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US home sales shoot up to 10-year high

US home sales shoot up to 10-year high

US home sales shoot up to 10-year high

April 24, 2017/WASHINGTON (AP)(stlrealestate.news) — Americans purchased homes in March at the fastest pace in over a decade, a strong start to the traditional spring buying season.

Sales of existing homes climbed 4.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.71 million, the National Association of Realtors said Friday. This was the fastest sales rate since February 2007.

The U.S. housing market faces something of a split personality: A stable economy has intensified demand from would-be buyers, but the number of properties listed for sale has been steadily fading. The result of this trend is prices rising faster than incomes, homes staying on the market for fewer days and a limit on just how much home sales can grow. It’s a situation that rewards would-be buyers who can act quickly and decisively.

“The pace of sales we saw in March is unsustainable,” said Nela Richardson, chief economist at the brokerage Redfin. “Sales may be soaring, but inventory isn’t.”

The inventory shortage largely reflects the legacy of a housing bubble that began to burst a decade ago.

Foreclosed properties were snapped up by investors who turned the homes into income-generating rentals, depriving the market of supply. And many owners who escaped the downturn unharmed chose to refinance their mortgages at extremely low rates, possibly making them hesitant to move to a new house that could increase their monthly costs.

This mismatch between supply and demand can be seen in two simple figures tracked by the Realtors.

Sales have risen 5.9 percent over the past year, but the inventory of homes for sale has fallen 6.6 percent to 1.83 million properties. This means there are essentially more buyers chasing fewer properties.

The consequences can be seen in home values and days on the market. The median sales price in March climbed 6.8 percent over the past year to $236,400, significantly outpacing wage growth. And it took an average of 34 days to complete a sale, compared to 47 days a year ago.

In March, sales rose in the Northeast, Midwest and South but declined in the West.

It’s possible that more Americans are devoting their incomes to housing as retail sales have struggled in recent months, said Jennifer Lee, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.

“Although spending on doo-dads may have slowed, perhaps more of their funds are being directed towards housing,” Lee said.

Demand might increase further as mortgage rates began to dip in recent weeks.

Home loan costs had been climbing after President Donald Trump won the November election, under the belief that the government would engage in forms of stimulus such as tax cuts and greater deficits that could cause higher levels of inflation. But major initiatives such as tax reform have stalled in recent weeks as the administration has yet to put forward a proposal, prompting more doubts as to when and whether any stimulus might arrive.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average interest rate on 30-year fixed-rate home loans declined to 3.97 percent this week from 4.08 percent last week. The average is now at its lowest level in five months.

JOSH BOAK, AP Economics Writer

US home sales shoot up to 10-year high

US home sales shoot up to 10-year high

WASHINGTON/April 21, 2017 (AP) (stlrealestate.news) — Americans purchased homes in March at the fastest pace in over a decade, a strong start to the traditional spring buying season.

Sales of existing homes climbed 4.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.71 million, the National Association of Realtors said Friday. This was the fastest sales rate since February 2007.

The U.S. housing market faces something of a split personality: A stable economy has intensified demand from would-be buyers, but the number of properties listed for sale has been steadily fading. The result of this trend is prices rising faster than incomes, homes staying on the market for fewer days and a limit on just how much home sales can grow. It’s a situation that rewards would-be buyers who can act quickly and decisively.

The inventory shortage largely reflects the legacy of a housing bubble that began to burst a decade ago.

Foreclosed properties were snapped up by investors who turned the homes into income-generating rentals, depriving the market of supply. And many owners who escaped the downturn unharmed chose to refinance their mortgages at extremely low rates, possibly making them hesitant to move to a new house that could increase their monthly costs.

This mismatch between supply and demand can be seen in two simple figures tracked by the Realtors.

Sales have risen 5.9 percent over the past year, but the inventory of homes for sale has fallen 6.6 percent to 1.83 million properties. This means there are essentially more buyers chasing fewer properties.

The consequences can be seen in home values and days on the market. The median sales price in March climbed 6.8 percent over the past year to $236,400, significantly outpacing wage growth. And it took an average of 34 days to complete a sale, compared to 47 days a year ago.

In March, sales rose in the Northeast, Midwest and South but declined in the West.

Demand might increase further as mortgage rates began to dip in recent weeks.

Home loan costs had been climbing after President Donald Trump won the November election, under the belief that the government would engage in forms of stimulus such as tax cuts and greater deficits that could cause higher levels of inflation. But major initiatives such as tax reform have stalled in recent weeks as the administration has yet to put forward a proposal, prompting more doubts as to when and whether any stimulus might arrive.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average interest rate on 30-year fixed-rate home loans declined to 3.97 percent this week from 4.08 percent last week. The average is now at its lowest level in five months.

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JOSH BOAK, AP Economics Writer

Regulators list many mortgage errors at Ocwen Financial

Regulators list many mortgage errors at Ocwen Financial

April 21, 2017 /(AP)(stlrealestate.news) Federal and state regulators say Ocwen Financial — one of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders that is not a bank — made numerous errors in the mortgages it serviced.

Ocwen disputes the allegations by the Consumer Financial Protection Board and calls them “politically motivated.”

Regulators cited items including that the company:

Relied on error-prone software to process and apply mortgage payments and maintain loan balance information, and instead of fixing the software used manual workarounds that generated more errors.

— Illegally foreclosed on at least 1,000 people. In those cases, they said, Ocwen sometimes foreclosed before reviewing borrowers’ applications for loss mitigation. In some cases, Ocwen requested more information from borrowers, but foreclosed before the deadline.

— Failed to properly credit numerous borrowers’ loan payments and failed to send accurate statements.

— Mismanaged escrow accounts for more than 75 percent of the 1.4 million loans it services. They said Ocwen failed to properly analyze some accounts because of its reliance on manually entering information.

— Failed to make timely home insurance payments that led to lapses in coverage for more than 10,000 borrowers.

— Neglected to properly investigate and respond to complaints about errors. Since April 2015, Ocwen received more than 580,000 complaints from over 300,000 different borrowers.

— Overcharged consumers roughly $1.2 million because Ocwen failed to cancel borrowers’ private mortgage insurance in a timely manner once the balance on their mortgages reached 78 percent of the property’s original value.

Real estate broker gets jail time for forging verdict slip

Real estate broker gets jail time for forging verdict slip

BOSTON/April 20, 2017 (AP) (stlrealestate.news) — A Boston real estate broker has been sentenced to a year in jail for tampering with a jury verdict slip from his earlier larceny conviction.

David Scher was sentenced Tuesday in Suffolk Superior Court.

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley’s office said the 34-year-old Scher pleaded guilty to several charges, including perjury, forgery and tampering with a court document.

Scher was convicted of larceny in 2014 for stealing a laptop from Suffolk University Law School, where he had been a student. Prosecutors said he later replaced the verdict slip in his case file with a forgery that said “not guilty.”

Scher was sentenced to 2½ years in jail, with one year to serve and the balance suspended for a two-year probationary period.

His lawyer did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

New Mexico housing market on pace for record year

New Mexico housing market on pace for record year

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M./April 20, 2017 (AP)(stlrealestate.news) — Real estate agents say 2017 could be a record-setting year for New Mexico’s housing market.

The Realtors Association of New Mexico reports that 1,760 properties were sold in March, representing an increase of more than 6 percent over the same period last year.

The figures also show that 19 counties across the state reported an increase in sales for the first quarter over the first three months of 2016.

Association officials say inventory is still tight in many areas and homes that are priced right are going quickly and sometimes getting multiple offers. Median prices are also on the rise, up 4 percent statewide from last year at this time.

The group says property sales contributed over $1 billion to New Mexico’s economy during the first quarter.

US housing starts fell in March; still stronger than in 2016

US housing starts fell in March; still stronger than in 2016

WASHINGTON/April 19, 2017 (AP)(STLRealEstate.News) — U.S. builders broke ground on fewer homes in March, but the pace of construction so far this year remains stronger than in 2016.

Housing starts fell 6.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.22 million, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. The setback came after strong gains in a warmer-than-usual February. Groundbreakings on new homes are still 8.1 percent higher through the first three months of this year compared with 2016.

More Americans are seeking homes as job security has improved with low unemployment. But even with a wave of construction, a dwindling supply of new and existing homes across much of the country has threatened to become a major drag on the housing market.

Jennifer Lee, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, suggested that the March decline was likely temporary.

“Is it the start of a trend? Likely not, given the strong demand for housing and the low levels of inventory to choose from,” Lee said.

Despite a winter storm last month, housing starts increased in the Northeast largely because of apartment construction. The pace of groundbreakings tumbled in the Midwest, South and West.

The March decline was likely due in part to an unseasonably temperate January and February, which allowed builders to begin construction earlier.

“Much warmer-than-usual weather in the first two months of the year pulled starts forward into those months, and March — with more normal temperatures — saw the payback with declines in both single- and multifamily construction,” said David Berson, chief economist at Nationwide Mutual Insurance.

During the first three months of this year, construction of buildings with at least five units — mainly apartment complexes — has climbed 14.1 percent. Single-family housing starts have risen 5.9 percent.

More properties will likely begin construction in the coming months. Building permits, an indicator of future construction, rose 3.6 percent in March to an annual rate of 1.26 million.

U.S. homebuilders expect rising sales, though they have become somewhat less optimistic. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Monday dipped to 68 this month from 71 in March. Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as favorable rather than poor. The index has been above 60 since September.

But strengthening demand and builder sentiment have yet to generate enough construction to sufficiently boost the availability of homes. That trend could temper sales growth and weaken affordability, in part because the shortage of homes has pushed up prices.

There were 266,000 new homes for sale last month, up nearly 10 percent from a year earlier. But sales of new homes rose 13 percent over the past year.

Purchases of existing homes have also increased. Yet sales listings of existing homes dropped 6.4 percent over the past year to 1.75 million properties in February, a figure only slightly higher than in January when listings were at an all-time low.

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JOSH BOAK, AP Economics Writer

Drove for Uber? Rented out your home? Here are some tax tips

Drove for Uber? Rented out your home? Here are some tax tips

NEW YORK/April 17, 2017 (AP)(STLRealEstate.News) — If you’re driving for Uber or renting out a room through Airbnb to make some extra cash, don’t forget — you likely need to pay taxes on what you earned, even if it’s a part-time gig.

Unlike full-time jobs, where taxes are automatically withheld from every paycheck, it’s usually up to freelance workers to keep records and put aside money to eventually pay the IRS.  And since the IRS considers on-demand workers to be self-employed, it also helps to keep track of expenses that can help reduce your tax bill.

Here are some tax tips for those working as part of the on-demand economy:

NO FORMS DOESN’T MEAN NO TAXES

You may not receive a form at the end of the year listing everything you earned.  That doesn’t mean you can skip paying taxes.  You may owe the government on what you earned and could get in trouble if you don’t pay.

Those earning money through on-demand apps such as Uber or Lyft need to report the income on a Schedule C form, says Fred Slater, a certified public accountant and principal at MS 1040 LLC in New York.  And if you used Airbnb or other home-renting sites to bring in income, use Schedule E.

Any money you made is easily traceable since transactions take place online.  “You’d be nuts not to report it,” Slater says.

PAY TAXES EVERY QUARTER

Typically, you’ll need to pay taxes every three months throughout the year.  Making those payments can prevent you from having to send one big sum to the IRS at the end of the year.  Known as estimated tax payments, they’re due on April 15, June 15, Sept. 15 and Jan. 15.  The IRS website has more information on estimated taxes and how to figure out how much you need to pay.  It’s at https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/estimated-taxes.

If you have a separate full-time job that already deducts taxes out of your paycheck, the IRS says you can ask your employer to increase your tax withholdings to also cover on-demand gigs.  You would need to give your employer a W-4 form and indicate how much more to withhold, according to the IRS.

KEEP TRACK OF EXPENSES

Much of what you spend for on-demand work can be used to reduce your tax bill.  If you’re driving your car for Uber or Lyft, for example, car washes, fuel costs and auto repairs can be deductible, says Frederick Towles, an accountant at The Towles Group Inc. in Uniondale, New York.  But you’ll need to keep records of what you spend throughout the year.  And also keep track of the miles you drive getting to a customer and during the ride, says Towles.  Mileage tax deductions for businesses were worth 54 cents per mile driven in 2016, according to the IRS.

RENTING YOUR HOME

You don’t need to pay taxes if you rented out your house for less than two weeks.  But you will owe them if you rented it out for 15 days or more throughout the year.  You may be able to deduct some expenses to lower your tax bill, such as mortgage interest, repairs or utilities used while it was rented out, so make sure keep track of those payments.

MORE HELP ONLINE

Last year, the IRS posted a tax guide for on-demand workers with links to forms, calculators and videos.  Find it at: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/sharing-economy-tax-center .

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JOSEPH PISANI, AP Business Writer

Average 30-year mortgage rate falls to 2017 low of 4.08 pct

Average 30-year mortgage rate falls to 2017 low of 4.08 pct

30-Year Mortgage Rate Falls

WASHINGTON/April 13, 2017 (AP)(STLRealEstate.News) Mortgage Rate — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell for a fourth straight week, with the benchmark 30-year rate marking a new low for the year.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the rate on 30-year fixed-rate home loans declined to 4.08 percent this week from 4.10 percent last week. That brought the rate under its previous 2017 low of 4.09 percent reached on Jan. 19. The 30-year rate stood at 3.58 percent a year ago and averaged 3.65 percent in 2016, the lowest level in records dating to 1971.

The rate on 15-year mortgages eased to 3.34 percent from 3.36 percent last week.

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Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Contracts to buy US homes hit highest level since April

Contracts to buy US homes hit highest level since April

WASHINGTON/April 2, 2017 (AP)(STLRealEstate.News) — More people signed contracts to buy U.S. homes last month as warm weather and rising confidence appeared to encourage consumers to look for houses.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that its pending home sales index climbed 5.5 percent in February to 112.3, its highest point since April and its second-highest point since 2006.

Lawrence Yun, the Realtors’ chief economist, suggested that a rising stock market had helped bolster confidence. “Last month being the warmest February in decades also played a role in kick-starting prospective buyers’ house hunt,” Yun said.

In addition, rising prices may have nudged some people into making offers for homes now out of fear of having to pay more if they wait.

The NAR’s index of pending home sales rose 11.4 percent in the Midwest, 4.3 percent in the South, 3.4 percent in the Northeast and 3.1 percent in the West.

The U.S. housing market is looking strong despite a sharp rise in mortgage rates since the presidential election. The average on a benchmark 30-year fixed rate loan was 4.23 percent last week, up from 3.54 percent the week before the Nov. 8 vote.

Investors bid up rates in part out of expectation that President Donald Trump’s plans to cut taxes and increase spending on defense and infrastructure would raise economic growth and inflation.

The Realtors reported last week that sales of existing homes fell in February after having surged in January to the fastest pace in a decade. Sales were still up solidly from a year earlier.

The supply of homes for sale is tight and is helping to drive prices up and affordability down. The number of listings for sale has tumbled 6.4 percent over the past year to 1.75 million homes last month, up only slightly from a record low in January.

The supply of homes for sale has fallen on an annual basis for the past 21 months.

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PAUL WISEMAN, AP Economics Writer

Long-term mortgage rates fall

Long-term mortgage rates fall adding economic fuel to the economy

April 2, 2017 (AP)(STLRealEstate.News) Long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week for a second straight week, slipping further from their highest levels of the year reached two weeks ago.

Current avg Last week 52-week high 52-week low

30-year fixed – 4.14 percent – 4.23 percent – 4.32 percent – 3.41 percent
15-year fixed – 3.39 percent – 3.44 percent – 3.55 percent – 2.72 percent
5-year adjustable – 3.18 percent – 3.24 percent – 3.33 percent – 2.68 percent

Note: This information is published with permission granted through a license agreement between K Amant, LLC and The Associated Press.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.  All rights reserved.  This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.