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Existing-Home Sales Record Big Gains

by Mick Marsden

Driven by the home buyer tax credit, existing-home sales showed another big gain in October with a strong uptrend established over the past seven months, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. At the same time, inventories have continued to decline.

Existing-home sales—including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops—surged 10.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.10 million units in October from a downwardly revised pace of 5.54 million in September, and are 23.5 percent above the 4.94 million-unit level in October 2008. Sales activity is at the highest pace since February 2007 when it hit 6.55 million.

Tax Credit Fuels Surge

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, was surprised at the size of the gain. “Many buyers have been rushing to beat the deadline for the first-time buyer tax credit that was scheduled to expire at the end of this month, and similarly robust sales may be occurring in November,” he said. “With such a sale spike, a measurable decline should be anticipated in December and early next year before another surge in spring and early summer.”

Now that the tax credit has been extended and expanded, potential buyers have until April 30 to have a contract in place. “There is still a large pent-up demand that can be tapped before the tax credit expires. Our recent consumer survey further shows that 13 percent of successful first-time buyers had a previous contract that was cancelled or fell through—there likely are many more buyers who were attempting to purchase but simply ran out of time,” Yun said.

Historically low interest rates also are boosting the market. “Mortgage interest rates last month were the third lowest on record dating back to 1971,” Yun noted. According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 4.95 percent in October from 5.06 percent in September; the rate was 6.20 percent in October 2008. Last week, Freddie Mac reporter the 30-year rate dropped to 4.83 percent.

Inventory Declines

NAR President Vicki Cox Golder said strong demand by first-time buyers is creating some unusual conditions. “In parts of the country, especially in Southwestern states but also in Florida and suburban Washington D.C., we’ve been getting many reports of multiple bids in the lower price ranges with foreclosed properties getting absorbed quickly,” she said. 

“In fact, low-end inventory has become very tight in many areas and in some cases buyers are becoming more aggressive. In this kind of environment it’s important to work with a REALTOR®who can walk you through the process and help you negotiate a satisfactory deal,” Golder said.

Total housing inventory at the end of October fell 3.7 percent to 3.57 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 7.0-month supply at the current sales pace, down from an 8.0-month supply in September. Unsold inventory totals are 14.9 percent below a year ago.

“The supply of homes on the market is now at the lowest level in over two-and-a half years – we’re getting closer to a general balance between buyers and sellers,” Yun said. The last time the relative housing inventory was this low was in February 2007 when it also was at a 7.0-month supply.

Existing Home Price by Type

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $173,100 in October, down 7.1 percent from October 2008. Distressed properties, which accounted for 30 percent of sales in October, continue to downwardly distort the median price because they usually sell at a discount relative to traditional homes in the same area.

“In the second half of 2010, if home values show consistent stabilization or even a modest increase, then home sales could remain at normal healthy levels because consumers would no longer be worried about a price overcorrection,” Yun said.

He added that low home prices also are contributing to extremely favorable affordability conditions. “With the abnormal drop in home prices over the past few years, the price-to-income ratio has fallen below the historic trend line,” Yun said. “This is adding to the buying power of the typical family, with affordability conditions this year at the highest on record dating back to 1970, but prices are beginning to flatten and are poised to rise next year.”

Single-family home sales rose 9.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.33 million inOctober from a pace of 4.86 million in September, and are 21.4 percent above the 4.39 million-unit pace in October 2008. The median existing single-family home price was $173,100 in October, down 6.8 percent from a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales surged 13.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 770,000 units in October from 680,000 in September, and are 40.8 percent above the 547,000-unit level a year ago. The median existing condo price was $172,900 in October, which is 10.4 percent below October 2008.

Regional Views

Here’s a look at existing-home sales figures in different regions of the United States:

Northeast: Existing-home sales rose 11.6 percent to an annual level of 1.06 million in October, and are 27.7 percent higher than October 2008. The median price in the Northeast was $235,400, down 2.6 percent from a year ago.

Midwest: Existing-home sales surged 14.4 percent in October to a pace of 1.43 million and are 28.8 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $146,600, a gain of 1.1 percent from October 2008. 

South: Existing-home sales rose 12.7 percent to an annual level of 2.30 million in October and are 25.7 percent higher than October 2008. The median price in the South was $151,100, down 6.3 percent from a year ago. 

West: Existing-home sales increased 1.6 percent to an annual rate of 1.31 million in October and are 12.0 percent above a year ago. The median price in the West was $220,200, which is 14.7 percent below October 2008.

—NAR

Time-Lapse Visualization Of US Unemployment

by Mick Marsden

 

I saw this animated graph of US employment that begins in 2007 about a year before the recession began to present. I would expect another wave of foreclosures to occur from this scary trend. CT is starting to feel this with layoffs in the CT Defense sector like Pratt and Whitney, UTC's Otis Elevator, and insurance companies like Aetna. When you look at the animation it looks like mold is growing.

Well done by Dorsey Shaw:

 

 

Pending home sales rose again, marking eight consecutive monthly gains – the longest streak since measurement began in 2001, according to the National Association of Realtors®. The Pending Home Sales Index rose 6.1 percent to 110.1 from a reading of 103.8 in August, and is 21.2 percent higher than September 2008 when it stood at 90.9. The gain from a year ago is the largest annual increase on record, and the index is at the highest level since December 2006 when it was 112.8. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the momentum is understandable. “What we’re witnessing is a rush of first-time buyers trying to beat the expiration of the tax credit at the end of this month,” he said. “Home values will stabilize sooner rather than over-correcting. That, in turn, will mean wealth stabilization for the vast number of middle-class families and lay the foundation for a durable economic recovery.”

Upcoming Chester Holiday Events

by Mick Marsden

Sundays, November 22 to December 20, 12:00-4:00 p.m.

New this year! Chester plays host to a winter Holiday Farmers Market brimming with seasonal produce. Stroll the market, nibble on treats, and explore the shops of Chester making holiday shopping a joyous event. Chester has exceptional gifts, uncommon apparel, spectacular art and decadent foods. What you’ll find: Local farmers and food artisans, great eats and treats, Chester shops, restaurants and galleries with special offers, original & stylish gifts, market events like local authors’ book signings, holiday storytelling with Broadway stage veterans Peter Walker & Scotty Bloch, strolling carolers, cookie decorating and more. Get in the spirit, celebrate local with the Chester Holiday Farmers Market. For news inquiries contact: Michelle Paulson, mpsolutions@comcast.net

Chester Holiday Toy Drive

It’s not too soon to think about it! Trooper Adam Brown will be collecting toys from December 1 to December 18 for the 2009 holiday season. These toys will be distributed to families with needs in Chester and the surrounding communities.Please join Adam in his efforts to make all children happy at holiday time and drop off NEW unwrapped toys only, no clothing or used toys please. These new toys can be dropped off at the Town Hall during normal business hours at 203 Middlesex Avenue.



Friday - December 4, 2009 5:00 - 8:00 pm

Holiday Night Town Christmas Tree Lighting and Caroling and Shop and Gallery Stroll
Main Street, Chester Village Center, Chester, CT

Sunday, Dec. 13  4-6 p.m

Small Town Concert Series
“Tidings of Comfort and Joy: Original Songs of the Season”

A Musical Celebration by Lauren Agnelli, Dave Rave & Friends Featuring Agnelli & Rave, Ebin-Rose, Leif Nilsson, and special guests Leif Nilsson Spring Street Studio & Gallery One Spring Street, Chester http://www.nilssonstudio.com 860-526-2077

Admission:  Donation, of nonperishable food for Chester Pantry. Donations accepted for the musicians. Refreshments served



Both Houses OK Tax Credit Extension, Expansion

by Associated Press

The House today and the Senate yesterday passed legislation to extend the $8,000 home buyer tax credit to May 1, 2010, for first-time buyers and add a $6,500 tax credit for repeat buyers if they've lived in their home for five of the past eight years. Home prices are capped at $800,000. 

The legislation in both houses was included in a bill to extend unemployment benefits and isexpected to be signed by President Obama shortly. 

“REALTORS® appreciate the swift action by Congress to extend the home buyer tax credit and expand it to some current homeowners,” says NAR President Charles McMillan. “As the leading advocate of housing and real estate issues, we urge President Obama to sign this legislation into law quickly to keep the momentum going in the fragile recovery of the nation’s housing market.”

Under the bill, income limits are expanded to $125,000 for individuals and $225,000 for joint filers.Individuals with incomes up to $145,000 and joint filers with incomes up to $245,000 qualify for reduced credits.

Households who have binding contracts in place by April 30 will be allowed an additional 60 days to complete their transaction. The deadline for members of the military serving out the U.S. for at least 90 days between Jan. 1, 2009, and May 1, 2010, has been extended one year.

Taxpayers can claim the credit on their federal income tax returns. If the credit exceeds their tax bill, the government will issue a check. Taxpayers will be able to claim the credit on their 2009 income tax return for purchases made in 2010.

Here's a detail sheet of how the new bill affects eligibility:


Pending Home Sales Continue to Rise

by NAR

Pending home sales rose again, marking eight consecutive monthly gains – the longest streak since measurement began in 2001, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in September, rose 6.1 percent to 110.1 from a reading of 103.8 in August, and is 21.2 percent higher than September 2008 when it stood at 90.9. 

The gain from a year ago is the largest annual increase on record, and the index is at the highest level since December 2006 when it was 112.8.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the momentum is understandable.
“What we’re witnessing is a rush of first-time buyers trying to beat the expiration of the tax credit at the end of this month,” he said. “Home values will stabilize sooner rather than over-correcting. That, in turn, will mean wealth stabilization for the vast number of middle-class families and lay the foundation for a durable economic recovery.”

Watch a video interview of Yun as he talks about these latest pending-home sales trends. 

NAR estimates approximately 3 million renters are now financially well-qualified to buy a median-priced home. “As long as buyers do not overstretch and stay well within their budget, a sizable pent-up demand can be tapped among financially qualified potential buyers,” Yun said. “Although the tax credit is greatly reviving the existing home market, new-home sales may continue to struggle as home builders hold back production to drive down inventory. In addition, there remains an ongoing credit crunch for construction loans.”

The Pending Home Sales Index in the Northeast slipped 2.0 percent to 83.6 in September but remains 16.9 percent above September 2008. In the Midwest the index rose 8.1 percent to 98.2 in September and is 17.8 percent higher than a year ago. In the South, pending home sales increased 4.9 percent to an index of 109.7 and is 22.8 percent above September 2008. In the West the index jumped 10.2 percent to 143.8 and is 23.7 percent above a year ago.

Yun added that strong near-term reports should not be overstated. “We’re clearly not out of the woods because an excess of homes remains on the market despite recent improvements,” he said. “Although current inventory is getting closer to price equilibrium, foreclosures will continue to enter the pipeline. An extended and expanded tax credit would help absorb this incoming inventory.”

 NAR

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