Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Buying Advice: What questions should you ask at the open house? (conclusion)

June Buying Advice (© Corbis)Home-sales update
Existing-home sales dipped 0.8% in April from the previous month and 12.9% from the previous year, when the homebuyer tax credit was in effect, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. The national median home price declined 5% from last April to $163,700. Tight credit and low appraisals are putting the brakes on many home purchases.
Although sales are clearly up from the cyclical lows of last summer, home sales are being held back 25% to 20% due to the very restrictive loan-underwriting standards.
Moreover, distressed homes, which trade at double-digit discounts to traditional listings,  are still weighing heavily on the market. Distressed homes made up 37% of sales in April, down from 40% in March, but well above the 33% posted at the same time last year.
Investors are the most excited about the still-floundering market. All-cash deals accounted for 31% of transactions in April, down from a record 35% in March.
Mortgage rates drop
The one bright spot for buyers is that mortgage rates continue to drop, increasing affordability. Fixed-rate mortgages declined for the fifth straight week, as of May 19, Freddie Mac said in its Primary Mortgage Market Survey, with a 30-year fixed averaging 4.61% and the 15-year averaging 3.8%.
Economists versus consumers: The outlook
Just don't look for that investment to appreciate in value immediately. Economists don't predict a return to home-price gains until early to mid 2012.
Fannie Mae, for one, expects the median home price to decline 6% in the second quarter of this year from the same time in 2010, with those losses slowly tapering off this year, until the market hits bottom in the first quarter of 2012.
Analysts at J.P. Morgan expect an additional 6% decline in prices from where the market stands today.
But perhaps most bearish are consumers themselves.
In a joint housing survey conducted by Trulia and RealtyTrac, released in mid-May, 54% of those polled said they don't expect the housing market to recover until 2014 or beyond. Twenty-four percent expect a recovery in 2013.
It's clear that despite low prices, low interest rates and improving job numbers, consumer attitudes have yet to rebound in a way that will really push the needle up on home sales.
In spite of the positives surrounding the housing market, we see that consumers are still hesitant to take on a large financial obligation.
Still, home sales are expected to rise some this year, as the economy gets on surer footing.
And for many, it might begin to make more sense to buy. According to Trulia's most recent data, it is now more affordable to buy a home than rent a similar home in 78% of major U.S. cities.

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