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MY OPINION ON THE LOCAL MARKET AND LENDING CRISIS

So what's going on in the much of the CT Real Estate Market? Well, as most are aware, the lending industry has been turned upside which has created a tumultuous stock market, put more pressure on housing prices, and in a market that has never been better for a one to buy a home, more difficult than ever to obtain a mortgage. I know the latter first hand as my first two sales that closed this year was challenged by lenders.

Both of my buyers had excellent credit, ample down payments, and the home they were buying appraised as expected. So why the trouble? There has been so much wrong doing by predatory lenders, middle men who unscrupulously packaged the loans for sale on the secondary market, they then became AAA rated by Standard and Poor (the fox guarding the hen house) and sold as investments to places like Bear Stearns and other investment banks who are now all in big trouble. Off course all the folks who made money on these loans are not only getting off scott free, the CEO's of the lenders at fault, like the moron who was running Countrywide was rewarded with millions in a parting bonus. Go figure.

Those lenders still standing and making mortgages are afraid of their own shadow and thus are getting at times 2 appraisals, and they're looking very hard at every aspect of the package. My sales did close, it was just very difficult for Fenwick Mortgage who was handling these for the buyers, and added stress to my buyer's life that they didn't need. Then again...who needs stress today?

Condo buyers should note at some lenders are add as much as a 1.5 points to the prevailing residential rate mortgages. Some lender's condo questionnaire are more comprehensive and if there is one answer they don't like the loan is denied! We found that New Alliance is the bank to do business with as of late if your buying a condo.

Rates are continuing to improve for conforming loans while jumbos are costing 1.5 points for most products. Seller's offering mortgage buy down programs can really create a win-win deal for buyers of their homes. Middlesex County's new conforming loan limit is now $470K. So if your home is listed north of $564K, consider a buy down option. Fenwick Mortgage is quite adept at creating a profile that can be used as a marketing feature for your home.

THE NUMBERS

While 2007 finished strong and ahead of 2006, 2008 is showing the signs of the credit crunch. New lending rules and a dearth of stated income and stated asset products has created an even smaller buyer pool. New listings have decreased 2% when compared to last year which is a trend that is welcomed. The number of closings are down 30%. Sales volume fell $30M or 12.5% over 2007. These figures are for residential home sales for both January and February. Deeper discounts from asking prices were noted where at least 9 towns in our service area gave more than a 10% discount. When I look at that a bit closer, many were asking too high a price for the market. What that does is increase selling time, carrying costs, and creates a stigma for the property. That is reflected in the market area absorption rate which jumped from 11 months to now 14 months. The absorption rate is the number of months it would take to sell all existing inventory at the current sales rate if no additional inventory was added. You could also look at this number as the length of time it could take to sell your home. This year so far the average days on the market are standing at about 5 to 6 months, so don't be surprised if agents start asking for 9 or 12 month listing contracts. The numbers show that the average list price per square foot rose when it should have fallen and stands at $252.33, slightly higher than las year. The average selling price per square foot is at $214.09! That's a 15% spread! This is proof that sellers are asking on average 15% more than what the market value is this year.

NEVER A BETTER TIME TO BUY

If you're a buyer, especially with nothing to sell, its the best time in recent memory to step up and make a purchase. Even though there are many "underwater" or "upside down" mortgaged properties, banks are negotiated what we call "short sale" purchases. This means that they are allowing the seller to sell below what they owe rather than to foreclose on the property. There are many bank owned properties out there as well. A lived in short sale property is a safer buy for most because it follows the normal protocols of a sale. Properties can be inspected and you know its a functioning residence. Empty bank owned properties can be plagued with many hidden defects. Those who couldn't pay mortgages could not obviously do the maintenance needed to keep the home up. So in some cases the discount that you get can be less than the repairs and improvements needed to make the home habitable.

ADVICE TO SELLERS

Seller's need to know that there is always a buyer for your home. There is a smaller pool of buyers out there but they exist. To sell your home you need to do more to prepare your home for sale, price it right, and be marketed where you're noticed over the other competing properties. People are still getting married, divorced, having babies, becoming empty nesters, coming to the area, and leaving the area. What we can do for you is offer you professional photography, data to help you price your home right, create the very best print and digital marketing websites, put you in a national listing service to make your property greatest exposure, give you the service of 3 full time agents instead of 1 (and for the price of 1), and promise you that we'll be present to show your home to prospective buyers instead of putting your home on automatic by putting a lock box on your home.

No one can guarantee when and for home much your home will sell for, but we can guarantee to give you the best possible chance to do so. If you're in a situation where your "underwater" with your mortgage, call us or visit: http://www.CTShortSaleInfo.com and we'll help you get out from under with dignity and without foreclosure. We are experts and professionals available from 8am to 8pm everyday of the week.

Today Show Statistics

by Michael Marsden

Today's broadcast interviews Erin Bernette from CNBC. Although she reported that homesales dropped 8% this month nationwide there was a bit of a silver lining to New England's cloud. Existing home sales dropped 27.8% in the west, 18.7% in the south from Texas to the the east coast, 16.2 in the northern midwest, and 13.5% in New England. As I reported in my earlier blog post, locally we're actually ahead 20% in the number of closings.

 

Existing home prices were another thing all together. Western states showed the largest decline in values at 8.8%, in the south down 5.5%, midwest up 1.4%, and in New England a rise in value at a modest .5%.

 

3rd Quarter Statistics for the CT Shoreline and Lower CT River Valley

by Michael Marsden

The Shoreline and Lower CT River Valley First I apologize for taking so long in reporting our local statistics. You might say I am a victim of my own success. I've been really busy with closings, new contracts, many active buyers, and new listings which had to come first! That said there's great news about our market! Each time I compile our local numbers I am afraid of what I'll see. Each morning on the Today show and CNN the pundits talk about the Real Estate market, the lending crisis, and how this will affect us all. However, 3rd quarter 2007 when compared to 3rd quarter 2006 showed us screaming ahead in the number of closings by 28% with an increase of sales volume of 33%. These numbers are for single family homes in my 23 town service area on the Connecticut shoreline and the lower Connecticut River Valley. This is why we continually say that real estate is truly a local market. So how about what sellers are really getting? My stats show that sellers are getting between 90 % and 97% of asking price. The only exception I see is Lyme/Hadlyme at 86%. I mentioned last month that it might be that the average asking pricing is well into the 7 figures and there's more movement in price in the upper end than in the lower end. There were 510 new listings added to the inventory last month bringing out total single family home inventory to 1,587. I reported 2,227 in my podcast interview with Joe this month, but that was in error. 2,227 included condos, land, and multi-family listings too. Sorry about that. In closing, the absorption rate jumped from 7.5 to 10.5 months which is on par when looking back at 2006. The absorption rate is the number of months it would take to sell the entire inventory on hand if nothing was added during that time. Another way to look at it is this is the number of months it might take you to sell your home. However, good marketing, preparation, and proper pricing will sell a home way sooner. For example, I was able to bring over 12 prospects to an August listing in E Haddam in the $350K price range, a price point with tons of competitive listings, have put it under contract and will close October 30th. That's just 2 months!

Interesting Statistics from NAR

by Michael Marsden

Monthly Internet Traffic Report Highlights - July 2007 REALTOR.com Unique Visitors: 5.72 M - July ‘07 (6.79 M - July ‘06) 5.29 M - June ‘07 Avg. Minutes per Visit: 14.7 min - July ‘07 (13.8 min - July ‘06) 14.6 min - June ‘07 Avg. Page Views per Visit: 17.3 - July ‘07 (24.9 - July ‘06) 16.9 - June ‘07 Total Visits: 12.6 M - July ‘07 (15.6 M - July ‘06) 11.6 M - June ‘07 Total Page Views: 218 M - July ‘07 (395 M - July ‘06) 197 M - June ‘07 REALTOR.org Unique Visitors: 725,223 - July ‘07 (671,461 - July ‘06) 757,015 - June ‘07 Avg. Minutes per Visit: 7.9 min - July ‘07 (7.9 min - July ‘06) 7.9 min - June ‘07 Avg. Page Views per Visit: 3.9 - July ‘07 (4.1 - July ‘06) 3.9 - June ‘07 Total Visits: 1,050,184 - July ‘07 (999,912 - July ‘06) 1,105,647 - June ‘07 Total Page Views: 4.1 M - July ‘07 (4.1 M - July ‘06) 4.3 M - June ‘07 REALTOR.com Stats Source: comScore Media Metrix (MM). REALTOR.org Stats Source: WebTrends logs, WebTrends Enterprise Edition. Reports 2/07 onward exclude NAR staff traffic.

September Statistics for the CT Shoreline and Lower CT River Valley

by Michael Marsden

The lazy vacation month of August surprised me as much as July’s report. The number of closings rose 17% when compared to August 2006 and we had a 37% increase in sales volume too! This trend is promising as when we looked at the first half of the year we were of 11% ahead in number of closings but we had a 5% loss in sales volume when compared to the previous year's first half.

 

When I keep hearing all the negative financial news regarding wall street, mortgages, and the like, I expect to see it reflected in our local numbers. We are lucky we are in an area of the country that is not as affected as those that seem to be driving the news. Too bad good news doesn't sell papers.

 

Anyway, good news for us here on the CT shoreline and lower CT river valley. The average sales price and median price of a home actually rose in 12 of the 23 markets we serve. Westbrook, Lyme, Salem, and Chester showed the sharpest rises in average sales price at about 20% on average, largely due to sales of newly constructed homes no doubt.

 

The absorption rate, the number of months that it would take to sell all existing inventory if nothing else came onto the market, or in other words, the amount of time one can expect to be on the market to sell a home is about 7.5 months. But every listing is its own special case. For instance, re-sale homes in move-in condition in good locations and priced smartly will sell quickly. New construction can expect to take all off that time unless its extremely desirable or unique. Those homes who are price too high and/or have deferred maintenance can expect to languish.

 

All of our markets but 1 showed that sellers got between 90 to 96% of asking price. Lyme was the only notable difference where sellers got only 85% asking price. As Lyme’s average listing price is over $1M its not surprising…there’s a lot of inventory there as well.

 

We’re finding that its still pretty easy to get someone into a great mortgage. Carl Bulgini of Fenwich Mortgage in Old Saybrook told me that conforming loans are still at great rates and it seems that jumbos are starting to settle down after the shake up. He has many creative ways to save our buyers and sellers money.

 

If the Federal Reserves steps up and lowers rates as expected, you can expect to see the market do even better in our area.

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