Mortgage Rates Falling, So Where Are Home Buyers?

Mortgage rates have fallen close to their lowest levels in nearly a year, but housing demand hasn’t budged much yet.

Freddie Mac FMCC -1.36% reported Thursday that the average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.14% this week, up from 4.12% last week but down from 4.4% just two months ago. This puts rates at roughly the same level seen in late October 2013 and again last June, when rates were zipping up as investors braced for an end to the Federal Reserve’s bond-buying programs.

But even with low rates, mortgage applications have been soft, according to a separate report from the Mortgage Bankers Association, a sign of still muted demand for home loans.

What’s going on?

First, a longer view helps. True, mortgage rates are low—as low as they’ve been in almost 12 months. But in the same way that shoppers may not be lured by “low prices” at a department store that is always advertising a sale, mortgage rates at 4.1% may not be seen as a steal by buyers who lived with rates that were even lower for all of 2012 and the first half of 2013—especially considering that prices have moved higher.

Put differently, which change is more dramatic—a decline in interest rates from 5% to 3.5% over the two years beginning in February 2011 or the decline from 4.5% in January to 4.1% in May?

Given the time it takes for home purchases to come together and the fact that the decision to purchase a home isn’t purely rate-driven—buyers also must weigh what’s for sale, their family and job situation, etc.—it could take a while to see what effect, if any, the recent drop in interest rates has had on demand.

So do rates really matter? At the margins, yes. They’re a key component of a borrower’s monthly payment. And often the first conversation between a real-estate agent and a potential buyer—”How much are you willing to spend?”—can be influenced quite a bit by mortgage rates, provided the buyer isn’t paying entirely in cash.

What does this payment picture look like right now? The monthly payment on the median-priced U.S. home fell from $673 in February 2011 to $552 in September 2012 as interest rates fell. Interest rates stayed low through May 2013, but the average payment rose to $586 as home prices ticked up. (These calculations assume a 20% down payment on the national median home value as calculated by Zillow).

After interest rates jumped last summer, that average payment bounced to $674 in September 2013. Rising prices and, especially, higher rates eroded the affordability gains of the previous 2½ years in a matter of months. Payments haven’t budged much since then. Modest declines in interest rates have offset modest gains in home prices.

Some look at this and say: wait a minute, a 4.5% mortgage is still an insanely good deal. Why would a rise in rates to levels that are still quite low hurt housing demand? One possible explanation: the overall level of rate matters over the long run, but the speed with which rates rose last year could have dented demand in the short run.

Several economists have argued recently that mortgage rates increases played an important role in last year’s sales slowdown. In part, that’s because activity received a larger boost when mortgage rates were falling from 2011 to 2013 than previously anticipated, wrote Goldman Sachs economists Sven Jari Stehn and David Mericle in a recent report.

The Goldman analysis suggests that the slide in mortgage rates between 2011 and 2013 increased residential investment—the primary measure of housing’s contribution to GDP—by 5 percentage points. “As this tailwind dissipates going forward, the trend in housing activity might be somewhat lower than previously assumed,” they write.

Last year’s mortgage rate increase accounts for nearly half of the difference in expected housing growth and the lower, actual growth, according to a separate analysis published last week by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

This isn’t to say that the cold winter and the rate jump are the only reasons housing has slowed down. Low rates and prices may have spurred the release of pent-up demand throughout 2012, as home prices began to rise. This one-time benefit, together with aggressive home purchase by investors (also a temporary phenomenon), could have given false signals about the true health of the demand side of the market in 2012 and 2013.

Moreover, incomes have showed little growth, meaning that it will be harder for more buyers to buy homes if prices continue to rise absent some gains in wages or even bigger declines in financing costs. Sales are also being restrained by low levels of homes for sale, which is pushing prices higher. Some would-be buyers don’t have enough equity to sell their current home, while others have high levels of student debt.

WSJ by Nick Timiraos

Equity Home Sales Rise to Highest Level in Six Years

house-price-fallAs higher home prices buoy underwater homes, equity home sales rise to highest level in more than six years.

LOS ANGELES (May 22) – Recent home price gains have lifted more underwater homes into positive territory, pushing the share of equity home sales to their highest level since late 2007.  At the same time, pending home sales were essentially unchanged in April, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) said today.

Distressed housing market data:

• The share of equity sales – or non-distressed property sales – continued to increase in April, rising to 88.4 percent in April, up from 87.6 percent in March.  After a slight decline at the end of 2013, equity sales have been rising steadily again since the beginning of this year.  April marks the 10th straight month that equity sales have been more than 80 percent of total sales. Equity sales made up 75.4 percent of sales in April 2013.

• The combined share of all distressed property sales continued to decline in April, thanks to a drop in short sales.  The share of distressed property sales was down from 12.4 percent in March to 11.6 percent in April.  Distressed sales continued to be down by more than 50 percent from a year ago, when the share was 24.6 percent.

• Twenty-six of the 41 reported counties showed a month-to-month decrease in the share of distressed sales, with 13 of the counties recording in the single-digits, including Alameda, Marin, San Benito, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties — all of which registered a share of five percent or less.

• Of the distressed properties, the share of short sales dropped to levels last observed in April 2008 at 5.9 percent, down from 6.6 percent in March.  April’s figure was nearly a third of the 14.7 percent recorded in April 2013.

• The share of REO sales only dipped slightly in April to 5.3 percent, down from 5.4 percent in March.  REO sales are now nearly half of what they were a year ago, when REOs made up 9.4 percent of all sales in April 2013.

• A drop in active listings of equity and REO properties tightened the housing supply in April, causing a decline in unsold inventory across all property types.  The Unsold Inventory Index for equity sales dropped from 4 months in March to 3.6 months in April.  The supply of REOs slipped from 2.8 months in March to 2.3 months in April, and the supply of short sales declined from 4.7 months in March to 4.4 months in April.

Pending home sales data:

• California pending home sales were essentially unchanged from March, with the Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI)* dipping 0.5 percent from 114.4 in March to 113.8 in April, based on signed contracts.  The month-to-month change was substantially lower than the 6.5 percent drop from March to April observed in the last three years.

• Pending sales were down 6 percent from the revised 121.1 index recorded in April 2013.  The year-over-year decline in the PHSI has been tapering over the past few months and should level off in the coming months.  Pending home sales are forward-looking indicators of future home sales activity, providing information on the future direction of the market.

Charts (click link to open):

• Pending sales compared with closed sales.
• Historical trend in the share of equity sales compared with distressed sales.
• Closed housing sales in April by sales type (equity, distressed).
• Housing supply of REOs, short sales, and equity sales in April.
• A historical trend of REO, short sale, and equity sales housing supply.
• Year-to-year change in sales by property type.

 

Share of Distressed Sales to Total Sales
(Single-family)

Type of Sale Apr-14 Mar-14 Apr-13
Equity Sales 88.4% 87.6% 75.4%
Total Distressed Sales 11.6% 12.4% 24.6%
     REOs 5.3% 5.4% 9.4%
     Short Sales 5.9% 6.6% 14.7%
     Other Distressed Sales (Not Specified)  0.5% 0.5% 0.5%
All Sales  100.0% 100.0% 100.0%

Single-family Distressed Home Sales by Select Counties
(Percent of total sales)

County Apr-14 Mar-14 Apr-13
Alameda 4% 6% 9%
Amador 22% 30% 40%
Butte 18% 19% 27%
Calaveras 18% 18% 36%
Contra Costa 6% 9% 11%
El Dorado 15% 15% 22%
Fresno 19% 22% 38%
Glenn 23% 38% 27%
Humboldt 13% 17% 20%
Kern 19% 17% 31%
Kings 23% 28% 40%
Lake 26% 27% 49%
Los Angeles 12% 13% 24%
Madera 17% 14% 47%
Marin 5% 6% 10%
Mendocino 27% 14% 24%
Merced 12% 17% 44%
Monterey 13% 10% 37%
Napa 6% 13% 23%
Orange 7% 7% 13%
Placer 9% 11% 23%
Plumas 35% 40% NA
Riverside 15% 14% 32%
Sacramento 16% 17% 32%
San Benito 4% 9% 22%
San Bernardino 18% 21% 35%
San Diego 4% 4% 10%
San Joaquin 19% 20% 43%
San Luis Obispo 4% 7% 17%
San Mateo 2% 4% 11%
Santa Clara 4% 5% 10%
Santa Cruz 9% 9% 18%
Shasta 20% 20% 37%
Siskiyou 24% 28% 34%
Solano 14% 19% 43%
Sonoma 9% 9% 22%
Stanislaus 15% 15% 37%
Sutter 17% 23% NA
Tulare 24% 21% 34%
Yolo 12% 14% 34%
Yuba 28% 24% NA
California 12% 12% 25%

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O.C. house prices up 16.4% in February

01.housing.jahA two-year streak of rising house prices continued in Orange County through February, up 16.4 percent year over year, CoreLogic’s latest home price index shows.

However, the rate of gain is on the wane.

February’s year-over-year increase was the smallest since February 2013 and is down from a high of 23 percent in August.

The Irvine-based data firm, which produces one of a series of competing home-price indexes, shows steady year-over-year price gains in the county for the past 1 1/2 years.

In addition, the index value — based on comparisions of repeat sales — increased 1.3 percent from January to February, CoreLogic reported. Month-to-month gains have occurred in 23 of the past 24 months.

Orange County’s February price gains were greater than seven of the 10 most populous metro areas in the nation.

Only three metro areas had bigger gains: The Inland Empire led the nation with a 22.2 percent gain, followed by Los Angeles County at 18.8 percent and the Atlanta area at 16.7 percent.

Nationwide, house prices increased 12.2 percent in the year ending in February, according to CoreLogic.

California led the states with price appreciation at 19.8 percent. Fourteen states had double-digit year-over-year gains and 22 states were approaching pre-recession price peaks.

“As the spring home-buying season kicks off, house price appreciation continues to be strong,” said CoreLogic Chief Economist Mark Fleming.

Rising prices are expected to spur more homeowners to jump into the market, Fleming added. That rising supply should keep home price gains moderate in the near future.

In Orange County, for example, the number of homes for sale jumped 8 percent in March from February and was up 23 percent since the start of the year, according to Steve Thomas of ReportsOnHousing.com.

BY JEFF COLLINS / STAFF WRITER/ OC Register /Published: April 2, 2014 Updated: 7:22 a.m

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Buyers- What do you want in a neighborhood?

Buyers what do you want in a neighborhood

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O.C. home sales decelerate in January

ranchograndeopenhouse
BY JEFF COLLINS / STAFF WRITER
Published: Feb. 12, 2014
Updated: Feb. 13, 2014 7:08 a.m.

Orange County home sales continued to swoon last month in the face of elevated prices and higher interest rates.

Housing market tracker DataQuick Information Systems reported Wednesday that sales closed on 2,205 houses, condos and newly built homes in January, down 9.3 percent year-over-year to the lowest number in almost two years.

But the median price – or price at the midpoint of all sales – hovered at $550,000, due in part to an increase in sales of larger and more expensive homes, market observers said.

Last month’s median home price was the third highest for a January in records dating back to 1988, DataQuick figures show.

“We have slowed down a little in the number of sales we’re seeing, (but) not necessarily in prices,” said Kim Rossi of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Monarch Beach.

“Last year, the market was unbelievable,” added Keller Williams Realty agent Reza Shirangi of Mission Viejo. “Then as interest rates rose from 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent (last summer), literally for three to four weeks, the market just stopped.”

Regionwide, median home prices increased 18.4 percent last month, to $380,000 in six Southern California counties, DataQuick reported. Southern California home sales dropped 9.9 percent, to 16,058 deals.

“Southland home sales have fallen on a year-over-year basis for four consecutive months now and remain well below average,” said DataQuick President John Walsh. “We’re still putting a lot of the blame on the low inventory. But mortgage availability, the rise in interest rates and higher home prices matter, too.”

Although home prices remain 15 percent below the all-time high of $645,000 reached in June 2007, Orange County’s housing market has recovered 65 percent of the ground lost in the housing crash.

January tends to be the slowest month of the year, reflecting deals signed during the slow Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday season.

Orange County had 5,087 homes for sale on Jan. 30, less than half the multiple listing service average, according to Steve Thomas of ReportsOnHousing.com.

That compares with 3,276 homes for sale the same time last year – an inventory shortage that created “a flash market” in the first six months of 2013, said Mac Mackenzie, a Coldwell Banker agent in Irvine.

“It was a false market set up for success,” Mackenzie said. “It’s now a whole new ballgame. … We’re seeing a solid market, but nowhere near where it was last year.”

Price reductions began to appear in late summer, Mackenzie said, and homes priced overzealously have sat on the market without a buyer. For example, Mackenzie said he sold a home in Irvine’s Turtle Rock area in January 2013 for $1.45 million. Six months later, an identical home on a larger lot sold for $1.25 million.

A change in the mix of home sales has kept the median price artificially high, said Chris Pollinger, senior vice president of sales for Irvine-based First Team Real Estate.

DataQuick figures show, for example, that sales for $500,000 or less fell 32 percent in January. Sales for $700,000 and above rose 28 percent.

“The cheap seats are all taken,” Pollinger said. “We’re seeing a little bit more action at the high end. That’s why your prices are up a bit more.”

Sales drops also reflect decreased demand for existing homes, while new home sales have doubled in the past year.

Berkshire Hathaway’s Rossi noted that there are about 50 new home projects actively selling in Orange County, including the 2,380-home Baker Ranch development in Lake Forest. A spokeswoman for the developer said 9,000 to 10,000 home shoppers turned out for Baker Ranch’s grand opening last weekend.

“We need to educate our sellers who they are competing with,” she said. “They’re not just competing with the neighbor down the street. Now is the time to spruce up.”

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Home sales slow as frenzy cools

Home sales flagged last month in Orange County and throughout Southern California in the face of higher home prices, slightly higher interest rates and fewer investors, new housing figures show.

Still, those higher home prices had a beneficial effect. A separate report shows that 67,500 fewer Orange County homes were under water by the end of September.

Article Tab: image1-Home sales slow as frenzy cools

Orange County home sellers closed 2,632 transactions in November, down 8.6 percent from the year before, DataQuick Information Systems reported Monday. That’s 12 percent slower than in October, compared with an average October-to-November drop of 8 percent.

 

 

The median home price – or price at the midpoint of all sales – was $560,000, up 24.4 percent from November 2012 levels. Last month’s median matched a post-recession high first hit in August.

The pattern was similar throughout the region: Overall Southern California home sales fell 10.4 percent, while the median price rose 19.9 percent, to $385,000.

Type Nov. Price 1 yr ch Nov. Sales 1 yr ch
Resale houses $610,000 16.2% 1,591 -13.6%
Resale condos $373,000 21.3% 668 -19.4%
All new homes $714,500 17.9% 373 78.5%
All homes $560,000 24.4% 2,632 -8.6%

Local housing professionals warned, however, that last month’s price gains were due in part to a switch to pricier home sales.

With fewer foreclosures and short sales, transactions less than $500,000 fell from 66 percent of all Orange County deals in November 2011 to 40 percent last month, DataQuick figures show.Meanwhile, the share of Orange County homes selling for $700,000 or more doubled in two years, from 16 percent to 32 percent of the market.

“It’s hard to find anything under $500,000 for a single-family detached home,” observed Donna Sullivan of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Capistrano Beach. High-priced homes are “pretty much all that’s available.”

Sales of older, existing homes fell, while sales of higher-priced new homes rocketed upward 78.5 percent in Orange County, to 373 units – the most new homes moved for any month since December 2007.

“The part of the market that’s really moving right now is the high end. The low end is unavailable,” said Long Beach broker Geoff McIntosh, treasurer of the California Association of Realtors.

Price appreciation, McIntosh said, ranges from 3 percent to 4 percent in some neighborhoods to 8 percent or 9 percent in others.

Market watchers noted that the November data reflects deals being signed in September and October, when a traditional seasonal slowdown was being affected by the Washington drama over the government shutdown.

“November sales were pretty underwhelming,” said DataQuick President John Walsh. “The exact cause is tough to pinpoint, but we see likely culprits: The inventory of homes for sale still falls short of demand. Also, any pullback in homebuying during the early-October fiasco in Washington, D.C., would have undermined November closings.”

By JEFF COLLINS / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Published: Dec. 16, 2013 Updated: Dec. 17, 2013 6:18 a.m.

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U.S. Home Value Appreciation to Slow in 2014

Pace of Annual Appreciation to Fall to 4.3 Percent in 2014, 3.4 Percent by 2018; Panelists Say Federal Government Should Back 35 Percent of Mortgages, According to Zillow Home Price Expectations Survey

SEATTLE, Nov. 7, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — More than 100 forecasters said they expect the U.S. home values, as measured by the Zillow® Home Value Indexi, to end 2013 up an average of 6.7 percent year-over-year, according to the latest Zillow Home Price Expectations Survey, before slowing over the next five years. Most panelists also said they would like to see the federal government maintain a considerable role in the mortgage market.

The survey of 108 economists, real estate experts and investment and market strategists was sponsored by leading real estate information marketplace Zillow, Inc. and is conducted quarterly by Pulsenomics LLC.

home expectations

 While appreciation is expected to remain strong through the remainder of this year, the pace of home value growth is predicted to slow considerably through 2018. Panelists said they expect appreciation rates to slow to roughly 4.3 percent next year, on average, eventually falling to 3.4 percent by 2018.

Based on current expectations for home value appreciation over the next five years, panelists predicted that overall U.S. home values could exceed their May 2007 peak by the first quarter of 2018, and may cross the $200,000 threshold by the end of 2018.

“The housing market has seen a period of unsustainable, breakneck appreciation, and some cooling off is both welcome and expected,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries. “Rising mortgage rates, diminished investor demand and slowly rising inventory will all contribute to the slowdown of appreciation.”

The most optimistic quartileii of panelists predicted an 8.3 percent annual increase in home values this year, on average, while the most pessimistic quartileiii predicted an average increase of 5.6 percent. Expectations among the optimists fell from 9.3 percent in the last survey, but rose from 5.1 percent among the pessimists. The most optimistic panelists predicted home values would rise roughly 12.5 percent above their 2007 peaks by the end of 2018, on average, while the most pessimistic said they expected home values to remain about 6.2 percent below 2007 peaks.

Diminished, But Still ‘Significant’ Role For Federal Gov’t in Mortgages

A number of public and private plans for overhauling the nation’s mortgage finance system and reforming government-sponsored entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been proposed, all of which seek to reduce and redefine the government’s role in the mortgage market to some degree. As these policy conversations begin, panelists were asked how involved they think the federal government should be in any re-imagined mortgage system. Among those panelists expressing an opinion, the majority (58.4 percent) said the federal government’s involvement in the conforming mortgage market should be “somewhat significant,” “significant” or “very significant.” Only 8 percent of respondents said the federal government should have a “non-existent” role in the conforming market.

Panelists were also asked to define an appropriate level of government-backing for mortgage loans going forward. Among those panelists expressing an opinion about what maximum percentage of all new mortgages should be backed by the federal government, the median response was 35 percent, roughly the level seen in 2006 at the height of the housing bubble.

“Policy discussions centered on reforming the nation’s housing finance system have only just begun, and it will be very interesting to see what comes out of these debates and how the market will react to new proposals,” Humphries said. “How much mortgages will end up costing average consumers, and the continued availability of traditional mortgage products like the 30-year fixed rate mortgage, are among the critical issues currently at stake for consumers in these debates.”

“Currently, the federal government backs roughly 90 percent of all new mortgage originations in the U.S. in some form,” said Pulsenomics® Founder Terry Loebs. “In 2000, prior to the bubble, the government backed about 50 percent of new mortgages. These benchmarks and survey data are another reminder of the challenges that lie ahead in reforming U.S. housing institutions.”

4 Ways to Know Whether to Sell or Stay Put

Sell or stayEvery real estate market creates its own buyer and seller personas, or profiles. When the market is slow and prices are low, it brings out ‘the wheeler-dealer’ and ‘the lowballer,’ as well as the ‘paralyzed panicker’ in some buyers.

But sellers aren’t immune.

And in a warm or hot market climate, the rise in home prices makes some sellers wonder whether they should exercise the freedom of finally having some home equity and make a move, or if it’s a better idea to stay put in hopes they can sell for more, next year or later.

Truth is, whether any given person should sell their home or stay put at any given time is a highly personal decision. Market dynamics should come into play, but that should be considered in the context of your personal life, career, family and financial plans.

Trying to figure out whether to sell or stay put? Here are four ways to know which decision is right for you.

1.  Sign You Should Sell: You frequently crave a neighborhood upgrade. I have known people who have liveed in “up and coming neighborhoods” for 20 years, and are still waiting for it to up-and-come. Others own homes on streets or in subdivisions they used to love that have changed dramatically because the city has been built up in a different direction, the area was rezoned, or because a school, freeway, commercial development, airport or train station was brought in. And still other home owners fall out of love with their neighborhoods because their job has moved, making their commute a pain.

In any event, if your home’s location is seriously misaligned with your life or your tastes, that fact is one you face all day, every day, for the duration of the time you live in the property. It can become a serious source of life dissatisfaction and resentment that rears its ugly head every time you make your monthly mortgage payment. As I see it, dissatisfaction with your neighborhood or a serious neighborhood-life disconnect can be a strong reason to sell and move, assuming you can make a move to a neighborhood that would better serve your life in a financially responsible way.

2.  Sign You Should Stay:  You can totally afford a new house – if you sell a kidney. A few years back, a friend of mine wrote a book called Life Would be Perfect if I Lived in That House (Vintage 2011). In it, she told how her mother was so addicted to the grass-is-greener promise of moving to a new home that she would actually take her family Open House hunting, even when they were visiting towns they had no interest in moving to! She went on to relate her inherited real estate addiction to the national trend of “moving on up,” so to speak, with financial recklessness – the trend that many believe led to the Great Recession.

There’s nothing wrong with being a real estate aficionado, but it’s important to watch to make sure grass-is-greener-at-that-house syndrome isn’t motivating you to make a financially unwise decision to sell and move.

If you are considering selling your home and moving up, do your own financial home work. Run your own budgets, income and expense reports and other financials to understand what level of increased financial obligation, if any, your household finances can afford to take. Consider whether you might want to set up some savings, investing or debt elimination targets before making a move. Work with your financial planner, tax professional and your real estate and mortgage pros to fully understand all the financial implications, short- and long-term, of selling and moving before you put the sign up in the yard.

3.  Sign You Should Sell: Space-wise, your family is too close for comfort. (And things will get worse before they get better.) I marvel at how much stuff the smallest infant seems to need.  I once went to a baby shower that generated so many strollers, packable playpens and sheer gear that it took 2 SUVs and a station wagon to cart it all home – for a kid that ultimately weighed in at 6 pounds and some-odd ounces.

If you have very young children and you’re already tripping over each other, chances are good that their space needs will grow as they do, even after all the baby gear is gone. School-aged kids and teenagers develop their own hobbies and need space for studies and sports – and on top of that, many parents of young children can realistically anticipate moving their own parents in at some point in time.

If you’re struggling to find a space for everything (and everyone), project your space needs out five years into the future. If you think you’ll need less space in five years (e.g., because your kids will likely move out in that time frame), it might not make sense to buy a bigger home now. But if it looks like you’ll need more space before you need less, that can be a sound rationale for making a financially rational move.

4.  Sign You Should Stay:  You could fix what ails your home with relatively modest remodeling projects.  If your home is bothersome primarily because things don’t function very well or its aesthetics are out of whack with your style, you might be tempted to sell and move.  Here’s a tip-off: your “dream home” is the Open House one block over that is nearly identical to your home in location, size, architecture, bedrooms and baths, but is impeccably decorated and updated. If you find yourself in this situation, you might very well be able to resolve your issues by investing less than you would spend on the transactional costs of selling and buying another home into some small-to-medium-scale remodeling projects on your current home.

On a budget, painting, landscaping, replacing exterior trims and interior hardware and updating your kitchen appliances will likely give you the biggest boost in home love for your buck. Similarly, you can get a major enjoyment boost out of your home for very little money by bringing a handyperson in to fix all those niggling little items that make a home seem worn out, including:

  • drawers that stick
  • handles you have to jiggle
  • drafts that need stopping up, and
  • scrapes and scuffs that make a place look rundown.

That said, when you consider what you would spend on commissions and closing costs to sell one home and buy a nearly-identical new one, you might be able to justify a larger updating/upgrading budget. If you have a little more dough to spend, consider a kitchen or bath remodel, having some custom organizers built in, or putting in the wood floors or deck you’ve always wished for. You might be surprised how fast home hate can turn to love when you start pampering your property.

Sellers: What factors influenced your decision to sell?

O.C. house prices up 19.7%, Realtors report

OC houses for saleThe median price of an existing Orange County house increased 19.7 percent in September year over year, but house sales declined slightly over the same period last year, the California Association of Realtors reported Thursday.

The Realtors report mirrors the trends DataQuick reported for county house sales on Wednesday.

The CAR report covers only existing single-family home sales. Specifically, the Realtor association said:

  • The median price of an existing Orange County house was $672,680 in September, up by nearly $111,000 from September 2012 levels. DataQuick, by comparison, reported that the median price (or price at the midpoint of all sales) was $612,000 for single-family homes.
  • House sales in Orange County decreased 1.6 percent from September 2012. DataQuick figures – based on county deed filings rather than Realtor-maintained multiple listing databases – showed a 0.5 percent drop in sales of existing houses, but reported an increase overall when including existing condos and new homes of all types.
  • It would take 3.8 months to sell all the houses on the Orange County market at September’s sales pace, compared to 2.8 months in March, an indication that the supply of homes for sale is rising.
  • Statewide, median house prices increased 24.4 percent last month from September 2012 levels, rising to $428,810. Condo and townhome prices increased 30 percent to a median price of $344,210.
  • House sales decreased 2.6 percent statewide to an annualized rate of 412,880. Condo and townhome sales increased 13.4 percent year over year.
  • Elsewhere in Southern California, house prices increased 23.1 percent to $459,020 in Los Angeles County; 28.2 percent to $293.560 in Riverside County; 23.8 percent to $185,860 in San Bernardino County; and 21.1 percent to $490,130 in San Diego County.

Top schools equal higher home prices

Any good parent wants their child to attend the best school possible, but when it comes to finding a home in a top school district, how much more are buyers willing to pay? A recent study performed by Redfin suggests that many parents are willing to shell out even more than you might think. If you’re trying to sell a home and want to get the most for it, you might want to consider “selling” the school first.

pic
Schools have always played an important role in the buying and selling of real estate. More recently though, premiums for homes served by top-ranked schools have been going up, indicating that buyers place remarkable importance on the quality of schools when buying a house.

An analysis by Redfin illustrates the steep price premiums that homeowners are willing to pay for homes served by top-ranked schools, offering the latest concrete evidence that buyers place remarkable importance on the quality of schools.

The sky-high premiums help explain the ongoing race among listing sites to provide razor-sharp school information.

They could also add fuel to a debate over whether buyers and the real estate agents representing them give too much weight to rankings, which school officials say don’t always provide a complete picture of the differences in the quality of education provided.

Redfin’s study found that buyers pay an average of $50 more per square foot for homes served by top-ranked schools than for those served by average-ranked schools. It also found found that, even within the same neighborhoods, buyers will pay substantially more for homes served by top-ranked schools than they do for comparable homes served by average-ranked schools.

“Homes just a short distance apart with nearly identical attributes are selling for drastically different prices,” the report said. “We’ve looked across the country at homes that have sold in the last three months and found five examples where the prices vary on identical homes by as much as $130,000.”

Not accounting for home size, San Jose, San Francisco and Los Angeles, Calif., carry the highest price premiums for top-ranked schools while Queens, N.Y., Raleigh, N.C., and Eugene, Ore., carry the lowest of all the metros that Redfin analyzed.

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The report adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests that many homebuyers are ready to shell out substantial cash for access to top-notch schools.

Three out of 5 homebuyers who responded to a recent realtor.com survey said that school attendance boundaries would be a factor in choosing a home, and most of that group said they’d be willing to go above budget or give up amenities to have their children go to their school of choice.

The online survey, conducted this summer, found that of those who said school attendance boundaries were important:

  • 23.6 percent would pay 1 to 5 percent above budget.
  • 20.7 percent would pay 6 to 10 percent above budget.
  • 9 percent would pay 11 to 20 percent above budget.
  • 40.3 percent would not go above budget.

school kids      Some school officials have questioned whether buyers and their agents are relying too heavily on test scores and school ranking sites when pricing listings.

      The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that buyers in San Mateo County, Calif., are willing to pay premiums of $200,000 or more for homes served by schools that score only slightly better than other schools in the same school district. School district officials told the newspaper that homebuyers and their agents may read too much into simplified school rankings offered on real estate sites, and are working with Realtors in the hopes of helping them gain a better understanding of what qualities make for a good school.

     A Canadian real estate agent who’s branded herself as her community’s “#1 schools advisor” has rankled school district officials and parents by posting not only standardized test scores on her website, but devising her own system for ranking them. The ranking system penalizes schools with lower household income and parental education levels, or a higher prevalence of single-parent households and English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students.

The increasingly evident focus among buyers on school quality has helped spur a push by listing services to offer deeper school-centric features and data.

Zillow rolled out a school search boundary tool earlier this month that lets users filter home searches for public, private and charter school attendance boundaries by their ratings from a national school rating site.

A handful of other sites, including realtor.com, Trulia and Century 21 Real Estate, offer school-based search tools.

For its study, Redfin analyzed listings on multiple listing services that sold between May 1 and July 31; school zone boundaries provided by Maponics; and additional school data provided by Onboard Informatics and GreatSchools.