What’s 2012 looking like?

As we enter 2012, there is much speculation about real estate yet again.  Will there be more foreclosures?  Will housing values continue to drop?  How long will interest rates stay low?  When will lending guidelines reverse their trend of more restrictive policies?  Should I buy or wait?  Will short sale guidelines become more uniform? What will it take to improve the housing market?  Well, as I have said in the past, my crystal ball is broken but I can look at trends, read reports and provide some guidance.  Let’s take a look at what we have seen recently.

Will there be more foreclosures?  As the inventory of short sales decrease and the notice of trustee sales in the papers remain low, we will not see a tremendous amount of foreclosures hit the Northern Virginia market.  When we see an increase they won’t have a significant impact like they had on our market in 2008-2010.  The inventory will come when banks begin to evict people who have been living in houses mortgage payment and rent free for several months.  Additionally we will see some foreclosures come on the as people lose their jobs.  Again, the impact will not be severe in my opinion and will be absorbed as inventory levels are at 2 year lows in Northern Virginia.

As inventory remains low, prices will remain stable and in some areas they will increase.  If owners invest in their homes by upgrading kitchens, bathrooms, and updating carpets, paint etc. they will see the return when they sell.  Homes in the right condition, staged and priced properly see multiple contracts and often get bid up above list price.

Interest rates will remain low for the foreseeable future. The Federal Reserve has stated they will keep their rates in the same range through mid-2013 and as such, mortgage rates should remain low.  There are of course some outside factors that could change this such as the European debt crisis, and energy costs rising but overall we will be in the 3.75-4.5% range for mortgage rates.

It doesn’t seem that lending guidelines will restrict any time in the near future.  Underwriters continue to ask for last minute items, credit is being checked for a second time just before settlement, requests for obscure items are being asked for and when you think you’ve heard it all, you hear something new.  On the bright side, mortgage insurance companies are becoming more flexible in their requirements which is helping in some instances.  Unless it is mandated by the government through the GSEs, I don’t see guidelines relaxing for some time.

If someone has found a home that meets their requirements as far as location, size, price and affordability then yes, now is the time to buy!  Especially if it is for a long term hold, you need to buy now.  In a recent survey, 78% of Americans believe housing is a great investment.  As previously mentioned, rates are excellent and you need to take advantage of them as well.

We are dealing with fewer short sales in Northern Virginia today but they do seem to be closing at a higher rate than before which is great for both buyers and sellers.  We anticipate this trend to continue.

So what will it take bring the market back? In a two words, I say, consumer confidence.  How does consumer confidence improve?  Here are a  few ideas – job creation, lower energy costs, and more positive press on the economy.  Let’s see how this goes with the election coming up later in the year.

With a little more insight into the market, go help people make the right decisions when buying or selling houses.  Get it?  Got it?  Good!

Now, go sell something!


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