News & Notes

State of the Market:

  • Have We Hit Bottom? The experts agree that generally speaking, the country has “hit bottom”, with various areas lagging behind a bit. predicts that the Portland area will hit bottom in Q3 of this year. Our latest RMLS Market Action Report for the Portland area indicates that Portland metro area closed sales increased 18.4% when comparing 2009 vs 2010. Pending sales rose 45% and new listings rose 12.4%. The average sales price declined 8.5%.

(Money Magazine) — The drama is nearly over. After a decade of extremes — the ebullient highs of the real estate boom, then the devastating lows of the bust — calmer forces are beginning to prevail in the housing market.

  • Local Lake Oswego Data The RMLS Market Action Report lumps West Linn and Lake Oswego together, but here is some interesting data:
    * In February 2010 the average sales price was $457,700.
    * The average time on the market was 153 days.
    * Pending Sales rose 52.7% in Feb 2010 as compared to Feb 2009.
    * The average sales price has declined 9.7% in a rolling 12-month equation (i.e. 3/1/08 – 2/28/09 compared with 3/1/09 – 2/28/10)
  • Rates are Rising I have clients asking  “Is this the right time to buy or should we wait?”  One thing we know is that rates are rising. Right now they are still in the 5% range…  actually they are up a bit today at 5.125% but overall they’ve been fluctuating between 4.875% and 5.125% for 30-yr fixed.  As for more foreclosures to come, and prices lowering… interest rates are rising, some say 7% is possible NY Times… so if you ARE planning to finance, all the experts agree that this is the time to be buying, because even if prices go lower, the fact that the interest rates go up effectively nullifies your benefits.
  • Portland Area Rating Improves “Mortgage insurance companies have upgraded Portland’s property value housing trends, meaning that they predict values to be stabilizing in the Portland market.”  Pat Goodell, Academy Mortgage
  • Tax Credits For first-time home-buyers and “moving-up” buyers, there is still time to find a property you love & get a mutually-agreed deal in place before April 30th. So….  hang in there if you are still looking for that “right” one.  Work with your Realtor to narrow the field, or give Dianne or me a call if you are not working with a Realtor.  (I love working with Buyers…. it is actually the reason I originally got into real estate.)
  • USDA Loans USDA anticipates running out of funds to lend by end-April 2010.  If you are thinking about rural properties and considering a USDA loan, now would be the time to ink an offer.
  • FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums Rising FHA’s upfront (financed) mortgage insurance premium increased to 2.25% effective April 5. And/but, if you are anticipating taking advantage of an FHA loan, don’t fret too much. You WILL now have the higher premium, however,  it’s not anything that should get you in a tizzy, as it will make very little difference in your mortgage payment.  For example, on a $300,000 loan amount, your payment will only increase by approximately $8./month adding in that higher mortgage insurance premium.  (This according to Pat Goodell of Academy Mortgage  503 380 0953.)
  • “The Deal” One thing I am noticing is that many people are becoming so enamored with “the deal” these days, that some are missing the point of why they decided to purchase to begin with, so I am simultaneously always trying to meet my clients needs & desires in a *property* (i.e. what they are trying to accomplish for themselves in their lives w/the purchase… what they truly like), while at the same time being cognizant of the “deal factor” for them.  Keep in mind these things regarding “deals”…  there are basically three kinds:
  1. People who are pricing their homes to sell. They have their own circumstances (down-sizing/relocation/up-sizing/on & on & on), and they are wanting to move on in some fashion.  There are plenty of these out there these days, especially as home owners look around and face the fact that they are now competing with so many homes in or approaching foreclosure.  There are some very real advantages to buying your home from these folks.  Some include: Often these homes are in tip-top shape / You are dealing directly with the owner of the home and as long as the agreed-upon sales price does not dip below what they owe on the property, you are in “Pending” status when you reach mutual acceptance, and /You are negotiating only with the Seller.  / You proceed through a normal closing process if you are taking out a loan, and notwithstanding any negotiations or hoops you need to jump through for the underwriter, you will most likely close in 30-45 days.
  2. Short Sales. These homes’ owners owe more to the bank than what the property is worth in today’s market. The bank is agreeing to take less than what is owed from the Seller.  There are many, many banks in existence and each has its own methods and processes, so there is no uniformity of what to expect, with a few exceptions that I will get into in a moment.  There may be more than one bank involved if there is a second mortgage or more. There are a few things that you can expect, and they are:   * Even if the Seller accepts your offer, the bank is the one (or ones) to give final approval considering that what they will receive is less than what was contracted with the Seller.   ***The bank (s) will usually have paperwork that you must sign if you want to be in the running that will change how the property proceeds through the sale process including: Notifying you that they will only accept an earnest money check & no promissory notes/ They will keep your money and wait to see how many other offers they receive / They will not give you a time line on when they will respond to your offer / You are usually on your own with regard to any repairs / It is usually several months before you find out if your offer was the one accepted & get to proceed to close / During this process the property very often stays in “Active” position on RMLS / Very often the paperwork you must sign includes a provision wherein the bank retains the right to accept another offer right up to closing.   ***For these reasons,  I counsel clients that they must REALLY be in love with a property to proceed through this process.  Also, depending on the property, you may be entering territory wherein you know that you will be competing with other offers, so the best advice, if this is the case, is to make this your best offer… especially if you plan to sit out the long process and want to have a happy ending.  Don’t try to “wing it”… these are complicated times & even the professionals involved are still feeling out the landscape.  There are all kinds of people calling themselves “experts”.  Make sure you know what you are doing and ask for licenses if you think people on the periphery are operating outside of their scope of expertise. Talk to your Realtor as to what your options are, and rely on that trusted professional relationship for guidance.
  3. Bank-owned properties. These homes have usually been through the short sale phase unsuccessfully.  The property has either been on the market & not sold, or the owners opted not to try a short sale and have simply stayed in the property until they had to move on as the bank proceeded through their legal remedies to regain the property due to non-payment.   These properties are sometimes in sad condition due to hardship (i.e. deferred maintenance), but many times these days, they are in very good condition… a sign of the times & the large numbers of otherwise responsible homeowners who simply found themselves in an untenable position through job loss or other factors. The thing to remember about these properties is that the price is ALWAYS lower than either short-sales or standard “good deals”. The bank wants to move on and prices the home low.  The bank is now the Seller and usually acts just like a normal Seller, i.e. Negotiating (tho usually not for repairs)/ accepting or rejecting an offer/Moving on to close with the property going to “Pending” status once it’s mutually agreed-upon/Proceeding through a normal closing process for the Buyer. For this reason: Investors and others are waiting in the wings to pounce on these very often with cash offers, so you have to be quick, and you want to be very careful about low offers, though this can sometimes still be a viable option. Talk to your Realtor about options as they will vary from property to property.

Hope this info is helpful!

Linda’s “News & Notes”

1) Some Interesting Updates on the Portland Area Market:

–       (According to RMLS)

  • Home sales in the Portland area showed marked improvement when compared with the same period (December) a year prior. “Closed” sales were up 52.6%, “Pending” sales rose 40.9%, and “New Listings” rose 11.9%.
  • In addition, the average sale price was down 2.5% compared to Dec. 08.
  • The average sales price for the 12-month period of 2009 was down 12.1% from the previous year.

2) Tax Credits: The “First Time Home Buyers” tax credit was extended to this Spring (yikes… getting close) and there has been an additional tax credit extended to those “Buying Up” who have lived in their current home for five years and are buying a property of less than $800,000.  Both of these tax credits expire in April: The contract must be inked by April 30th, and the closing must be by June 30th.  If you or someone you care about are considering taking advantage of this amazing opportunity, you really must start looking for a home now to make the timeline.

3) Interest Rates to Rise: According to Carrie Bay of (among many others), interest are projected to begin rising, and have risen .25% already within the past month.

4) F.H.A to Raise Standards for Mortgage Insurance: No date has been set yet, but the word is “summer”. (ANOTHER reason to put your home-buying plan in motion now…)

–      (excerpted From David Streitfeld of the NY Times)

  • Borrowers who get an F.H.A.-insured loan will soon have to pay a higher initial insurance premium. The new premium will be 2.25 percent of the value of the loan, up from 1.75 percent. 
  • Starting this summer, sellers will not be able to offer as much help to buyers to pay their closing costs. The maximum amount of assistance will drop to 3 percent of the value of the property, from the current 6 percent.
  • Left largely untouched by the changes is the most controversial aspect of the agency’s program: a provision allowing buyers to make a down payment as low as 3.5 percent. Private lenders these days require at least 15 percent.
  • Borrowers who want to put the minimum down will now be required to have credit scores of at least 580. Previously, there was no minimum score. (This is a relatively decent bar though, so this rule may have little effect.)

5) Attention Investors: Yay! HUD has decided to waive the 90 day seasoning financing contingency for buyers!

-(From Pat Goodell of Academy Mortgage ~ 503 380 0953)

Effective February 1st,  2010, there will no longer be a requirement for a seller of a property to be on title for 90 days or more in order for approval of an FHA backed loan. This is incredible news, since the majority of buyers in today’s market are FHA buyers! The 90 day seasoning issue has long been an issue for investors and agents when working with short sales. This is changing on Feb 1st. The policy change will permit buyers to use FHA-insured financing to purchase HUD-owned properties, bank-owned properties, or properties resold through private sales. This will allow homes to resell as quickly as possible, helping to stabilize real estate prices and to revitalize neighborhoods and communities.”

–          ***Linda’s note: There are a few minor restrictions on this.  Let me know if you’re interested & I’ll send you the entire document with more detail.

6)Credit Card Companies Get Slapped w/Restrictions: We all know how hard the new mortgage guidelines have hit some potential home-buyers.  Sometimes it seems like every time you turn around the consumer is facing yet another hurdle from the banking industry.  Well, this time the consumer is being offered protections that should make it easier, less expensive, and less confusing to do business with, or work to pay off credit card companies.   Here’s an excerpt from the Federal Reserve’s Announcement:

The Federal Reserve Board on Tuesday approved a final rule amending Regulation Z (Truth in Lending) to protect consumers who use credit cards from a number of costly practices. Credit card issuers must comply with most aspects of the rule beginning on February 22.

“This rule marks an important milestone in the Federal Reserve’s efforts to ensure that consumers who rely on credit cards are treated fairly,” said Federal Reserve Governor Elizabeth A. Duke.  “The rule bans several harmful practices and requires greater transparency in the disclosure of the terms and conditions of credit card accounts.”

Among other things, the rule will:

  • Protect consumers from unexpected increases in credit card interest rates by generally prohibiting increases in a rate during the first year after an account is opened and increases in a rate that applies to an existing credit card balance.
  • Prohibit creditors from issuing a credit card to a consumer who is younger than the age of 21 unless the consumer has the ability to make the required payments or obtains the signature of a parent or other cosigner with the ability to do so.
  • Require creditors to obtain a consumer’s consent before charging fees for transactions that exceed the credit limit.
  • Limit the high fees associated with subprime credit cards.
  • Ban creditors from using the “two-cycle” billing method to impose interest charges.
  • Prohibit creditors from allocating payments in ways that maximize interest charges.

Consumers can learn more about changes to their credit card accounts by accessing a new online publication. “What You Need to Know: New Credit Card Rules.” It explains key changes consumers can expect from their credit card companies as a result of the new rules. The Board plans to release additional “What You Need to Know” publications in conjunction with other major rulemakings

It’s A New… Centennial Year in Lake Oswego!

HappyHappy 2010 to each of you!  I don’t know about you, but I can feel the excitement (and dare I say relief) in the air.  It’s a new year, and things are looking good.  Lake Oswego is already celebrating its Centennial, employment figures are up, real estate tax incentives are in full force (for a few months anyway), stocks started the year with a rally, and “the trend is still up” according to Rob Lutts, chief investment officer at Cabot Money Management.

Are there naysayers and warnings of impending doom?  Yes, as always.  I, however, am “cautiously excited” at the prospect of renewed opportunity all around.  I see my clients achieving their goals and changing their lives, and I know that time does indeed march on.  For my clients, job changes happen, marriages and divorces happen, families grow & need more space, loved ones want to be closer geographically, retirement and downsizing happen, and of course, “upsizing” is also very much alive.

Couple3The beginning of the year also always brings some legislative changes, like needing a hands-free device to talk on your cellphone in the car.  The new law does, however “…exempt motorists who are on their hand-held cell phones ‘in the scope of the person’s employment if operation of the motor vehicle is necessary for the person’s job’.”  Hmmmm, I wonder if that includes Realtors?  Well, I think I’ll opt for safety anyway, but I can smell some friction (is that burning rubber?) ahead in the way of challenges to these minimum $142. tickets.

In the real estate world, there are all manner of regulatory changes, and changes to the “new” forms we’ll be using.  Make sure to talk with your SophieTuckerRealtor (or Dianne and I if you are without a Realtor) if you have any questions.  Some of the changes could affect the timeline of your transaction if you are not aware of them. For instance, if a transaction includes any seller-carried financing, and the document is prepared by escrow, there is a 3-day mandatory review period… so if the Buyer is just seeing the document for the first time at signing, there will be a 3-day delay in closing.  Also, you will notice that our ML#’s have gotten a bit longer.  As we are starting a new decade, the ML#’s now start with “10”… so they’ll be longer numbers & have lots of zero’s for awhile : )   As an aside, the count on these, and therefore the number of new January listings as of today in Lake Oswego number 24, and range in price from $90,000 to $998,500.

CarrieNationLast, but definitely not least, I want to address the excitement of the ongoing Centennial Celebration in Lake Oswego.  I’m including a link here to a pdf that has all kinds of historic Lake Oswego photos, and news stories from 1910. By that time Lake Oswego had been in existence for 60 years already.  Three previous attempts at incorporation had failed due to fears around “additional regulations and taxation” (sound familiar?). Residents in First Addition were interested in: “promoting small businesses, water quality, fire protection, debate over the sale of alcohol, as well as government autonomy. The vote in favor of the measure was 79 to 22.  Only men cast their ballots because Oregon women did not win the right to vote until 1912.” You really MUST check out this link.  Some of the headlines read: “City Government Controls Width of Tires”“Buy a Lake-Front Lot for $50.” “Oswego’s Bear Population”, “Illiterate Cows” “Pig Penmanship”, and many, many more.

Happy, Happy 2010 to you and yours, and thank you for reading the Property Blotter!