Last week’s economic news included several housing-related reports that provided mixed results with lower than expected sales of previously owned homes and higher than expected sales of new homes. The FHFA also released its House Price report for July, which noted that year-over-year home prices were lower than year-over-year prices reported in June. Here’s a look at the details:
Existing Home Sales Lower, New Home Sales Higher
The National Association of REALTORS® reported August sales of existing home sales fell to 5.05 million previously owned homes sold. This was lower than the expected reading of 5.20 million existing homes sold and July’s revised reading of 5.14 million previously owned homes sold on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. The consensus figure was based on the original reading of 5.15 million homes sold in July. While the sales pace of existing homes has slowed in recent months, August’s reading marked the first time in five months that sales fell below the previous month’s reading.
Analysts cited consumer concerns over sluggish labor markets as a deterrent to home sales, and also said that tighter mortgage credit standards are making it tough for first-time home buyers to purchase homes.
New home sales were higher in August according to the Department of Commerce. 504,000 new homes were sold and surpassed expected sales of 426,000 new homes and July’s reading of 427,000 new homes sold. This surge propelled new home sales to their highest level since May 2008, and surpassed expectations of 426,000 new homes sold. The original reading for July was 412,000 new homes sold on a seasonally adjusted annual basis, but the Department of Commerce later adjusted July’s reading to 427,000 new homes sold during July. Month-to-month readings for new home sales are notoriously volatile, and many analysts prefer to consider a rolling average of several months’ new home sales data.
FHFA: Home Prices Rise in August, Regional Home Prices Higher Year-Over-Year
FHFA (Federal Housing Finance Agency), which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that prices of homes connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages grew by 0.10 percent in July; this was lower than the 0.30 percent growth in home prices reported in June. FHFA also said that prices of homes were up by 4.04 percent year over year; this again represented a slower pace in home price growth. This was the eighth consecutive monthly gain for FHFA home prices, but U.S. home prices remain approximately 6.40 percent below their peak in 2007.
Year-over-year home prices rose in all nine census divisions according to FHFA. While regional home prices ranged from -0.50 to +0.40 percent from June to July, FHFA reported that year-over-year home prices grew in all nine regions and varied between +1.60 percent in the Mid-Atlantic region to 7.20 percent in the Pacific region.
Mortgage Rates Mixed
Freddie Mac reported mixed readings for average mortgage rates last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped three basis points to 4.20 percent. 15 year mortgage rates averaged 3.36 percent, one basis point lower than the prior week’s reading. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.08. Discount points remained steady at 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages, but dropped to 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that new jobless claims rose to 293,000 from the prior week’s reading of 281,000 new jobless claims filed. The latest jobless claims reading was lower than expectations of 300,000 new jobless claims filed. Last week’s economic reports were rounded out by the Consumer Sentiment Index, which held steady in September with a reading of 84.6. This reading was identical to July’s reading and higher than the expected reading of 84.3.
Next week’s economic news wil include the Case-Shiller Home Price Indices for July and Construction Spending for August.
It’s not uncommon for homebuyers to recount horror stories about properties that appeared to be fine at first glance, but were actually hiding very expensive problems. If you fail to do your due diligence, you might find your dream house turning into a nightmare. The next time you walk through a house, pay attention for these five signs that the property might be hiding a unfortounate secret or two.
Mold, Water Spots and Water Damage
Older and newer homes alike may develop a leaky pipe or another similar plumbing issue from time to time, but any type of water issue can result in mold growth inside the walls. Water spots and warped wood indicate that the property has had a water issue in the past, and this means that the property should be more thoroughly inspected for mold growth before you make a purchase.
Doors and Windows That Stick
One of the most common signs of a foundation issue is doors and windows that stick or that are difficult to open and close. As you walk through the home, open and close the doors at leisure to identify if they are not in the frame properly. The issue should be reviewed by a structural home inspector or foundation contractor.
Small Cracks in the Walls
Some cracks in both interior and exterior walls can indicate that the home’s foundation has shifted and is no longer flat and level. Significant issues may be indicated by molding or door frames that appear to have shifted after installation.
Fresh Paint on a Small Area of the Wall
Many property sellers will apply fresh paint to walls before listing a home for sale, and this is not necessarily a sign of damage to the home. However, when fresh paint is applied on one area of the wall alone, this may be a sign that the homeowner is attempting to conceal water damage or other related issues with the property. Further inspection of the property is in order.
Floors That Slant
Any time a floor slants to a level that you feel as though you are walking up or down across the home, this is a significant indicator that the foundation has shifted. Foundation issues result in the movement of the foundation that the entire home rests on, and this can result in an uneven feeling when you walk across the floor. If you notice that the floors in a property slant, you should schedule an inspection of the foundation.
When you buy a home, you will be given a title to your new property. A title is a legal document that proves you own the property, and in most cases the title excludes other parties from making an ownership claim.
However, not all titles give you free and clear ownership of the property. Title insurance protects you and your lender from title disputes and other ownership issues that may arise. Here are just a few ways that title insurance can impact your mortgage.
How Title Insurance Protects A Lender
There are certain situations in which someone might put a lien on your property. New owners might see liens if the previous owner failed to pay the mortgage, if a contractor did work without the new owner’s consent or if the previous owner owes unpaid property taxes.
If these liens were not disclosed prior to the sale, a buyer could face a situation where a third party is making a claim to the property. Should the title by voided in court, the insurance policy would repay the lender the outstanding balance on the mortgage. The policy is valid until the mortgage loan is paid off.
When a homeowner refinances, it may be necessary to purchase a new title loan policy, as the new loan will technically pay off the old loan.
How Title Insurance Protects A Buyer
Title loan policies do not just protect the lender. In many cases, the lender will require the buyer’s title insurance to include an owner policy. This policy confirms that the buyer owns the title and that the title is free from defects.
The policy is in effect for as long as the buyer or his or her descendants own the house. Should a homeowner have his or her title challenged, the policy will cover all losses up to the amount of the original purchase price of the home.
How Much Does Title Insurance Cost?
The cost of title insurance can vary between locations. Sometimes, the purchase contract will stipulate that the seller is responsible for buying title insurance.
If this is the case, the buyer may pay nothing. However, it is common to pay on a sliding scale. Title insurance is usually a few hundred dollars for houses selling for under $500,000.
Title insurance is a great way to protect your investment in your home. It insures you against ownership disputes and liens, which means your house is truly yours. For more information about title insurance, contact a qualified mortgage professional in your area.