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Top 10 Christmas Shopping Mistakes

by Written by Dave Ramsey

Here are the top 10 Christmas shopping mistakes and how you can act differently:

  1. Not prioritizing.
    Instead of getting stressed out with all the parties, baking and shopping, in addition to your normal daily life, set some priorities before you’re bombarded with a million requests. Think about which things are “must do” and which are “would be nice to do.” It’s all right to say no to keep yourself sane. Shopping for gifts is more fun when you’re not completely stressed out.

  2. Not using a budget.
    Before you make a gift list and head to the mall, set aside a reasonable amount of money for gifts. Make a commitment that you won’t add $20 to the fund every week just because you saw something cute that your niece would love.
    Get budgeting advice here.

  3. Using credit cards.
    Once you have your budget finalized, stay away from credit cards! You will still spend 12-18% more if you use plastic, and you’ll be paying it off come 2009! Doesn’t paying with cash sound more freeing than having a credit card balance looming over your head? You bet.

  4. Buying for everyone.
    Do you really need to buy gifts for every family member and friend you have? That can get overwhelming and expensive for everyone. Talk with them and work toward an agreement to draw names for gifts or donate money to a common cause.

  5. Not listening.
    Listen to the hints your loved ones drop about what they need or want this year. Maybe your Aunt Sally mentioned that she would love someone to help her in the garden, or Cousin Bob keeps losing guitar picks. A thoughtful gift like this will mean a lot.

  6. Not having a thought-out list on paper.
    If you think you can spend time in “Christmas retail world” without getting distracted by all the shiny toys, you’re in for a big surprise! You’ll be more likely to buy impulsively if you do it that way. Write down what each person you’re buying for would like and stick to the list. Stay focused!

  7. Not shopping around.
    “Shopping around” doesn’t mean you have to spend 24 extra hours running from store to store to save 10 cents. Take a look at your gift list and do some comparative price-checking online before you head out into the retail and traffic madness. This will save you money, time and stress!

  8. Waiting until the last minute.
    Procrastination is not the most appealing gift out there. Don’t find yourself stressed out on Christmas Eve just because you didn’t invest a little bit of time to plan.

  9. Forgetting to plan for next year.
    Throughout the next year, look for outrageous sales on things your loved ones will need. If you time the sales just right and clip some coupons, you could land a major discount on something you were going to buy in a few months for a birthday or wedding gift. Remember to have a list and budget for this, too.

  10. Forgetting why we celebrate.
    If this season becomes all about shopping and gifts, you’ve missed the whole point. People—not things—matter. The miraculous birth of a baby who changed the world is what matters.

NAR: Latest Housing Report on Sales, Prices

by National Association of REALTORS

Daily Real Estate News  |  November 18, 2008  

Four out of five metropolitan areas recorded lower home prices in the third quarter from a year earlier, while existing-home sales fell in 32 states from the second quarter, according to the latest quarterly survey by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

In the third quarter, 28 out of 152 metropolitan statistical areas showed increases in median existing single-family home prices from the same quarter in 2007; four were unchanged and 120 metros experienced declines. NAR’s track of metro area home prices dates back to 1979.

NAR President Charles McMillan said price comparisons in many areas are like apples and oranges.

“A very large proportion of distressed home sales are taking place at discounted prices compared to more normal conditions a year ago,” McMillan says. “It’s very challenging to understand proper valuation, given the differences between distressed sales and a larger share of traditional homes in sound condition."

Foreclosure Impact

Distressed sales — foreclosures and short sales — accounted for 35 to 40 percent of transactions in the third quarter, pulling down the national median existing single-family price to $200,500, which is 9 percent lower than the third quarter of 2007.

A year ago, when there were significantly fewer distressed transactions, the median price was $220,300. The median price is where half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less.

Total state existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million units in the third quarter, up 2.6 percent from 4.91 million units in the second quarter, but remain 7.7 percent below the 5.46 million-unit pace in the third quarter of 2007.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says conditions continue to range widely.

“A pattern of sharply higher sales in areas with large price declines is well established,” Yun says. “Affordability conditions have consistently been a major factor in driving sales. Historically during recessions, buyers have responded to incentives and it’s important for government to keep that in the forefront of stimulus decisions.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage rose to 6.32 percent in the third quarter from 6.09 percent in the second quarter; the rate was 6.55 percent in the third quarter of 2007. Last week, Freddie Mac reported the 30-year fixed fell to 6.14 percent.

Strongest Sales Gains

The largest sales gain during the third quarter was in Arizona, up 28.3 percent from the second quarter, followed by California which rose 28.1 percent and Nevada, up 26.2 percent.

The steepest declines in single-family home prices in the third quarter were in three California markets: the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario area, where the median price of $227,200 dropped 39.4 percent from a year ago, followed by Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville at $212,000, down 36.8 percent from the third quarter of 2007, and San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, where the price dropped 36 percent to $377,300.

“These areas have seen some of the strongest sales gains with some reports of multiple bidding,” Yun says.

The largest single-family home price increase in the third quarter was in the Elmira, N.Y., area, where the median price of $105,000 rose 12.5 percent from a year ago. Next was Decatur, Ill., at $93,400, up 8.7 percent from the third quarter of 2007, followed by the Bloomington-Normal, Ill., area, where the third-quarter median price increased 8.1 percent to $168,400.

The typical seller purchased their home six years ago and is experiencing net equity gains. The national increase in value since the third quarter of 2002 is 18.3 percent, which is a median gain of $31,000. Even with the current downward price distortion, 90 percent of metro areas are showing six-year price gains.

Median third-quarter metro area single-family home prices ranged from an affordable $65,800 in the Saginaw-Saginaw Township North area of Michigan to $650,000 in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area of California. The second most expensive area was San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, at $615,700, followed by Honolulu at $615,000.

Affordable markets include the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman area of Ohio and Pennsylvania at $74,300, and South Bend-Mishawaka, Ind., at $88,000.

The Condo Market

In the condo sector, metro area condominium and cooperative prices – covering changes in 57 metro areas – showed the national median existing-condo price was $210,800 in the third quarter, down 7.1 percent from $227,000 in the third quarter of 2007. Sixteen metros showed annual increases in the median condo price and 41 areas had price declines.

The strongest condo price increases were in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area, where the third quarter price of $149,900 rose 11.1 percent from a year earlier, followed by Bismarck, N.D., at $148,000, up 11 percent, and the Houston-Baytown-Sugar Land area, where the median condo price of $134,100 rose 8.1 percent from the third quarter of 2007.

Metro area median existing-condo prices in the third quarter ranged from $112,600 in the Greensboro-High Point, N.C., area to $456,300 in the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont area. The second most expensive condo market reported was the New York-Wayne-White Plains area of New York and New Jersey at $324,000, followed by Honolulu at $322,000.

Other affordable condo markets include the Indianapolis area at $113,500 and the Cincinnati-Middletown area of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, at $117,300 in the third quarter.

Market Snapshot by Region

Here's how existing-home sales fared across the country:

  • West: rose 13.1 percent in the third quarter to an annual rate of 1.15 million and are 12.4 percent above a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the West was $266,300 in the third quarter, which is 21.4 percent below the third quarter of 2007. The only reported metro price increase in the West was in Farmington, N.M., at $193,600, up 1.7 percent from a year ago.
  • Midwest:existing-home sales rose 2.7 percent in the third quarter to a pace of 1.15 million but remain 10.6 percent below a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the Midwest declined 5.5 percent to $159,900 in the third quarter from the same period in 2007. After Decatur and Bloomington-Normal, the next strongest metro price increase in the Midwest was in the Wichita, Kan., area, where the median price of $125,300 was 5.5 percent higher than a year ago, followed by Champaign-Urbana, Ill., at $146,400, up 2.7 percent.
  • South: sales slipped 1.4 percent in the third quarter to an annual rate of 1.87 million and are 13.8 percent lower than the same period in 2007. The median existing single-family home price in the South was $174,200 in the third quarter, down 3.7 percent from a year earlier. The strongest price increase in the South was in the Tulsa, Okla., area, at $139,800, up 5.1 percent from a year ago, followed by Amarillo, Texas, with a 4.2 percent gain to $128,300, and the New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner area of Louisiana at $166,800, up 4.1 percent.
  • Northeast: sales declined 1.6 percent in the third quarter to a level of 863,000 units and are 11.7 percent below a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the Northeast fell 6.5 percent to $267,700 in the third quarter from the same period in 2007. After Elmira, the strongest price increase in the Northeast was in the Trenton-Ewing, N.J., area, at $342,500, up 4.2 percent from the third quarter of 2007, followed by Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y., with a median price of $114,200, up 3.0 percent.

NAR: Latest Housing Report on Sales, Prices

by National Association of REALTORS

Daily Real Estate News  |  November 18, 2008  

Four out of five metropolitan areas recorded lower home prices in the third quarter from a year earlier, while existing-home sales fell in 32 states from the second quarter, according to the latest quarterly survey by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

In the third quarter, 28 out of 152 metropolitan statistical areas showed increases in median existing single-family home prices from the same quarter in 2007; four were unchanged and 120 metros experienced declines. NAR’s track of metro area home prices dates back to 1979.

NAR President Charles McMillan said price comparisons in many areas are like apples and oranges.

“A very large proportion of distressed home sales are taking place at discounted prices compared to more normal conditions a year ago,” McMillan says. “It’s very challenging to understand proper valuation, given the differences between distressed sales and a larger share of traditional homes in sound condition."

Foreclosure Impact

Distressed sales — foreclosures and short sales — accounted for 35 to 40 percent of transactions in the third quarter, pulling down the national median existing single-family price to $200,500, which is 9 percent lower than the third quarter of 2007.

A year ago, when there were significantly fewer distressed transactions, the median price was $220,300. The median price is where half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less.

Total state existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million units in the third quarter, up 2.6 percent from 4.91 million units in the second quarter, but remain 7.7 percent below the 5.46 million-unit pace in the third quarter of 2007.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says conditions continue to range widely.

“A pattern of sharply higher sales in areas with large price declines is well established,” Yun says. “Affordability conditions have consistently been a major factor in driving sales. Historically during recessions, buyers have responded to incentives and it’s important for government to keep that in the forefront of stimulus decisions.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage rose to 6.32 percent in the third quarter from 6.09 percent in the second quarter; the rate was 6.55 percent in the third quarter of 2007. Last week, Freddie Mac reported the 30-year fixed fell to 6.14 percent.

Strongest Sales Gains

The largest sales gain during the third quarter was in Arizona, up 28.3 percent from the second quarter, followed by California which rose 28.1 percent and Nevada, up 26.2 percent.

The steepest declines in single-family home prices in the third quarter were in three California markets: the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario area, where the median price of $227,200 dropped 39.4 percent from a year ago, followed by Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville at $212,000, down 36.8 percent from the third quarter of 2007, and San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, where the price dropped 36 percent to $377,300.

“These areas have seen some of the strongest sales gains with some reports of multiple bidding,” Yun says.

The largest single-family home price increase in the third quarter was in the Elmira, N.Y., area, where the median price of $105,000 rose 12.5 percent from a year ago. Next was Decatur, Ill., at $93,400, up 8.7 percent from the third quarter of 2007, followed by the Bloomington-Normal, Ill., area, where the third-quarter median price increased 8.1 percent to $168,400.

The typical seller purchased their home six years ago and is experiencing net equity gains. The national increase in value since the third quarter of 2002 is 18.3 percent, which is a median gain of $31,000. Even with the current downward price distortion, 90 percent of metro areas are showing six-year price gains.

Median third-quarter metro area single-family home prices ranged from an affordable $65,800 in the Saginaw-Saginaw Township North area of Michigan to $650,000 in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area of California. The second most expensive area was San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, at $615,700, followed by Honolulu at $615,000.

Affordable markets include the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman area of Ohio and Pennsylvania at $74,300, and South Bend-Mishawaka, Ind., at $88,000.

The Condo Market

In the condo sector, metro area condominium and cooperative prices – covering changes in 57 metro areas – showed the national median existing-condo price was $210,800 in the third quarter, down 7.1 percent from $227,000 in the third quarter of 2007. Sixteen metros showed annual increases in the median condo price and 41 areas had price declines.

The strongest condo price increases were in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area, where the third quarter price of $149,900 rose 11.1 percent from a year earlier, followed by Bismarck, N.D., at $148,000, up 11 percent, and the Houston-Baytown-Sugar Land area, where the median condo price of $134,100 rose 8.1 percent from the third quarter of 2007.

Metro area median existing-condo prices in the third quarter ranged from $112,600 in the Greensboro-High Point, N.C., area to $456,300 in the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont area. The second most expensive condo market reported was the New York-Wayne-White Plains area of New York and New Jersey at $324,000, followed by Honolulu at $322,000.

Other affordable condo markets include the Indianapolis area at $113,500 and the Cincinnati-Middletown area of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, at $117,300 in the third quarter.

Market Snapshot by Region

Here's how existing-home sales fared across the country:

  • West: rose 13.1 percent in the third quarter to an annual rate of 1.15 million and are 12.4 percent above a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the West was $266,300 in the third quarter, which is 21.4 percent below the third quarter of 2007. The only reported metro price increase in the West was in Farmington, N.M., at $193,600, up 1.7 percent from a year ago.
  • Midwest:existing-home sales rose 2.7 percent in the third quarter to a pace of 1.15 million but remain 10.6 percent below a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the Midwest declined 5.5 percent to $159,900 in the third quarter from the same period in 2007. After Decatur and Bloomington-Normal, the next strongest metro price increase in the Midwest was in the Wichita, Kan., area, where the median price of $125,300 was 5.5 percent higher than a year ago, followed by Champaign-Urbana, Ill., at $146,400, up 2.7 percent.
  • South: sales slipped 1.4 percent in the third quarter to an annual rate of 1.87 million and are 13.8 percent lower than the same period in 2007. The median existing single-family home price in the South was $174,200 in the third quarter, down 3.7 percent from a year earlier. The strongest price increase in the South was in the Tulsa, Okla., area, at $139,800, up 5.1 percent from a year ago, followed by Amarillo, Texas, with a 4.2 percent gain to $128,300, and the New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner area of Louisiana at $166,800, up 4.1 percent.
  • Northeast: sales declined 1.6 percent in the third quarter to a level of 863,000 units and are 11.7 percent below a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the Northeast fell 6.5 percent to $267,700 in the third quarter from the same period in 2007. After Elmira, the strongest price increase in the Northeast was in the Trenton-Ewing, N.J., area, at $342,500, up 4.2 percent from the third quarter of 2007, followed by Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y., with a median price of $114,200, up 3.0 percent.

NAR: Latest Housing Report on Sales, Prices

by National Association of REALTORS

Daily Real Estate News  |  November 18, 2008  

Four out of five metropolitan areas recorded lower home prices in the third quarter from a year earlier, while existing-home sales fell in 32 states from the second quarter, according to the latest quarterly survey by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

In the third quarter, 28 out of 152 metropolitan statistical areas showed increases in median existing single-family home prices from the same quarter in 2007; four were unchanged and 120 metros experienced declines. NAR’s track of metro area home prices dates back to 1979.

NAR President Charles McMillan said price comparisons in many areas are like apples and oranges.

“A very large proportion of distressed home sales are taking place at discounted prices compared to more normal conditions a year ago,” McMillan says. “It’s very challenging to understand proper valuation, given the differences between distressed sales and a larger share of traditional homes in sound condition."

Foreclosure Impact

Distressed sales — foreclosures and short sales — accounted for 35 to 40 percent of transactions in the third quarter, pulling down the national median existing single-family price to $200,500, which is 9 percent lower than the third quarter of 2007.

A year ago, when there were significantly fewer distressed transactions, the median price was $220,300. The median price is where half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less.

Total state existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million units in the third quarter, up 2.6 percent from 4.91 million units in the second quarter, but remain 7.7 percent below the 5.46 million-unit pace in the third quarter of 2007.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says conditions continue to range widely.

“A pattern of sharply higher sales in areas with large price declines is well established,” Yun says. “Affordability conditions have consistently been a major factor in driving sales. Historically during recessions, buyers have responded to incentives and it’s important for government to keep that in the forefront of stimulus decisions.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage rose to 6.32 percent in the third quarter from 6.09 percent in the second quarter; the rate was 6.55 percent in the third quarter of 2007. Last week, Freddie Mac reported the 30-year fixed fell to 6.14 percent.

Strongest Sales Gains

The largest sales gain during the third quarter was in Arizona, up 28.3 percent from the second quarter, followed by California which rose 28.1 percent and Nevada, up 26.2 percent.

The steepest declines in single-family home prices in the third quarter were in three California markets: the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario area, where the median price of $227,200 dropped 39.4 percent from a year ago, followed by Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville at $212,000, down 36.8 percent from the third quarter of 2007, and San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, where the price dropped 36 percent to $377,300.

“These areas have seen some of the strongest sales gains with some reports of multiple bidding,” Yun says.

The largest single-family home price increase in the third quarter was in the Elmira, N.Y., area, where the median price of $105,000 rose 12.5 percent from a year ago. Next was Decatur, Ill., at $93,400, up 8.7 percent from the third quarter of 2007, followed by the Bloomington-Normal, Ill., area, where the third-quarter median price increased 8.1 percent to $168,400.

The typical seller purchased their home six years ago and is experiencing net equity gains. The national increase in value since the third quarter of 2002 is 18.3 percent, which is a median gain of $31,000. Even with the current downward price distortion, 90 percent of metro areas are showing six-year price gains.

Median third-quarter metro area single-family home prices ranged from an affordable $65,800 in the Saginaw-Saginaw Township North area of Michigan to $650,000 in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area of California. The second most expensive area was San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, at $615,700, followed by Honolulu at $615,000.

Affordable markets include the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman area of Ohio and Pennsylvania at $74,300, and South Bend-Mishawaka, Ind., at $88,000.

The Condo Market

In the condo sector, metro area condominium and cooperative prices – covering changes in 57 metro areas – showed the national median existing-condo price was $210,800 in the third quarter, down 7.1 percent from $227,000 in the third quarter of 2007. Sixteen metros showed annual increases in the median condo price and 41 areas had price declines.

The strongest condo price increases were in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area, where the third quarter price of $149,900 rose 11.1 percent from a year earlier, followed by Bismarck, N.D., at $148,000, up 11 percent, and the Houston-Baytown-Sugar Land area, where the median condo price of $134,100 rose 8.1 percent from the third quarter of 2007.

Metro area median existing-condo prices in the third quarter ranged from $112,600 in the Greensboro-High Point, N.C., area to $456,300 in the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont area. The second most expensive condo market reported was the New York-Wayne-White Plains area of New York and New Jersey at $324,000, followed by Honolulu at $322,000.

Other affordable condo markets include the Indianapolis area at $113,500 and the Cincinnati-Middletown area of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, at $117,300 in the third quarter.

Market Snapshot by Region

Here's how existing-home sales fared across the country:

  • West: rose 13.1 percent in the third quarter to an annual rate of 1.15 million and are 12.4 percent above a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the West was $266,300 in the third quarter, which is 21.4 percent below the third quarter of 2007. The only reported metro price increase in the West was in Farmington, N.M., at $193,600, up 1.7 percent from a year ago.
  • Midwest:existing-home sales rose 2.7 percent in the third quarter to a pace of 1.15 million but remain 10.6 percent below a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the Midwest declined 5.5 percent to $159,900 in the third quarter from the same period in 2007. After Decatur and Bloomington-Normal, the next strongest metro price increase in the Midwest was in the Wichita, Kan., area, where the median price of $125,300 was 5.5 percent higher than a year ago, followed by Champaign-Urbana, Ill., at $146,400, up 2.7 percent.
  • South: sales slipped 1.4 percent in the third quarter to an annual rate of 1.87 million and are 13.8 percent lower than the same period in 2007. The median existing single-family home price in the South was $174,200 in the third quarter, down 3.7 percent from a year earlier. The strongest price increase in the South was in the Tulsa, Okla., area, at $139,800, up 5.1 percent from a year ago, followed by Amarillo, Texas, with a 4.2 percent gain to $128,300, and the New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner area of Louisiana at $166,800, up 4.1 percent.
  • Northeast: sales declined 1.6 percent in the third quarter to a level of 863,000 units and are 11.7 percent below a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the Northeast fell 6.5 percent to $267,700 in the third quarter from the same period in 2007. After Elmira, the strongest price increase in the Northeast was in the Trenton-Ewing, N.J., area, at $342,500, up 4.2 percent from the third quarter of 2007, followed by Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y., with a median price of $114,200, up 3.0 percent.

What's Your Market's Median Home Price?

by Desi Sowers

I just came across this fascinating interactive map!

You can move your mouse across most cities in the USA and by clicking on the little house you can then see the median price and the drop/gain in prices. 

Check out some cities in Florida etc, and you can see that while its not the best here in Virginia it's a lot worse elsewhere.

To see the map click HERE.

Please feel free to share this map - it's very informative!

 

 

New Listing!

by Desi Sowers

Loan Mods Could Restore Confidence

by Matt Carter, Monday, November 17, 2008. Inman News

A plan for the government to partially insure lenders when they agree to modify troubled borrowers' loan terms could help stabilize housing markets, restore confidence, and bring buyers back into the market.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chairwoman Sheila Bair wants the Bush administration to provide incentives for lenders to do as many as 2.2 million loan modifications.

Under a proposal unveiled by the FDIC Friday, the government would pay servicers $1,000 for each loan modified to defray their expenses, and then agree to cover up to 50 percent of losses if a loan should re-default.

Assuming one in three modified loans were to re-default, the plan would cost taxpayers $24.4 billion, but prevent 1.5 million foreclosures by the end of next year, the FDIC said.

The plan and others intended to stem foreclosures could help stabilize housing markets, but "speed is of the essence," said Paul Bishop, managing director of research for the National Association of Realtors.

NAR, which has its own four-point legislative plan to stimulate housing markets, has concentrated on incentives for buyers like a $7,500 tax credit for homebuyers and government-backed interest-rate buy-downs (see story).

NAR also wants Congress make credit more easily available to would-be homebuyers. One way to do that, the group says, would be to make permanent the temporary increase in the upper loan limits for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA. The limits, boosted in February to $729,750 in high cost areas, are set to come back down to $625,500 on Jan. 1.

NAR has also been adamant that the Bush administration use at least some of the $700 billion earmarked for the Troubled Assets Repurchase Program, or TARP, the way it originally said it would: to buy up "toxic" assets like mortgage backed securities. But after earmarking the first $250 billion in TARP funds to buy shares in troubled banks, the Treasury Department now says it does not plan to buy any mortgage-backed securities.

While NAR hasn't formally endorsed the new plan to guarantee loan modifications put forward by the FDIC, the group is generally supportive of initiatives and programs aimed at mitigating foreclosures, Bishop said.

"To the extent that the FDIC plan puts, in effect, a ceiling on the rise in foreclosures sooner rather than later, that's all good," Bishop said. "It's not only how many foreclosures are prevented, but giving homebuyers in the market a sense that maybe we do have a handle on it after all. Whereas now there's a sense that we don't know where the end to foreclosures is."

The FDIC's foreclosure prevention plan and the buyers incentives and access to mortgage credit advocated by NAR are "complimentary in what they aim to accomplish," Bishop said.

Limiting foreclosures not only slows growth in inventory and price declines, but provides reassurance to would-be homebuyers who are reluctant to buy into a downturn, Bishop said.

Once that happens, the government must also make sure that buyers who are ready to get off the fence have the financing and incentives needed to make that happen.

First-time homebuyers are key to a recovery, he said, because they are the the least encumbered.

"They don't have a home to sell, and may be able to get out into the market more quickly than an existing homeowner," Bishop said. "To the extent that the four-point plan we've put out really works to bring first time buyers into the market, that will be one of the key aspects to success for any of these plans."

Although the Bush administration was said to be weighing Bair's plan, last week it rolled out a less ambitious loan modification plan involving Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the HOPE NOW alliance of 27 loan servicers (see story).

The administration's plan, which FHA Commissioner Brian Montgomery said might help "hundreds of thousands of borrowers," involves a streamlined loan modification process in which borrowers' loan payments would be reduced to 38 percent of gross monthly income by lowering their interest rate, lengthening the term of the loan, or reducing principal and adding it to the back of the loan.

Having placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in receivership, the government has a large say in how they are run. But while Fannie and Freddie own or guarantee about 58 percent of all single-family mortgages, those mortgages represent only 20 percent of serious delinquencies.

About 60 percent of seriously delinquent mortgages have been sold to investors in private-label mortgage-backed securities who may be less willing to engage in loan modifications.

The FDIC said that while foreclosures are costly to lenders, the pace of loan modifications continues to be "extremely slow." Only 4 percent of seriously delinquent loans are modified each month, the FDIC said.

Fannie and Freddie have boosted loan modifications by 60 percent this year, but are still only averaging 4,600 a month. About 92 percent of borrowers Fannie and Freddie have worked with have been able to keep their homes.

Mortgage Rates Drop Again

by Source: San Diego Union-Tribune (11/14/08)
Freddie Mac reports that the 30-year fixed mortgage rate dropped to 6.14 percent during the week ended Nov. 13, marking the second consecutive weekly decline. Rates were 6.20 percent the prior week.

The 15-year fixed mortgage rate fell to 5.81 percent from 5.88 percent, while the five-year adjustable mortgage rate slipped to 5.98 percent from 6.19 percent. However, the one-year ARM climbed to 5.33 percent from 5.25 percent.

These Cities Are In Line for a Rebound

by Source: SmartMoney (11/01/08)

Have we reached bottom? In many cities, knowledgeable observers say yes.

In October 2005 at the peak of the boom, the median sales price for a U.S. home reached 7.3 times per capita income. By this May it was 5.7 times, just about the historical norm. Home inventories have flattened. The decline in sales has ended – and in some places sales have expedited.


"The indicators are starting to look better," says Adam York, an economic analyst with Wachovia.

Here are seven markets that SmartMoney magazine says are in line for a rebound:

  • Seattle
  • Raleigh
  • Des Moines
  • Philadelphia
  • Denver
  • Birmingham, Ala.
  • Salt Lake City

HUD Announces New, Permanent FHA Mortgage Loan Limits

by RSI Media

Nov. 12, 2008-U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Steve Preston announced the new Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage loan limits for single-family homes as prescribed by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.

Beginning January 1, 2009, FHA will insure single-family home mortgages up to $271,050 in low cost areas and up to a maximum of $625,500 in high cost areas. The February 2008 Stimulus Package temporarily raised the FHA maximum to $729,750 through December 31, 2008. The new $625,500 maximum, however, represents a significant increase over the $362,790 limit that was in effect prior to the Stimulus Package.

“In today’s environment where access to credit is being restricted, we need to make mortgage loans readily available to households throughout the country, and especially in high-cost areas,” said Preston. “These new loan limits will ensure FHA can to continue help struggling homeowners refinance into safe, affordable government-insured loans, and allow many first-time buyers take advantage of today’s buyers market”

For several years, FHA’s loan levels were below the cost of the average home in communities across the nation. As a result, families who needed FHA mortgage insurance to qualify to buy a home were effectively locked out of the process. In some cases, borrowers turned to exotic subprime loans.

FHA mortgage insurance makes home financing more available to low-income and first time homebuyers. This is because the mortgage is backed by the full faith and credit of the government, freeing lenders from assuming the risk of default.

Higher FHA loan limits do not cost the government any money because the FHA Insurance Fund is fully supported by premiums paid by borrowers who receive FHA-insured mortgage loans.

The Housing and Economic Recovery Act pegs the national conforming mortgage loan limit to a house price index chosen by the new Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). For 2009, the national conforming limit will remain at the current level of $417,000.

The Act says that the new FHA loan limits will be set at 115% of the median house price in a given area, as determined by HUD, but can not be lower than 65% of the conforming loan limit (the national floor). Also, the FHA mortgage limit cannot exceed 150% of the national conforming loan limit (the national ceiling).

Home Equity Conversion Mortgages

The Act also pegs the national mortgage limit for FHA-insured reverse mortgages to the national conforming loan limit. The FHA product known as the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) will therefore have a national mortgage limit of $417,000. Unlike the new forward mortgage loan limits, the new HECM loans limits are effective on loans insured or after November 6, 2008. This is the first time that a single limit applies to these mortgages nationwide. As in previous years, the special exception areas of Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and the Virgin Islands may have higher loan limits. Starting in January 2009 counties in those areas may have loan limits of 115% of area median prices, where that amount is above $417,000, up to a ceiling of $625,500.

Reverse mortgages allow homeowners age 62 and older to borrow against the value of their homes without selling them. Homeowners can select a lump-sum payment, monthly payments or tap into a line of credit. No repayment is required as long as a homeowner lives in a home with a reverse mortgage. The reverse mortgage is repaid, with interest, when a homeowner sells the home or dies.

HUD will inform mortgage lenders and brokers of the new limits through a mortgagee letter posted on www.hud.gov and www.fha.gov.

HUD is making available comprehensive listings of the new loan limits in all counties throughout country. Downloadable files are available for FHA Forward Loans, FHA HECM loans, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac purchases on the HUD website. The limits are determined by the county in which the property is located, except that for properties located in metropolitan statistical areas the limit is determined by the county with the highest median home price within the metropolitan area.

For more information, visit www.hud.gov.

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