Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Home Values Rise 0.8% In May 2012

Home Price Index from peakThe housing market's bottom is 9 months behind us. Home values continue to climb nationwide.

According to the Federal Home Finance Agency's Home Price Index, home values rose 0.8% in May on a monthly, seasonally-adjusted basis. May's reading marks the sixth time in seven months that home values rose.

Values are now higher by 4 percent since the market's October 2011 bottom.

As a Sandy home buyer or seller, though, it's important to understand what the Home Price Index measures. Or, more specifically, what the Home Price Index doesn't measure.

Although widely-cited, the HPI remains widely-flawed, too. It should not be your sole source for real estate data.

As one example of how the Home Price Index is flawed, consider that the HPI only tracks the values of homes with an associated Fannie Mae- or Freddie Mac-backed mortgages. Homes with mortgages insured by the FHA are excluded, as are homes paid for with cash.

5 years ago, this wasn't a big deal; the FHA insured just 4 percent of the housing market and cash sales were relatively small. Today, though, the FHA is estimated to insure more than 30% of new purchases and cash sales topped 17 percent in May 2012.

That's a sizable subset of the U.S. housing market.

A second flaw in the Home Price Index is that it tracks home resales only and ignores new home sales. New home sales represent roughly 10% of the today's housing market, so that's a second sizable subset excluded from the HPI.

And, lastly, we can't forget that the Home Price Index is on a 60-day publishing delay.

It's nearly August, yet we're only now receiving home valuation data from May. A lot can change in the housing market in 60 days, and it often does. The HPI is not reporting on today's market conditions, in other words -- it's reporting on conditions as they existed two months ago. Information like that is of little use to today's buyers and sellers.

For local, up-to-the-minute housing market data, skip the national data. Talk with a local real estate agent instead.

Since peaking in April 2007, the FHFA's Home Price Index is off 16.0 percent.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mortgage Rates Down 1 Percent In One Year

Freddie Mac Mortgage Rates

Another week, another new low for mortgage rates. 

According to Freddie Mac's weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate fell 3 basis points to 3.53% last week nationwide. The 3.53% mortgage rate is available to mortgage applicants who are willing to pay 0.7 discount points, on average, plus a full set of closing costs.

One year ago, the 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate was 4.52%. Today, it's nearly one percent lower. For every $100,000 borrowed at today's rates as compared to July 2011, a mortgage applicant will save $57 per $100,000 borrowed, or $684 per year.

Over 30 years of a loan, those savings add up.

30-year fixed rate mortgage rates have now dropped through 5 consecutive weeks, and in 11 of the last 12 weeks, a streak dating back to late-April. Depending where you live, however, you may not get access to 3.53% mortgage rates. As Freddie Mac's survey reveals, mortgage rates vary by region.

Last week, mortgage rates by region were listed as follows :

  • Northeast Region : 3.56% with 0.7 discount points 
  • West Region : 3.49% with 0.7 discount points
  • Southeast Region : 3.58% with 0.7 discount points
  • North Central Region : 3.52% with 0.7 discount points
  • Southwest Region : 3.56% with 0.7 discount points

Homeowners and home buyers in California, Oregon and Washington, therefore, received the lowest rates in the country, on average. Owners and buyers in Florida and Georgia, by contrast, received the highest rates.

This week, though, mortgage rates are lower everywhere.

With Spain at risk for a sovereign default and China warning of slow growth, mortgage rates began the week by falling yet again. If you're eligible to refinance, therefore, the timing may be right to lock a mortgage rate. Similarly, if you're an active home buyer in South Jordan , today's low rates will bolster your maximum purchasing power.

Talk to your loan officer about capitalizing on the lowest rates of all-time. Rates throughout Utah may not rise beginning next week, but when they do rise, they'll likely rise quickly.

Monday, July 23, 2012

How To Clean A Water Aerator

How to clean an aeratorTypically found at the tip of indoor water faucets, water aerators split a single water stream into droplets, slowing the overall water flow and reducing the degree of "splashing".

Homes in South Jordan with aerated faucets use up to 50% less water than homes without. However, aerated faucets can lose their effectiveness over time if they're not cleaned at least periodically.

This is because aerators can collect and trap particles including minerals deposits and grit, depending on the make-up of your home's water supply.

The good news is that cleaning your faucet aerator is a do-it-yourself job that requires no technical plumbing skills, and takes less than 5 minutes to complete. 

Here's how to clean your home's water aerators.

First, close or cover the drain of your sink. This will prevent pieces or parts from getting lost. Then, unscrew the aerator from the tip of your faucet. You may be able to turn the aerator with your fingers. If you cannot, and need to use pliers, wrap the faucet with a towel to prevent damage to the faucet from the pliers.

Also, don't squeeze harder than necessary -- you may bend the aerator casing.

Next, on a small towel, separate the parts of the aerator and lay them flat.

Then, using your finger, poke the mesh filter out from the aerator, being careful not to bend it. Use tap water to rinse sediment from the filter or, in extreme build-up cases, place the filter in a small cup of vinegar, soak it for an hour, then clean it with a small brush.

At this point, your aerator is clean. Replace the parts as you found them, and twist the water aerator back onto the faucet tip. If you use pliers for this step, remember to protect your faucet's finish with a towel.

There is no specific rule for how often an aerator should be cleaned. In some areas, it's twice yearly. In other areas, it's every 5 years. If you've never cleaned your water aerators, though, make today your first time.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Existing Home Supply Ticks Higher To 6.6 Months Nationwide

Existing Home Supply

Home resales slipped more than 5 percent last month, putting a damper recent housing market enthusiasm.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, Existing Home Sales fell to 4.37 million units in June 2012 on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. This is 250,000 fewer home sales per year as compared May's figures which NAR has revised 2 percentage points higher.

The pace at which homes are selling has slowed, too. As compared to May, the Existing Home Supply rose 0.2 months. At the current pace of sales nationwide, the national home supply would now be exhausted in 6.6 months.

A home supply of 6.0 months is believed to mark a market in balance. There are currently 2.39 million homes for sale nationwide -- the lowest total in 3 months and more than 24% below than the listed inventory at this point last year.

Other noteworthy statistics from the Existing Home Sales report include :

  • First-time buyers accounted for 32% of all purchasers in June, down from 34% in May
  • Real estate investors accounted for 19% of all purchasersin June, up from 17% in May
  • Cash buyers accounted for 29% of all purchasers in June, up from 28% in May

In addition, distressed sales as a percentage of all sales was unchanged in June as foreclosures sold for an average discount of 18 percent below market value. Short sales nationwide sold at an average 15 percent discount.

More on "distressed sales" : In June, distressed homes accounted for 25% of all home resales, the smallest percentage of homes sold with such status since the real estate trade group began tracking the data in 2008.

Despite falling home sales and rising home supplies, however, home resales are expected to return to growth in July. Last month's Pending Home Sales Index spiked to a 2-year high, and 80% of homes under contract close within 60 days. This portends well for July's Existing Home Sales data, due in 4 weeks.

Low mortgage rates and rising rents in Draper and in many U.S. cities continue to fuel the U.S. housing market. Home buyers should expect higher home prices ahead.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Singe-Family Housing Starts Rise For 4th Straight Month

Housing StartsNew construction housing is in a post-recession rally.

As reported by the Census Bureau, on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, last month's Single-Family Housing Starts rose 5 percent to 539,000 units nationwide. This is the highest reading since April 2010, the last month of that year's federal home buyer tax credit.

A "housing start" is a new home on which construction has started.

June's strong numbers also mark the fourth consecutive month during which Single-Family Housing Starts have climbed. This, too, has not occurred since April 2010.

The data is yet one more signal to Draper home buyers that today's new construction market has its worst days behind it.

Home builders think so, too.

Earlier this week, the National Association of Homebuilders released its monthly Housing Market Index, a metric which tracks homebuilder confidence. Home builders report higher sales levels and massive foot traffic as compared to just 12 months ago. They also expect second-half sales in 2012 to climb sharply.

It's no wonder that home builder confidence rose to a 5-year high. Builders are building homes and buyers are buying them.

Today's market for new homes has been spurred forward by low mortgage rates, but rising rents have played a part, too. In many parts of the country, a comparable home is less expensive to own than to rent, which creates an incentive for renters to buy homes instead.

The availability of low downpayment mortgage programs via the FHA and other government agencies helps as well.

It's a good time to be home buyer. Mortgage rates are at all-time records, home prices remain low nationwide, and the real estate market is believed to be entering the beginning of a sustained, multi-year recovery.  

If you're undecided about whether now is a good time to buy a new home, speak with your real estate agent. The cost of home ownership may never be as low as it is today.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Homebuilder Confidence Doubles In 12 Months

NAHB Housing Market IndexHomebuilder confidence is soaring.

For the second time in three months, the National Association of Homebuilders reports that the Housing Market Index made sizable gains. 

The Housing Market Index measures homebuilder confidence in the new construction market and is scored between 1-100. Readings above 50 indicate favorable conditions in the single-family new home market. Readings below 50 indicate poor conditions.

The Housing Market Index leaped to 35 in July, a 6-point improvement and the index's biggest one-month gain since September 2002.

The HMI is now up 14 points this year and is more than double its value of one year ago.

The Housing Market Index itself is a composite of three separate survey questions sent to NAHB members monthly. The questions are basic :

  1. How are market conditions for the sale of new homes today?
  2. How are market conditions for the sale of new homes in 6 months?
  3. How is prospective buyer foot traffic?

For July 2012, home builders reported huge gains. Current home sales are up 6 points; sales expectations for the next six months are up 11 points; and buyer foot traffic is up 6 points.

All three survey answers made 5-year highs. Not since 2007 has sales volume and foot traffic been as strong, and over the next 6 months, builders expect a blow-out finish to the year.

It's no surprise, either.

Low mortgage rates throughout Utah have lowered monthly housing payments to levels below monthly rent for a comparable home. Plus, programs such as the FHA 3.5% downpayment program continue to help first-time buyers get in homes.

There is a downside to rising homebuilder confidence, however. When builders feel more comfortable about their business and the prospects for the future, they're less likely to make sales concessions to to offer free upgrades. If you're shopping for new construction, therefore, consider moving up your time frame.

Home affordability remains historically high today. It may not be so tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Foreclosure Starts Rise For Second Straight Month

Foreclosure changes June 2012

The number of U.S. homes receiving foreclosure notices topped one million through the first six months of 2012, according to RealtyTrac.

There were 1.046 million foreclosure filings between January - June 2012, says the foreclosure-tracking firm in its Midyear 2012 Foreclosure Market Report. The tally represents a 2 percent increase from the immediate six months prior.

A "foreclosure filing" includes all of the following foreclosure-related actions : (1) Default notices, (2) Scheduled auctions, and (3) Bank repossessions. 

One notable fact from within the report is that, even as the number of repossessed homes dropped nationwide, the number of homeowners receiving a Notice of Default or lis pendens rose. These notices are the first step in the foreclosure process which means that we should expect the national foreclosure pipeline to fill later this year.

It's no coincidence that foreclosure starts are rising now, either.

Earlier this year, a $25 billion mortgage servicing settlement provided banks with the necessary framework and rules by which they can foreclose upon a home. Prior to the this settlement, fearing legal liability, some banks chose to slow -- or halt -- foreclosure starts entirely. Since the settlement's announcement, though, foreclosure activity has resumed.

For today's South Jordan home buyers, the foreclosure market represents an interesting opportunity. Homes purchased while in the various stages of foreclosure can often be purchased for a lower price than homes which are not in foreclosure; one reason why foreclosed homes account for 25 percent of all home resales

However, be careful that you don't confuse "less expensive" with "less costly".

Foreclosed homes are often sold as-is and may be in various stages of disrepair at the time of purchase. Spending money to repair a foreclosed home in order to make it habitable could wipe out the money saved on its sales price. Your best real estate "deal", therefore, may be a non-distressed home in sound, move-in ready condition.

If you're buying foreclosures -- or even considering it -- be sure to talk with a real estate agent. The process of buying a foreclosed property is different from buying a "regular" home. You'll want somebody experienced on your team.

Monday, July 16, 2012

How To Revive A "Brown Lawn"

Brown lawnsDuring summer months, a lush, green lawn can transform into a brown one within weeks. And heat, while oftentimes a catalyst, is not always the culprit.

As a homeowner, you can take precautions to minimize the likelihood of a brown lawn.

First, let's look at the reasons why a lawn may go brown, starting with drought stress.

Drought stress is a condition caused by excessive heat and/or lack of water. Drought stress can lead to dormancy, a normal condition for grasses of all types. A good test for draught stress is to step on one of the grass' brown patches. If your footstep remains as an imprint in the grass, it's likely that your lawn is water-deprived.

Brown spots from drought stress appear randomly and without pattern. This is different from brown spots that may occur because a sprinkler system is miscalibrated, or because some lawn sections are shaded whereas others are exposed to direct sunlight.

Lawns which have been dormant for long periods of time may need to be reseeded.

Drought stress also reduces your lawn's natural defenses against pests and disease. This includes plant-based pests such as weeds which can starve your grass of much-needed food and water, as well as insects such as lawn grubs and chinch bugs. 

These two forces, as well, can lead to brownout.

Lastly, your grass may be dying. Either from a lack of aeration; or, cutting grass blades too short to provide "natural shade"; or, over-watering among other reasons, your grass may not live forever and, when it dies, it's likely to thin and turn brown.

The good news is that each of these conditions is non-permanent. You may not have stopped your lawn from turning brown, but, generally, you can nurse it back to being green.

To water a brown lawn back to health, start with a steady watering schedule -- typically 2 hours every few days (approximately 1 inch of water) -- and be careful not to over-water. Then, just wait. It may take a lawn 3-4 weeks to return to its natural green color.

Then, to manage weeds, use an over-the-counter herbicide. For larger weed problems, get treatment by a professional lawn care company. The same is true for pests, too. Tackle them yourself but using a lawn care company can be more efficient and effective.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Revisiting Housing Market Predictions For 2012

Revisiting predictions for 2012When the calendar flips to a new year, analysts and economists like to make predictions for the year ahead.

So, today, with the year half-complete, it's an opportune time to check back to see how the experts' predictions are faring (so far).

If you'll remember, when 2011 closed, the housing market was showing its first signs of a reboot. Home sales were strong, home supplies were nearing bull market levels, and buyer activity was strong.

Homebuilder confidence was at its highest point in 2 years and single-family housing starts had made its biggest one-month gain since 2009. 

In addition, 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates had just broke below the 4 percent barrier and looked poised to stay there.

There was a lot about which to be optimistic in January 2012.

Yet, there were obstacles for the economy. The Eurozone's sovereign debt issues remained in limbo, oil prices were spiking, and the Unemployment Rate remained high -- three credible threats to growth.

At the time, analyst predictions for the economy occupied both ends of the spectrum, and everywhere in between.

Freddie Mac said home prices would rise in 2012, for example, whereas analysts at CBS News said they'd fall. Both made good arguments.

As another example, American Banker said mortgage rates would rise in 2012. The LA Times, however, said just the opposite. And, the problem with these predictions is that each party can make such a sound defense of their respective positions that it's easy to forget that a prediction is really just an opinion.

Nobody can know what the future holds.

A lot has changed since those predictions were made :

  • Job growth slowed sharply after a strong Q1 2012 
  • Oil costs dropped rapidly beginning in early-May
  • Spain and Italy have joined Greece as potential sovereign debt trouble-zones

Now, none of this was known -- or expected -- at the start of the year yet each has made a material change in the direction of both the housing and mortgage markets.

Today, home prices remain low and 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates now average 3.56% nationwide. Home affordability is higher than it's been at any time in recorded history and, at least for now, low downpayment mortgage products remain readily available.

The experts never saw it coming.

6 months from now, the markets may be different. We can't know for sure. All we can know is that today is great time to be a home buyer in Draper. Home prices and mortgage rates are favorable.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fed Minutes Suggest Fiscal Stimulus Later This Year

FOMC Fed MinutesThe Federal Reserve released the minutes from its June Federal Open Market Committee meeting, revealing a Fed divided on the future of the U.S. economy. Mortgage rates are higher after the release of the minutes.

The Fed Minutes is the detailed recap of an FOMC meeting. It is the companion piece to the more brief, more well-known post-meeting FOMC press release.

For a comparison, whereas the Fed's June 20, 2012 press release contained 5 paragraphs and 490 words, the same meeting's minutes contain 62 paragraphs and 7,508 words. The extra detail afforded by the extra words Wall Street gives insight into the nation's central banker.

The June Fed Minutes, for example, suggest that the Fed may soon add new economic stimulus. 

Recent data suggests that the U.S. economy is expanding, but more slowly that it was at the start of the year. The Fed acknowledged that this, in part, is the result of "below-trend" growth in Euro-area economies, plus a general slowdown in China.

The Fed also said that "strains in global financial markets" continue to pose "significant downside risks" to the U.S. economy. The Fed expects U.S. growth to "moderate over coming quarters".

Other notes from with the Fed Minutes included : 

  • On housing : Home sales, construction and prices suggest improvement
  • On inflation : Prices are stable, and inflation will remain "subdued" through 2014
  • On new policy : Rapid fiscal tightening poses a "downside risk" to the economy

In addition, there was discussion about whether the Fed is missing its dual mandate of low inflation and low unemployment. Several Fed member discussed the need for new stimulus to raise employment and to raise the rate of inflation. This action could occur as soon as next month.

If the stimulus was enacted, mortgage rates would likely rise because inflation, in general, is a threat to low mortgage rates.

The next Federal Open Market Committee meeting is a 2-day affair scheduled for July 31-August 1, 2012. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

84 U.S. Markets Improving In July

Improving Market Index July 2012

Where economic growth goes, housing growth often follows.

That's why it's good news for homeowners that 84 U.S. metropolitan areas are showing "measurable and sustained growth" this month, according to the National Association of Homebuilders' Improving Market Index.

The Improving Market Index is a derivative report, based on the results of three separate data series which examine a city's local economy.

The data series used in the IMI are :

  1. Employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
  2. Home price data from Freddie Mac
  3. One-unit building permits from the Census Bureau

The NAHB compiles this data monthly, assigning a given metropolitan area the label "improving" if the following two conditions are met. First, all three data series above must show growth or expansion in the current month.

Second, at least six months must have passed since any of the above that area's most recent economic "bottom".

Because of this second clause, the IMI is focused on long-term trends in city growth, singling out only those markets in which sustained economic growth is occurring. The six-month requirement causes "blips" of growth remain ignored, and uncounted. 

The July IMI showed 84 improving markets nationwide, a 4-city increase over June 2012. 11 new cities were added to the index including Jackson, Michigan; Springfield, Massachusetts; and, Houston, Texas. Seven cities fell off the list.

32 states are represented in this month's IMI, and the District of Columbia, too.

For Utah home buyers, there isn't much actionable information in the Improving Market Index. We don't see how many homes were sold in the month prior, for example. Nor do we see how quickly homes are selling in a particular ZIP code. But what the IMI can provide is a broad look at whether a local economy has found its footing. 

When economies are strong, it can create competition for homes which can drive up home sales prices. 

The complete Improving Markets Index is available for download at the NAHB website. But, for a better feel of what's happening in Draper on a local level, talk to a real estate agent.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Home Purchasing Power Jumps To New Highs

Purchasing power grows in Q2 2012

With mortgage rates down to all-time lows, you can buy a lot more home for your money. Home affordability is at an all-time high.

According to last week's Freddie Mac mortgage rate survey, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage has dropped to 3.62% nationwide. This is down from 4.08% in March, and down from 4.60% from one year ago.

Mortgage rates are "on sale".

Falling mortgage rates can make one of two changes to the way a Sandy home buyer looks at properties. They can either make a given home's monthly housing payment that much more affordable to a buyer, or they can expand that buyer's home purchasing power to a higher, maximum price point.

Since July 2011, that maximum price point increase has been significant.

Assuming a principal + interest payment of $1,000 per month and a 30-year loan term, a category that includes 30-year fixed rate mortgages and most adjustable-rate mortgages, here's a maximum loan size comparison of the last 12 months : 

  • July 2011 : A payment of $1,000 affords a maximum loan size of $197,130
  • July 2012 : A payment of $1,000 affords a maximum loan size of $219,409

With an increase in maximum loan size of more than $22,000 in just 12 months, it's no wonder that multiple-offer situations are becoming more common -- today's buyers know that low home prices and low mortgage rates are combining to make home buying more affordable than at any time in recent history.

However, the buyer-friendly environment can't last forever.

First, home prices have started to rise nationwide. Demand for homes has outpaced home supply in many U.S. markets and that leads home prices higher. Second, low mortgage rates can't last forever.

A recovering economy will lift mortgage rates back above 4 percent, a scenario that will hit home affordability hard.

Home-buying conditions are optimal this season. If you're in the market for a new home, talk to your real estate agent and loan officer about maximizing your home purchasing power.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Top 10 U.S. Cities For Public Parks

Park rankings by cityFor the first time in more than 100 years, the growth in America's cities is outpacing the growth in its suburbs. 

According to the 2011 estimates of the U.S. Census Bureau, between July 2010 and July 2011, city centers grew faster than their surrounding suburbs in 53% of the nation's largest housing markets. 

Compare this to just 9.8% during the 10 years prior.

Cities now compete with suburbs on a number of fronts including job availability, housing costs, and access to amenities, a category which includes proximity to public parks.

Parks are important to a city. Studies prove that parks help to attract home buyers, to retain retired homeowners, and to raise home values. And now, with the creation of ParkScore, it's easy to compare park systems between U.S. cities.

ParkScore is an at-a-glance assessment of a city's park system. Published by The Trust for Public Land, ParkScore considers "every publicly owned park space" within the nation's largest cities and assigns an overall score based on total acreage, services provided, and access.

The maximum ParkScore is 100.

According to its publisher, the 10 cities nationwide with the highest ParkScores are :

  1. San Francisco, California (74.0)
  2. Sacramento, California (73.5)
  3. Boston, Massachusetts (72.5)
  4. New York, New York (72.5)
  5. Washington, D.C. (71.5)
  6. Portland, Oregon (69.0)
  7. Virginia Beach, Virginia (68.5)
  8. San Diego, California (67.5)
  9. Seattle, Washington (66.5)
  10. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (66.0)

ParkScore rankings place a high premium on the "percentage of city residents living within a 10-minute walk of a public park". It's no surprise, therefore, that some of the top-finishers included San Francisco, Boston and New York City -- three cities known for their abundance of public parks.

ParkScore bottom-finishers included Fresno, California; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Louisville, Kentucky.

The complete ParkScore rankings are available at, along with each city's score and ranking analysis.

Friday, July 6, 2012

30-Year Fixed Rate Mortgage Rates Fall To 3.62% Nationwide

30-year fixed rate mortgage rates30-year fixed rate mortgage rates made new, all-time lows once again this week.

According to Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage rate survey of more than 125 banks nationwide, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate fell 4 basis point to 3.62% nationwide.

The rate is available to conforming, prime borrowers willing to pay an accompanying 0.8 discount points plus a full set of closing costs. A "prime" mortgage applicant typically has excellent credit, verifiable income, and at least 25% equity in their home.

And, it's not just the 30-year fixed rate mortgage that made new lows in this holiday-shortened week, either. The 15-year fixed rate mortgage did, too, falling 5 basis points to 2.89%, on average.

The 15-year fixed rate mortgage requires 0.7 discount points plus closing costs.

Discount points are a one-time, up-front closing cost, based on loan size. If your loan requires 1 discount point, that means that your loan has a closing cost equal to 1 percent of your loan size. If your loan requires two discount points, the fee would be equal to two percent of your loan size; and so on.

So, based on this week's Freddie Mac survey, a home buyer in South Jordan opening a $200,000 mortgage and paying 0.8 discount points would face to a one-time $1,600 fee to be paid at closing.

The good news is that discount points are optional. 

To avoid paying discount points, simply ask your lender for a "zero points" loan. You'll get a higher mortgage rate than what Freddie Mac shows in its survey, but you'll pay fewer closing costs.

Today's low rates are terrific for both home buyers throughout Utah and existing homeowners looking to make a refinance. As compared last year at this time, mortgage rates are down by 98 basis points -- nearly one full percentage point.

Mortgage payments are much lower today as compared to July 2011 : 

  • July 2011 : $512.64 principal + interest per $100,000 borrowed
  • July 2012 : $455.77 principal + interest per $100,000 borrowed

Today's rates yield an 11 percent payment discount as compared to last year.

Mortgage rates are unpredictable so there's no guarantee that low rates will last forever, much less through the summer. If today's rates meet your household budget, consider locking something in.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mortgage Rate Risk Ahead Of Friday Morning's Jobs Report

Non-Farm Payrolls Since July 2010

Friday morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its Non-Farm Payrolls report. More commonly called "the jobs report", Non-Farm Payrolls is a monthly market-mover.

Depending on the strength -- or weakness -- of the data, mortgage rates will change. Perhaps sharply. Unfortunately, we can't know in which direction.

If you're actively shopping for a mortgage in Sandy , therefore, today may be a prudent day to lock a mortgage.

The job report's connection to mortgage rates is straight-forward. As the number of U.S. citizens earning paychecks increases, reverberations are felt through the economy.

First, higher levels of income are tied to higher levels of consumer spending and consumer spending accounts for the majority of the U.S. economy. More working citizens, therefore, builds a larger overall economic base.

Next, as the overall economic base grows, businesses produce and sell more goods, necessitating the hiring of additional personnel and the purchase of more raw materials -- both positives for the economy.

And, lastly, as more paychecks are written, more taxes are paid to local, state and federal governments. These taxes are often used to fund projects and purchase goods and services which, in turn, grow the economy as well.

Tying it all together, the health of the U.S. economy is a major factor is setting day-to-day mortgage rates across Utah. This is why rate shoppers face risk with tomorrow's Non-Farm Payrolls report.

Between 2008 and 2009, the economy shed 7 million jobs. It has since recovered 3.9 million of them and, Friday, analysts expect to see another 100,000 jobs created in June. If the actual number of jobs created exceeds this estimate, look for mortgage rates to rise. 

If the actual number of jobs created falls short of 100,000, mortgage rates may fall.

The government releases Non-Farm Payrolls data at 8:30 AM ET Friday.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pending Home Sales Index Hits A 2-Year High

Pending Home Sales IndexHomes are going under contract at a quickening pace.

In May, for the second time in 3 months, the Pending Home Sales Index crossed the 100 barrier, stretching to 101.1. A "pending home sale" is a home under contract to sell, but not yet sold.

Statistically, the Pending Home Sales Index reading is significant for two reasons.

First, the index's reading is at its highest since April 2010. From this, we infer that today's pace of home buying in Utah and nationwide is approaching the "stimulated" levels of two years ago -- but without the federal stimulus.

This is a positive signal for the housing market.

Second, because the Pending Home Sales Index is a relative index; and, because it was assigned a value of 100 upon its inception in 2001, readings higher than 100 imply that the housing market is performing better than it did during the index's first year.

2001 happened to be a strong year for housing. 2012, it seems, is shaping up to be a better one.

And, there's another reason why the Pending Home Sales Index matters so much to buyer and sellers of South Jordan -- the Pending Home Sales Index is among the few "forward-looking" housing market indicators.

Rather than report on how the housing market looked 30-60 days in the past, as the Case-Shiller Index does; or the Existing Home Sales report, the Pending Home Sales Index looks 30-60 days to the future.

80% of homes under contract sell within 2 months so, as the Pending Home Sales Index goes, so goes housing. Based on May's data, therefore, we can assume that home sale figures will rise through the summer.

If you're shopping for homes right now, consider going under contract while the market remains somewhat soft. Mortgage rates are low and so are home prices. It makes for good home-buying conditions.

Monday, July 2, 2012

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Tips To Keep Your Home Cooler Without Turning Down The Thermostat

Energy-saving tips

The typical U.S. household "loses" up to 30% of its annual heating and cooling bill to energy inefficiencies, according to ENERGY STAR®.

The good news is that there are dozens of ways to help your home perform better.

As the calendar turns to July, and as temperatures warm in Utah and nationwide, implement even one of the following cost-saving moves and you can expect your home's energy bill to drop. Implement two or more, and you can expect your bill to drop by a lot.

Keep it simple at the start. When the sun shines through a window on a cloudless day, it can raise a room's temperature by as much as 20 degrees. Therefore, the first energy-saving move to review is the easiest one -- simply close your home's window blinds and shades to block out the sun. 

With the shades drawn and the sun blocked, your rooms will stay cooler, and so will your home. This is especially important during the mid-day hours when the sun is at its strongest so, before you leave for work, make sure you've closed your blinds.

The next step is to change your home's air filter.

Air filters are meant to be changed quarterly, or monthly if your home has shedding pets. When your air filter is clean, the HVAC unit won't have to work as hard to push air through your home's air ducts, saving up to another 7% off your annual energy costs.

Next, replace your home's incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient ones.

This step can be costly up-front, but over the long-term, savings are big. Not only do energy-efficient light bulbs such as CFLs and LEDs last for years, but they don't pump heat back into a room like an incandescent bulb will.

Incandescent bulbs are shown to convert 97.5% of their energy into heat, meaning just 2.5% of their supplied energy is used for light. This 97.5% then warms up your house, which costs money to cool.

And, lastly, if your home has ceiling fans, use them.

When a ceiling fan is running, it can make a room feel up to 8 degrees cooler. Just remember that ceiling fans cool you and not the room. Be sure to turn them off when you leave the room.