Tag Archives: job market

Americans More Optimistic About Housing, Economy

Americans’ concerns over housing and the economy are subsiding, according to Fannie Mae’s National Housing Survey from February.

An improving job market is a big part of what’s behind Americans feeling more confident about the housing market and the direction of the economy, according to the survey.

“The pickup in the pace of hiring over the past few months has helped soothe consumer concerns, lifting their moods regarding their personal finances, the direction of the economy, and their views on the housing market,” says Doug Duncan, chief economist of Fannie Mae. “As a result, we’ve seen more potential for economic upside, creating a more balanced near-term outlook.”

The survey found that 28 percent of Americans expect home prices to increase over the next 12 months while 53 percent say prices will likely stay the same. Fifteen percent say they expect home prices to decline.

Meanwhile, the majority of those surveyed see rental prices continuing to increase over the next year.

Sixty-five percent of those surveyed say that if they were going to move they’d buy their next home; 29 percent say they would rent.

With low mortgage rates and falling home prices, 70 percent of those surveyed say now is a good time to purchase a home. Also, more Americans surveyed say now is a good time to sell, rising to 13 percent in February, which is the highest level in more than a year but still low by historic standards.

Overall, Americans expressed more confidence about their personal financial situation, with only 12 percent saying they expected their personal financial situation to worsen in the next 12 months — which is the lowest number in more than a year.

Source: Fannie Mae 

This article is by RealtorMag.org

Foreclosure backlogs persist

The improving job market and economy is helping push mortgage delinquencies and foreclosure starts down, but the percentage of loans in the foreclosure process remains stubbornly high, especially in states most affected by robo-signing issues, according to a quarterly survey of lenders by the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Since peaking at 10.1 percent in March 2010, the percentage of borrowers behind on their house payments has fallen to a seasonally adjusted 7.6 percent at the end of 2011 — about halfway to the pre-recession average of roughly 5 percent, said MBA Chief Economist Jay Brinkmann.

The percentage of loans entering the foreclosure process — which before the downturn averaged just under 0.5 percent — has also declined, from a peak of 1.4 percent at the end of third-quarter 2009 to 1 percent at the end of fourth-quarter 2011.

But at 4.4 percent, the percentage of loans in the foreclosure process at the end of 2011 was not far off the all-time high of 4.6 percent seen at the end of 2010. That compares to the long-term norm of roughly 1.2 percent.

Robo-signing issues — which lenders hope to put behind them this year as they implement recently announced settlement with state attorneys general — have created foreclosure backlogs.

While foreclosure starts are falling, it’s taking loan servicers longer to auction off or repossess homes once they enter the foreclosure process, particularly in states where courts oversee the process.

In “judicial foreclosure” states where courts handle most foreclosures, 6.8 percent of mortgages were in foreclosure at the end of 2011. In “nonjudicial” foreclosure states where most foreclosures are processed outside of the court system, loan servicers are clearing the backlog more quickly, and 2.8 percent of mortgages were in foreclosure.

The MBA survey covers 42.9 million loans on one- to four-unit residential properties, or about 88 percent of all first-lien mortgages. Extrapolating the survey’s results suggests that of the 48.75 million mortgages outstanding at the end of 2011, 2.13 million were in the foreclosure process.

Five states accounted for more than half of all loans in foreclosure — Florida, California, Illinois, New York and New Jersey. All but California are judicial foreclosure states.

The 10 states with the greatest percentage of mortgages in foreclosure were: Florida (14.27 percent), New Jersey (8.21 percent), Illinois (7.41 percent), Nevada (7.03 percent), Maine (5.92 percent), New York (5.88 percent), Connecticut (5.05 percent), Hawaii (4.97 percent), Ohio (4.94 percent), and Indiana (4.94 percent). All but Nevada are judicial foreclosure states.

The states with the lowest foreclosure rates were: Wyoming (1.03 percent), North Dakota (1.05 percent), Alaska (1.06 percent), Nebraska (1.55 percent), South Dakota (1.75 percent), Montana (1.76 percent), Texas (1.78 percent), Virginia (1.84 percent), Alabama (1.94 percent), and Arkansas (1.97 percent). Among those states, only North Dakota handles foreclosures judicially.

Five bright spots in the real estate recession

The real estate market meltdown was much more severe and has lasted much longer than even the most bearish housing market observer would ever have predicted. Rather than values taking a dip, they’ve taken a double dip in many places; and the housing sector drama has infected the job market and the entire world’s economy.

Yet, there are some very shiny silver linings to this whole mess — a handful of ways in which our mindsets, habits, behaviors and approaches to money, mortgage and even life decision-making — have been changed by this real estate market debacle. As I see it, here are the five best things about this housing recession:

1. People now buy for the long term

Even Jeff Lewis, that reality TV house flipper extraordinaire, has declared that he’s tapped out of the flipping business for the foreseeable future, trading in his real estate wheeling and dealing for the design business.

Recently, he mentioned having lost six homes in the real estate market crash.

While Lewis flipped homes as his business, just five years ago, many Americans — homeowners and investors alike — took a short-term view on their homes, buying them with the idea that they could count on refinancing, pulling cash out or even reselling them anytime they wanted, at a profit.
Reality check — those days are gone. Now, buyers know they’d better be prepared to stay put for somewhere between seven and 10 years (shorter in strong local markets, longer in foreclosure hot spots) before they buy if they want to break even. And this is causing them to take mortgages they can afford over time, and make smarter, longer-term choices about the homes they buy.

2. Dysfunctional properties are being weeded out and creatively reused

real estate market recessionMunicipalities like Detroit and Cleveland are demolishing blighted and decrepit properties in dead neighborhoods en masse, intentionally shrinking their cities to match their shrinking populations. These efforts are also eliminating breeding grounds for crime, and focusing resources on the neighborhoods that have a better chance of surviving and thriving in the long term.

In the so-called “slumburbias” of central California, Nevada and Arizona, McMansions are being repurposed into affordable housing for groups of seniors, artist communities and group homes.

3. American housing stock is getting an energy-efficient upgrade

The news would have you believe that every American has lost his or her home, walked away from it, or is now renting by choice. In fact, the vast majority of homeowners have simply decided to stay put.

Instead of selling and moving on up, homeowners are improving the homes they now plan to stay in for a long(er) haul. And this generation of remodeling is focused less on granite and stainless steel, and more on lowering the costs of “operating” the home and taking advantage of tax credits for installing energy-efficient doors, windows, water heaters and more. And while the first-time homebuyer tax credit is a thing of the past, the homeowner tax credits for energy-optimizing upgrades are in effect until the end of this year.

4. People are making more responsible mortgage decisions, and building financial good habits in the process

Buyers are buying far below the maximum purchase prices for which they are approved. They are reading their loan disclosures and documents before they sign them. And, thanks to the stingy mortgage market, they are spending months, even years, in the planning and preparation phases before they buy: paying down their debt; saving up for a down payment (and a cash cushion, so that a job loss wouldn’t be disastrous); being responsible and sparing in their use of credit to optimize their FICO scores; and creating strong financial habits in one fell swoop.

5. Our feelings about debt and equity have been reformed

Americans no longer use their homes like ATMs, to pull out cash, pay off their credit cards and then start the whole overspending cycle over again. Many can’t, because their homes are upside down and cannot be refinanced in any event — much less to pull cash out.

Others have been reality-checked by the recession, and are dealing with their non-mortgage debt the old fashioned way: by ceasing the pattern of spending more than they make, and applying the self-discipline it takes to pay their bills off.

Home equity, in general, is no longer viewed as an inexhaustible source of cash. Rather, we see it as a fluctuating asset to be protected and increased — not so much through the vagaries of the market, but through the hard work of paying the principal balance down. Many of those refinancing into today’s lower rates aren’t doing it to pull cash out, as was the norm at the top of the market; instead, they are refinancing into 15-year loans to pay their homes off sooner than planned, or reducing their required payment so their extra savings can be applied to principal.

Of course, it remains to be seen how lasting these changes will be if and when home prices go up and mortgage guidelines loosen up. But since neither of these things look likely to happen in the short term, hopefully there’s a chance that these behavior shifts will become part of a permanent mindset reset for American housing consumers.

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is an author and the Consumer Ambassador and Educator for real estate listings search site Trulia.com. ClientDirect.net.