September 2, 2008
Long-time readers know that I do my newspaper reading online via the New York Times. In a throwback to a quieter time, I do subscribe to the San Jose Mercury News on Sundays as we like to peruse the articles and share witty banter about the headlines over morning coffee. In an interesting twist, I also receive the paper on other random days of the week . . . but I digress.
When I picked up the paper on Labor Day (Second Sunday?), the headline “Home Sales Raising Hopes” bravely attempted to be seen over the front and center HURRICANE HITS GOP main headline. What’s this I thought, positive news about the housing market from the Merc? Really?
I have grown weary and wary of the Merc and its drumbeat of foreclosure of the week, gloom and doom, and reinforcing that real estate is local, and my market in Palo Alto varies just a bit from south San Jose. If you don’t believe me, visit Altos Research and compare the chart for median home price over the last couple of years in these two cities. The results may surprise you . . .
The Merc got my hopes up with an intro and a couple of quotes from brokers saying they were expecting an upturn in sales in the Fall after activity was so low in the summer, and there is usually an upturn in the fall. There is some back and forth, and the article pretty much shot down the “fall uptick” conventional wisdom. Again, Altos to the rescue showing inventory and sales actually DO pick up in Palo Alto fairly consistently every fall before slowing down over the holidays.
To see the article on its entirety, click here to visit the Mercury online. For charts and stats galore, visit the Market Reports page on my website, now in Single Family and Condo!
Thanks for reading . . .
Tags: 2008 real estate market, home prices, Local information, palo alto home prices, palo alto market, San Jose Mercury
July 23, 2008
CNN Money is a favorite consumer source for news and sensationalism about issues affecting us financially. A friend uses it as his homepage, and sent me this article on indications that the housing market is pulling out of its downward spiral. Judging by the commentary on the Yahoo news service that picked it up, most people think it is another self-serving article written by real estate agents who want to further dupe consumers into buying homes and further leveraging them selves with unnecessary debt. There, I said it, so you can save your comments.
Here in Sillycon Valley, we are continuing to see variations on the Tale of Two Cities theme, with markets like Palo Alto and Menlo Park holding up strongly (click the links to see current market data), while prices in parts of Sunnyvale and San Jose have fallen off a cliff this year. We won’t mention Sacramento, because it’s not nice to kick ‘em when they’re down.
So, the key leading indicators for monitoring the health of your local housing market are:
- Is the housing stock shrinking?
- Are home prices falling at a slower pace?
- Is it cheaper to rent than own?
- Are houses becoming more affordable (relative to local incomes)?
Locally, we are still kind of bumping along. The current housing stock in Palo Alto is up slightly, but that isn’t unusually during the late Summer. If the trend continues through Fall, it may signal a trend.
Home prices have been stable here, so that is tough to measure, though the multiple-offer / overbid madness is definitely a rarity these days.
Depending on how you measure it, it’s still cheaper to rent than own, but tell that to my clients who were tossed into the housing market when the rental property was sold and they received a 60 day notice from the new owner.
Houses here are still unaffordable, but take a look at the chart at the bottom of the page and compare San Jose and San Francisco. It may be a good time to get into San Jose, especially if you understand foreclosures and short sales. If not, contact 3Oceans contributor Bart Marchioni, aka Mr. Short Sale.
Remember, real estate is local, and be careful what you read on the internet.
Thanks for reading . . .
Tags: 2008 real estate market, housing market turnaround, mortgage crisis, mortgage mania, Palo alto housing market
April 25, 2008
As our resident expert, Kevin Boer noted in his April 1 posting, the housing market officially hit bottom a couple of weeks ago. For those of you who were skeptical of his information given the April 1 posting date, and Kevin’s well known reputation for satire and irony, the California Association of Realtors published some new market data yesterday (April 24) showing how real estate really is local, and that the local real estate market in Silicon Valley is humming along nicely, thank you:
In case you’ve been wondering why high-end real estate markets continue to perform relatively well: One out of every 10,000 American families has an annual income greater than $10.7 million, according to two university professors who study the super-rich. By their tally, there are some 15,000 Americans who fit into that category. These individuals also are getting an increasing share of the economic bounty: In 2006, the super-rich possessed 3.89 percent of total income, up from .87 percent in 1980 and the highest level since 1916.
Strong employment and wage growth are two factors that have helped the San Francisco Bay Area stave off the kind of home sales and price declines experienced in the inland regions of California. For example, Santa Clara County residents earn nearly double the nation’s average weekly wage and surpassed Manhattan as the county whose residents take home the largest paycheck, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Santa Clarans take home an average of $1,585 per week, slightly more than Manhattanites, who earn an average of $1,544 a week. San Mateo County ranks fifth in the nation at $1,322, while San Francisco is eighth at $1,286. Nationally, the average is $818. San Francisco ranked tenth in new-job generation, adding 18,000 jobs for the twelve months ending Sept. 30, 2007.
Despite the above, some worry that California’s technology sector may be in for another “dot bomb.” But experts say technology and Internet companies are better prepared to weather the storm this time around. Their reasoning? Many Web 2.0 companies learned a lesson from their free-spending predecessors and have discovered ways to operate with fewer employees and at lower costs. That appeals to venture capitalists, who have tightened their criteria but continue to seek companies with strong revenue models.
Lately, I have been describing the market as “upside down”, where I am seeing unusually strong sales activity in the over $3 million market, while under $1 million is about the same as last year, or a little off depending on the neighborhood. What is interesting, is the $1 million to $3 million market, what I call “tweeners”, because these homes are in-between the entry-level and high-end.
Gross simplification warning: Buyers of “tweener” homes have significant amounts of cash or equity to put down, but still need a mortgage, and often a significant one. As banks and other mortgage providers have tightened their lending guidelines from recent years, it has become harder to get a $1.5 - $2 million mortgage, and those have become more expensive. As a result, more people aren’t upgrading, or they are getting priced down from say, $2.5 million to $2 million. Thus reducing demand relative to supply and creating a soft spot in the market.
In my experience, in the $3 million and over market, Buyers have more cash, Euros, Rubles, Yuan, Dinars, stock, gold, trust money, etc. to use to purchase their new “executive home”, so they are less concerned or affected by interest rates and loan qualification hurdles.
Let’s hope that VC money mentioned in the article above keeps flowing so we can keep paying for our million dollar tract homes and $5 a gallon (you know it’s coming!) gas.
I know you will have an opinion or comment, share it here.
Thanks for reading.
Tags: 2008 real estate market, housing market, palo alto economy, palo alto real estate market, palo alto realtor, silicon valley economy, silicon valley real estate
February 19, 2008
I’d like to thank Kristen Emery at Princeton Capital in Palo Alto for providing me with the first bit of information that actually explains what the changes to conforming loans will mean to someone in Silicon Valley trying to buy a home.
A little light reading for you:
We have seen a whirlwind of legislative activity these past few weeks! There is much confusion surrounding the recentlypassed Economic Stimulus Package and higher loan limits. Unfortunately, the new law can be confusing to decipher, andnot everyone will benefit. For this reason, we have provided an outline below that clarifies what this new law means for youand how you can benefit from the higher loan limits.
Description and Overview:An economic stimulus package just passed Congress on February 7, 2008 and was signed into law by the President onFebruary 13, 2008. This new law is effective immediately and includes a temporary increase in both the FHA andconforming loan limits to as high as $729,750 in high cost areas. This means that the interest rates on many mortgages willgo down because these loans are now eligible to be purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or insured by the FederalHousing Administration (FHA). Previously, the FHA was only allowed to insure loans with balances lower than $200,160 -$362,790, depending on the county where the property was located. Also, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were only allowedto purchase loans with balances at or below $417,000. This resulted in limited options and higher financing costs for thosewith loan balances above these limits. The new law substantially increases these limits in high cost areas and opens upnew options and lower financing costs for many people.
How to Determine “High Cost” AreasThere are two things you must know in order to determine if you are in a high cost area:
1. Understanding the Formula
If 125% of the local area median home price exceeds $417,000, the temporary loan limitwould be that 125% of the median home price with a cap of $729,750. Here are threeexamples to illustrate this concept: If the median home price in your area is $375,000, 125% of that number is$468,750. Thisis above the current $417k conforming loan limit. Therefore, the conforming loan limit inyour area WILL change and go up to $468,750. This number is also higher than thehighest FHA loan limits, so therefore your FHA loan limit will also go up to $468,750. If the median home price in your area is $650,000, 125% of that number is $812,500.This number is greater than the maximum cap of $729,250. Therefore, the conforming loan limit in your area willincrease to highest allowable amount under this new law which is $729,250. (Our median home price is $612,000 for Santa Clara County).
2. Determining the Median Home Price in Your Area
The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will publish the median house prices within 30 days of the billgoing into effect (30 days from February 13, 2008). HUD does not have any interim stats or information for us to use. However, the bill also states that HUD can use any commercially available data if they are unable to compile theinformation on their own within the 30 day timeframe. With that in mind, it is likely that HUD’s numbers will be relativelyconsistent with the data published by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which already has a solid track record oftracking and publishing this information on a quarterly basis. Therefore, until HUD actually publishes their version of the median home prices, the most accurate way to get thisinformation today is to utilize the data that is published by NAR. Ironically, NAR just released their latest median homeprice update for the 4th quarter of 2007 on February 14, 2008! Contact me today and I’ll research your info and let youknow exactly what the median home price is in your area and how you can benefit from this information.
What do all the dates mean?
There is some confusion because the bill has a provision that says the higher limits areonly effective for loans originated between July 1, 2007 and December 31, 2008. Inshort, the reason it is effective beginning July 1, 2007, is because the credit crisis startedto unfold in July and August of 2007. Mortgage market conditions rapidly deterioratedalmost overnight. Many secondary market investors suddenly refused to purchase loansthat couldn’t be sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (For more info on how this processworks, please see the article entitled Saga of the US Mortgage Industry.) Unfortunately, many mortgage banks had already funded these loans in their ownportfolio or through their warehouse lines of credit. Their intention was obviously to sellthese loans on the secondary market after the loans were funded. However, the creditcrisis prevented them from doing so, and they were stuck holding these loans in theirportfolio. The July 1, 2007 date in the bill is designed to allow these lenders to unloadthese mortgages and sell them on the secondary market to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
However, the July 1, 2007 date has no bearing whatsoever on new refinance transactions!
In other words, it doesn’tmatter when the loan you are refinancing was originated. The old loan could have been originated in 2005, 2006 oranytime before or after July 1, 2007 and it would have no effect whatsoever on your current purchase or refinancetransaction.
If you are refinancing a new loan today, whether it is a purchase or refinance transaction, that loan issubject to the new limits set forth in the bill.
The other date of December 31, 2008 means that the old limits will go back into effect after this year. In other words, now isthe perfect time to buy a new home or refinance your mortgage because after this year, your costs will be higher and youroptions more limited again.
When does this all go into effect?
February 13, 2008 – immediately upon the President’s signature. Therefore, HUD is obligated to publish the median homeprices within 30 days of that date. However, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and various wholesale lenders may have different policies as to how these new loans are going to be priced and underwritten.
- - - Information provided by:
Tags: 2008 real estate market, 4---mortgage-mania, Conforming Loans, first-time buyer, Mortgage, Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007
February 10, 2008
The Superbowl traditionally marks the beginning of the Spring real estate market here in Silicon Valley. True to form, we are seeing inventories climb from seasonal lows, and a lot more people visiting open houses on the weekends. As the media continues to run stories on increasing foreclosures, and an economic stimulus package that includes an increase in the limits for conforming loans wends its way through Congress, more and more people are asking me if this is a good time to buy a home.
In our area (Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Menlo Park, Mountain View), prices have been stable in 2007 (except Palo Alto which is up significantly), and we aren’t seeing the big jumps in foreclosure activity that are widely reported in the media in other areas. As the Federal Reserve has cut interest rates to stave off a national recession, loans have become more affordable nationwide, with rates near historic lows.
The majority of short sales and foreclosures in the area have been in homes in the $600,000 price range, having the effect of making many of these homes more affordable as lenders want to get rid of them. In contrast to most economic downturns, the higher - end market is doing better than the lower end.
Fellow contributor and mortgage banker Eric Trailer at Absolute Mortgage Bank in Palo Alto had these thoughts on the local housing market for the next few months:
“The coil on the Spring market is winding tighter every day this year already. Applications are up 100+% this month over December and January’s production is more than double December’s. In addition, we continue to be flooded with refinance inquiries this month. Many of the buyers that we had on the fence have been jumping off in an attempt to get into contract on a home prior to February 9. Why Feb 9? That’s the weekend following The Superbowl, and those fence-jumpers feel as though they can avoid the threat of multiple offers by securing their home now. With many of the top agents that we do business with stating that they have multiple listings coming on the market the week of February 9, combined with the flurry of activity on the buyer’s side, combined further with the strength of our local economy, it’s looks like this Spring will produce transactions well beyond expectation.”
Well Eric, it’s February 10th, my open house for today sold without contingencies 3 days after going on the market, and the number of new listings in Palo Alto this week was double that of any week for about 3 months. It looks like we are off to a good start to 2008, and the local economic indicators are still favorable.
Homes are not liquid investments like stocks, so make sure you actually like the house you are buying, and plan to be there for 5 years or more. With those caveats, in this area, it’s almost always a good time to buy a home.
Thanks for reading.
Tags: 2008 real estate market, absolute mortgage bank, Home buying, Mortgage, mortgage rates, palo-alto-real-estate, silicon valley real estate