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Fells Point one of U.S.'s 10 great neighborhoods

By Steve Kilar The Baltimore Sun, 12:05 a.m. EDT, October 3, 2012

Fells Point has been named one of the nation’s great neighborhoods by the American Planning Association, a nonprofit organization of community planners.

On Tuesday, the association designated the waterfront community in southeast Baltimore as one of 10 “Great Neighborhoods of 2012.”

“APA singled out Fells Point, one of America’s most important Colonial and Civil War seaports, for its historic maritime role, character and charm, architecture, and preservation efforts,” the group said in a statement.

The Top 10 list is part of the organization’s Great Places in America Program, which was launched in 2007 to highlight U.S. locales “that illustrate how the foresight of planning fosters tomorrow’s communities and have many of the features Americans say are important to their ‘ideal community’ including locally owned businesses, transit, neighborhood parks, and sidewalks,” the statement said.

In 2008, the APA designated Charles Village as a great neighborhood and Annapolis’ Main Street as a great street. Two year later, downtown Frederick was labeled a great neighborhood.

This year, APA’s nine other great neighborhoods are the Garden District in Baton Rouge, La.; the Lower Highlands and Historic Downtown in Fall River, Mass.; Heritage Hill in Grand Rapids, Mich.; downtown Salisbury, N.C.; Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia; Cooper-Young in Memphis, Tenn.; the Fairmont-Sugar House neighborhood in Salt Lake City; Beacon Hill in Seattle; and downtown Walla Walla, Wash.


Home prices rebound

By Chris Isidore @CNNMoney September 25, 2012: 10:11 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- In another sign of a turnaround in the long-battered real estate market, average home prices rebounded in July to the same level as they were nine years ago.

According to the closely watched S&P/Case-Shiller national home price index, which covers more than 80% of the housing market in the United States, the typical home price in July rose 1.6% compared to the previous month.

It marked the third straight month that prices in all 20 major markets followed by the index improved, and it would have been the fourth straight month of improvement across the full spectrum if not for a slight decline in Detroit in April.

The index was up 1.2% compared to a year earlier, an improvement from the year-over-year change reported for June. While home prices have been showing a sequential change in recent months, it wasn't until June that prices were higher than a year earlier.

The July reading matched levels last seen in summer 2003, when the market was marching toward its peak in 2006. The collapse of the market after that led to the financial crisis of 2008.

"The news on home prices in this report confirm recent good news about housing," said David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. "Single-family housing starts are well ahead of last year's pace, existing home sales are up, the inventory of homes for sale is down and foreclosure activity is slowing."

Record low mortgage rates and a tighter supply of homes available for sale have helped to lift home prices. Lower unemployment also has helped with home prices, although job growth in recent months has been slower than hoped.

Earlier this month, the Federal Reserve announced it would buy $40 billion in mortgage bonds a month for the foreseeable future. This third round of asset purchases by the central bank, popularly known as QE3, is its effort to jump start the economy through even lower home loan rates.


Foreclosures 'boil over' in judicial foreclosure states

RealtyTrac: Filings down 31 percent from a year ago in nonjudicial states

By Inman News, Thursday, September 13, 2012.

Inman News®

<a href="">REO property</a> image via Shutterstock.

Foreclosure-related filings were down sharply from a year ago nationwide in August despite an increase in foreclosure activity in 20 states, particularly in states where courts handle the foreclosure process, including New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Illinois and Pennsylvania.

According to the latest numbers from data aggregator RealtyTrac, 193,508 homes were hit with foreclosure-related filings last month, including notices of default, auction notices and bank repossessions. That's an increase of 1 percent from July, but a 15 percent decrease from a year ago.

Foreclosure starts were up 1 percent from July to August, with 99,405 homes entering the foreclosure pipeline, down 13 percent from a year ago. Bank repossessions were also down on a year-over-year basis for the 22nd month in a row, RealtyTrac said. Lenders repossessed 52,380 homes in August, down 2 percent from July and 6 percent from a year ago.

Bucking the national trend, foreclosure-related filings "boiled over" in August in several states where courts handle the foreclosure process, including Illinois and Florida, said Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac, in a statement.

An increase in short sales and foreclosures was predicted in judicial foreclosure states after the nation's five largest mortgage servicers reached a $25 billion settlement in March over "robo-signing" allegations.  

While foreclosure-related filings were down 31 percent collectively from a year ago in the 24 nonjudicial states and District of Columbia, some judicial foreclosure states saw big annual increases in foreclosure activity, led by Kentucky (up 73 percent), New Jersey (up 65 percent), New York (up 56 percent), and Maryland (up 54 percent).

Foreclosure-related filings were up from a year ago in 20 states in August, including Illinois, which posted the highest rate of any state with 1 in every 298 housing units. A total of 17,781 Illinois properties were subjected to a foreclosure-related filing in August, -- a 42 percent increase from a year ago.

Florida climbed to second on RealtyTrac's list of states with the highest rate of foreclosure-related filings, with 1 in 328 properties subjected to a filing.

Until August, the top two spots on the list have been held by one of four nonjudicial foreclosure states since December 2010: Arizona, California, Georgia and Nevada.

Source: RealtyTrac and Inman News.

Home Sales and Job Creation would Rise with Sensible Lending Standards

WASHINGTON (September 17, 2012) – New survey findings, combined with an analysis of historic credit scores and loan performance, show home sales could be notably higher by returning to reasonably safe and sound lending standards, which also would create new jobs, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said there would be enormous benefits to the U.S. economy if mortgage lending conditions return to normal.  “Sensible lending standards would permit 500,000 to 700,000 additional home sales in the coming year,” he said.  “The economic activity created through these additional home sales would add 250,000 to 350,000 jobs in related trades and services almost immediately, and without a cost impact.”

A monthly survey* of Realtors® shows widespread concern over unreasonably tight credit conditions for residential mortgages.  Respondents indicate that tight conditions are continuing, lenders are taking too long in approving applications, and that the information lenders require from borrowers is excessive.  Some respondents expressed frustration that lenders appear to be focusing only on loans to individuals with the highest credit scores.

Even though profits in the financial industry have climbed back strongly to per-recession levels, lending standards still remain unreasonably tight.

Yun said all it takes is a willingness to recognize that market conditions have turned in the wake of an over-correction in home prices, with all of the price measures now showing sustained gains.  “There is an unnecessarily high level of risk aversion among mortgage lenders and regulators, although many are sitting on large volumes of cash which could go a long way toward speeding our economic recovery.  A loosening of the overly restrictive lending standards is very much in order,” he said.

 Respondents to the NAR survey report that 53 percent of loans in August went to borrowers with credit scores above 740.  In comparison, only 41 percent of loans backed by Fannie Mae had FICO scores above 740 during the 2001 to 2004 time period, while 43 percent of Freddie Mac-backed loans were above 740.

In 2011, about 75 percent of total loans purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are now a smaller market share, had credit scores of 740 or above.

There is a similar pattern for FHA loans.  The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has defined a prime loan as having a FICO score of 660 and above.  However, the average FICO score for denied applications on FHA loans was 669 in May of this year, well above the 656 average for loans actually originated in 2001.

Loan performance over the past decade shows the 12-month default rate averaged just under 0.4 percent of mortgages in 2002 and 2003, which is considered normal.  Twelve-month default rates peaked in 2007 at 3.0 percent for Fannie Mae loans and 2.5 percent for Freddie Mac loans, clearly showing the devastating impact of risky mortgages.

Yun said home buyers in recent years have been highly successful.  Since 2009, the 12-month default rates have been abnormally low.  Fannie Mae default rates have averaged 0.2 percent while Freddie Mac’s averaged 0.1 percent, which are notable given higher unemployment in the time frame.

Under normal conditions, existing-home sales should be in the range of 5.0 to 5.5 million.  “Sales this year are projected to rise 8 to 10 percent.  Although welcoming, this still represents a sub-par performance of about 4.6 million sales,” Yun said.  “These findings show we need to return to the sound underwriting standards that existed before the aberrations of the housing boom and bust cycle, and thoroughly re-examine current and impending regulatory rules that may cause excessively tight standards.”

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.


More than 100,000 Maryland homeowners have yet to apply for tax break

The reminders are coming more frequently now, but plenty of homeowners don't seem to have gotten the message.

More than 100,000 Maryland homeowners haven't yet applied for a property-tax break known as the homestead credit, which this year is reducing the average Baltimore recipient's bill by more than $1,000. Some owners have received the break for years, but they'll lose it next tax year if they don't turn in an application by Dec. 31.

The General Assembly voted the requirement into law five years ago in an effort to root out homestead credits going to non-homesteads such as rentals. You qualify only on your principal residence, but homestead credit double-dipping has been a problem for years -- aggravated by the lack of a formal application process

Those who have bought homes after 2007 aren't eligible for the credit until they apply. Those who bought earlier have had an extended stretch of time to get around to it -- but that's coming to an end.

Robert E. Young, director of the state Department of Assessments and Taxation, said his agency sent out letters this summer to 148,000 homeowners who hadn't yet applied and had received only one earlier notice by mail. (The assessors promised legislators that everyone would receive two notices, and this was the only group of people whose properties haven't been reassessed twice since the '07 law.)

Since then, assessors have received about 30,000 applications.

That still leaves more than 100,000 unaccounted for in that group. And there are others beyond that, since some of the folks who already had two reminders still haven't applied.

So: How many non-applicants are qualified homeowners who missed the notices and news stories, and how many are landlords just hoping to quietly ride out their last year of an unearned break? 

Young figures it's some of both. And there's a third category as well: Homeowners who qualify and know about the requirement but don't see the point.

That's because the homestead isn't a guaranteed break for everybody every year, but rather a cap on increases. (It varies by jurisdiction; the cap is 4 percent a year in Baltimore and Baltimore County.) If a Baltimore resident's assessed value balloons from $100,000 to $150,000, she'll see the amount she's actually taxed on rise 4 percent annually until she catches up ... 11 years later.

But after skyrocketing because of the housing bubble, assessed values have fallen overall for the last few years. That's made an increasing number of homeowners mathematically ineligible for the break.

Add in the fact that owners must include their Social Security number on the application to make it easier for state assessment staffers to verify the home is a principal residence, and Young said some have called up with variations of, "Why exactly should I be applying?"

His staffers' answer: So you can get it squared away now. "You don't want to be in a situation where you miss a year in the future," Young said.

If you're not sure whether you've applied or just want to confirm that nothing went awry with the processing, look up your address here. Choose your jurisdiction, click "street address" and type it in. Remember to leave off the suffix, i.e. "Avenue." Scroll down to the bottom and check out the status under "Homestead Application Information."

Haven't applied? You can try digging up your last reassessment notice, which should have included the application plus the unique access number you need to apply online here. (The state recommends doing so online because you get a confirmation back.) Or you can find the application here, print it off and either mail it in or call the state assessors for the unique number you need to apply online. The state's homestead unit is at 410-767-2165.

Keep this in mind before you dial: Young says the eight-person crew is getting about 200 calls an hour. It's hard to get through. (People are calling in not just about the letters but also in response to heads-up notices included with some jurisdictions' July tax bills.)

Young urges homeowners with computers not to call with questions they can get answered online, like whether they've applied, so those without computers (or with questions their online access isn't helping with) can reach a live person.

He also suggests trying on Thursdays or Fridays, since calls are proving particularly heavy earlier in the week.

Oh, and there's a bit of good news for anyone who loses their homestead credit by failing to apply. Once you get the application in, you can pick up where you would have been in the following tax year -- starting July 2014 -- as if you'd never lost the credit. But you will be stuck paying the full tab for the tax year that begins next July.


Mortgage-settlement aid given to 2,825 Marylanders so far

Just over 2,800 Marylanders have received some aid through the national mortgage-servicing settlement this year, with nearly 2,000 others in process, according to the settlement's monitor.

The assistance, valued at $224 million, ranges from principal reduction to refinancing underwater borrowers. The average rate reduction for refinancing? More than 2 percent.

Five mortgage servicers -- Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Ally Financial (the former GMAC) -- agreed to the settlement, approved by a federal judge in April. All reported to the settlement monitor that they have extended aid to Marylanders, but not all have offered aid in each category.Bank of America, for instance, reported no completed refinancing or principal reduction in Maryland -- unless you count the 17 people whose second-lien mortgages it completely extinguished. The company told the monitor that it had helped 1,134 Marylanders, largely by permitting short sales with the remaining mortgage balance forgiven.

Short-sale forgiveness also accounted for the biggest categories of aid to Marylanders from Ally and Chase.

Nearly a quarter of Marylanders given aid by Citi got short sales, but the company's biggest category of assistance was forgiving deferred principal from loan modifications made before the settlement.

Marylanders serviced by Wells Fargo were most likely to get refinancing aid, according to the settlement monitor.

Throughout the foreclosure crisis, borrowers, attorneys and housing counselors across the country complained of widespread problems in mortgage servicing (some of which is detailed in this story). So the settlement includes new servicing rules intended to essentially mandate better customer service, and not just for those facing foreclosure.

It's a work in progress. Joseph A. Smith, the settlement monitor, said in his report that about 1,300 borrowers visiting his site have shared their servicing issues -- many complaining about loan modification, customer service, documentation and fees. Forty-four of the submissions came from Marylanders.

What's your mortgage-servicing experience?

The Federal Housing Administration

When loans turn sour

AFTER the Treasury put up $190 billion to save Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from collapse in 2008, it was widely thought to be finished with housing bail-outs. Yet buried in the Office of Management and Budget’s projections for 2012 was a $688m bail-out for a much less well-known public mortgage insurer, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The FHA is now expected to survive the year without taxpayer assistance. If the economy deteriorates, however, it will not be able to slip under the public’s radar for long.

The FHA was set up to make mortgages available during the Depression. Today it guarantees loans to borrowers with spotty credit, making down-payments as low as 3.5% of the purchase price. In exchange, it charges 1.75% up-front and a modest annual premium. So far, it has been financially self-sufficient.

In the early 2000s the FHA lost market share. Subprime lenders began offering loans at lower rates and with even looser requirements. Meanwhile Fannie and Freddie relaxed their credit standards, and started buying mortgages from borrowers who otherwise would have used the FHA. In 2007 an audit by the Government Accountability Office wondered whether the FHA was still necessary.A few months later the sub prime market collapsed, and the next year Fannie and Freddie fell apart. That left the FHA as the only game in town for borrowers without big down-payments or with less than sterling credit. In 2009 it insured loans worth $330 billion, up from just $52 billion in 2006. It now commands a bigger share of financing for home purchases than Fannie and Freddie combined.By serving as the lender of last resort, the FHA almost single-handedly kept the housing market functioning through the credit crunch. However, that contribution came at a cost: a book of some 700,000 dicey loans worth roughly $100 billion.

Those mortgages are now going sour. According to data analyzed by Andrew Caplin, an economics professor at New York University, one in five borrowers who took out FHA-insured mortgages in 2007-09 are at least three months behind with their payments. Mr Caplin thinks this share will rise to over 30% by 2017. And the FHA has precious few reserves to cover such losses: its capital position was last reported at 0.24% of its loan book, eight times smaller than the legal minimum.

The FHA has taken big steps to improve its financial health. It has tightened its lending standards—the average credit score of its borrowers has risen from 640 in 2006 to nearly 700 today—and increased its annual premiums. Because the FHA has grown so fast, these higher-quality mortgages now make up around 75% of its loan book. Carol Galante, its acting commissioner, is concerned the FHA may tighten too much, abandoning the home buyers that need it most and possibly slowing down the broader economic recovery.

The FHA has also become much more aggressive in contesting dubious reimbursement claims. During the boom, private lenders often cut corners. The FHA recently received $1 billion from a group of five big banks in compensation for improper procedures in selling and servicing FHA-insured mortgages. It has also begun monitoring lenders, and cutting off those who generate unusually high proportions of bad loans.

Whether all that will be enough to avoid a full bail-out costing tens of billions of dollars is hotly debated. The answer probably depends on home prices and the overall economy. For the moment, the FHA is squeezing by. But a double-dip recession could push it over the edge.

from the print edition | United States

Monthly Indicators for July 2012

Foreclosure Supply and the Housing Market

by Bill McBride on 7/10/2012 05:01:00 PM

First a few excerpts from this article by Diana Olick at CNBC: When Foreclosure Supplies Fall, the Bottom Falls Out of Housing
 While foreclosures brought home prices down initially, they are now driving them up because there is so much demand from investors and first time buyers, looking for bargains. Supplies of these cheap homes are also dwindling, because banks are still working to modify many troubled loans, and states that require a judge in the foreclosure process are still facing a huge backlog.
This new lack of distressed supply may lead to what housing analyst Mark Hanson calls, “an investor gut check.” He sees early results that sales volume in many of the markets that were deemed to be “recovering” are actually falling.

“First is the artificial lack of distressed supply, which is the market in all of the miracle 'recovery' regions. As I have pounded the table over for years ... 'investors and first timers are thin and volatile cohorts that have been known to up and leave markets in a matter of a month or two leading to a demand collapse'. But equally responsible are Zombie Homeowners; those without enough equity to pay a Realtor 6 percent and put 20 percent down on a new house and/or good enough credit or strong enough income to secure a new mortgage loan,” writes Hanson.

Hanson calls the lack of distressed supply “artificial” because he believes banks are holding back some distressed inventory and/or that many of the loan modifications being worked out will inevitably fail. He points out that distressed supply is vital to a market like Phoenix, because 66 percent of its current borrowers owe more on their mortgages than their homes are currently worth, and are therefore stuck in place, unable to buy or sell.

“Without repeat buyers in the market leaving a unit of supply when they move up, laterally or down (in the case of empty nesters), supply is simply removed from the market and not replaced,” notes Hanson.
Look at the headline "When Foreclosure Supplies Fall, the Bottom Falls Out of Housing". Really? I think we need to define "housing" and what a "housing recovery" looks like.

When I think of "housing", I think of 1) residential investment, especially housing starts and new home sales, and 2) house prices for existing homes. When the supply falls - especially foreclosure supply - I'd expect there to be less downward pressure on house prices, and also more opportunity for new home sales. That is what we are seeing.

So what does the headline mean? A decline in existing home sales? Yes, sales have declined year-over-year in some distressed markets (like Phoenix and Las Vegas), but that is not bad news. As I've pointed out before, those looking at the number of existing home sales to judge a "housing recovery" are looking in the wrong place.

Mark Hanson makes some interesting points, and this raises the question again of why supply has fallen so sharply. There are probably several reasons for the decline in supply: 1) negative equity keeps people from selling (and buying as Hanson notes), 2) banks aren't foreclosing quickly and are focusing more on modifications and short sales, 3) cash-flow investors have purchased a substantial number of houses, especially at the low end, and they will not be sellers for some time, and 4) seller price expectations (when sellers expect prices to stabilize, they no longer rush to sell).

For these reasons (and probably others), there is less supply. And this in turn might lead to fewer sales since investors and first time buyers are focused on the low end of the market (I also expect sales to decline from record levels in areas like Las Vegas). But lower existing home sales doesn't mean the "bottom falls out of housing". Actually it could mean the housing market is improving!

To look for a "housing recovery", we need to focus on residential investment (new home sales and housing starts) and existing home prices. Lower supply is a positive for both.

Monthly Indicators for June 2012

Foreclosure Review Deadline Extended, Nearly 200K Requests So Far 

The deadline to request a free, independent foreclosure review has been extended for another two months, and so far, nearly 200,000 people have requested a foreclosure review, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Reserve Board announced Thursday.

The new deadline to request an independent foreclosure review is getting pushed back from July 31 to September 30, 2012. The review is for those who believe they have suffered financial harm as result of servicing errors during a foreclosure process between 2009 and 2010. The property must be the borrower’s primary residence and serviced by a participating servicer to be eligible.

The OCC first issued consent orders for the reviews on April 13, 2011 against 12 mortgage servicers, and so far, about 193,630 people have requested a free review. In addition, independent consultants have reviewed servicers’ portfolios and selected 144,817 files to review.

Currently there are 156,826 files under review, and 11,939 files have been completed, according to the OCC.

If financial harm did occur as a result of a faulty foreclosure process, relief may be available in the form of lump-sum payments, rescission of a foreclosure, a modification, or corrections on credit reports, deficiency amounts, and records.

Efforts from the OCC to reach out to borrowers have included 4.4 million letters sent to those who may be eligible for a review, and the agency also required servicers to pay for advertising announcing the review.

The website has been visited 600,386 times, and 7,948 borrowers have submitted requests for review online as of May 31. The toll-free number, 1-888-952-9105, has received 241,048 calls, and 25,752 people have requested forms.

The independent foreclosure review is separate from the $25 billion servicing settlement reached between federal and state officials and five of the largest servicers.

As part of OCC’s agreements, four banks – Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo – received penalties totaling $394 million.

Examples of servicer actions that could lead to relief include Servicemembers Civil Relief Act violations; modifications that were not approved but should have been, lack of proper notification during the foreclosure process, and errors that did not result in foreclosure, but still led to financial injury.


Monthly Indicators for April 2012

Monthly Indicators for March 2012

The Baltimore Metro Area housing market saw the largest year-over-year gain in sale prices since April 2006, with a median sale price of $237,500 representing a 10.5 percent increase over April 2011. Contract activity was up 9.9 percent year-over-year, though down 3.8 percent from March 2012 levels. Active inventory is down to 12,627 listings and while this represents the lowest April level since 2006, there is a solid balance between supply and demand with 6.8 months of inventory based on the average sales rate of the last twelve months. With a Median Days on Market of 64 days representing a 29-day improvement over April 2011, properly priced homes are selling at a faster pace than last year.

Another factor impacting pricing is the decrease in the amount of distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) included in the mix of sales and inventory. Only 1 in 10 sales (10 percent) were foreclosures, down from nearly 1 in 4 in April 2011 (23.3 percent), marking the lowest proportion of all sales since at least April 2009 (when MRIS started tracking foreclosed and short sale listings). The 201 foreclosure sales represented a 23.9 percent month-over-month decrease and a 56.8 percent decrease compared to the 465 foreclosed sales in April 2011. While the 184 closed short sales were down 6.1 percent month-over-month, they are 31.4 percent higher than the April 2011 total. The percentage of sales that were short sales rose only slightly from the April 2011 share, from 7.0 percent to 9.2 percent.  This is largely due to the 16.2 percent year-over-year jump in non-distressed sales to 1,622. 4 out of 5 sales (80.8 percent) were traditional, the highest proportion since MRIS began tracking distressed listings, and a marked increase from the 69.8 percent share in April 2011.


Monthly Indicators for October 2011 

There's the numbers, then there’s the story behind them. For months, declining inventory has been the national tale to tell. This suggests a changing narrative with different voices. A buyer might tell you that record low mortgage rates and affordable 
prices made homeownership more attractive than renting. A seller may say that less competition allowed them to receive more of their asking price. The moral of the story? Real estate is local both in terms of geography and personal circumstance

New Listings in the Washington D.C. region decreased 15.9 percent to 12,438. Pending Sales were up 22.7 percent to 9,563. Inventory levels shrank 18.5 percent to 56,591 units, a trend that could indicate a changing landscape.

Prices gave back some ground. The Median Sales Price decreased 5.7 percent to $249,900. Days on Market increased 14.7 percent to 95 days.

Absorption rates improved as Months Supply of Inventory was down 17.1 percent to 6.5 months.
Recent reports from the broader economy have dispelled the story of a double-dip recession. An early reading of gross domestic product (GDP) showed 2.5 percent growth. Meanwhile, national job growth, a major driver of housing demand and price support, has recently strengthened. An increasingly impatient White House has rolled 
out phase two of the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) for Fannie- and Freddie-backed mortgages. This should help a number of consumers as they write the next chapter.

Monthly Indicators for June 2011

You may have noticed some "noise" lately about where the market is heading. Some 
accounts are optimistic while others, well, aren't. The good news is that local data
provides a more reliable tone than national sound bites can offer. When it comes to
hearing the market's true message, it may not necessarily be from the expected
indicators, it may not be heard evenly across all segments and it may arrive in disjointed
bursts. Let's listen.

Buyers in the Washington D.C. region absorbed homes more quickly as Months Supply
of Inventory was down 2.4 percent to 6.9 months. New Listings decreased 11.1 percent
to 16,319. Pending Sales were up 29.2 percent to 11,671. Inventory levels shrank 11.2
percent to 59,759 units, but even choosy buyers can still find top-notch homes.

Prices were more or less stable. The Median Sales Price increased 1.8 percent to
$285,000. Days on Market increased 15.5 percent to 84 days. Affordability also

On the national front, the interest rate dropped to 4.79 percent on a 30-year fixed
conventional and 4.44 percent for FHA. The unemployment rate has been stable around
9.0 percent and initial unemployment claims have continued to fall. Wages and payroll
jobs are also improving slowly. Debt ceiling negotiations and other background noises
persist, while prolonged job growth is still the missing verse in the recovery song.


Monthly Indicators for April 2011

The final month of year-over-year comparison to last year's tax incentive market is upon us. It bears repeating that April 2010 enjoyed uniquely strong activity due to the approaching credit deadline. Let's see how this pivotal month played out locally.

New Listings in the Washington D.C. region decreased 24.1 percent to 18,397. Pending Sales were down 17.6 percent to 11,838. Inventory levels shrank 9.4 percent to 56,53 units - a positive trend that should preserve market balance.

Prices were more or less stable. The Median Sales Price declined 2.9 percent to $252,500. Days on Market increased 24.8 percent to 99 days. The supply-demand balance improved as monthly supply of inventory was down 2.1 percent to 6.4 months. 

Nationally, the interest rate is 5.0 percent on a 30-year fixed conventional and the unemployment rate edged up to 9.0 percent in April, even as the economy added 244,000 jobs. Job seekers showed more confidence, a potential indicator of future 
housing demand. Moving forward, expect a different story to unfold in our market. We'll soon be comparing current activity to a post-credit slump that occurred during the summer and fall of 2010.

Monthly Indicators for March 2011

This month's numbers are stuck in the shadow of the spring 2010 incentive market. A number of factors hinder a full-scale housing recovery, yet there are positives that suggest improving consumer confidence. Slowing unemployment claims, strong

corporate balance sheets and 13 months of private job growth are cause for long dormant optimism. Let's see if our local glass is half empty or half full.

New Listings in the Washington D.C. region decreased 19.1% from last March to 18,496 new homes. Pending Sales increased 2.4 percent to land at 12,452 contracts written. As a result, inventory levels decreased 5.7 percent from last year to reach
54,485 active listings.

Prices lost some ground – the March Median Sales Price of $245,000 decreased 2.0 percent. Negotiations moved toward buyers as Percent of Original List Price Received at Sale decreased 2.5 percent to 91.9 percent. The market moved toward balance as Months Supply of Inventory decreased to 6.1 months.

Prices lost some ground – the March Median Sales Price of $245,000 decreased 2.0 percent. Negotiations moved toward buyers as Percent of Original List Price Received at Sale decreased 2.5 percent to 91.9 percent. The market moved toward balance as Months Supply of Inventory decreased to 6.1 months.


Monthly Indicators for January 2011

A house. It's the single largest investment most families make.  It's where we rest our heads every night. Houses represent the brick and mortar that comprise the very communities in which we live. They provide us with a sense of place to extend our roots downward. We raise our families under the safety and warmth of their rooftops. Our houses become homes. Let's analyze these structures that are so much more than that, and let's take a look at how our home market began 2011.

Pending Sales in the MRIS region increased 13.1 percent since January 2010 to 8,654 agreements signed. New Listing activity declined by 15.7 percent, which means sellers placed 12,700 new homes on the market. At this rate, they should expect their properties to sell after approximately 97 days.

Prices declined slightly. The January Median Sales Price dipped by 2.9 percent from last January to $238,000. Negotiations moved toward buyers as Percent of Original List Price Received at Sale fell to 91.4 percent. Months Supply of Inventory grew 3.5 percent to 6.3 months.

Interest rates are expected to remain around 5 percent and prices are expected to rise gradually in many markets. Although the labor department reported that the seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 9.0 percent in January, expect joblessness to remain an issue. There's a steep, jagged rock face behind us; ahead lies a gently inclined grassy plain.