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helping friends and families buy and sell Renton WA real estate, homes, condos, townhomes, vacant land and commercial properties. Fun guy, husband, grandpa, retired State Trooper, great real estate sales negotiator and Christian.

November 2012 Non-Farm Payrolls Report May Show Hurricane Sandy Effects

Non-Farm PayrollsFloating a mortgage rate? Consider getting locked Thursday.

ADP released its November 2012 Employment Report Wednesday in which the payroll-processing firm reported 118,000 new jobs created last month.

The company said the service sector created 114,000 new positions, the construction sector created 23,000 new positions, and goods-producing businesses created 4,000 new jobs, among others. There was a 16,000 decline in manufacturing employment.

ADP’s monthly Employment Report can influence mortgage rates. This is because it’s typically released during the same week as the Non-Farm Payrolls report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and can sometimes provide a preview.

The Non-Farm Payrolls report — more commonly called “the jobs report,” is a sector-by-sector breakdown of the U.S. employment situation, which includes changes in the national Unemployment Rate.

In a recovering economy, as jobs go, so goes the economy and, this month, the jobs forecast is clouded because of the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

In its Employment Report, ADP estimates that Hurricane Sandy reduced payrolls by 86,000 jobs across manufacturing, retail, leisure and hospitality, and temporary help industries.

Without Hurricane Sandy, the report may have shown north of 200,000 new jobs.

Prior to Wednesday, Wall Street expected Friday’s Non-Farm Payrolls report to show 93,000 net new jobs created in November, and no change in the U.S. Unemployment Rate. The ADP report did little to change those expectations.

Regardless, Friday’s release remains a market risk to Renton buyers. The jobs report is closely watched because of its links to the broader domestic economy. When more workers are employed, more income is earned, and more money is spent.

This drives economic growth, of course, because consumer spending accounts for 70% of the U.S. economy and when the economy is expected to expand, mortgage rates tend to rise.

If you are currently in the market for, or are undecided about a mortgage, therefore, consider locking your mortgage rate today. If Friday’s Non-Farm Payrolls report shows more jobs created than were estimated, mortgage rates are likely to rise — maybe even sharply.

Non-Farm Payrolls is released at 8:30 AM ET.

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Short Sale : Writing A Letter Of Hardship

Short SaleA short sale is when a property is sold for less than its remaining mortgage principal balance, and executed as a way for both the existing homeowner and mortgage lender to reduce their respective losses.

Typically, although not always, short sales are reserved for situations of extreme financial hardship; just prior a bank beginning foreclosure proceedings.

Short sales are not automatic, however. Homeowners must often prove the merits a short sale to their lender, which often involves documenting that selling the home for less than its worth is the best and most viable option for all parties involved. 

The short sale process starts with a letter of hardship.

To prove your short sale worthiness to the bank, you’ll be asked to submit a cover letter which explains your hardship, and to provide full financial disclosure. You will also need your original purchase contract, a balance sheet of your income and expenses, your asset statements and proof of income, and two years of federal tax returns.

Lenders prefer handwritten letters and are more apt to agree to a short sale for homeowners who may have lost jobs or encountered significant medical bills, as opposed to those who engaged careless spending.

Draft a compelling letter and avoid extraneous details. Be short, be thorough, and be complete.

In addition, note that the following traits can help speed your short sale approval : 

  • The home is marketable
  • A second lien holder, if one exists, is amenable to short sale proceedings
  • A foreclosure is not scheduled within the next four months

Choosing to short sale your home in Seattle or anywhere else , though, is not something which a homeowner should pursue alone.

The process of selling a home in a “distressed” state is significantly different from selling a non-distressed home. Homeowners selling in a short sale should seek the advice and counsel of an experienced real estate agent.

How To Maintain Adequate Homeowners Insurance Coverage

Maintain adequate homeowners insurance coverageIn the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, stories have emerged of homeowners whose hazard insurance coverage was too low to cover the damage to their respective properties. 

Unfortunately, this scenario is common among U.S. homeowners, and is not just limited to damage from natural disasters. Homeowners in Seattle and nationwide are often woefully under-insured against catastrophe in its many forms.

Whether you’re buying a home, or own one already, revisit your hazard insurance policy choices and be sure that your bases are covered.

Here are four common components of a homeowners insurance policy :

Dwelling/Building Coverage 
Look for the amount listed under this section and divide it by the square footage of your home. Talk to your insurance agent, your real estate agent and perhaps even your contractor to determine whether your current coverage is sufficient. Be sure to consider lot size and building materials.

Liability Protection
What if a person is injured on your property and decides to sue? Whether your dog bit someone’s hand or a guest slipped on a wet floor, lawsuits can be expensive. Most liability policies start at $100,000.

Valuable Add-Ons
Few homeowners policies cover valuables such as art, jewelry, antiques, gold, or wine collections. However, you can usually add coverage for these items for a small annual fee. Appraisals are sometimes required.

Condominium Stipulations
When you live in a condominium or a co-op, the building often has coverage for the “walls out”. Everything inside a unit remains the responsibility of the homeowner. To be sure, however, prior to purchasing coverage for a condo or co-op, show your insurance agent the homeowners association hazard policy for recommendations.

A little bit of insurance coverage goes a long way when it comes to unforeseen disasters — but only if you maintain proper coverage. Speak with your insurance agent regularly to make sure you’ve never under-insured. Accidents, after all, are unexpected by definition.

A Look At This Week’s Mortgage Rates : December 3, 2012

Freddie Mac 30-year fixed rate mortgage ratesLow mortgage rates are pumping up home affordability.

Average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rates made a new all-time low in November, continuing this year Refinance Boom and giving fuel to the budding housing market recovery.

At month-end, Freddie Mac’s survey of 125 banks nationwide put the benchmark product’s rate at 3.32% for borrowers willing to pay 0.8 discount points. This is just 0.01 percentage point above the record-low rate establishing prior to Thanksgiving.

The 15-year fixed mortgage is similarly low, posting 2.64 percent nationwide, on average. This, too, is only slightly higher the all-time low set the week prior.

Falling mortgage rates have helped to offset rising home prices in many U.S. cities. 

Steady job creation and rising consumer confidence has swelled the pool of home buyers nationwide, causing home inventories to shrink and home prices to rise. The improving economy has also led to rising rents and now, within many housing markets, it’s less costly to buy and own a home than to rent a comparable one.

A $1,000 mortgage payment affords a $225,000 mortgage payment in Kent.

Last week, the economy was shown to be improving.

  • The Commerce Department showed that the Gross Domestic Product increased at a 2.7% annual rate in Q3 2012
  • The Labor Department showed first-time unemployment filings dropping by 23,000 claims
  • The Pending Home Sales Index jumped to its highest point since April 2010
  • The Existing Home Sales report showed home sales up 2.1%
  • The Case-Shiller Index showed home values making annual gains 

In addition, Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke said that the central bank will take action to speed economic growth, should the U.S. economy start to side-step. 

This week, there is little on the U.S. economic calendar, save for Friday’s Non-Farm Payrolls report. Wall Street is expecting to see 80,000 net new jobs created in November, and a rise in the national Unemployment Rate to 8.0%.

If the report’s actual results are stronger-than-expected, mortgage rates will likely climb from their all-time lows. If the report comes back weak, rates should stay unchanged.

Pending Home Sales Index Leaps To Multi-Year High

Pending Home Sales IndexHomes were sold at a furious pace last month.

According the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), the Pending Home Sales Index rose 5.2 percent in October, crossing the benchmark 100 reading, and moving to 104.8.

It’s a 5-point improvement from September’s revised figure and the highest reading April 2010 — the last month of that year’s federal home buyer tax credit.

October also marks the 18th consecutive month during which the index showed year-to-year gains.

As a housing market metric, the Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) differs from most commonly-cited housing statistics because, instead of reporting on what’s already occurred, it details what’s likely to happen next.

The PHSI is a forward-looking indicator; a predictor of future sales. It’s based on signed real estate contracts for existing single-family homes, condominiums, and co-ops. Later, when the contract leads to a closing, the “pending” home sale is counted in NAR’s monthly Existing Home Sales report.

Historically, 80 percent of homes under contract, and thus counted in the Pending Home Sales Index, will go to settlement within a 2-month period, and a significant share of the rest will close within months 3 and 4. The PHSI is a predictor of Existing Home Sales.

Regionally, the Pending Home Sales Index varied in October 2012 :

  • Northeast Region : 79.2; +13 percent from October 2011
  • Midwest Region : 104.4; +20 percent from October 2011
  • South Region : 117.3; +17 percent from October 2011
  • West Region : 105.7; +1 percent from October 2011

A Pending Home Sales Index reading of 100 or higher denotes a “strong” housing market.

Of course, with rising home sales comes rising home values. 2012 has been characterized by strong buyer demand amid falling housing supplies. It’s one reason why the Case-Shiller Index and the FHFA’s Home Price Index are both showing an annual increase in home prices. Plus, with mortgage rates low as we head into December, the traditional “slow season” for housing has been anything but.

The housing market in Seattle is poised to end 2012 with strength. 2013 is expected to begin the same way.

New Home Sales Remain Elevated Into Q4 2012

New Home SalesSales of newly-built homes took a small step lower in October, but remain strong.

According to the Commerce Department, New Home Sales slipped 1,000 units last month, falling to 368,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. 

The final reading fell short of Wall Street expectations, and the government revised downward its initial findings from August and September by 2,000 units and 20,000 units, respectively.

A “new” home is a home that is considered new construction.

Furthermore, the number of new homes for sale nationwide ticked higher to 147,000 — the highest reading in 9 months.

However, in taking a broader look at October’s New Home Sales report, we see obvious strengths. For example, although home sales slipped last month, it remains the third-highest tally since the April 2010 expiration of the federal home buyer tax credit.

The highest reading? Last month’s 369,000.

In addition, the national new home inventory has dropped, off 8% from last year. Fewer homes for sales has been a driving force behind rising home prices. As compared to one year ago, the median new home price is up nearly six percent. More demand for buyers is a factor, too.

At the current sales pace, the complete U.S. inventory of new homes for sale would “sell out” in 4.8 months. This is a noteworthy data point because, as analysts point out, a 6.0-month supply of homes marks a market in balance.

Today’s new homes market, therefore, is a seller’s market; one in which home builders may be gaining pricing power and negotiation leverage over buyers. It’s one reason why home builder confidence has climbed to a 5-year high.

For buyers of new construction, then, in Seattle and nationwide, 2013 is a critical year. Home prices may rise and mortgage rates may, too. And, along the way, it may get tougher to get a “great deal” on new construction.

If you’re planning to buy, therefore, consider moving up your time frame. After October’s small step backward, the time to buy a newly-built home may be now.

Case-Shiller Index Verifies Home Value Gains Through Q3 2012

Case-Shiller Index September 2012

The housing market continues to expand.

According to the S&P/Case-Shiller Index, which was released earlier this week, U.S. home prices rose in September for the sixth straight month, climbing 0.3% as compared to the month prior.

On an annual basis, values are higher by 3.0%.

The Case-Shiller Index findings are a composite reading of 20 U.S cities, 17 of which showed home price gains in September. Detroit and Washington D.C. showed slight declines, and New York City showed no change.

Leading the recovery, though, appears to be Phoenix, Arizona. The previously hard-hit city has seen home values gain 20.4% over the last 12 months. Also noteworthy is that Atlanta, Georgia reversed 26 consecutive months of home value declines in September, posting a +0.1% annual growth rate.

Average U.S. home prices have climbed back to mid-2003 levels.

On a month-over-month basis, value change by city varied. San Diego, California and Las Vegas, Nevada both posted gains of 1.4 percent from August, leading the Case-Shiller Index’s 20 tracked cities. Minneapolis, Minnesota and Phoenix showed gains of 1.1 percent.

Los Angeles, California rounded out the Top Five, posting a 1% gain month-over-month.

Despite the index’s strong findings, however, we should remember to temper our expectations. The Case-Shiller Index — like most home value trackers — is wildly flawed. Buyers in Kent should follow its gospel with caution.

Here’s why.

First, the Case-Shiller Index tracks values for single-family homes only. As a result, it doesn’t account for multi-unit homes or for condos and co-ops. This is a big deal in cities such as Chicago and New York where high-rise units are common.

Another flaw in the Case-Shiller Index is that it’s 60 days delayed. It’s nearly December yet we’re still reviewing data from September. In housing market terms, September was a different market. Real-time data trumps data from last season. 

That said, the long-term trends as shown by the Case-Shiller Index, are overwhelmingly positive. As a Case-Shiller Index spokesperson remarked, “It is safe to say we are now in the midst of a recovery in the housing market.”