less than 1 year, and it was 1.15 percent for homeowners who have owned more than 20 years. Full Story… http://www.realtytrac.com/news/home-prices-and-sales/property-tax-rates-highest-for-homeowners-who-have-owned-between-five-and-15-years-own-high-end-or-low-end-homes/

* Goldman Sachs just nailed millennial homebuying. The Millennial generation is the largest in U.S. history and as they reach their prime working and spending years, their impact on the economy is going to be huge. Millennials are poised to reshape the economy; their unique experiences will change the ways we buy and sell, forcing companies to examine how they do business for decades to come.  “As millennials enter their peak home-buying years, their reluctance to enter the housing market could change. The cohort’s sheer size, plus its desire to settle down in the future, could lead to a surge in home sales.” Millenials have come of age during a time of technological change, globalization and economic disruption. That’s given them a different set of behaviors and experiences than their parents. Full Story… http://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/outlook/millennials/index.html?cid=tw-or-mil-3

Have a productive week!

Jason

 


This Week in Real Estate, March 2, 2015

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Happy March!

With the first two months of 2015 in the books the theme for This Week in Real Estate is “record highs.” Below are a few of the highlights from the final week in February that influence our business:

* Pending home sales hit highest level in 18 months. U.S. home buyers signed more contracts to buy existing homes in January than they have since August of 2013, according to the National Association of Realtors. Its monthly index of so-called  pending sales, an indicator of future closed sales, rose 1.7 percent month-to-month, and is now 8.4 percent higher than it was a year ago. This is the fifth straight month of year-over-year gains, and the gains are increasing. “Contract activity is convincingly up compared to a year ago despite comparable inventory levels,” said Lawrence Yun. “The difference this year is the positive factors supporting stronger sales, such as slightly improving credit conditions, more jobs and slower price growth.” Full Story… http://www.cnbc.com/id/102460499

* Construction optimism at 20-year high. Wells Fargo’s 2015 Construction Industry Forecast, presents results of a survey it has conducted for the last 19 years of industry executives representing large and small contractors as well as equipment distributorships and equipment rental companies. The survey attempts to track industry optimism using what it calls the Optimism Quotient (OQ). John Crum said that after tumbling to an all-time low of 42 in January 2009, the OQ has climbed steadily, reaching new highs in three of the last four years and landing this year at 130, up six points from 2014. “In the nearly 20 years that we’ve been tracking the OQ we’ve never seen such widespread optimism about the direction of the industry compared to the prior year,” said Crum. Full Story… http://www.mortgagenewsdaily.com/02262015_construction_forecast.asp

* U.S. new-home sizes set record last year. The median size of completed homes last year hit a new record of 2,415 square feet, according to the Commerce Department. Home sizes grew in every year between 1995 and 2007, but they fell during the recession as builders went small to compete with cheap foreclosures. There are signs that home sizes won’t set new records this year. The size of homes in which builders started construction ticked down last year after peaking in the first quarter. That could be a sign builders have concluded that they need to refocus on the entry level buyers if they want to increase sales.” Full Story… http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2015/02/25/u-s-new-home-sizes-set-record-last-year/

* Federal Reserve chairwoman, Janet Yellen, counsels patience on interest rate increase. “If economic conditions continue to improve, as the committee anticipates, the committee will at some point begin considering an increase in the target range for the federal funds rate on a meeting-by-meeting basis,” Ms. Yellen said. The central bank is pleased with recent economic growth, but convinced there is room for improvement and still pondering when to start raising interest rates. Ms. Yellen said the next step would be an announcement, which could come as soon as March, that the Fed would begin to consider raising its benchmark rate at each policy-making meeting. Patience remained the Fed’s watchword. Full Story… http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/25/business/economy/fed-chief-yellen-testifies-before-congress.html

Have a productive week!
Jason


This Week in Real Estate, Feb. 23, 2015

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Good Morning!

While the FTC completed its review of the Zillow acquisition of Trulia this week, allowing the transaction to close, the legal maneuvering just begins. The issue of syndication dominates the headlines again for This Week in Real Estate. Below are a few of the highlights from the third week in February that influence our business:

*  Battle of the Portals: ListHub to end syndication agreement with Trulia early; Zillow group fires back with restraining order. On Thursday Move Inc., operators of realtor.com, announced its listing management service, ListHub, will end its syndication agreement with Trulia as of next week. Zillow announced Friday it has filed for a temporary restraining order on that move to keep listings going to Trulia. “This action is a result of the completion of Zillow’s acquisition of Trulia this week, and the upcoming dissolution of ListHub’s syndication relationship with Zillow this April,” stated ListHub’s general manager Celeste Starchild. On Friday Move Inc. issued the following response to Zillow’s temporary restraining order: “What a difference two days make! On Wednesday, Spencer Rascoff (Zillow CEO) was celebrating the ‘liberating moment’ when ‘we announced we were parting ways with News Corp,’ and how they ‘were really freed from the constraint of being reliant on a competitor for listings,’ listings he (inaccurately) described as ‘inferior.’ Today, they say that the ‘sudden’ loss of those listings is ‘an incredible hardship for agents and consumers.'” Full Story… http://www.housingwire.com/articles/33011-zillow-group-launches-legal-fight-to-keep-listhub-listings-on-trulia

* Mortgage rates move higher on strong jobs report. Freddie Mac released this week the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey, showing average fixed mortgage rates moving higher amid a strong employment report. Regardless, fixed-rate mortgage rates still remain near their May 23, 2013 lows. “Mortgage rates rose last week following strong economic data,” says Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist, Freddie Mac. The economy added 257,000 new jobs in January after robust increases of 329,000 in December and 423,000 in November. Full Story… http://freddiemac.mwnewsroom.com/press-releases/mortgage-rates-rise-for-second-consecutive-week-otcqb-fmcc-1176375

*  Fed appears to hesitate on raising interest rate. The Federal Reserve is not sounding like an institution that is ready to raise its benchmark interest rate in June. “You can almost hear a little hesitation in the committee,” said Zach Pandl, senior interest rate strategist at the investment firm Columbia Management. “They sound confident on the economy, but nervous on pulling the trigger on rate hikes.” The economy is growing strongly, and the statement the Fed issued after the January meeting was its most upbeat since the end of the recession in 2009. That optimism has since been reinforced by the government’s latest jobs report, released this month, which estimated that strong employment gains at the end of 2014 continued at a healthy pace in January. Many officials were concerned that raising rates prematurely “might damp the apparent solid recovery,” potentially forcing the Fed to reverse course.” Full Story… http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/19/business/economy/fed-january-policy-making-meeting-minutes.html?_r=1

*  Realtors applaud FAA proposed rule to allow commercial drone use for real estate. Under the new FAA proposal, drones that weigh less than 55 pounds would be able to fly up to 500 feet above the ground at speeds up to 100 mph. Drone operators would have to obtain a special unmanned operating certificate, and follow a handful of restrictions, including keeping the drone within sight, and avoiding hazards like restricted airspace, people, airports, and other planes. “Today’s action does not authorize widespread commercial use of unmanned aircraft. That can only happen when the rule is final,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said. “In the meantime operators must go through the current process for a waiver or exemption to fly.” Full Story… http://www.inman.com/2015/02/16/proposed-drone-rules-applauded-by-nar/

Have a productive week!
Jason