House Prices Continue Their Ascent Nationally




NEWS RELEASE-                                                                             Daily News Report                         April 23, 2013

House Prices Continue Their Ascent Nationally, house prices continued to rise in February, contributing to the overall recovery in U.S. house prices. According to the most recent release by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, U.S. house prices rose by 0.7 percent on a month-over-month…

FHFA House Price Index Up 0.7 Percent in February Washington, DC – U.S. house prices rose 0.7 percent on a seasonally adjusted basisfrom January to February, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s monthly House Price Index (HPI). For the 12 months ending in February, U.S. house prices rose 7.1 percent.  The U.S. index is 13.6 percent below its April 2007 peak and is roughly the same as the

October 2004 index level. U.S. house prices have not declined on a monthly basis since January 2012. For the nine census divisions, seasonally adjusted monthly price changes from January to February ranged from -0.6 percent in the Middle Atlantic division to +1.7 percent in the South Atlantic division, while the 12-month changes ranged from +1.9 percent in the Middle Atlantic division to +15.3 percent in the Pacific division.

FHFA uses the purchase prices of houses with mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae  or Freddie Mac to calculate the monthly index. Monthly index values and appreciation rate estimates for recent periods are provided in the table and graphs on the following pages. See for complete historical data. For detailed information on the monthly HPI, see HPI Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). The next HPI release will be May 23, 2013 and will include monthly data for March and quarterly data for the first quarter of 2013. Release dates for 2013 are available at

The Federal Housing Finance Agency regulates Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the 12 Federal Home Loan Banks.  These government-sponsored enterprises provide more than $5.7 trillion in funding for the U.S. mortgage markets and financial institutions.

Housing Passes One Million Mark !

Housing Passes One Million Mark

Posted By susanne on April 17, 2013  4:39 PM In Business Outlook,Consumer News and Advice,Real Estate Information,Real Estate News,Real Estate Trends,Today’s Top Story,

new_home_construct_roof [1]Housing construction passed the psychological mark of one million starts in March coming in at 1.036 million homes, up 7 percent from an upwardly revised February level of 968,000. The surge was due to a 31 percent increase in apartment construction to a level of 417,000 units, the highest since January 2006. Single-family construction fell 4.8 percent to 619,000 from an upwardly revised February level, which was the highest since May 2008. The first quarter single-family average was 628,000 up 6 percent from the fourth quarter 2012.

HARP Mortgage Refinancing Program Extended by Two Years

HARP Mortgage Refinancing Program Extended by Two Years

Posted By susanne On April 15, 2013 @ 4:05 PM In Consumer News and Advice,Home Buying 101,Home Owner News,Real Estate Information,Real Estate News,Real Estate Trends,Today’s Marketplace,Today’s Top Story – Consumer | Comments Disabled

refinance_mortgage_house_puzzle [1](MCT)—Underwater homeowners with Fannie Mae- and Freddie Mac-backed mortgages will be able to try to refinance their mortgages for another two years.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced Thursday that Fannie and Freddie’s Home Affordable Refinance Program, which was set to expire Dec. 31, will be extended until the end of 2015.

“More than 2 million homeowners have refinanced through HARP, proving it a useful tool for reducing risk,” FHFA acting director Edward DeMarco said in a statement.

According to the most recent data, in January alone, 1 in 5 refinancings of Fannie and Freddie-backed loans occurred under HARP. Of the loans refinanced under the program that month, 25 percent had a loan-to-value ratio of greater than 125 percent.

Eligibility for the program, announced in early 2009, remain the same. The mortgage must be owned or guaranteed by Fannie or Freddie on or before May 31, 2009, and the current loan-to-value ratio must be greater than 80 percent.

In addition, borrowers must be current on their mortgage payments, with no late payments in the past six months and they cannot have made more than one late payment in the past 12 months.

To apply for the program, borrowers should contact their existing lender or another lender participating in the program. Consumers do not need to use outside companies that bill themselves as “mortgage experts” or “foreclosure specialists,” the agency said.

©2013 Chicago Tribune
Distributed by MCT Information Services [2]

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Federal budget projects $943 million bailout for FHA

NAR endorses risk-based premium pricing

By Inman News, Wednesday, April 10, 2013.

Inman News®

The Federal Housing Administration will likely need a $943 million taxpayer bailout in the next fiscal year to cover losses stemming from defaults on loans made both during and after the housing boom, according to a 2014 budget proposal released by the Obama administration today.

If required, the bailout would be the first in the federal agency’s 79-year history. The FHA has been hard-hit by defaults from housing bubble-era loans made from 2005 through 2008, with future losses estimated at $70 billion for loans made in 2007, 2008 and 2009 alone.

The agency has until Sept. 30 to decide whether it will need a cash subsidy from the U.S. Treasury. FHA Commissioner Carol Galante said the agency still might be able to avoid taking the bailout, Reuters reported.

“FHA, while still under stress from legacy loans, has made significant progress and is on a sound fiscal path forward,” Galante said.

In its last annual report, released in November, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), of which FHA is a part, reported a $16.3 billion deficit for the agency, raising the specter of a taxpayer bailout. Since then, the agency has taken several steps to bolster its capital reserves, including tightening underwriting standards, raising insurance premiums, and shuttering FHA’s standard reverse mortgage program.

In testifying today before the U.S. House Financial Services Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity, National Association of Realtors President Gary Thomas applauded the FHA for taking steps to improve its financial stability.

“These changes combined with an improving national economy and rising home prices will surely help stabilize the fund so that FHA can continue to serve the needs of hardworking American families who wish to purchase a home,” he said.

He credited the FHA for stepping in when private lenders fled the market and thereby preventing home prices from dropping an estimated 25 percent further.

“FHA did not offer risky mortgage products. FHA did not engage in exotic underwriting. FHA did not have accounting problems or other unscrupulous behavior. Instead, FHA stepped in during our housing crisis, and provided access to mortgage credit to millions of responsible Americans who wanted to purchase homes,” Thomas said.

“Many of the mortgages FHA entered into during the crisis were in declining markets. Lending in declining markets increases risk. However, had FHA not stepped in to fill that market void, our economy would still be far from recovered.”

NAR recommended additional reforms to FHA, mainly centered around giving the agency more freedom, including emergency authority, to make changes to protect its reserves. The trade group suggested FHA have greater flexibility to set premiums and change loan policies, citing losses the agency racked up when Congress would not allow it to discontinue seller-funded downpayment assistance.

“We believe FHA should have to go through some public notice process for significant changes, but don’t believe the agency should have to go to Congress for every program change,” Thomas said.

The trade group also endorsed risk-based premium pricing for FHA-backed loans, improved enforcement and oversight of lenders, and the elimination of the owner-occupancy ratio requirement for FHA condo mortgages.

The administration’s budget proposal projects FHA will insure $178 billion in mortgage loans in 2014, including new purchase loans and refinancings.

The proposal has other implications for housing. It suggests reducing the value of itemized deductions, the mortgage interest deduction included. High-income taxpayers (the top three percent) would be able to reduce their tax liability to a maximum of 28 percent. Right now, there are three tax brackets above that threshold.

“Currently, a millionaire who contributes to charity or deducts a dollar of mortgage interest enjoys a deduction that is more than twice as generous as that for a middle-class family,” the proposal said.

“The proposed limitation would return the deduction rate to the level it was at the end of the Reagan Administration,” the proposal added.

The proposed budget for HUD asks for $47.6 billion, up 9.7 percent, or $4.2 billion above the 2012 level. More than 90 percent of the increase will be used to maintain current levels of rental and homelessness assistance for low-income families, HUD said.

The budget includes $37.4 billion in rental housing assistance to more than 5.4 million families; $18 billion for neighborhood stabilization, including reducing blight in communities hit hard by the foreclosure crisis; nearly $2.4 billion in homeless assistance grants; $400 million to revitalize 30 high-poverty neighborhoods; $526 million for rental assistance and to produce about 4,100 new supportive housing units for the elderly or disabled; $726 million for the housing needs of Native American tribes; $332 million for a housing program for people with AIDS; and $1 billion to the Housing Trust Fund for extremely low income families.

The proposal reduced funding for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program by 5 percent to $950 million. At that funding level, the program will provide grants to state and local governments to provide nearly 40,000 additional units of affordable housing for low-income families, the proposal said.

HUD is also allocating $132 million for housing and homeowner counseling, more than half of which will go toward foreclosure assistance.

Freddie Mac makes Loan Data available

Freddie Mac makes loan data available

Move helps pave the way for sharing risk with investors


Source: Inman News®

Freddie Mac says it will disclose performance data on a swath of single-family loans that it purchased over a 13-year period representing about 53 percent of Freddie Mac’s total mortgage acquisitions, or 15.7 million mortgages, from Jan. 1, 1999 to Dec. 31, 2011.

The move, directed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), helps pave the way for implementing risk-sharing arrangements with investors who purchase the company’s mortgage-backed securities. The effort is one of the latest aimed at reforming the mortgage finance system.

“We are releasing a tremendous amount of data that will take a while for credit investors to absorb and develop updated models,” said Donna Corley, senior vice president of credit, pricing, structuring and securitization at Freddie Mac. “As investors become familiar with Freddie Mac’s single-family credit performance they will be in a better position to participate in any potential future credit risk-sharing transactions.”

In an effort to reduce taxpayers’ exposure to potential losses from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac-backed mortgages, the FHFA committed to “demonstrate the viability of multiple types of risk-transfer transactions” involving mortgages with at least $30 billion in unpaid principal in its recent conservatorship scorecard.



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Time: 08:00 PM - 12:00 PM
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Service Matters

Because Service Matters

Posted By susanne On March 7, 2013 @ 4:52 pm In Best Practices,Business Development,Coaching,Marketing,Real Estate Technology,Real Estate Training,Weekly Business Builder Archive |

Do you remember how good the food was at a restaurant if the service was terrible? More importantly, would you go back and endure terrible service just for the food? If you are like me, meals always taste better when accompanied by great service. A big part of offering great service in any industry involves the art of “listening to understand” as opposed to “listening to respond”. There is certainly a big difference between the two.

Listening is a key component in all facets of our lives and careers. If we all took a little more time to listen, we may learn what the people close to us truly want and desire. Of course, you may say, “no kidding Mike!” I am not trying to be simplistic; rather I am trying to focus on the importance of where service starts.

For instance, we at HSA realize that our people cannot simply regurgitate the same canned script from client to client because when you are listening to understand rather than listening to respond, you get to hear the unique needs of every customer which requires a personalized response. Knowing the needs of the customer, while being honest about how you measure up to those needs, is the key to service excellence.

Sometimes that means you must be prepared to hear something you may not like, including criticism. In today’s tech-driven world, you can’t just listen to your customers on the phone. You have to listen to them everywhere they are talking, whether it’s the phone, email or social media. This helps create transparency in a world where, too often, the client is lost in a continuous telephone loop of automated responses.

It’s all about transparency. In fact, I was recently reviewing emails and came across a complaint from a customer where we did not deliver the proper service. While we, at HSA, strive for best in class service, it is impossible to be perfect. However, we have the courage to step up and admit when haven’t performed up to our standards and do what it takes to make the customer happy. In this case the customer was told we made a mistake and we worked with them to make things right. Even though over the same timeframe, we paid thousands of claims properly and provided wonderful customer service to those clients, we know that when service goes bad, customers don’t want to be told they are within statistical satisfactory service norms. Each customer’s situation is unique and needs to be treated as such.

By listening to “understand” your clients, you will always be moving closer to providing the best service possible. Why…because service matters.

Mike Clear is Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at HSA Home Warranty.

For more information on HSA Home Warranty visit [1].

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How Facebook Graph Search will change real estate

New search tool enables agents to attract and hunt down leads


Inman News®

As Facebook continues to roll out Graph Search, some marketing experts are saying that the potentially revolutionary search engine may prove to be a valuable tool to real estate professionals who use social media for marketing purposes.

The feature could empower real estate agents in two ways: by helping consumers with shared friends and interests find them, and by enabling real estate professionals to hunt down buyers and sellers who, due to shared friends and interests, may be unusually receptive to the agent’s overtures.

Facebook reportedly introduced Graph Search to hundreds of thousands of additional people in February. That’s a signal that the company is moving closer to making the product available to all 1 billion claimed Facebook users.

Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith thinks “anybody who’s in the business of building relationships” stands to gain when that day arrives, and real estate agents are a prime example.

“You literally can drill down into granular data, which has only previously been available through advertising,” she said.

Just how granular?

Smith, who’s part of the group of Facebook users that already has access to Graph Search, recently searched the following using Graph: “Friends of my friends who live in San Diego, California and who are female Real Estate Agents and who like Spirituality.” The search turned up five results that met all those criteria.

In that search, Graph filtered results based on people, places and interests (it also can filter photos).

Screen shot showing results of Facebook Graph search for Mari Smith’s “friends of friends who live in San Diego and who are female real estate agents and who like spirituality.”

That targeting capability holds obvious appeal to consumers, said Amy Vernon, a New York-based social media expert — they may use it to hone in on real estate agents who share friends and interests and who work in the regions where they want to buy or sell homes.

“You can see who the mutual friends are and reach out to those people and ask about that person,” said Vernon, general manager of social marketing at tech startup Internet Media Labs.

Google already offers personalized searches to Google Plus users. Those searches may dredge up professionals who are in a user’s social sphere.

But Graph is armed with more personal information than Google Plus, according to Smith, who lives in San Diego, Calif., and is the author of “The New Relationship Marketing: How to Build a Large, Loyal, Profitable Network Using the Social Web.”

Screen shot showing “personal results” for Mari Smith when she conducts a search for real estate agents in San Diego using Google.

“It’s gathered an inordinate amount of data, and now they’re adding search on top of social,” she said. “Whereas Google just doesn’t have that. There aren’t as many people over there. They’re not as active. And people don’t have as many connections.”

Given this, Smith and other experts say it’s likely that many people may embrace Graph as a way to track down vendors. The best thing brokers can do to profit from such a development is to make it easy for consumers to find them, experts say.

Start by turning all of your privacy settings to public, Vernon said. That way more users will be able to find you using Graph based on all of the information about you on Facebook. Then be sure to clearly identify yourself and your profession on your Facebook profile, Vernon said.

Agents should load the “Work and Education” field with multiple titles that people search when looking for an agent, such as “real estate agent,” “Realtor” and “broker,” Vernon said. And they also should be sure to link to their work’s Facebook page in the section, she added.

“Use a few different phrasings so that the likelihood of your coming up in a search is greater,” she said.

Though it’s unclear if Graph processes all profile text when performing searches, Vernon and Smith said it’s still advisable to squeeze industry phrases into other profile sections too.

The “About You” and “Favorite Quotations” and “Basic Info” sections represent some opportunities to potentially enhance your profile’s SEO with key phrases. If Graph isn’t already mining those sections for searches, it almost certainly will in the future, Vernon and Smith said.

Another way agents can tiptoe onto more search results pages is to “like” pages that reflect their interests. The more pages users like, the more probable it is that users will stumble upon them when performing interest-geared searches. But be discerning, Vernon said.

She noted that a search of “Realtors who like marijuana” turned up scores of names for her. “Look, if you’re in a market like Denver, maybe that’s a plus,” she said, chuckling.

While Graph Search is likely to help many agents attract more high-quality leads, is also gives them some ability to hunt them down. And down the road, the search engine could enhance that ability.

For now, Graph does not appear to crawl users’ status updates and timeline posts when generating search results. Consequently, it isn’t intelligent enough to perform searches such as “friends of friends who are selling their homes.”

Facebook spokesperson Jessie Baker declined to comment on possible plans to eventually equip Graph with the ability to turn up search results based on users’ timeline content.

But Smith said that the capability is “absolutely coming,” and with it, the potential for agents to hone in on homebuyers and sellers who have provided strong indications that they could use a real estate agent.

For now, agents can only use Graph to find people who are more likely to be buying or selling homes than others, like divorcees, Smith said. But later, she added, users will probably be able to find people based on key phrases that appear on their timelines, if their timelines are public.

“The pushback will be crazy,” she said. “But that is basically what the deal is: You post anything to public, it’s fair game.”

Baker emphasized that Graph Search respects privacy settings.”Graph Search makes finding things easier, but you can only see what you could already view elsewhere on Facebook,” she said.

And she noted that Facebook’s message tool, which agents would use to contact leads they might find on Graph, uses an algorithm and looks for “social signals,” like friend connections, when determining whether to deliver a message to a user’s primary message box or the user’s “other” bo