Susan Caton – of The Caton Team Realtors – Interviewed by the Daily Journal – Article by Sally Schilling

Please enjoy this article below, my partner and mother-in-law, Susan Caton was interviewed by Sally Schilling of the Daily Journal regarding the local San Francisco Peninsula Real Estate market.

First-Time Home Buyers Beat Out By Cash

By Sally Schilling – Daily Journal Correspondent 9.17.12 5am

Low interest rates and low housing prices have first-time buyers feeling optimistic about purchasing a good home. But people who have saved up enough money for a sizable down payment are finding they are still not in the most favorable position in the housing market.

Cash buyers are often beating out first-time home buyers who are taking out loans.

“They’re being beat out, but not necessarily priced out,” said Anne Oliva, president of the San Mateo County Association of Realtors. Sometimes, cash buyers get preference over buyers with home loans, even if their cash bid is lower, she said.

Traditional home buyers with a 20 percent down payment are struggling, said Oliva, who is currently working with a couple for whom she has put in nine different offers. Her clients have enough for a 20 percent down payment, but sellers are thinking it is better to go with the cash buyer for the sure deal.

The challenge may be even greater for first-time buyers of units in complexes, such as condominiums or apartments. Investors are buying up units with cash and turning them into rentals, said Oliva.

First-time buyers with a 3.5 percent down payment on a condo, for example, may get pre-approved for the loans and have their offer accepted. But they could lose final approval of the loan once the lender sees that the complex has a high number of rentals.

“Every lender looks at the renter-to-owner ratio,” said Oliva, who ran a program for first-time home buyers in San Bruno. “If the renter-to-owner ratio is high, they will not lend.”

While she understands that buying and renting condos is a good move for investors, Oliva worries about how this trend will affect the number of homeowners.

“We could have a huge problem with increasing homeownership if this keeps happening,” she said.

Abundance of cash

“There’s a lot of cash out there,” said Susan Caton, a Realtor based in Redwood City. “It’s amazing, even over $1 million there’s a lot of cash.”

Caton worked with a client who was outbid several times on homes priced at more than $900,000. “They kept getting beat out, and beat out,” she said.

One home priced at more than $1 million in San Francisco had 25 offers on it. A client offered with 60 percent to 70 percent down and had excellent credit. They were beat out by an all-cash offer that was less than asking price.

The all-cash offer closed in nine days, whereas the client’s offer which would have closed in 30 days.

“In San Mateo County, it’s the same thing,” she said. “With 40 or 50 percent down or better, you are still beat out by cash offers.”

Caton agreed that the low housing inventory is a big part of the problem, along with the conditions that come with first-time home buyers with loans.

“Fifty percent down is a darn good offer and a good loan,” she said. “But the sellers or agents are saying ‘take the cash, it’s a sure thing,’ especially with no financing or property conditions.”

Many home buyers do get discouraged.

“It’s a hard battle,” said Caton. “It takes a lot of patience, but they can’t give up.”

But she sees a silver lining in the dark cloud.

“In each instance when a buyer is beat out a number of times, when they finally get a house they are so happy they got the one they got,” she said.

Strings attached

There are many reasons for sellers to prefer all-cash offers from prospectors over a down payment from a home buyer with a loan. Many strings are attached to a deal with a first-time home buyer; the sale may take longer to close, an appraisal is needed and sometimes sellers are required to do repairs. And on the other hand, a cash offer may have no conditions.

“If you’re up against cash offers, it’s very difficult,” said Diane Viviani, a longtime real estate agent in San Mateo County.

The cash-buyer trend is especially apparent in the $500,000 to $700,000 range, where inventory is low, said Viviani.

Recently, a home on Oneill Drive in San Mateo had 30 offers on it, she said. The listing price was $525,000 and it sold for $675,000, after being on the market for just eight days.

“I’ll tell a buyer to make the best offer you can,” she said.

For those taking out Federal Housing Administration loans, the down payment only needs to be 3 percent, said Viviani. But with such a low down payment, the lender’s liability is higher and the buyer seems less attractive.

“It’s doable,” said Viviani of FHA loans. “But when something comes at or below market [price], they’re seeing them go [to cash buyers].”

Fading trend

Joe Rodden, a longtime real estate broker based in Redwood City, has seen this trend. A home on 18th Avenue was recently sold to a cash buyer, despite the offer being 5 percent less than the other offers from people taking out loans, said Rodden.

“[The seller] felt more comfortable taking cash because it was a sure thing,” he said.

When asked what happens to the houses after they are bought with cash, Rodden said this is up to the buyer. Cash buyers could potentially close a deal with cash and then take out a loan, but the contract would still say all cash.

The cash trend has become less common in the past couple of months because prices have bumped up, said Rodden.

“Now cash buyers don’t see the same bargain,” he said.

I read this article at:

http://smdailyjournal.com/article_preview.php?id=1754902&title=First-time

Sabrina’s 2 cents…

Reading this article, it is clear – the local San Francisco Bay Area Real Estate market is highly competitive – so really nothing has changed.  We live in one of the greatest places on earth!

Though the focus of this article made it clear how tough it can be – The Caton Team has seen the light at the end of the tunnel.  After our clients experience writing multiple offers and being out bid – we reevaluate the situation and get back into the market.  I’m happy to say in the end, we find the right home for the right client.  Each experience is different though… thus our ‘Cinderella Story’ blog entires.  ENJOY!

A Cinderella Story… Lisa and All Those Offers…. at:

https://therealestatebeat.wordpress.com/2012/07/02/a-cinderella-story-lisa-and-all-those-offers/

A Cinderella Story… Jake  and Sophia…. at:

https://therealestatebeat.wordpress.com/2011/09/09/a-cinderella-story-part-2-jake-sophia/

A Cinderella Story…Nisi and Rip… at:

https://therealestatebeat.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/a-cinderella-story-part-1/

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-cityå

Or Yelp me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

10 Tax Tips for Home Sellers – great article – had to share…

10 tax tips for home sellers

Real Estate Tax Talk By Stephen Fishman

The IRS has recently issued a helpful list of 10 tax tips all homeowners should keep in mind when selling a home:

1. You are usually eligible to exclude the gain from income if you have owned and used your home as your main home for two years out of the five years prior to the date of its sale.

2. If you have a gain from the sale of your main home, you may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of the gain from your income ($500,000 on a joint return in most cases).

3. You are not eligible for the exclusion if you excluded the gain from the sale of another home during the two-year period prior to the sale of your home.

4. If you can exclude all of the gain, you do not need to report the sale on your tax return.

5. If you have a gain that cannot be excluded, it is taxable. You must report it on Form 1040, Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses.

6. You cannot deduct a loss from the sale of your main home.

7. Worksheets are included in Publication 523, Selling Your Home, to help you figure the adjusted basis of the home you sold, the gain (or loss) on the sale, and the gain that you can exclude.

8. If you have more than one home, you can exclude a gain only from the sale of your main home. You must pay tax on the gain from selling any other home. If you have two homes and live in both of them, your main home is ordinarily the one you live in most of the time.

9. If you received the first-time homebuyer credit and within 36 months of the date of purchase the property is no longer used as your principal residence, you are required to repay the credit. Repayment of the full credit is due with the income tax return for the year the home ceased to be your principal residence, using Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Repayment of the Credit. The full amount of the credit is reflected as additional tax on that year’s tax return.

10. When you move, be sure to update your address with the IRS and the U.S. Postal Service to ensure you receive refunds or correspondence from the IRS. Use Form 8822, Change of Address, to notify the IRS of your address change.

For more information about selling your home, see IRS Publication 523, Selling Your Home.

Stephen Fishman is a tax expert, attorney and author who has published 18 books.

I read this article at:  http://lowes.inman.com/newsletter/2012/09/10/news/200760

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-cityå

Or Yelp me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

Top 5 Homebuyer Regrets – Had to share this article…

Please enjoy this article I found…

Top 5 Homebuyer Regrets

By Tara-Nicholle Nelson

In life, and in real estate, there are decisions that, if we had them to do over again, we might do x, y or z differently. But all in all, we are not too upset about how things turned out. “C’est la vie,” as they say.

Then there are the decisions and actions we actively regret, worrying over their long-term consequences, wishing we could have a cosmic do-over, stewing and ruminating over what we did wrong. (In truth, it’s a sign of emotional maturity to see every experience as an education, and to be free from ruminating over even the worst of our regrets. But I digress).

Contrary to popular belief, my experience shows that the vast majority of homebuyers commit what they see as the first type of mistakes, but not those deep, dark regrets. However, those that do have serious regrets can lose many hours of sleep and many thousands of dollars trying to remedy them. Their only gain? Experience and gray hairs.

Here are the top 5 true, deep regrets of homebuyers and some insights for how to prevent them from taking over your own life:

1. Premature buying. This is not at all about timing the market or making sure you get in at the “just-right” moment. There’s not much you can or should do about that. But buying before your life or your finances are ready for homeownership is a transgression that ends up causing serious, long-term regrets for those who end up doing it. Premature buying takes several forms, the most common of which includes jumping the gun and buying before you’ve saved as much as you really need, or before you’ve paid your debt down to the level you really needed to.

Another pervasive form of premature buying is to buy before you’ve truly, deeply, seriously run all your own personal financial numbers, which puts you in the position of forced reliance on what the bank, lender or someone else thinks is affordable, which is often wrong.

Similarly, buying because you feel pressure to get in while the market is keeping prices and interest rates low, rather than because you want and can afford a home, is a surefire path to real estate regret.

2. Buying too small of a house. People who buy too large of a home often realize, several years in, that they simply aren’t using all of their rooms and many either sell and downsize or find ways to put the extra space they have to better use. People who buy too small of a home, on the other hand, are acutely aware of it from the moment their children start fighting, they find themselves and their energy levels deactivated by clutter or they end up realizing that there is no room at the inn for the family members or friends they’d like to house, short or long term.

Buying too large of a home is potentially wasteful of the money spent maintaining, heating and cooling the place; buying too small a home is uncomfortable and frustrating, sometimes intensely so, on a constant basis — hence, the regret it can create.

Avoid this regret by starting your house hunt with a visioning exercise: What do you want your home life to look like in 10 years? Who will live with you? Do you entertain or have overnight guests? What activities do you want or need to be able to do there? Do you want to practice yoga, crafts, have kid-sized homework spaces, work at home, collect classic cars or move your parents in? If so, seek to buy a home that can comfortably fit all these people and their activities, even though they might not all exist — yet.

3. Buying a home you can’t truly afford. You might think that one of the top 5 regrets of homebuyers would be buying at the top of the market. But that’s not the case — I know plenty of buyers who bought at the top, paid top dollar and are still upside down on their homes, yet are still happy with their homes because they can well afford the payment and bought homes that will serve their families very well for the very long term (which will allow their home’s value to recover).

It is much more problematic to simply overextend yourself on a home — no matter what the market dynamics are at the time you buy. People who both bought at the top of the market AND overextended themselves made up the large majority of folks who lost homes, as the mortgage gyrations they went through (i.e., taking short-term, interest-only, adjustable-rate mortgages) in order to qualify for the home in the first place also caused them to be utterly unable to sustain the mortgage once the market declined and their mortgages weren’t able to be refinanced.

If you can’t foresee being able to make the mortgage payment on your home 10 years in the future without refinancing it, that’s a sign you might be approaching the unaffordability danger zone.

4. Incompletely resolving co-buyer conflicts. Many co-buyers are couples, but I’ve also seen parents buy homes with their children, siblings buy homes together and even good friends team up to co-buy a home. Any time there is more than one buyer, there is a chance that the co-buyers will have one or more disconnects in their wants, needs and priorities. Often these are resolved almost effortlessly by the realities of the homes that are on the market (e.g., neither party’s dream home turns out to actually exist, or pricing realities require everyone to compromise); other times, people simply work things out like mature individuals, seeking first to understand their co-buyer’s position, then working out a compromise that works for everyone involved.

But in still other cases, the conflict is never truly, deeply resolved; even on closing day, one side feels completely misunderstood, or caves in for the sake of avoiding conflict, or someone simply throws a tantrum, insisting that they get their way. In these cases, it’s common for the party who feels undermined and trampled on to ruminate on it as they live in the property every single day, ending up with great resentment and anger over the years.

5. Taking on fixing beyond their skill, patience and resource level. It can be heartbreaking to tour one of the many homes on the market that was clearly the subject of a previous owner’s fixer-upper dream but was abandoned in the middle of a remodel. Often, these abandonments happen because the owner simply underestimated what the project would take and ran out of time, energy or, most commonly, money to get the remodeling completed. But it’s even sadder to tour the home of a frustrated fixer whose owner and family still lives in a half-done, very dysfunctional property, and who are getting more and more disgruntled with their situation every time they make a mortgage payment.

I read this article at:  http://lowes.inman.com/newsletter/2012/08/29/news/199628

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-cityå

Or Yelp me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite

The National Pest Management Association’s Vice President of Public Affairs, Missy Henriksen, shares the following tips for avoiding these pests while traveling.

Check Your Room. If you don’t want to let the bedbugs bite, thoroughly inspect your room for signs of infestation. Henriksen advises placing your luggage in the bathroom when you first arrive in your hotel room, because there’s no place for bedbugs to hide in most bathrooms. Next, says Henriksen, “Pull back the sheets and inspect the mattress seams, particularly at the corners, for pepper-like stains or spots or even the bugs themselves. Adult bedbugs resemble a flat apple seed.” Also look behind the headboard, inside chair and couch cushions, behind picture frames, and around electrical outlets. If you see anything suspicious, notify management and change rooms (or better yet, establishments) immediately.

Request A Different Room. If you do have to change rooms, don’t move to a room adjacent to or directly above or below the site of the bedbug infestation. “Bedbugs can easily hitchhike via housekeeping carts and luggage or even through wall sockets,” notes Henriksen. “If an infestation is spreading, it typically does so in the rooms closest to the origin.”

Cover Your Bags. Even if you don’t see any signs of bedbugs, you should still take precautions. Never place luggage on a hotel bed or floor. Use luggage racks if available, and place your suitcase in a protective cover. Even a plastic trash bag will suffice.

Keep Everything Off the Floor. Despite the name, bedbugs lurk in many spots, not just where you sleep. Always be vigilant when you travel. Avoid putting your personal belongings on the floor of an airplane, bus, train, or taxi. Keep your small bag or purse on your lap at all times, and seal your bigger bags inside plastic or protective covers before checking or storing them in overhead bins.

Treat Your Luggage and Clothes After Travel. “The best way to prevent bedbugs is to remain vigilant both during travel and once you return home,” says Henriksen. The National Pest Management Association offers the following checklist to make sure you leave the bedbugs behind:
• Inspect your suitcases before bringing them into the house, and vacuum all luggage before storing it.
• Consider using a handheld garment steamer to steam your luggage; this can kill any bedbugs or eggs that might have hitched a ride home.
• Immediately wash and dry all of your clothes—even those that have not been worn—in hot temperatures to ensure that any stowaway bedbugs are not transported into your drawers or closet.
• Keep clothes that must be dry-cleaned in a plastic bag and take them to the dry cleaner as soon as possible.
• If you suspect a bedbug infestation in your home, contact a licensed pest professional promptly. Bedbugs are not a DIY pest, and the longer you wait, the larger the infestation will grow. A trained professional has the tools and knowledge to effectively treat your infestation.

I read this article here:  http://travel.yahoo.com/ideas/five-ways-to-stop-bedbugs-before-they-bite.html

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-cityå

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

A Cinderella Story… Lisa and All Those Offers….

The inspiration for this section of our blog – Cinderella Story – was inspired by Lisa and her long journey to home ownership.

Enjoy – Sabrina

Let’s take a look back to 2010 when Russ and Natalie referred their neighbor and dear friend Lisa to us.  Lisa was looking to buy her first home.  We got her pre-approved with Melanie Flynn at First Priority Mortgage and she qualified for the FHA loan.  With her pre-approval letter in hand the hunt began.  And what a hunt it was.

2010 was a tough year…the real estate market had been in a slump…the world knew the real estate market had crashed.  Many buyers were hesitant to buy, fearing the prospect of over paying while the market was still going down.  Locally however, by 2010, we had already hit bottom in many areas of the SF Peninsula the year before and we were now seeing the market slowly starting to recover.  Multiple offers and bidding wars were starting up again.  But unless you were in the trenches as a Realtor or buyer/seller…you wouldn’t know because the media was intent on focusing on the national real estate market which was still struggling.

At the time, the market was heavy on short sale properties, and with the banks so overwhelmed, the process of trying to buy some short sale houses outweighed the joy of owning the house.  Nonetheless,  we wrote offers on choice short sales for Lisa.  I swear, we’re still waiting to hear back on some of them.  There were also some regular sales, but if the home was in nice shape, you could guarantee multiple offers and a bidding war within the week.  The rest of the homes on the market were in pretty bad shape.  Yes the hunt continued.  We looked at many homes in various areas.  My favorite quality of Lisa was her imagination.  She could look at the dumpiest house and see it’s potential.  There were a few times Susan & I steered her away from homes with too many projects.  We truly wanted her to buy a home she could afford, that would need only cosmetic work – not structural headaches.

Lisa had an open mind.  Each home we checked out she seriously considered.  She wrote great offers, including letters to the sellers with a cute photo of her and her furry baby.  She listened to our suggestions and advice.  However, with each offer we would discover the seller accepted an all cash offer….sometimes for less than Lisa’s offer.  We kept checking out homes and writing offers till she could practically explain the purchase contract to us.  In light of constantly being outbid, Lisa wasn’t discouraged.  Well maybe a little, but she would dust herself off and keep on going.  We hunted for more than 6 months…but in retrospect we could have easily looked for a year.

Then one day while Susan & I were touring listings, we drove by a home we hadn’t seen yet.  On my trusty smart phone I looked it up and found out it was a bank owned home that had just fallen out of contract.  It was currently priced higher than we could go, it was an older home, in a beautiful west side location – and well just sitting there.  I quickly did some research.  The home had never had an open house, was never on broker tour and had just fallen out of contract – I called the Listing Agent.  Being that it was already bank owned and had fallen out of contract, I explained our situation to the listing agent and that afternoon we wrote an offer.  Within the week we heard the good news, the bank accepted our price (under list price) and we were on our way to closing an escrow.  After our inspections came up with no surprises, you could tell Lisa was slowly getting excited.  Finally, after writing nearly 20 offers and being outbid and beat up over and over again – 3o days later we popped the bubbly and handed Lisa the keys to her new home.

The moral of this Cinderella Story – sometimes you gotta kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince charming.

Congrats on hitting the 2 year anniversary in your home Lisa.  We truly enjoyed working with you and turning your home ownership dream into a reality.

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-cityå

Or Yelp me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

Another great article I had to share… Americans Sees Biggest Home Equity Jump In 60 Years: Mortgages

Americans Sees Biggest Home Equity Jump In 60 Years: Mortgages

 Shared article from Bloomburg and LinkedIn

Home equity in the first quarter rose to $6.7 trillion, the highest level since 2008, as homeowners taking advantage of record-low borrowing costs to refinance their loans brought cash to the table to pay down principal. The 7.3 percent gain was the biggest jump in more than 60 years, according to an analysis by Bloomberg of Federal Reserve data.

It’s the strongest sign yet that Americans’ home-loan debt burden is beginning to ease after the record borrowing that created, and ultimately popped, the housing bubble, leaving almost a quarter of homeowners with mortgages owing more than their properties were worth, said Richard DeKaser, deputy chief economist at Parthenon Group LLC in Boston. Half the mortgages refinanced in the fourth quarter reduced loan size, a record, according to Freddie Mac, the government-owned mortgage buyer.

“The willingness of homeowners to carry housing debt has been radically altered,” said DeKaser, former chairman of the American Bankers Association’s Economic Advisory Committee. “When the market was booming, a mortgage was used as a leveraging tool, and now it’s seen as a risk.”

Measured as a share, rather than in dollars, homeowner equity was 41 percent of U.S. residential property value in the first quarter, including homeowners who don’t have mortgages, according to the Fed study released last week. The last time the share was that high was in the third quarter of 2008 when it was 43 percent.

‘Bubble Burst’

“People got too overleveraged in the boom years, and that left them with too much debt when the bubble burst,” said Paul Miller, a managing director with FBR Capital Markets in Arlington, Virginia. “Now, they’re trying to put themselves back on solid ground.”

Residential mortgage debt peaked in 2007 at $10.6 trillion, doubling in six years, according to Fed data. Since then, it has fallen 7 percent as the value of all residential property has dropped 23 percent.

Americans aren’t just bringing money to the table when they refinance their mortgages. Many also are choosing to shorten the term of their loans, which increases monthly payments. The average mortgage term fell to 27 years in March and April from 29 years February. Almost all U.S. mortgages have either 30-year or 15-year terms. When the average falls, it shows more people are choosing the shorter period.

The average U.S. rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage has tumbled since early 2011 to 3.71 percent this week, rising from last week’s record-low 3.67 percent. Refinancing applications, meanwhile, are at a three-year high.

Lackluster Recovery

DeKaser of Parthenon attributes the reduction in mortgage debt to a “fear factor.” A lackluster recovery that still has one of every 15 people unemployed has persuaded some borrowers of the wisdom of thriftiness, he said.

“People are worried about falling home prices and they’re worried about the economy,” said DeKaser. “If they can afford it, they’re paying down their mortgages instead of buying things because it makes them feel like they’ll sleep better at night.”

Home prices tumbled for six straight months through March to the lowest level in a decade, 35 percent below the peak prices of the housing boom, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller price index of 20 U.S. metropolitan areas. A 3.4 percent increase in home sales last month may signal prices are beginning to stabilize, according to Eric Belsky, managing director of Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, in its “State of the Nation’s Housing” report issued today.

Economic Growth

The U.S. economy probably will grow at a 2.2 percent pace in 2012, the third year after the end of the recession, according to the median forecast of 93 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. That compares with a 3.9 percent average expansion rate in the third-year period following the 1982, 1994, and 2001 recessions. In 2013, the growth rate probably will be 2.4 percent, according to the economists’ average estimate.

Homeowners who are able to shorten the terms of their loans or reduce their balances when they refinance are the lucky ones, said Chris Christopher, a senior economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts.

“Homeowners who are paying down mortgage debt are the survivors,” said Christopher. “They probably didn’t lose their jobs, so they’re in a better position to do that.”

About 23 percent of mortgage holders are underwater on their loans, meaning they owe more than their homes are worth, according to CoreLogic Inc., a mortgage data and software firm in Santa Ana, California. About 2.1 million properties were in foreclosure in April, according to Lender Processing Services, a mortgage data firm in Jacksonville, Florida.

‘Bubble Days’

“Consumers’ view of the housing market clearly has been radically changed since the bubble days,” said Dean Maki, chief U.S. economist at Barclays Plc in New York. “We saw what happened to people who were way overleveraged.”

“Paying down mortgage debt is bad for economic growth — putting your money into your house usually means you’re spending less,” said FBR’s Miller. “It’s good for our economic health in the long run, though, because it improves household balance sheets.”

Retail sales in the U.S. fell in May for a second month, prompting economists to cut forecasts for economic growth as limited job growth and income gains hold back consumers. The 0.2 percent decrease matched April’s drop that was previously reported as a gain, Commerce Department figures showed yesterday in Washington.

National Income

Annual increases in national income slowed to $581 billion in 2011 from $693 billion in the prior year, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The first quarter’s $127.7 billion gain puts 2012 on course for a $510.8 billion increase, the lowest since income dropped in 2009.

“People are looking around them and seeing people they know getting their salaries cut or losing their jobs,” said Miller, a former examiner with the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. “If you want security, you can put your money in a savings bank for half a percentage point, or you can pay down your mortgage.”

FBR’s Miller said when he refinanced his home loan last year, he “brought a big check to the table” to reduce his mortgage balance. The reason?

“So my wife would leave me alone,” said Miller. “Just like a lot of people, she wants to have no mortgage debt.”

To contact the reporter on this column: Kathleen M. Howley in Boston at kmhowley@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rob Urban at robprag@bloomberg.net

I read this article at: http://www.linkedin.com/news?actionBar=&articleID=5618900800320319555&ids=e3sMd30TdjsVdzsRd3sQc38SdiMNcP0UdzkVc3sVc3gMdz0NczoRb3cRdzwTdPATejoOe3oVe30OdzkIdPAMe30VdjkNd3wUe38Nej4SdiMRdjkVcjcMczcMc3wMc3AUcjoR&aag=true&freq=weekly&trk=eml-tod2-b-ttl-0&ut=2jlgJTY8XTUBg1

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California for-sale inventory at 2005 levels – great article – had to share…

California for-sale inventory at 2005 levels

Homes on the market in May represented just 3.5 months of supply

By Inman News

Inventories of homes for sale in California continued to shrink in May, as the highest pace of sales since February 2009 reduced the supply of available homes to just 3.5 months — down from 4.2 months in April and 5.7 months at the same time a year ago.

Many housing analysts view a six-month supply of homes as a good balance of supply and demand — anything less means there are not enough homes to meet demand.

“Low housing inventory continues to be the critical issue in the California market,” said California Association of REALTORS® Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young in a statement accompanying the release of the latest numbers. “Inventory levels have not been this low since December 2005, when the supply matched the current level.”

Sales of existing, single-family detached homes were up 3.4 percent from April, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 572,260 in May, CAR said. That’s the fastest pace of sales since February 2009, when homes were selling at a seasonally adjusted rate of 598,770 per year.

The San Francisco Bay Area had the greatest shortage of homes for sale, with inventory levels in the two- to three-month range for Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa counties, Appleton-Young said. A seven-month supply is normal, CAR said in releasing data from more than 90 REALTOR® associations and multiple listing services.

The inventory figures could provide ammunition to critics of plans to allow bulk sales of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac real estate owned (REO) properties. The National Association of REALTORS® has urged that such programs be “implemented on a strictly limited, as-needed basis,” citing estimates by analysts at Barclays Capital that private investors are converting 800,000 homes a year into rentals.

Fannie and Freddie’s federal regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA), has said it will approve bulk sales only in markets where there’s a glut of properties on the market.

The first “REO to rental” sale of 2,490 Fannie Mae “real estate owned” (REO) properties will be limited to eight markets: Atlanta (572 properties); Los Angeles-Riverside, Calif. (484 properties); Phoenix (341 properties); Las Vegas (219 properties); Chicago (99 properties); Southeast Florida (418 properties); Central and Northeast Florida (190 properties); and Western Florida (167 properties).

But last month, California REALTORS® got behind a bill introduced by Rep. Gary Miller, R-Brea, that would prohibit bulk sales of Fannie Mae REO homes in the state.

For housing statistics please visit the link below:

I read this article at:  http://lowes.inman.com/newsletter/2012/06/19/news/191356

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

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