The real estate market reminds me of the Bill Murray movie Ground Hog’s Day because I continue to say very similar things each month. We have very low inventory of houses, fewer than 4,800 in all of Northern Virginia. It has been this low for over 5 weeks and we haven’t seen inventory levels this consistently low since 2005. Interest rates remain at historic lows and it appears as if they are going to stay this low through 2014 unless something unforeseen happens in the economy. Lastly, we continue to see a drastic decrease in distressed property inventory in Northern Virginia and the onslaught of foreclosures will not happen locally. We have just 592 short sales and 290 foreclosures on the market and Notice of Trustee sales are only averaging 2 pages per day. Short sales and Notice of Trustee sales lead to foreclosures and if we don’t have them, we won’t see them.
The one thing that we typically don’t see this time of year is the number of attendees at open houses we are currently seeing. It is more typical than not to hear our agents having 20-40 people attend an open house and receiving multiple contracts as a result. This type of activity is more likely to happen in the spring but warm weather and consumer confidence building has helped spur this activity. As I have said in the past, if sellers properly price their properties, have it in prime condition and have it staged, they are receiving multiple offers because buyers are buying.
What are we reading in the news about the rest of the country and the market that will indirectly affect us? While delinquencies and defaults slowly improve in the housing economy as a whole, FHA’s portfolio has not had the same good fortune. The woes of FHA are creating increased pressure on the agency to reduce risk and increase costs to its borrowers, most of whom are first time buyers. In December, about one of every 10 FHA mortgages or 9.73 percent, were seriously delinquent, or more than 90 days past due. Compare that to all mortgages, whose seriously delinquent rate fell to 7.3% in December from 7.8 a year earlier. For nine straight months, FHA delinquencies have risen while mortgages in general have improved. We will keep an eye on this for you and let you know when the costs increase. On a positive note for those going through short sales and loan modifications, President Obama Proposes Extending Tax Waiver on Mortgage Debt Forgiveness that is due to expire at the end of this year. The Act ensures that homeowners who received principal reductions or other forms of debt forgiveness on their primary residence do not have to pay taxes on the amount forgiven. In addition to this, some banks are paying people to aid in their short sales. JP Morgan Chase went national with short-sale incentive offers last year, paying up to $35,000 in some cases. Bank of America is testing incentives from $5,000 to $25,000 in Florida to see if they should be expanding to more states. Wells Fargo’s incentive offers range of less than $3,000 to $20,000. Short sales, even with incentive payments to borrowers, can save lenders money compared with the expenses involved in completing foreclosures. Let us know if you need our assistance with either of these scenarios.
If you have questions about your personal situation, please feel free to call us. We are here to help you with all of your real estate needs.