Real Estate News REcap: July 6

Housing Affordability is Up: The National Association of Realtors has reported that housing affordability is at it’s highest level since the 1970s, when such record-keeping started. The Housing Affordability Index measures the relationship between median home price, median family income, and average mortgage interest rates. As the index climbs higher, household purchasing power grows. An index of 100 is the place at which a household with median income is able to qualify for a purchase of a median-priced home; the index in January scored 206. Great news for buyers.

Vacation and Investor Purchases Grow: Rising to the highest level since 2005, vacation home and investor purchases are heating up the market. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that investment purchases rose over 64% last year from 2010 levels. Vacation home purchases rose 7% from 2010. I have definitely felt this to be true, as the majority of my sales in 2011 and again this year have been to investors and those purchasing second/third homes – it’s a great time to negotiate for these buyers.

Fixed Mortgage Rates Keep Falling: Fixed rates have continued to drop, according to a Freddie Mac survey, with a fall again this week for 30 year fixed rates, to 3.62% (compared to 4.60% this time last year). Similarly, 15 year fixed rates and 1 year ARMs also dropped. For more details click here.

California Homeowner Bill of Rights Closer to Approval: The California Homeowner Bill of Rights -which actually encompass two bills – passed by the State Assembly and Senate on Monday, and now go to the Governor for final approval.

The bills will address two main issues: (1) protection from foreclosure of homes while homeowners are working with their lenders on modifications (allowing them to stay in their homes), and (2) establishing a single point of contact with lenders for homeowners in their communications (so they are not passed around to numerous people while trying to work out their modifications – an act that would have a big impact on getting these modifications approved).

The bills will also prevent robo-signing by imposing fines on the lenders for filing any unverified documents, and will allow homeowners to sue before a foreclosure. Lenders of course have been fighting these laws and are against passage. The laws are expected to be passed and would take effect January 1.

California Officials to Use Eminent Domain to Help Restructure Underwater Mortgages: Eminent domain, the process by which the state can take your property for public use, is being considered in a new light in an attempt to help underwater borrowers. The plan would allow seizure of underwater mortgages at a low price, based on fair market value, and would then refinance them (to the homeowner) at a slightly higher amount. The venture capital firm that is financing the seizures would make a profit on the new mortgages, and homeowners would be allowed to participate if they were current on their mortgages. Homeowners would stay in their homes and have new mortgages based on current market values. It will be interesting to follow the path of this clever but controversial plan.

Photo courtesy of Dreamstime

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