articles on the market

With very few homes for sale, the market is EXTREMELY challenging

Everybody is frustrated.  Buyers write offer after offer after multiple instances where they did not have the “winning bid.”  Many wonder if they will ever be able to secure a home.  Frustrating. REALTORS® representing buyers have to work ten times harder than a normal, balanced market, showing every home that appears on the market, analyzing the data and writing offers that are one of 20 submitted.  Frustrating. REALTORS representing sel- lers have to keep their clients from getting too far ahead of themselves and grossly overpricing their homes.  Frustrating.

What is going on?  Quite simply demand, the number of homes placed into escrow in the past month, is about equal to the number of homes on the market. The chart below illustrates the issue.  When supply, the housing inventory, is much larger than demand, it takes a lot longer to sell a home.  As they get further apart, it becomes much easier to purchase.  Take a look back in mid-2007 when there were close to 18,000 homes on the market with demand at about 1,200 homes.  Buyers had their choice of homes and it there was no competition.  Last year at this time, the active inventory sat at 7,597 homes and demand was at 3,569.  The lines were much closer, but the difference was still 4,028 homes.  Today, the active listing inventory sits at 3,272 homes and demand is at 2,887, that is a difference of only 385 homes. The last time this occurred in Orange County dates back to 2005.

Demand is much less today than back in 2005 when there were 4,549 pending sales in a month.  But, back then there were 5,146 homes on the market, a lot more than today.  Since demand is based upon the number of recent escrows, it is currently heavily muted because there are simply not enough homes that have entered the fray.  If there was a surge in the inventory tomorrow, there would be a surge in demand as well. There are throngs of buyers waiting in the wings for a fresh supply of homes.

This market will remain extremely frustrating until the supply of homes increases.  It appears as if that is not going to happen soon and the tight inventory will remain a major issue in 2013 and a stumbling block for many buyers to successfully purchase.  The tight inventory will also encourage homeowners to place their homes on the market and aggressively pursue the market by pricing their homes well above the last comparable pending or closed sale.  Unfortunately, many will drastically overprice their homes and they will sit on the market and procure no offers.  Buyers are willing to pay more for a home, but are not willing to absurdly overpay. 

Pricing a home is a delicate balancing act that requires a homeowner to carefully analyze the local market and the rate of appreciation.  Remember, homes may increase in value by as much as 10% in a year, but not in a month.  Carefully selecting a REALTOR® is a must.  Finding one that knows the local data and market dynamics is essential to success.  Hiring somebody solely based upon a projected sales price is foolish.  Instead, look for somebody that understands the market the best and has a strong command of the data.

Active Inventory:  The inventory remained the same.

The inventory started the year at the lowest level since tracking the active listing inventory back in 2004.  Since then the inventory has only added an additional 111 homes.  In the past two weeks it actually dropped by 4 homes and now sits at 3,272 homes.  The inventory sits at an unprecedented anemic level.  For proper perspective, just ask any buyer who has seen the few available homes and written several offers to no avail.  They will tell you how they are watching the market like a hawk, ready to pounce on the next home that hits the market that closely matches their parameters.  The only problem, when there are this few homes, too many other buyers are doing the same thing. 
So far this year, there have been 17% fewer homes placed on the market compared to last year, which represents 918 homes.  The buyer masses waiting in the wings would appreciate an additional 900-plus homes on the market.  The anemic levels are here to stay for the foreseeable future.  Last year at this time there were 7,597 homes on the market, 4,325 more than today.

Demand:  Demand continued to rise.

In the past two weeks, despite very few homes entering the market, demand increased by 11%, or 291 pending sales, and now totals 2,887.  It has grown by 33% in the past month, or 715 pending sales.  Compared to last year at this time, there are 682 fewer pending sales today.  In 2012, the market was sizzling forward at a breathtaking speed, fueled by a much larger inventory.  Today’s demand is strongly dependent on the inventory.  As soon as the inventory increases, demand will increase.  Until then, you can expect continued, subdued, muted demand.

The Distressed Market: The distressed inventory dropped by 11 homes, a 3% drop.

The distressed inventory continues to drop, shedding an additional 11 homes, which amazingly represents 3% of all foreclosures and shorts sales on the market.  There are 339 distressed homes within the active listing inventory, just 10% of the total active listing inventory.  There have not been this few distressed listings since April 2007, nearly six years ago. 

In the past two weeks, the foreclosure inventory increased by 24 homes, totaling 117, and has an expected market time of 25 days. The short sale inventory decreased by 35 homes in the past two weeks, totaling 222, and has an expected market time of 11 days.  Short sales continue to be the hottest segment of the Orange County housing market today.

Removing PMI Insurance from your monthly mortgage payment

If you or anyone you know has a loan that has Private Mortgage Insurance attached it can be removed.  This additional cost applies when a home is purchased with less than 20% down.  To remove PMI:

  1. Once you’ve made enough payments to boost your equity to 20% of the original purchase price, you can ask your lender to cancel PMI.  By law, the lender must cancel PMI at this point as long as you have a history of on-time payments.  You can establish that the property value has not declined and there is not a subordinate lien — such as a home equity loan — on the property.
  2. If you can’t get PMI removed at the 20% level, it gets easier once you reach 22% equity (based on the original purchase price).  At that point, the lender must automatically cancel PMI as long as you are current on your payments.  For certain loans defined as “high risk” by the lender, you must wait until you reach 23% equity.

Loans by FHA and VA don’t apply this rule.  Any problems with a lender contact the Federal Trade Commission or our State Attorney General.

Good News for Short Sale Sellers… and How the Fiscall Cliff provisions affect you, your home and your taxes

On January 1 both the Senate and House passed H.R. 8, legislation to avert the “fiscal cliff.” The bill will be signed shortly by President Barack Obama. Below are a summary of real estate related provisions in the bill:

REAL ESTATE EXTENDERS:

  • Mortgage Cancellation Relief is extended for one year to January 1, 2014 (This is huge.  Many of you toward the end of the year did not consider “short sale”ing your home to reduce your financial burdons because you were concerned about income tax consequences.  Please talk to your tax advisor to have him firm that the coast is clear until the end of 2013.  With an abundance of buyers on the market, I can help you set up a quick and virtually seamless short sale transaction that retains privacy and peace of mind.)
  • Deduction for Mortgage Insurance Premiums for filers making below $110,000 is extended through 2013 and made retroactive to cover 2012
  • Leasehold Improvements: 15 year straight-line cost recovery for qualified leasehold improvements on commercial properties is extended through 2013 and made retroactive to cover 2012.
  • Energy Efficiency Tax Credit: The 10% tax credit (up to $500) for homeowners for energy improvements to existing homes is extended through 2013 and made retroactive to cover 2012.

Permanent Repeal of Pease Limitations for 99% of Taxpayers
Under the agreement so called “Pease Limitations” that reduce the value of itemized deductions are permanently repealed for most taxpayers but will be reinstituted for high income filers. These limitations will only apply to individuals earning more than $250,000 and joint filers earning above $300,000. These thresholds have been increased and are indexed for inflation and will rise over time. Under the formula, the amount of adjusted gross income above the threshold is multiplied by 3%. That amount is then used to reduce the total value of the filer’s itemized deductions. The total amount of reduction cannot exceed 80% of the filer’s itemized deductions.

These limits were first enacted in 1990 (named for the Ohio Congressman Don Pease who came up with the idea) and continued throughout the Clinton years. They were gradually phased out as a result of the 2001 tax cuts and were completely eliminated in 2010-2012. Had we gone over the fiscal cliff, Pease limitations would have been reinstituted on all filers starting at $174,450 of adjusted gross income.

Capital Gains

Capital Gains rate stays at 15% for those the top rate of $400,000 individual and $450,000 joint return. After that, any gains above those amounts will be taxed at 20%. The 250/500k exclusion for sale of principle residence remains in place.  (Chances are you fall into the 15% category, so if you need to sell an investment property this year, the extra 5% capital gains tax won’t affect you.)

Estate Tax
The first $5 million dollars in individual estates and $10 million for family estates are now exempted from the estate tax. After that the rate will be 40 percent, up from 35 percent. The exemption amounts are indexed for inflation.

NEWS FLASH – We may be losing our Mortgage Interest Deduction – Please Help!

Call your member of congress today to protect the mortgage interest deduction
Congress, as part of negotiations on avoiding the “Fiscal Cliff,” has made direct references to “closing loopholes” and “limiting deductions” as a way to raise revenues. Clearly, the mortgage interest deduction is high on this list of revenue raisers.

Losing the mortgage interest deduction will disproportionately affect the middle class because a larger proportion of the middle class takes the deduction. In California 89% of those who took the mortgage interest deduction earned less than $200,000. Losing the deduction would cost the average California taxpayer over $3,900 (Way more than this in Orange County).

What you can do to help:

Call Congress. First and foremost, I am urging my friends and clients to call Congress @202-224-3121. The Capitol switchboard operator will help callers identify their member of Congress and connect them. The hours are Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., Eastern Time.

Get the word out. Many people seem to be blissfully unaware that their mortgage interest deduction is in danger. Please do the following to make sure that the message spreads.

  1. Forward this message to your family, friends, and clients.
  2. Post this information on your personal and office websites and blogs.
  1. Share this information on Facebook and urge others to share it as well.
  2. Tweet about it on Twitter and urge others to retweet. Use the hashtag: #keepthemid.
  3. Link to the following web page: www.KeepTheMID.com.  This site has information about contacting Congress, more information on the MID, and links to articles.
  4. As you see new information and articles, share these on all your social networking sites.

This affects all present and future homeowners.  Your call to your Congress member is invaluable.

Housing demand in Orange County is so low that it cannot be measured

This is a continuation of yesterday’s piece on the status of the market.  The active listing inventory is muted this year because many homeowners are still underwater.  They may have good credit and a stable job, but they do not have the cash necessary to close because they are currently too far underwater.  Also, many homeowners are now sitting on the fence while they recoup their equity.  Everybody is familiar with the term “buy low, sell high.”  It appears as if the bottom of the market was reached last February and now buyers are flooding the market attempting to “buy low.”  Homeowners know it is a low, so they want to wait.  They don’t want to “sell low.”

 DemandThe lack of inventory is cutting into demand.

As discussed above, true demand is much higher than demand based upon the number of new pending sales over the prior month.  In the past two weeks, demand dropped by 470 pending sales, a 16% drop, and now totals 2,543.  Based upon the word on the street, buyers are scrambling around at anything and everything that is placed on the market right now, but there just is not enough coming on the market.  And, that will remain the case throughout the holiday market, which does not end until the second half of January, right after everybody gives up on their New Year’s resolutions.  Buyers are in a rush to buy, but homeowners are not in a rush to sell.  Instead, they are going to enjoy the holidays with the knowledge that as their homes are slowly appreciating.  Last year at this time there were 46 additional pending sales, a 2% difference.  But, there were 8,905 active listings for buyers to choose from. 

The Distressed Market: The distressed inventory dropped by only 16 homes, but that is still a 4% drop.

For buyers looking for a “deal” and looking closely at the distressed inventory, the pickings are slim.  There are only 434 total short sales and foreclosures on the market today.  Distressed homes make up only 12% of the active inventory and 34% of demand.  Last year at this time there were 3,357 distressed homes on the market, 38% of the active listing inventory and 57% of demand, much different than today.  In the past two weeks, the foreclosure inventory decreased by 12 homes, totaling 110, and has an expected market time of 18 days. The short sale inventory decreased by only 4 homes in the past two weeks and now totals 324.  The expected market time is only 14 days and continues to be one of the hottest segments of the housing market.  Both 110 active foreclosures and 324 active short sales are new lows for the year and levels not seen since the beginning of all of the distressed activity back in 2007.

Not enough homes are placed on the market to adequately satisfy the throngs

 If you have been communicating or working with me this year, the words below (written by my partner, Steven) will match up with what we have been experiencing together.  Tomorrow I will touch more on active inventory, demand and the distressed market.

Active InventoryThe current inventory is simply unprecedented.

It is extremely difficult to articulate just how low the current active inventory is today.  3,482 homes on the market is absurd.  That’s correct, the inventory dropped below 3,500 homes after shedding an additional 52 homes in the past two weeks.  That’s only a 1% drop and the lowest drop since the beginning of August. This really could be the end of the unabated 18 month plunge in the active listing inventory.  There will eventually be an end to the drop and a new low will be established.  It almost seems impossible for the plummet to continue at this point.  It was surprising when it dropped below 4,912 homes in August, the prior record low level reached in early 2005.  Yet, it managed to drop by an additional 1,430 homes.  Last year at this time there were 8,905 homes on the market.  That’s 5,423 more than today.

REALTORS® from the trenches are reporting staggering open house attendance. They are getting as many as 75 buyers attending an open house in December. Remember, this is the Holiday Market, when buyers are typically diverting their attention away from their pursuit of their next home while they focus on Yule tide traditions.  Not this year.  Buyers are soaking up just about everything that is being placed on the market. 

 Even though we are in the midst of the holidays, multiple offers are still the norm, and so are offers above the list price.  Homes are truly appreciating based upon what buyers are willing to pay.  Many buyers put off purchasing a home earlier in the year anticipating now being a great time to buy.  That may be the case with a normal inventory, but the current inventory is far from normal.  Those buyers are waiting in line along with the multitude of buyers who have been unsuccessful in their pursuit thus far.

 Homes simply are not coming on the market this year compared to every other year in the past decade.  There are 16% more homes placed on the market in 2011 versus 2012.  In real terms, that’s 460 additional homes coming onto the Orange County housing market every single month.  Just prior to the housing turn, in 2005 there were 53% more homes placed on the market than today.  That’s 1,581 additional homes every single month. 

This chart illustrates just how anemic the inventory has been this year.I track demand based upon the number of new pending sales over the past month.  With the overwhelming number of buyers actively looking today but unable to purchase due to an unprecedented lack of inventory, true demand is much higher than what I am able to track through the Multiple Listing Service.  Quite simply, if a normal flow of homes were placed on the market, there would be a lot more pending sales each and every month this year. 

So, even though it is the Christmas Season, this is a great time to put your home on the market.  Your decorated and cozy home will attract buyers, and if marketed to its fullest extent will bring multiple offers and sales prices that will just make your year!

The hottest segment of the Orange County housing market is also plagued by ridiculous pricing

Short Sale PricingThe expected market time for short sales is down to 13 days.

Buyers are still climbing into the cars of REALTORS® for the first time with high hopes of getting a “deal.”  As they experience the caravan of cars touring the few homes that pop onto the market in a given week and have to wait at the door of a home to allow the buyer in front of them to finish looking around, buyers are quickly brought up to speed: they are NOT in charge.  It is no longer a buyer’s market, quite the opposite.  Unbelievable competition, multiple offers, offers at or above the asking price, this is the new Orange County housing market reality, a seller’s market. 

Only 6% of all home sales in September were foreclosures, lows not seen since the beginning of the onslaught of foreclosed homes back in 2007.  The number of foreclosures coming on the market is dwindling.  Currently there are only 138 on the active market today.  There just are not enough foreclosures to go around.  For September, the average foreclosure sold for 2% above the asking price.  Below $500,000, the average sold 3% above the list price.  This segment of the housing market is as hot as molten lava.

It is no wonder that buyers looking for a “deal” have veered their attention to short sales.  Even though the short sale process still can take months before closing, there is no other segment of the housing market to find a deal, given the anemic inventory level and pent up buyer demand. There are only 425 short sales on the active market today.  The short sale inventory has been dropping like a rock, faster than any other segment of the OC housing market.  It has dropped 43% since July compared to 23% for the market as a whole and 25% for foreclosures.

For September, short sales, on average, sold 2% below their asking price for all price ranges and at a 1% reduction for homes priced below $500,000.  Incredibly, the expected market time for short sales is a mere 13 days.  Comparatively, the foreclosure inventory is at 21 days and the entire market is at 39 days.  Short sales are the hottest segment of the Orange County housing market.

Given that there are barely 425 on the market and 969 new pending sales within the last month, buyers are tripping over each other in lining up to buy them.  When supply is low and demand is high, these homes should be selling for very close to their market value and should not be subject to major discounting.  It does not matter that short sales take an unknown lengthy amount of time to close due to lender approval requirements and the complexity in closing them.  There simply are not enough short sales to satiate the ferocious appetite of buyers eager to be the winning bidder of a home.

If short sales are the hottest segment, then why are they selling below their asking price?  Short sales are selling for less than their asking prices because sellers are not emotionally tied to the price.  A seller with equity cares about every dollar that they walk away with; whereas, the short sale seller is attempting to market their home for less than what is owed.  They are not going to hold out for an additional $5,000 when they are still going to walk away with nothing.  On the other hand, an additional $5,000 to the homeowner with equity is an extra $5,000 in their bank account.  The short sale seller is not motivated by the amount of money they will net; they are motivated to get out from under their upside down home.

Memo to all short sale sellers:  do the housing market a big favor in helping it heal faster, price your home according to the fair market value.  In the end, you will still achieve your objective in selling, but you will also help your neighbors in strengthening the value of their homes as well.

 Many REALTORS® used to price a short sale listing below the market value, knowing that the chance of the initial buyer sticking with the long process was slim.  It would then require a new buyer to enter the fray several months down the road.  When values were dropping, if they submitted too high of a value initially, inserting a new buyer at that higher value months later proved to be impossible.  The banks expected a similarly priced offer to be resubmitted, an impossible fete given that values had dropped during the lengthy process.  To circumvent not being able to sell down the road, short sales were often sold well below their market value to insure successfully closing even with a replacement buyer.

As values are now rising and demand is scorching hot, it is time to sell short sales very close to their fair market value and be a part of the housing market recovery.  Neighborhoods are counting on short sale homes to do the right thing.

Home values rise for first time in 5 years


Here’s a great CNN article I just read that does a good job spelling out what is happening in the market. Home prices hit a bottom and are finally bouncing back, according to an industry report released Tuesday. Nationwide, home values rose 0.2% year-over-year to a median $149,300 during the second quarter…

Click here to read full article

Fun Fall Events coming up in Lake Forest

The new Fall Leisure Times is out!  If you are one of my Lake Forest homeowners, please check your mailboxes for this handy program guide. The new brochure includes info on new classes, fun fall events and all City recreation programs. After seeing all that Lake Forest has to offer, you may want to give me a call (if you don’t already live here) and I will help you buy a home in Lake Forest.

To view the new Leisure Times online, please click here.

Fall registration will begin on Tuesday, August 14 for all Lake Forest residents. (Non-residents can register beginning Tuesday, August 21.) Be sure to sign up for all of your favorites before they fill up

Haunt at Heritage Hill

Friday, October 19 – Dare to be scared! – Join us for our 5th Annual “Friday Night Fright”, this year from 6 to 10:30 pm. Teens 12 years and older, as well as adults, will enjoy a truly haunted adventure featuring Sleepy Hollow Scare Zone, Fright Maze, Haunted School House, and a viewing of the classic movie “Frankenstein.” Sara Karloff, daughter of Boris Karloff, will be at the event to meet her dad’s fans and give them inside info on this legendary actor. Admission is $5 per person. For the most current info on the Haunt, check out facebook.com/LFhaunt.

Autumn Harvest Festival

Saturday, October 20 – We invite you to our annual Autumn Harvest Festival, to be held again this year from 4 to 9 pm at Heritage Hill Historical Park (25151 Serrano Rd). Kids love this opportunity to show off their costumes and trick-or-treat in a safe, fun environment. We will have a glow party, Princess Pumpkin Patch, Pirate Adventure Maze, costume parade, and so much more. Admission is $4/adults, $3/children 12 and under. Certain attractions and games are an additional fee. For more info, call Community Services at (949) 461-3450.

20th Anniversary Celebration Party

Saturday, September 15 – Come and celebrate our 20th year of Cityhood as we dine and dance under the stars! This special event will be held at Oakley Headquarters (1 Icon in Lake Forest). The celebration will begin with cocktails at 6:30 pm, followed by dinner at 8 pm. Attendees must be 21 and older. Fee for this event is $50 per person and pre-registration is mandatory. (Limit of 4 tickets per person.) To register for this event, please visit our online registration site beginning Tuesday, August 14 at 8 am. Walk-in and mail-in registration is also acceptable. For all the details, see page 4 in the new Fall Leisure Times brochure. For more info, call Community Services at (949) 461-3450.

Hallow’s Eve Bowl Jam at Etnies Skatepark of Lake Forest

Friday, October 26 – This awesome Bowl event returns for its 9th year and is sure to be the best yet! It is consistently a favorite for crowds and skaters alike. Participation is open to all ages. The $20 registration fee includes a contest t-shirt. Registration takes place the day of the event beginning at 3 pm. The event begins at 4 and ends at 10 pm. For more info call the Skatepark at (949) 916-5870 or visit EtniesSkatepark.com.

NEW Teen Music Festival

Saturday, November 3 – This brand new event, to be held from 6 to 10 pm, will allow aspiring teen musicians to showcase their talents at Etnies Skatepark of Lake Forest (20028 Lake Forest Dr). Opportunity prizes will be given, food will be available, and art will be on display during the entire evening. Entry fee is $5 per person (band entries are free). For more info, please call (949) 461-3446 or email charris@lakeforestca.gov.

Weekly Mortgage Watch

Significant amounts of very important economic data are due this week, along with a meeting of the Federal Reserve. Mortgage rates have the potential to fluctuate, in either direction, during the course of this week. Few are expecting the Federal Reserve to make any announcement regarding any new policy direction. Most analysts are expecting the Fed to take a wait-and-see position following the recent extension of Operation Twist. If the Fed does announce a new policy, mortgage rates could be driven downward. Economic data will also influence rates this week. A few experts are expecting a bit of an economic bounce. If the data shows a measurable improvement, then rates could climb…  To read the full story and see today’s interest rates, click the link below: http://ftemerson.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/weekly-mortgage-watch-85/wmw-7-15-12/