What’s up with our market?

There are home buyers out in Northern Virginia but they are savvy, price sensitive and condition critical.  As we have seen in the papers, read online, and heard on the news, the rest of the country is experiencing a double dip in home prices, and waves of foreclosures are going to hit the market spiraling prices even further.  All of this has made buyers in our area become very cautious and has lowered consumer confidence nationwide. 

Why do you ask are they this way?  Well, most of them are from someplace else and they have seen streets riddled with real estate signs, are from areas that have a 41 month supply of houses versus our 3.1 month supply of houses or have friends and relatives who have been unable to sell their house in other parts of the country.  This has an impact on their buying decision here and yes, they hear our area is different and understand the underlying reasons why our market is strong but they are still looking for “a deal”.  They scrutinize each property looking for excuses not to buy them versus finding reasons to buy them.  When there is a home that offers the right price (often below market)  that has been staged (painted in neutral or trendy colors, new carpeting and de-cluttered), in perfect condition (no broken window seals, leaky faucets, etc.) and in a great location (backing to trees, end of cul-de-sac, etc.) they swarm on this property like vultures.  Many times we will encounter multiple offers on these types of properties and see them escalate above list price.

If you are a seller and your home hasn’t sold, what should you do?  Lower the price – it is the least common denominator and makes up for many areas where the home may be lacking such as in condition or location.  Get the home staged, by a professional.  You could also offer a higher commission to the buyer’s agent as an inducement to sell your house.  Many sellers or listing agents are offering a lower commission as many buyer agents have accepted lower commission rates in the past few years  as a result of short sales and foreclosures (banks) only paying a lower fee so paying more can set you apart from the competition.  Be ready to negotiate to get your house sold.

If you are a buyer, what do you do?  You should be ready to be in competition if you are looking for the perfect house at the perfect price and be prepared to include an escalation clause with your contract.  As was mentioned early, these properties are typically seeing multiple offers that go above list price.  Buy a new home – pick your own colors, location, and avoid the competition.  Many builders have adjusted to the market and are priced to sell.  Make an offer on an almost perfect house and see what happens.  Often times, as homes stay on the market and sellers have many visitors with no contracts, they tend to be more reasonable with what the market is telling them in regards to pricing.  The idea for buyers is to just buy.  The housing affordability index hasn’t been this high since 1979!  Interest rates are at their lowest level this year and prices are reasonable plus, we have jobs and stability in our market place.

If you need to sell, this is a great time to do so.  If you are a buyer, you shouldn’t delay – prices and rates are not going to get lower in our area making this an opportunity of a lifetime.  Contact your RE/MAX Gateway professional today and get packing!

Help! Don’t allow Congress to hinder housing recovery!

The Northern Virginia Real Estate market continues on it strong pace but there is legislation that can bring this to an end – and fast.  The legislation is known as Qualified Residential Mortgages.  NAR believes Congress intended to create a broad QRM exemption. Evidence shows that responsible lending standards and ensuring a borrower’s ability to repay have the greatest impact on reducing lender risk, not high down payments. Proposals that require high down payments will drive more borrowers to FHA, increase costs for borrowers by raising interest rates and fees, and effectively price many eligible borrowers out of the housing market.

A provision in the Dodd-Frank Act requires that financial institutions retain 5% of the risk on loans they securitize. The purpose is to discourage excessive risk taking and create strong incentives for responsible lending and borrowing.

Congress came up with the QRM concept to ensure that banks were only putting up ‘safe’ loans for securitization. NAR supports this goal, but in practice, regulators have come up with draconian parameters for what constitutes a QRM.

NAR feels this will not only affect buyers, but would also affect the ability of home owners to sell their homes, since there would be fewer buyers who could qualify for home ownership.

NAR wants federal regulators to honor Congressional intent by crafting a QRM exemption that includes a wide variety of traditionally safe, well underwritten products such as 30-, 15-, and 10-year fixed-rate loans; 7-1 and 5-1 ARMs; and loans with down payments in the 5% to 20% range with PMI, where required, and with other features found in low-risk loans such as no prepayment penalties or balloon.  Implementing a new rule requiring a twenty percent or higher down-payments would stop the housing recovery in its tracks and we can’t have this happen to our fragile recovery in the housing sector.  Please contact your elected officials today and have them stop this in its tracks.  If you are interested in receiving a letter to forward on, please let me know.


I would like to thank NAR for allowing me to take their words and post this for you.


Now, go sell something!

Slow & steady we move along…

The real estate market is moving steadily along today but with reservation.  As corporations continue to move into our area and the state attracts businesses all over the Commonwealth, we were ranked #7 in the most transient states in the country – pretty impressive for those of us selling houses!  In order to be successful, you have to find the buyers and sellers so get out there and get busy looking – they won’t come to you, you have to go to them!

In addition to this, existing home sales increased 7.6% in April.  This was expected as the home buyer tax credit was set to expire but let’s keep a close eye on this in the coming months and see if the sales momentum continues.  We should be in good shape and should continue to outpace the rest of the country as we continue to create jobs, have affordable housing prices, and interest rates remain low.

Not only did existing home sales increase but so did new home sales!  New home sales rose 14.8% in April – the highest performance in two years!  Be wary however as the pace of new home permits dropped 10.7% in April as well.  We can expect this number to drop next month as a result of fewer permits being issued couple with low builder inventory.

Mortgage interest rates also continue to be a driving force in continued sales.  This week it was reported interest rates are at their lowest level since December as the instability in financial markets overseas have lowered borrowing costs.  If rates continue to stay low, buyers will understand the fundamentals for ownership are strong and will continue buy homes.

Another key to the market continuing to blossom this spring is consumer confidence.  As the economy continues to improve and we ease out of the recession, consumers believe their personal situation is improving and as a result, they are spending again.  As we know, consumers drive the recovery in their “perception” of their situation and not necessarily, reality.

Now, let’s talk about the reservation part of the blog.  Although refinance applications remain strong – they have increased 3 consecutive weeks – purchase applications have continued to decrease and have done so four consecutive weeks.  As a result, purchase applications have dropped to their lowest levels since 1997.  Keep a close eye on this number as it indicates future settlements on home purchases.

Next, is the double dip in home prices that Dave Stevens mentioned at our year end meeting in December.  Two price indices – the dreaded S&P Case-Shiller and the Federal Housing Finance Agency reported housing price decreases in the first quarter.  As we have mentioned, the under $400,000 market and the $800,000 – $1,000,000 market continue to be strong but the inventory priced between $400,000 – $800,000 are still trying to find the bottom and that is where a majority of our houses are priced today.  Couple this with the fact that mortgage delinquency rates have hit 10% – a record.  If these homes go into foreclosure and don’t end up as a HAP sale or a short sale, prices could continue to slide.

Lastly, another monkey wrench that could be thrown into the equation that could affect getting home loans is if Fannie Mae implements the right to pull credit up until the day of closing.  It can have a significant impact on a purchaser’s ability to close on their loan if their credit score goes down by just one point.  As we know, it is monkey see monkey do in the lending arena so others may implement this same strategy to limit the number of defaults in the future.  Stay tuned for further details.

So, what do you do?  Work!  As previously mentioned – people are buying and selling houses here in Northern Virginia – get out there and network.  Create urgency – rates won’t stay this low forever, prices will increase and if you can afford the home today, buy it.  Be a professional Realtor and set yourself apart from others in the industry and you will survive in any market.  Get it?  Got it?  Good!