Forecasting The Real Estate Market With Government Shutdown

Wow, where did September go?  It was a very interesting month – kids went back to school, football season started, the weather has changed, the housing market remained strong and the government shut down for the first time in 17 years.

Forecasting The Real Estate Market With Government Shutdown

It will be interesting to see how the stock market reacts to the government shutdown, what the impact will be on rates, the housing market and how long it lasts.  If it is a quick shut down, we will probably see little reaction in the stock market and as a result, rates and the housing market.  If it is a prolonged shutdown of a few weeks or more, the stock market will have a negative reaction, rates will rise as bond yields decrease and we could see a loss of momentum in the housing sector of the economy.  What will happen to government backed loans in process and how will it affect settlements?  None of these are helpful to our economy since the housing recovery leads the economic recovery as a whole.  At this time, it appears as if this could last longer than just a day or two so let’s get prepared for a rocky economic road the next few weeks.

Let’s talk about the real estate market in September.  We did see a pickup in sales over last year in Northern Virginia.  Inventory increased slightly which gave buyers more choices.  As inventory increased, distressed properties made up a lower percentage of this increase which is great for home owners.  New home sales continue their strong pace of sales.  Interest rates came back down as the government eased off their threat of reducing their purchasing of mortgage backed securities and we still see multiple contracts on properties in certain price points and locations.

All in all, September was a good month for Northern Virginia real estate.  We need this trend to continue, so let’s hope the shutdown gets resolved more quickly than it appears it will.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please feel free to call me directly (703) 652-5777

Scott MacDonald

RE/MAX Gateway, LLC

Life after the government support for real estate

Well, all the hype over the government’s propping up of the real estate market is over and where do we stand?  It may be too early to tell as it has only been one week but in speaking with lenders, title companies, home inspectors and  – oh yeah – Realtors too, the market continues to hum along.  Contracts are being written and accepted.  What appears to remain hot are the lower price ranges (those below $400,000) and the upper price ranges ($800,000-$1,000,000 in some areas) so it appears to be business as usual – so far – for these sellers. 

The sellers we are concerned about are the ones priced between $400,000 and $800,000 as it seems in many areas these housing prices haven’t found their bottom of the market yet.  Going forward it will be critically important to pay particular attention to this segment of the market as we are starting to see the beginning stages of the foreclosures being released into the market.   More BPO’s (Broker Price Opinions) are being requested, Bank of America has hired a third party vendor to help with their release of foreclosures and Notice of Trustee sales are flooding the papers.  And from what we notice, they are going to fall into the $400,000-$800,000 price ranges – not the lower end as we saw in 2008.  From all indications, we are looking at an alarming number of foreclosures hitting our market prior to the third quarter of this year – not as many as we saw in 2008 but close to those levels.  This will have a definite impact on prices.

As far as rates are concerned, mortgage interest rates hit a 6 week low this week suggesting that private investors have filled in for the government in their purchasing of mortgage backed securities.  In addition, there have been several reports stating that the government will continue to keep the Federal Funds rate at or near 0-.25% which should continue to encourage investors to buy these securities and keep rates low for home owners through the end of the year which is good news for housing.

How will the end of the home buyer tax credit impact the market?  In a recent survey of first time buyers conducted by SunTrust, they found that only 10% of these buyers purchased their homes because of the home buyer tax credit.  Low interest rates, affordable house prices, desire to own versus rent were the main reasons why decided to purchase over any other.  A good deal is a good deal.  If the market shows signs of slowing, let’s keep an eye on seller and builder incentives to lure buyers into their properties – right now, we don’t see any but only time will tell.  For now, we don’t believe our market will be severely impacted by this incentive ending.

Another bright spot in our market that will help us continue to sell houses is the “new and improved” short sale process through HAMP to HAFA.  These programs will help qualified sellers have the ability to get approval on short sales much more quickly than in previous years.  This streamlined process will not only help sellers avoid foreclosure but also help buyers get into homes and protect neighborhood values.  We are anticipating this to be a tremendous asset in selling houses going forward.

All things being considered, now is a great time to be a buyer or seller in the Northern Virginia Market.  It is important to stay on top of the trends that affect real estate, watch inventory levels and the type of inventory coming on the market, and lastly, track the number of buyers in the market place to help buyers and sellers make the right decisions when considering real estate.  Get it?  Got it?  Good!

What’s on the horizon?

Inventory levels on active listings are creeping up and they have been consistently increasing since the beginning of the year.  We have seen an escalation in the number of houses going on the market each week, week over week except one.  This is definitely something to watch especially as mortgage rates begin to rise.  We have seen a slight increase in interest rates – they have only increased 1/4% since last week this time but they are rising.  The good news is it isn’t as drastic as many predicted as the Fed eased out of buying mortgage backed securities but it is probably keen advice to give to your clients to lock in today and not play the waiting game here!  The saying is “rates take the escalator down but the elevator up”, don’t wait.

Another key factor to watch as inventory rises is the pricing of your properties…how is the activity at your listing?  Are you experiencing lots of buyers going through and have you had no contracts?  Have you had little to no traffic going through the house?  If so, the price may be high.  Check comps again, look at inventory levels in competing price points and the surrounding area.  How has the absorption rate been in and around your listing?  Do the research and price it properly today so you aren’t chasing the market tomorrow!  Many sellers hear the market has rebounded price wise in our area because of the recent article in the Washington Examiner and the brisk pace of sales recently but remember to caution them that the market is local and in many cases hyper local so be careful on pricing it a little high for negotiations.  Be the professional and let the numbers tell the story of the market.

So, what is on the horizon?

On Monday, upfront mortgage insurance on FHA loans goes from 1.75 to 2.25% – revise your buyer closing cost sheets as this will have an impact on their payments.  Seller contributions are reduced from 6% to 3% and down payments on FICO scores 580 and below are increased to 10%.

The short sale process – in some cases may get better after April 5th.  Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives program affects home sellers with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae backed mortgages.  Not all properties qualify so check the websites of these GSE’s and see if the seller’s loan is with either one before proceeding or check to see who the loan servicer is on the property. 

Here are the guidelines accompanying the program: 

  • This program complements HAMP by providing a viable alternative for borrowers (the current homeowners) who are HAMP eligible but nevertheless unable to keep their home. HAFA alternatives are available to all HAMP-eligible borrowers who:   1) do not qualify for a Trial Period Plan;  2) do not successfully complete a Trial Period Plan;  3) miss at least two consecutive payment during a HAMP modification; or, 4) request a short sale or deed-in-lieu.
  • Property is principal residence.
  • Mortgage originated before Jan. 1, 2009.
  • Borrower is delinquent or default is foreseeable.
  • Borrower's total monthly housing payment exceeds 31 percent of gross income.
  • Unpaid principal does not exceed $729,750.
  • Homeowner demonstrates hardship. 
  • The program utilizes the borrower’s financial and hardship information already collected in connection with consideration of a loan modification.  The borrower must have applied for and been denied a loan modification prior to entry into this program.   Allows borrowers to receive pre-approved short sales terms before listing the property (including the minimum acceptable net proceeds).
  • Requires borrowers to be fully released from future liability for the first mortgage debt (no cash contribution, promissory note, or deficiency judgment is allowed).
  • Uses standard processes, documents, and timeframes/deadlines.  These deadlines include:  the borrower has 14 days from acceptance of services to return the Short Sale Agreement to their servicer in which they are granted 120 days to sell the house.  Once an offer is received, the agent must provide a RASS (Request for Approval of Short Sale) within 3 business days of receiving offer along with new buyer preapproval and all lien information to the servicer.  The servicer has 10 business days to accept the offer along with provisions to settle or deny the offer and they must provide an explanation of the denial.  Settlement must occur within 45 days.  The new buyers cannot “flip” or sell the property for 90 days and it must be an “arms length” transaction.
  • Provides the following financial incentives:
    • $3,000 for borrower relocation assistance;
    • $1,500 for servicers to cover administrative and processing costs;
    • Up to $2,000 for investors who allow a total of up to $6,000 in short sale proceeds to be distributed to subordinate lien holders, on a one-for-three matching basis.
    • Realtors cannot charge or receive commissions in excess of 6% and if the buyer or seller is a Realtor, they cannot receive a commission in connection with the transaction – including any side deals.
  • Requires all servicers participating in HAMP to implement HAFA in accordance with their own written policy, consistent with investor guidelines. The policy may include factors such as the severity of the potential loss, local markets, timing of pending foreclosure actions, and borrower motivation and cooperation.

There is opportunity here people…know the program and know the process and you can sell more houses!  On Monday, April 5th at 7:00pm Margret Kelly will be hosting a program with BOA on Equator and how the program works.  Watch it on RE/MAX University.

Also, in an effort to assist with the HAFA and HAMP programs, many banks have agreed to participate in the 2MP program.  The 2MP was designed to work in tandem with the Home Affordable Modification Program and is aimed at helping homeowners who have a second home equity mortgage.   The Treasury estimates, up to 50 percent of at-risk mortgages also have second liens associated with them.

To qualify for the program, homeowners must successfully complete a trial modification on their first mortgage. Then, if the servicer of the borrower’s second line in a 2MP participant, the servicer must offer to modify the second lien or accept a lump sum payment from Treasury in exchange for fully doing away with the second lien.

Her are the guidelines in which the 2MP program is designed to work:

  • Only second liens with corresponding first liens that have been modified under HAMP are eligible for a modification or extinguishment under 2MP.
  • Second lines originated on or before January 1, 2009 are eligible for a modification or extinguishment under 2MP.
  • A second lien may be modified only once under 2MP
  • A mortgage loan that is subordinate to a second lien (i.e.: third, fourth position loans, etc) is ineligible under 2MP. However, modification or extinguishment of such a subordinate mortgage lien in place of the second lien will not satisfy the servicer’s obligation under 2MP to modify or extinguish the second lien.
  • If a second lien is modified under 2MP, it is not eligible for payment of extinguishment incentives under 2MP
  • A mortgage lien that would be in second lien position but for a tax lien, a mechanic’s lien or other non-mortgage related lien that has priority is eligible under 2MP
  • A second lien on which no interest is charged and no payments are due until the first lien is paid in full (e.g., FHA partial claims liens and/or equity appreciation loans) is not eligible under 2MP
  • Borrowers may be accepted into the program if a fully executed 2MP modification agreement or trial period plan is in the servicer’s possession on December 31, 2012.

All servicers of eligible second liens may participate in 2MP. A servicer need not service the related first lien or participate in HAMP in order to participate in 2MP.


Here are some helpful links:

Interest rates

Interest rates are expected to go up but luckily it is not at the pace or severity that many had speculated.  The funds rate are set to stay at the 0 to .25% level to help keep mortgage interest rates low.  Once again, we are relying on Wall Street to step up and help create the secondary market to buy mortgage backed securities and keep rates affordable to consumers.  Let’s hope this short trend continues!

In our conversation with Paul Muolo at the quarterly meeting last week, he mentioned that there had only been one big purchase of bulk loans, well….there has been another large purchase this week.  To learn about the details, which is unbelievable to me, check out the article at

More good news

First American Core Logic has estimates that the Washington Region will be floating – out from being underwater by2015!  This is ahead of 10 other key markets.   There study was based upon an annual 3.3% reduction in loan balances coupled with 3% appreciation over the next decade.  They had estimated that 11.3 million or 24% of homes with mortgages were under water in Q4 of 2009.

As discussed before, today, more than ever, it is extremely important to stay educated on the market, what is coming down the road and know how to make the appropriate adjustments to thrive in any market.  You gotta learn more to earn more.  Get it?  Got it?  Good!

Now, go sell something!



The Numbers tell the Story

As many of you know – and as my DISC profile told me Friday – I like numbers to support my case.  Well, the numbers I am going to share with you are facts you need to know to help you in your business and show us trends in the business:


33% of agents have been licensed fewer than 5 years – just 2.5 years ago at the RE/MAX Broker/Owner Convention, that number was 59%!  In my predictions for 2010 I believe we will continue to see even more agents drop out of the business because of the continuous changes that are occurring and the specialization that is required of agents to serve their clientele.


53% of agents have been licensed fewer than 10 years – again, from the same conference just 2.5 years ago, it was 78% of agents were licensed fewer than 10 years.  The lower this number goes, the better it is for us ethical and professional agents.

And, in my opinion, you have to own what you sell – 91% of Realtors own a home compared with the national home ownership rate of 67%.


In a survey of buyers and sellers this information was gathered…the 3 things buyers want from their agent:


1 – Find them the right home to purchase.  Do you know what this means?  You have to listen!  Check out my blog from earlier this week… and while you are there, click the RSS feed in the lower right hand corner to subscribe to my blog site please – you don’t know what you are missing if you don’t register!  Oh yeah, it’s free!


2 – To negotiate the price.  Quick question…when was the last time you practiced your negotiation skills?  What new techniques have you found valuable?  Have you read any good blogs, books or magazine articles lately about negotiating?


3 – To negotiate the terms of the sale.  Hummmm sound familiar to #2?  Are you marketing yourself as a negotiator?  Do you have testimonials to back you up if you do?  When you meet with clients, do you have specific stories that relate to how you negotiated on behalf of a buyer in a particular situation?  Oh, by the way, listening is a huge part of negotiating!


Now, here is what the sellers say they want from their agent – see if you realize what is missing:


1 – Price the home competitively.  You have to know your comps, market conditions, and trends to know how to price accordingly.  Basically, do in depth research of the market to get it done for you seller.  What are the per square foot prices, pricing trends – are they up or down and how much, the correlation between tax assessed values and sales prices, number of competing properties, average days on market, and where to price it to get maximum exposure while on the market.


2 – Sell the home to sell within a specific timeframe.  Again, this requires you to price it to sell and what else?  Get it in the right condition and get it to show well…let’s see what is next!


3 – Find a buyer for the home.  Well, what do you need to know to do this?  You have to know where buyers go to find houses…other agents, and the internet.  Basically, you have to market your listings where the buyers go to find them.  Research the sites that get the most exposure, the most hits from buyers, what agents sell the most homes in the price range of the house you are selling, etc.  It’s not rocket science.


4 – Market the home to potential buyers.  As previously mentioned – you’ve got to know how to market on the internet – Social Media sites, your website, other real estate related sites, etc.  Also you need to know what they want to see when they get there – multiple pictures and in my opinion, videos.  Pictures and videos of the house, yard, views up and down the street, neighborhood, schools, and shopping centers – get creative!  Also, do your research on MLS and get your listings in front of Realtors who have buyers in your properties price range – get the word out!


5 – Find ways to fix up the home to sell it for more.  Have the listing pre-inspected to have the home in the right condition.  When buyers see one thing wrong, they begin to look for more things that are wrong and then pick at the price.  Have the home staged to have your stager recommend low cost items that get the biggest returns for your sellers. 


When houses are pre-inspected, staged and priced right – they sell in the timeframe your sellers desire.


So you ask, what was missing.  Well, in my opinion – negotiating.  If you can’t negotiate, you can’t get them to price it right or get them to get it in the right condition to sell it in the timeframe they want it sold within.  Also, you have to negotiate with buyers and agents to get your sellers what they want when they want it so learn how to negotiate and market yourself as a negotiator.  Have specific stories that tell sellers what you have done for others to get them what they wanted from the sale of their home.


The more you appeal to buyers and sellers through showing your experience in areas that are important to them, the more success you will have in our business.  Get it?  Got it?  Good!