Archive for April, 2014

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Author: Tory Barringer April 24, 2014

Despite soft housing news, mortgage rates experienced a moderate increase ahead of next week’s economic policy update from the Federal Open Market Committee.

According to Freddie Mac’s latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate came up to 4.33 percent (0.6 point) for the week ending April 24, up from 4.27 percent in the previous week. Last year, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.40 percent, almost a full point lower.

The 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.39 percent (0.6 point), moving up from 3.33 percent.
Meanwhile, the average rates for 5- and 1-year adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) were unchanged at 3.03 percent (0.5 point) and 2.44 percent (0.5 point), respectively.

Bankrate.com recorded similar upticks in its own national survey, with the 30-year fixed shifting up 5 basis points to 4.43 percent and the 15-year fixed sliding up to 3.54 percent. Unlike Freddie Mac, Bankrate observed a slight increase in the 5/1 ARM, which was up to 3.34 percent.

“The economy has started to shake off the brutal winter that held back the pace of recovery, but Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s comments about inflation remaining too low is helping to keep a lid on bond yields and mortgage rates,” the finance site said in a release.

With Fed leaders scheduled to meet at the end of April to discuss the shape the economy’s in and determine what’s next for monetary policy, half of commentators in Bankrate’s weekly survey expect opportunities for more hikes ahead.

“Investors have been misconstruing every Fed statement since Janet Yellen assumed the chair, and they’ll need a few more repetitions before they wise up,” commented Holden Lewis, assistant managing editor for Bankrate.com. “I expect them to freak out over some innocuous statement by dumping mortgage bonds onto the market and causing yields to rise, and with them, mortgage rates.”

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Author: Colin Robins

According to RealtyTrac’s latest Residential and Foreclosure Sales Report for March and Q1 2014,U.S. residential properties sold at an estimated annual pace of roughly 5.2 million homes in March, a .4 percent increase from February, and up 8 percent from the previous year.

The median sales price for both distressed and non-distressed properties increased to $164,500, a 1 percent increase from February and a 10 percent increase from March 2013. The upward swing in sales price reflected the 24th consecutive month where U.S. median home prices increased on an annual basis.

The 10 percent increase was the biggest annual percentage increase in that 24-month span.
“The housing market showed signs of coming out of hibernation in March after a sluggish fall and winter,” said Daren Blomquist, VP at RealtyTrac. “Median home prices increased on a monthly basis following six consecutive months where they were flat or declining, and increased on an annual basis by the biggest percentage since hitting bottom in March 2012.”

Blomquist continued, “Sales volume also increased slightly from March to February following four consecutive monthly decreases, but both annual sales volume and median prices are still below their recent peaks in October and August respectively.”

According to RealtyTrac, 34 percent of all U.S. residential property sales were to buyers with different mailing addresses than their primary property address. RealtyTrac opines that these buyers are more than likely investors or second-home buyers. Additionally, 7 percent of all sales in March were multi-parcel transactions, a situation where multiple properties are sold on the same date and recorded on the same sales deed.

Despite the annual increase in residential sales volume nationally, six states and 21 of the nation’s 50 largest metros saw declines. States with decreasing sales volume compared to a year ago were Massachusetts, Rhode Island, California, Connecticut, Nevada, and Arizona.
Distressed sales also experienced a hike. Short sales and distressed sales accounted for 16.4 percent of all sales in Q1, up from 14.5 percent from the previous quarter. However, the first quarter figure was down from 18.5 percent in the first quarter of 2013.

Short sales nationally made up 5.6 percent of all sales in the first quarter, a .4 percent increase from 5.2 percent of all sales in the fourth quarter of 2013. Metros with the highest percentage of short sales in the first quarter included Orlando, Florida (16.6 percent), Tampa, Florida (14.6 percent), Las Vegas, Nevada (14.1 percent), Miami, Florida (13.7 percent), Jacksonville, Florida (13.7 percent), and Memphis, Tennessee (12.7 percent).

“Meanwhile, the distressed share of sales increased from the fourth quarter to the first quarter nationwide and in 38 states, which—along with many non-distressed homeowners regaining enough equity to list their homes for sale—is helping to ease low inventory conditions in some markets,” Blomquist noted.REO properties made up 9.6 percent of all sales in the first quarter, and public foreclosure actions accounted for 1.2 percent of all sales nationwide.

BY JAMES CLEAR

Have you ever set out with the goal of actually sticking to a new behavior only to find yourself not doing it at all one week later? I know I have.

Why is it so hard to form good habits? Why is it so difficult to make consistent change? How can we have the best intentions to become better, and yet still see so little progress?

And most importantly, is there anything we can do about it?

Your Life Goals are Not Your Habits

Your audacious life goals are fabulous. We’re proud of you for having them. But it’s possible that those goals are designed to distract you from the thing that’s really frightening you—the shift in daily habits that would mean a re–invention of how you see yourself.
— Seth Godin

We all have hopes and dreams. If you don’t, you’re probably not the type of person who would be reading this article. And most of the time, we have at least a general sense of what those goals are: the way we want our bodies to look and the good health we want to enjoy, the respect we want to receive from our peers and the important work we want to create, the relationships we want with our family and friends and the love we want to share.

Overall, this is a good thing. It’s nice to know what you want and having goals gives you a sense of direction and purpose. However, there is one way that your hopes and dreams actually sabotage you from becoming better: your desires can easily lure you into biting off more than you can chew.

Here’s what I mean:

You get inspired by The Biggest Loser, head to the gym, bust your butt to the point of exhaustion, and take the next three months off to recover.

You finally get that urge to write your book, write all day over the weekend, and then go back to work on Monday and never come back to it.

You’re motivated by your friend’s stories of traveling to new countries, so you start to plan your own around–the–world trip, only to end up overwhelmed by all the details and stay at home.

Too often, we let our motivations and desires drive us into a frenzy as we try to solve our entire problem at once instead of starting a small, new routine.

I know, I know. It’s not nearly as sexy as saying you lost 30 pounds in 3 months. But the truth is this: the dreams that you have are very different from the actions that will get you there.

So how do we balance our desire to make life–changing transformations with the need to build small, sustainable habits?

Good Habits: Dream Big, But Start Small

If you’re serious about making real change — in other words, if you’re serious about doing things better than you are now — then you have to start small.

Imagine the typical habits, good or bad: Brushing your teeth. Putting your seatbelt on. Biting your nails.

These actions are small enough that you don’t even think about them. You simply do them automatically. They are tiny actions that become consistent patterns.

Wouldn’t it make sense that if we wanted to form new habits, the best way to start would be to make tiny changes that our brain could quickly learn and automatically repeat?

What if you started thinking of your life goals, not as big, audacious things that you can only achieve when the time is right or when you have better resources or when you finally catch your big break … but instead as tiny, daily behaviors that are repeated until success becomes inevitable?

What if losing 50 pounds wasn’t dependent on a researcher discovering the perfect diet or you finding a superhuman dose of willpower, but hinged on a series of tiny habits that you could always control? Habits like walking for 20 minutes per day, drinking 8 glasses of water per day, eating two meals instead of three.

I think the following quote from BJ Fogg, a professor at Stanford, sums this idea up nicely.

If you plant the right seed in the right spot, it will grow without further coaxing.

I believe this is the best metaphor for creating habits.

The “right seed” is the tiny behavior that you choose. The “right spot” is the sequencing — what it comes after. The “coaxing” part is amping up motivation, which I think has nothing to do with creating habits. In fact, focusing on motivation as the key to habits is exactly wrong.

Let me be more explicit: If you pick the right small behavior and sequence it right, then you won’t have to motivate yourself to have it grow. It will just happen naturally, like a good seed planted in a good spot.
—BJ Fogg

The typical approach is to dive into the deep end as soon as you get a dose of motivation, only to fail quickly and wish you had more willpower as your new habit drowns. The new approach is to wade into the shallow water, slowly going deeper until you reach the point where you can swim whether you’re motivated or not.

Focus on Lifestyle, Not Life–Changing

Too often we get obsessed with making life–changing transformations.

Losing 50 pounds would be life–changing, drinking 8 glasses of water per day is a new type of lifestyle.
Publishing your first book would be life–changing, emailing a new book agent each day is a new type of lifestyle.

Running a marathon would be life–changing, running 3 days per week is a new type of lifestyle.

Earning an extra $20,000 each year would be life–changing, working an extra 5 hours per week as a freelancer is a new type of lifestyle.

Squatting 100 more pounds would be life–changing, squatting 3 days per week is a new type of lifestyle.
Do you see the difference?

Life goals are good to have because they provide direction, but they can also trick you into taking on more than you can handle. Daily habits — tiny routines that are repeatable — are what make big dreams a reality.

The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Author: Tory Barringer

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Existing-home sales slid back in March, and price improvements continued to moderate, according to transaction data released Tuesday.

According to estimates from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), total existing-home sales in March came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million, a 0.2 percent slip from February’s downwardly revised pace of 4.60 million and hitting a nearly two-year low. Compared to March 2013, the sales rate was down 7.5 percent.

Removing figures for co-ops, condominiums, and townhouses, single-family existing-home sales were at a rate of 4.04 million last month, flat from February but down 7.3 percent compared to a year prior.
Though the group remains optimistic for activity in the coming months, NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun admitted sales at the moment are underperforming by historical standards.

“There really should be stronger levels of home sales given our population growth,” Yun said. “In contrast, price growth is rising faster than historical norms because of inventory shortages.”

Still, Yun added, “With ongoing job creation and some weather delayed shopping activity, home sales should pick up, especially if inventory continues to improve and mortgage interest rates rise only modestly.”
By NAR’s measure, the median existing-home price for all housing types in March was $198,500, an increase of 7.9 percent year-over-year. While high in historical contexts, the increase is a step down from February’s reported 9.1 percent annual gain.

The rise may in part be attributed to a 4.7 percent improvement in total housing inventory, which was estimated at 1.99 million existing homes as of March 31.

On the other hand, contributing to the ongoing—albeit slower—growth in home prices was a drop in distressed home sales, which accounted for 14 percent of total March transactions compared to 16 percent in February. With home equity on the rise, Yun expects distressed homes to decline to a single-digit market share by the end of the year.

While the latest report showed continued softening in home sales, there were a few bright spots: According to NAR, first-time buyers accounted for 30 percent of home purchases in March, up from 28 percent in February, though still weak overall.

“There are indications that the stringent mortgage underwriting standards are beginning to ease a bit, particularly regarding credit score requirements, but they remain a headwind for entry-level and single-income home buyers,” said Steve Brown, NAR president.

Meanwhile, all-cash sales—typically investors, though not always—comprised one-third of March transactions, down slightly from February. Individual investors made up 17 percent of purchases.

Make a Journey

Mar 19, 2014

How many home sales are taking place outside of the multiple listing service in your market? Clareity Consulting’s Matt Cohen says MLS executives around the country are showing an interest in getting to the bottom of that question, and he’s written a blog post explaining how to do just that.

Pocket listings are not new, but recent inventory shortages in many markets could be creating conditions — lots of buyers competing for scarce listings — that are ripe for real estate brokers and agents to close deals outside of the MLS.

A study by Silicon Valley-based MLSListings Inc. suggests that pocket listings constitute a significant and growing chunk of home sales. That study found that pocket listings made up 26 percent of home sales in five Northern California counties in the first quarter of 2013, up from 15 percent in 2012.

A wider, but still limited, study of four large U.S. counties from CoreLogic earlier this month suggested that MLSs played little or no role in nearly half of home sales in 2013, offering more insight into a topic that has generated plenty of rhetoric, but not a lot of hard data, in the industry.

The limited scope of these studies has prompted criticism from some, who say real estate is local, and the trend cannot be generalized to the nation as a whole. Cohen says MLSs “around the country are beginning to consider replicating the original MLSListings study in their market.”

“Understanding the scope of the practice and the harm that may be caused to consumers is necessary if an MLS is to discuss the trend with membership at the local market level,” Cohen wrote. “Such studies may also inform further discussions at the national level.”

He describes MLSListings’ study method this way:

1. Pull all sales for single-family homes, townhomes and condos from tax records within a particular settlement date range. Exclude all records with a blank price field to remove “nominal transactions” such as quitclaim, interfamily trusts and similar deed transfers.

Review records manually to get rid of nonapplicable transaction records, such as those where each unit in a multi-unit property is shown with the price of the entire property and those where the sales price is well below the reasonable low limit of a comparable property.

Format county APNs (assessor parcel numbers) to match MLS data record APNs.

2. Pull MLS data for the same time period, matching the settlement date in county records to the MLS’ close of escrow (COE) date.

3. Match APNs and eliminate duplicate records. The result is properties sold off-MLS.

4. Compare median prices for MLS and off-MLS sales. If the final sale price is omitted from the MLS record because the MLS does not enforce its entry, use the last list price as the best available match.

“For the price comparison, I would consider an alternate approach of using AVMs (automated valuation models) as the starting point to compare both on and off-MLS transactions, rather than comparing one against the other directly,” Cohen said.

IMPORTANT TO ALL READERS AND INTERNET USERS

Heartbleed-RefreshThe Heartbleed Hit List: Use the link at the end of this article for the complete list:

BY: MASHABLE TEAM

An encryption flaw called the Heartbleed bug is already being called one of the biggest security threats the Internet has ever seen. The bug has affected many popular websites and services — ones you might use every day, like Gmail and Facebook — and could have quietly exposed your sensitive account information (such as passwords and credit card numbers) over the past two years.

But it hasn’t always been clear which sites have been affected. Mashable reached out some of the most popular social, email, banking and commerce sites on the web. We’ve rounded up their responses below.

Some Internet companies that were vulnerable to the bug have already updated their servers with a security patch to fix the issue. This means you’ll need to go in and change your passwords immediately for these sites. Even that is no guarantee that your information wasn’t already compromised, but there’s also no indication that hackers knew about the exploit before this week. The companies that are advising customers to change their passwords are doing so as a precautionary measure.

Although changing your password regularly is always good practice, if a site or service hasn’t yet patched the problem, your information will still be vulnerable.

Also, if you reused the same password on multiple sites, and one of those sites was vulnerable, you’ll need to change the password everywhere. It’s not a good idea to use the same password across multiple sites, anyway.

For the full article go to: http://mashable.com/2014/04/09/heartbleed-bug-websites-affected/

 

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By CONOR DOUGHERTY and NICK TIMIRAOS CONNECT

A flurry of recent housing data suggests that the market’s spring selling season is getting off to a slow start, a worrisome sign after a winter of expectations that warmer weather would rekindle growth.

Reports from local real-estate agent groups in some of the markets that were the first to rebound, including Las Vegas, Phoenix and San Diego, show year-over-year declines in March home sales. February data for pending home sales nationally—a barometer of early-spring activity—show a decline of 11% from a year ago.

And in markets around the country, fewer people are showing up at open houses. An index of home-buyer traffic in 40 U.S. markets compiled by Credit Suisse was down a little more than a third from March of last year. In some parts of the country, cold weather has put a damper on traffic.

Polya Lesova takes a look at the markets, including three stocks to watch today. Photo: AP.
New construction of single family homes is also increasing slowly, according to new data released Wednesday. New building permits for single-family homes in March fell 1.2% below the year-earlier level, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. New single-family home starts rose 1.9% from a year earlier.

“Overall, even after adjusting for weather, it has been worse than what most people expected,” said Tom Lawler, an independent housing economist in Leesburg, Va.

The sluggish start to the spring home-buying season—a crucial period for sales because families typically want to lock into a school district by the end of summer—comes as investors cut back on purchases of homes that can be rented or flipped for a quick profit. Meanwhile, potential buyers are still adjusting to a sharp rise in both home prices and borrowing costs over the past year. With prices and mortgage rates up, the nation’s median monthly home payment—including principal and interest—has risen 20% in the past year to about $900, according to John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

The slow spring so far is in some ways a testament to just how swift the past two years of recovery have been. There are fewer distressed properties like foreclosures, and prices of those that remain are higher, so investors are buying fewer homes. At the same time, there has been a continued increase in the number of nondistressed purchases made by ordinary buyers and families, further reducing the inventory of homes for sale.

That has allayed economists’ fears that the “shadow inventory” of unsold homes would choke off the recovery.

But there are now two trends at play that potentially could extend a springtime swoon into a summer slump: a dearth of properties for sale in some markets and an abundance of too-richly-priced homes in other markets.

A report released Tuesday by DataQuick, a San Diego research company, showed that Southern California home sales had their second-slowest March in two decades, as rising prices and a thin supply of homes damped sales.

Prices hit a six-year high—not just because buyers are bidding up the homes that are left, but also because there has been a shift away from the first-time home-buyer market to middle and higher-end sales, said Andrew LePage, an analyst at DataQuick.

In Phoenix, the supply of homes for sale is adequate, if not ample, but prices are keeping buyers at bay. There, sales of previously owned homes fell nearly 18% in March from a year earlier, while inventories rose 44% to a three-year high, according to the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service Inc.

With more inventory, potential buyers such as Sarah Coffeen can afford to be deliberate with their search.

Ms. Coffeen, 31 years old, has been looking for a home in the Phoenix area since January. Her hope is to find a single-family home in the $120,000 range, and until then she and her daughter are living with her parents to help save for a down payment.

Her wait may pay off. While the Phoenix market is still fairly competitive, the inventory of homes for sale has started to tick up, and price gains are slowing.

“I’m pretty much willing to take my time because so much stuff is coming on the market,” said Ms. Coffeen, a paralegal. “Prices are definitely down from the fall. I don’t know if that mini bubble burst…but homes seem more reasonable now.”

Indeed, Phoenix has been one of the nation’s hottest housing markets over the past two years, leading the nation in what has to this point been a strong recovery. Now—along with Las Vegas and the Inland Empire region of California that is east of Los Angeles—it is among those cities where many sellers are reducing prices.

In markets around the country, fewer people are showing up at open houses. Bloomberg
According to Zillow, some 28% of U.S. home listings have had at least one price cut in February, compared with about 26% last February. But in markets like Phoenix and Las Vegas, the degree of price cuts has been much more dramatic. In Phoenix, for instance, about 45% of February listings had at least one price cut, compared with 32% a year ago.

Of course, real estate is all local, and much of the recent slowdown has been concentrated in markets through the West and Southwest that had been leading the recovery. A recent bright spot has been markets in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast——like New York, Fairfield County, Conn., and Baltimore—which had been lagging behind hotter regions last year but are now looking much better.

“Markets in the West were skewed by the ramp up in distressed sales last year and now they’re cooling, whereas the Northeast didn’t have that so now we’re looking better,” said Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants in Manhattan.

Steve Capen, a real-estate agent in St. Petersburg, Fla., decided last week to hire another agent for his company after seeing stronger buyer demand. Last summer, when mortgage rates went up, “everyone panicked,” he said, and Mr. Capen shelved plans to bring on a new hire. “But rates have been sitting there for a while now, and it looks like everyone’s adjusted to it.”

Mr. Capen listed recently a three-bedroom home in Palm Harbor, Fla., for $275,000 that went under contract within three days. “The homes that are in tip-top condition—they still move fast,” he said.

Many observers expect the market to work past the sluggish start to spring.

“While home builder sentiment has started the year on a soft note, we expect that rising home prices, low inventory levels, and stronger demand will boost construction activity as the spring selling season progresses,” Barclays Capital economist Michael Gapen wrote in a note to clients Tuesday.

Housing analyst Ivy Zelman cut her forecast for sales of existing homes this year but says she’s still optimistic about the U.S. housing recovery.

In a report Friday, her firm Zelman & Associates said it expects a 5% drop in sales of previously owned homes for 2014 to a seasonally adjusted annual level of 4.8 million units. At the start of the year, the firm had forecast nearly a 6% gain from last year.

Ms. Zelman isn’t changing her forecasts for new-home sales, which are forecast to hit 505,000 this year, up 17% from last year. Her estimates of new-home construction were mostly unchanged.

“We’re bullish still,” she said.

Ms. Zelman said she trimmed her home-sales forecast in part because of sustained declines in foreclosures and other distressed properties coming to market. She estimates the supply of those homes is down 20% from a year ago. Reduced competition could benefit home builders.

For now, real-estate agents see a buyers’ market that helps explain the slow spring so far.

Torrey McHale, Ms. Coffeen’s real-estate agent in Phoenix, said that when he looks at listings data, he sees more homes for sale and less buyer activity. And when he hits the street with clients, it is harder to get them to close.

“It’s been more difficult getting buyers under contract because if they don’t like one house they’ll just go onto the next,” he said. “Last summer was a huge sellers’ market. I’d walk into homes with buyers and there would already be three offers on the home. Listing agents and sellers got greedy and start raising prices really fast. I think they did overshoot and now it’s kind of turned.”