Buyer Urgency Improves, More See Now Good Time to Buy

More home buyers may jump off the sidelines this spring as they get more urgent about purchasing a home, fearing that home price and mortgage rate increases are on the horizon.

Housing surveys in recent weeks have shown that more Americans are seeing now a great time to purchase a home. In the most recent survey, 73 percent of Americans say now is a good time to buy, according to the latest Fannie Mae Housing Survey conducted in March. That’s up from 70 percent in February who said it was a great time to buy.

“Conditions are coming together to encourage people to want to buy homes,” says Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist. “With an increasing share of consumers expecting higher mortgage rates and home prices over the next 12 months, some may feel that renting is becoming more costly and that home ownership is a more compelling housing choice.”

Indeed, more buyer urgency is evident in the market. Thirty-three percent of those surveyed by Fannie say they expect home prices soon to increase, which is the highest percentage in a year. What’s more, nearly 40 percent say they expect mortgage rates to rise in the next year too, which is also up from previous surveys.

Coupled with that, 48 percent of Americans say they expect rents to continue to climb, and 44 percent say they expect their financial situation to improve in the next year.

Source: “More Americans Think It’s Time to Buy a Home,” MSN Real Estate (April 9, 2012)

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Survey Reveals Why Buyers Are Waiting on Sidelines

Twenty-seven percent of Americans say they plan to buy a home in the future (with most saying in two or more years), and only two percent say they plan to purchase a home in the next 12 months, according to a new Move Inc. survey of 1,000 American adults. So why are so many buyers continuing to wait on the sidelines when home affordability is high and interest rates are at or hovering near record lows?

About 23 percent of those surveyed say they are delaying buying a home because they are concerned about the real estate market in their local area, particularly with concerns over the future of home values, the economy and jobs, as well as difficulty in saving for a down payment.

“Perceptions as much as the realities of home ownership are standing in the way of boosting demand for housing,” Errol Samuelson, chief revenue officer of Move Inc., said in a statement. “Concerns that the economy will continue to put jobs at risk and that prices won’t rise near term are keeping buyers on the sidelines as much as the difficulty they’re having in getting credit or saving for down payments. Until these concerns are resolved, we expect both buyers and sellers to remain on the sidelines.”

Nearly 35 percent of those surveyed say their inability to get credit or find affordable credit are the main reasons why they’re putting off purchasing a home.

The Move survey also found that younger adults—the millennial generation—tends to look at home ownership as a place to be happy, not an investment. But this large segment of first-time home buyers admit they are picky when it comes to finding a home—80 percent say they are picky, in fact. A lot of that pickiness comes from the fact that 75 percent say that their home defines them and is a part of who they are.

The survey also found that younger adults tend to spend more on housing than older adults. For example, the survey revealed that two out of five–or about 40 percent–of millennials say they should spend 30 to 60 percent of their gross monthly income on housing. More than half of older Americans, on the other hand, say they plan to spend less than 30 percent of their gross monthly on housing.

Lenders often recommend spending 28 percent of annual gross wages on housing, when taking into account principal, interest, and taxes.

Source: “2012 Presidential Elections: 69.6% of Americans Said Housing Will Influence Their Vote,” Move Inc. (Nov. 8, 2011)

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Bargain-Seeking Home Buyers on the Hunt

Housing prices across the country are at multi-year lows and mixed with low interest rates bargain hunters are targeting real estate.

More investors are heading to the market looking to make cash buys for real estate, investing in second or even a third home, Reuters News reports.

“We’re starting to get a lot more inquiries and assisting in transactions,” says Rocco Papandrea, a senior vice president and wealth management adviser at Merill Lynch in New York. Papandrea says he’s seeing more interest in properties along the West Coast and in Colorado, as well as Florida.

Canadian buyers in particular are expected to be looking to purchase U.S. homes. The Bank of Montreal estimates that one-in-five Canadians is considering buying U.S. property.

With dropping home prices, more cities are looking to be attractive buys, such as the increasing affordability in popular vacation-home designations along the U.S. Sunbelt. For example, home prices have fallen 44 percent in Tampa, 54 percent in Phoenix, 57 percent in Las Vegas, and 49 percent in Miami, the Bank of Montreal reports.

“If the economy keeps clicking along and jobs keep growing, housing will be fine,” says Dean Frankel, a portfolio manager at Urdang Capital Markets in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, who oversees around $1.7 billion in real estate equity investments.

The economy–and ultimately housing–may then get a boost from the latest unemployment report released Friday. The unemployment rate reached a two-year low of 8.8 percent in March as companies began a brisk wave of hiring, adding employees at the fastest two-month pace since before the recession even started, the Labor Department reports.

The unemployment rate has fallen a full percentage point in the last four months, which marks the sharpest drop since 1983.

Source: “U.S. Housing Market Attracting Bargain-Hunters,” Reuters News (March 31, 2011) and “Unemployment Rate Falls to 2-Year Low of 8.8 Pct.; Employers Add 216k Jobs in March,” The Associated Press (April 1, 2011)

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What Buyers Want in Homes Today

Buyers have a long list of what they want when home shopping, but one of their biggest desires: A good deal.

“And no matter where a seller prices their property, they’re looking to negotiate,” says Patricia Szot, president of the MetroTex Association of REALTORS®.

But that’s not all they want. Bankrate.com recently asked real estate professionals to chime in on the top desires of their buyers when home shopping. Here are four things that made the list of top home buyer preferences:

1. Homes that are in good condition. “There’s not a lot of flexibility in that,” says Ron Phipps, president of the National Association of REALTORS®. Many buyers now take the attitude: “I’d rather spend the money getting into the house” and not have to spend more money later, Phipps says. One of the major reasons is that “buyers have limited amounts of cash,” he adds. “Even if they want to do a fixer-upper, they don’t have the money to do it.”

2. A bargain with incentives. Buyers are looking for a good deal, even when considering bank-owned properties, says Joan Pratt, real estate broker with RE/MAX Professionals in Castle Pines, Colo. “They want the short sales and the foreclosures and they want them to look like they’re owner-occupied,” she says. “They don’t want to paint. They don’t want to put carpet in. They don’t want to clean.”

And they aren’t only asking for a low price but they also want incentives to buy too. As such, sellers are offering everything from gift cards for new furniture to paint to financial assistance at closing.

3. Outdoor living areas. Homes with screen porches, outdoor kitchens, two-way fireplaces are becoming increasingly competitive in the marketplace as more buyers say they want more outdoor living space.

4. Open kitchens. “The wall between the kitchen and the family room is evaporating,” Phipps says. “The kitchen is becoming part of the gathering space.” (See Buyers Want Cozy, Connected Kitchens)

Source: “9 Items Homebuyers Desire in 2011,” Bankrate.com (March 2011)

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Record-Low Rates Not Swaying Some Households

Mortgage rates are at record lows, but these rates aren’t motivating home buyers in huge numbers, nor are they successfully driving homeowners to remodel or take out money for other kinds of spending.

In previous recessions, lowering interest rates has driven the economy upward. What’s different this time around?

Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics, points out that homeowners are wary. Two-thirds of any money saved is going toward paying down debt or building savings. Only a third is being spent.

“It’s going to take about three years to get back to normal,” says Patrick Newport, U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight.

Source: USA Today, Paul Wiseman, Stephanie Armour (09/29/2010)

10 Steps to Win Over Sellers

Helping eager buyers get the home of their dreams isn’t so easy in this unsettled market. Here are 10 tips for making sure sellers won’t turn up their nose at an offer:

1. Make sure the buyers are pre-approved for a mortgage (not to be confused with being pre-qualified) so they can close in about 10 days.
2. Study the buyer. Have they made an offer on another home or are they working against any other kind of deadline?
3. Make a clean offer – no requests for help with closing costs or other contingencies.
4. Include an automatic escalation clause – say $500 over the highest competing bid. (Insist that seller show the offers in writing.)
5. Sweeten the offer with a bonus if the deal gets done quickly.
6. Offer 10 percent of the purchase price in earnest money.
7. Waive the appraisal. The buyer will have to be willing to pay any difference between the selling price and what the bank is willing to lend.
8. Consider waiving the inspection.
9. Offer the full list price, preferably in cash.
10. Write a love letter to sellers, telling them all the things your client loves about their home.

Source: MSN Real Estate, Marilyn Lewis (08/03/2010)

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Comfortable Laundry Rooms Are a Must-Have

Convenient and comfortable laundry rooms are an increasingly popular feature among home buyers.

Tom Byrne, president of Rockville, Md.-based Chadsworth Homes Inc., says they are more popular than such features as studies and media rooms.

“In the past few years, 30 percent of the homes we build … have a laundry room with granite countertops, a single-level kitchen-style faucet, and the laundry tub will be an undercounter sink,” Byrne says.

Stephen Melman, director of economic services for the National Association of Home Builders, concurs.

“These rooms are becoming larger and more multifunctional, with organizers, a table for folding, ironing stations, and windows with a view,” Melman says.

Source: Washington Times, Carisa Chappell (5/14/2010)

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House Hunting Via Real Estate Apps

Smart phone apps are becoming increasingly popular among home buyers, sellers, and the real estate professionals who serve them.

Zillow.com, which has a free app, says people are using it to look up 2 million properties a month. Other popular apps include those offered by ZipRealty, Coldwell Banker, Better Homes and Gardens, and Corcoran Group.

The apps provide the same information that Web sites do, but they allow users access without having to lug a computer around.

They can make house hunting easier for both practitioners and buyers because the information is so immediately and widely available. “Within a minute, I had enough information to say it’s not worth driving” 25 miles to inspect the home, says Jon Mirmelli, a buyer who otherwise might have asked his real estate professional to meet him there.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, James R. Hagerty (03/09/2010)

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10 Home Features Buyers Want

Home designers and builders speaking at the recent International Builders Show in Las Vegas say that buyers are seeking cost-effective features and rejecting things that don’t have lasting value.

“It’s all about family togetherness – casual living, entertaining and flexible spaces,” says Carol Lavender, president of the Lavender Design Group in San Antonio.

Paul Cardis, CEO of Avid Ratings, which conducts an annual survey of buyer preferences, identified these must-haves in new homes:

1. Large kitchens with islands
2. Energy efficiency, including energy-efficient appliances, super insulation, and high-efficiency windows.
3. Home offices
4. Main-floor master suite
5. Outdoor living space
6. Ceiling fans
7. Soaking tub in the master suite and/or an oversize shower with a seating area
8. Stone and brick exteriors rather than stucco or vinyl
9. Community walking paths and playgrounds
10. Two-car garages, but three-car garages are even more desirable

Source: MarketWatch, Steve Kerch (01/30/2010)

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A Decade of Dramatic Developments

At the beginning of the 21st century, most home buyers had never viewed a home online; the three top home sale marketing methods were yard signs, newspaper ads, and open houses; and nearly nine out of 10 buyers financed their purchase with a fixed-rate, 30-year mortgage.

What a difference a decade makes.

“The real estate industry has seen tremendous change and evolution over the past decade,” said NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® President Vicki Cox Golder, owner of Vicki L. Cox & Associates in Tucson, Ariz. “As the first, best source for real estate information, REALTORS® have not only anticipated and adapted to the evolving needs of their clients and customers, but also have influenced industry trends and innovations that will carry us into the future.”

Full Story…

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