Rising Home Values and Other News
Home Prices Are Up Nationwide
With buyer demand boosted by historically low interest rates and housing inventory down sharply compared to a year ago, it's not surprising to see home prices finally moving upward. In April the national median price of an existing home rose to $177,400, a 10.1% increase over April 2011, according to a May report by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
Here's what prices looked like in different parts of the country:
Median Price Trends for Existing Homes in April 2012:
- West: Up 15.9% year-to-year. Median price = $221,700.
- Northeast: Up 8.8% year-to-year. Median price = $256,600.
- South: Up 8.0% year-to-year. Median price = $153,400.
- Midwest: Up 7.4% year-to-year. Median price = $141,400.
Market Share by Sale Type for Existing Homes in April 2012:
- All-Cash Sales: 29%. Down from 32% in March and 31% in April 2011.
- Distressed Home Sales: 28%. Down from 29% in March and 37% in April 2011.
- First-Time Buyers: 35%. Up from 33 percent in March, down from 36% in April 2011.
- Investors: 20%. Down from 21% in March, unchanged from April 2011.
In the distressed home category, 17% were foreclosures and 11% were short sales.
Property Type Price Trends for Existing Homes in April 2012:
- Single Family Homes: Median Price = $178,000, up 10.4% year-to-year.
- Condominiums: Median Price = $172,900, up 8.1% year-to-year.
While there are many variables affecting real estate prices at any given time, here are two big factors behind the trends we see today.
1. Lower inventory and higher demand.
Prices always reflect demand and supply. This year, in addition to the fact that there is significantly less housing inventory available, buyer interest has been strong due to extremely low interest rates (still hovering in the 3.8% range) and increased optimism about the housing market.
2. Fewer short sales and bank-owned homes for sale.
The 9% year-to-year drop in distressed home sales means that there were fewer heavily discounted listings to bring median price down in April. To give you an example of how distressed properties affect home price data, foreclosures in April sold for an average of 21% below market value, while short sales sold for an average of 14% below market value.
Short Sale Sellers May Have to Pay Tax on Forgiven Mortgage Debt Again
In a short sale, the lien holder often agrees to accept less than the amount owed on the home loan and "forgive" the difference between the amount owed and the amount paid. Until 2007 this forgiven debt was seen as income, and sellers had to pay tax on it.
The 2007 Mortgage Debt Relief Act changed this by allowing sellers to receive up to $2 million in forgiven debt tax-free. The act is set to expire at the end of 2012, however, and if it is not extended sellers will once again have to pay tax on forgiven debt.
Keep an eye on developments, and if you're considering a short sale, remember that closing before the end of 2012 might result in considerable tax savings.
June Introduces Streamlined Short Sales
New regulations are improving turnaround times for short sales.
Under new Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines effective June 1, loan servicers must:
- Review and respond to requests for short sales within 30 calendar days from receipt of a short sale offer and a complete borrower response package.
- Provide weekly status updates to the borrower if the short sale offer is still under review after 30 calendar days.
- Make and communicate final decisions to the borrower within 60 calendar days of receipt of the offer and the complete borrower response package.
Wondering if your home loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac? You can easily find out using their loan lookup tools:
Freddie Mac Loan Lookup Tool
New HAFA guidelines effective June 1:
: HAFA is the government's Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives program that provides short sale and deed-in-lieu of foreclosure options to certain eligible homeowners. The following changes are now in effect.
- The owner no longer needs to have occupied the property within the last 12 months.
- Up to $3,000 of relocation assistance may be offered to the person (owner or tenant) occupying the property at the time of the sale.
- The owner may remain current on the mortgage payments.
- Credit bureau coding will now be less harmful to the owner's credit rating than it was previously.
Some lenders are implementing short sale streamline procedures on their own. Bank of America announced in April that it would be responding to sellers with decisions on short sales within 20 days.
With short sales still making up over 10% of home sales these days, any reasonable measures that make them easier are a big step in the right direction.
Would you like more information about any of these topics, or price trend data for your local neighborhood? Please call or email me. I'll be happy to provide you with the latest updates.
(What the lawyers make us say: The information in this newsletter is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Please always consult a qualified expert before making decisions based on this content. Nothing in this article is meant to be taken as expert legal, financial, or medical advice.)