Wednesday, April 30, 2008

4-28-2008 Article from the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

For two years, home buyers in the Twin Cities housing market have behaved like medieval kings—looking down upon their vast and glistening kingdom of available homes for sale with a calm and dismissive eye, slowly selecting their properties without hurry or haste. While their reign is not yet over, there are some noticeable cracks in the walls of their castle.
Sellers are not putting homes on the market with anywhere close to the frequency with which they did the last four years. For the week ending April 19, there were only 2,152 new listings, down 19.6 percent from the same week last year. This marks the sixth week in the last seven with a double-digit percentage drop from 2007. The slowdown in buyer activity has also shown signs of abating, as the number of new purchase agreements signed for the week ending April 19 was 893, only 3 units behind the total of 896 seen this week last year. This is the second straight week of relatively flat year-over-year pending sales activity.
However, don't head out and buy that $80,000 Italian sports car you've always wanted just yet. It's important to bear in mind that:
foreclosure and short-sale activity is taking up a larger portion of our overall market activity than it did previously, which has the effect of propping these numbers up a bit, and
we're still 39.8 percent behind our 2005 sales pace at the peak of the boom cycle.
Flattening overall supply (only up 0.4 percent from this time last year) and encouraging trends in sales figures should serve as welcome signs that the market corrections we've experienced in the last two years are taking a turn. Some semblance of order may very well be restored to the "kingdom" in the next year.

Commentary from The Basil Group ~ Buyers out there, keep an eye on inventory and interest rates. You'll want to be sure to buy when the inventory and prices are the best and the interest rate is low. Sellers out there, homes are selling, make sure you look your best and have the best price for the well informed buyers to notice your home as a stand out in the market.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Could this be the magic at last? For housing that is...

The signs are early and nascent, but there are some promising early indicators that the Twin Cities housing market is beginning to correct and pull back from its two year-beeline in the buyer's favor. While affordability, interest rates and overall supply are still attractive, home sellers are cutting back on new listings substantially in 2008.

For the week ending April 12, there were 2,156 new listings, down a full 20.1 percent from the same week last year. That's the fifth week in the last six that we've seen double-digit percentage drops from 2007 activity. Newly signed purchase agreements (pending sales) are still behind last year also, posting a 3.8 percent decline.

While our market still faces a long road ahead to full recovery, the recent reduction in new supply is a positive beacon on the horizon and undoubtedly welcome news for home sellers.

We'd be interested in hearing your opinions. Feel free to write in and we'll post the pertinant ones...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Existing Home Sales Rise In February

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2008 -

Sales of existing homes increased in February and remain within a fairly stable range, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – rose 2.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate (1) of 5.03 million units in February from a pace of 4.89 million in January, but remain 23.8 percent below the 6.60 million-unit level in February 2007. The sales pace has been in a fairly narrow range since last September.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the gain is encouraging. “We’re not expecting a notable gain in existing-home sales until the second half of this year, but the improvement is another sign that the market is stabilizing,” he said. “Buyers taking advantage of higher loan limits for both FHA and conventional mortgages will unleash some pent-up demand. As inventories are drawn down, prices in many markets should go positive later this year.”

The national median existing-home price (2) for all housing types was $195,900 in February, down 8.2 percent from a year earlier when the median was $213,500. Because the slowdown in sales from a year ago is greater in high-cost areas, there is a downward pull to the national median with relatively fewer sales in higher priced markets.

Home prices within metropolitan areas are more telling. The most recent data shows roughly half of the metro areas in the U.S. with price increases, with healthy gains in markets such as Oklahoma City and Trenton, N.J. “In other areas such as Sacramento, a rapid price decline has induced buyers to come into the market and sales are now rising,” Yun said. “The relationship between home prices, interest rates and income has improved to the point where buyers are more serious about making offers.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 5.92 percent in February from 5.76 percent in January; the rate was 6.29 percent in February 2007.

NAR President Richard F. Gaylord, a broker with RE/MAX Real Estate Specialists in Long Beach, Calif., said that negotiation and knowledge are even more important in the current market. “Consumers need to be aware of local market conditions and comparable sales prices to have a clear picture of a home’s value,” he said. “Realtors® understanding of local markets, negotiating expertise, and transaction experience are invaluable to both buyers and sellers, today as much as ever.”

Total housing inventory fell 3.0 percent at the end of February to 4.03 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 9.6-month supply (3) at the current sales pace, down from a 10.2-month supply in January.

Single-family home sales increased 2.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.47 million in February from an upwardly revised 4.35 million in January, but are 22.9 percent below 5.80 million-unit level a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $193,900 in February, down 8.7 percent from February 2007.

Existing condominium and co-op sales rose 3.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 560,000 units in February from a downwardly revised 540,000 in January, and are 29.7 percent below the 797,000-unit pace in February 2007. The median existing condo price (4) was $211,700 in February, which is 4.9 percent lower than a year ago.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast jumped 11.3 percent to an annual pace of 890,000 in February, but are 26.4 percent below February 2007. The median price in the Northeast was $264,800, up 0.4 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 2.5 percent in February to a level of 1.24 million but are 19.5 percent below a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $143,900, which is 7.1 percent lower than February 2007.

In the South, existing-home sales increased 2.1 percent to an annual rate of 1.99 million in February but are 22.0 percent below February 2007. The median price in the South was $163,400, down 8.6 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West slipped 1.1 percent to an annual rate of 920,000 in February, and are 29.2 percent below a year ago. The median price in the West was $290,400, down 13.4 percent from February 2007.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

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(1) The annual rate for a particular month represents what the total number of actual sales for a year would be if the relative pace for that month were maintained for 12 consecutive months. Seasonally adjusted annual rates are used in reporting monthly data to factor out seasonal variations in resale activity. For example, home sales volume is normally higher in the summer than in the winter, primarily because of differences in the weather and family buying patterns. However, seasonal factors cannot compensate for abnormal weather patterns.

Existing-home sales, which include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, are based on transaction closings. This differs from the U.S. Census Bureau’s series on new single-family home sales, which are based on contracts or the acceptance of a deposit. Because of these differences, it is not uncommon for each series to move in different directions in the same month. In addition, existing-home sales, which generally account for 85 percent of total home sales, are based on a much larger sample – nearly 40 percent of multiple listing service data each month – and typically are not subject to large prior-month revisions.

(2) The only valid comparisons for median prices are with the same period a year earlier due to the seasonality in buying patterns. Month-to-month comparisons do not compensate for seasonal changes, especially for the timing of family buying patterns. Changes in the geographic composition of sales can distort median price data. Year-ago median and mean prices sometimes are revised in an automated process if more data is received than was originally reported.

(3) Total inventory and month’s supply data are available back through 1999, while single-family inventory and month’s supply are available back to 1982. Condos were tracked quarterly prior to 1999 when single-family homes accounted for more than nine out of 10 purchases (e.g., condos were 9.5 percent of transactions in 1998, 8.5 percent in 1990 and only 6.1 percent in 1982).

(4) Because there is a concentration of condos in high-cost metro areas, the national median condo price can be higher than the median single-family price. In a given market area, condos typically cost less than single-family homes.

Existing-home sales for March will be released April 22. The next Forecast / Pending Home Sales Index is scheduled for April 8.