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Google Releases 'Undo Send' Option

by Melissa Dierks

For those who have sender regret, Gmail now includes the option to take back sent e-mails. But you have to act quickly. Google announced the release of an “undo send” option, which allows users to recall a message within 30 seconds of it being sent.

Read more: Bounce Back From 5 Technology Blunders

Users of Google's popular mail application will be able to unsend e-mails, for example, when you accidentally forget to attach a file or hit the “reply all” button by mistake.

The unsend feature was originally launched in 2009 but only an experimental basis. Now, the feature has been rolled out as a formal setting in Gmail on the Web, via a gear icon at the top right. Under “settings” in the drop-down menu, you'll need to check the “enable undo send” box to use the feature. You can also select the number of seconds (among options of five, 10, 20, or 30) that you'll have to cancel a message. 

Source: “How to Unsend E-mails in Gmail,” WIRED (June 23, 2015) and “Gmail ‘Undo Send’ Option Officially Rolls Out,” Forbes (June 23, 2015)

New-Home Sales Climb to 7-Year High

by Melissa Dierks

New-home sales surged to the highest rate since February 2008, as the new-construction market continues to gain ground this year. Sales of newly built single-family homes increased 2.2 percent, reaching a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 546,000 units in May, according to a report from the Commerce Department.

Read more: Housing Construction Boom Begins This Year?

"Our builders are seeing motivated buyers and the release of pent-up housing demand," says Tom Woods, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders. "However, builders are facing supply-chain challenges, which is affecting the inventory of new homes."

Sales are nearly 20 percent higher than the pace in May 2014. New-home inventories remain tight at 206,000, a 4.5-month supply at the current sales pace. That's pushed the average sales price of a new home sold in May to $337,000. 

"This month's new-home sales report is consistent with other government data and rising builder confidence that indicate a continual recovery of the housing market," says David Crowe, NAHB’s chief economist. 

Regionally, new-home sales were mixed in May. They rose 87.5 percent month-over-month in the Northeast and had a 13.1 percent boost in the West. However, new-home sales dropped 5.7 percent in the Midwest and 4.3 percent in the South.

Source: National Association of Home Builders and “New Home Sales Up 2.2% in May,” Forbes.com (June 23, 2015)

The Richest Town in Every State

by Melissa Dierks

Every state has at least one town with a median household income thousands of dollars higher than the state's median income, according to a new analysis by 24/7 Wall St. In some states, yhe difference can be drastic. For example, the median income in upscale areas like Scarsdale, N.Y., and Winnetka, Ill., is more than $150,000 higher than the state's median income figure.

Read moreLuxury Home Hotspots

Among 21 states, the median household income in the wealthiest town was more than double the state. What's more, 10 states had a difference of more than $100,000 between towns with the highest and lowest annual incomes.

"The most desirable areas to live often have real estate that only the very affluent can afford," 24/7 Wall St. notes. "These places are often in quiet neighborhoods located within commuting distance of major urban centers, which provide a diversity of jobs and attractions. Not surprisingly, nearly all of the wealthiest towns in each state are suburbs of a major city – usually the biggest city in the state. Most of these affluent suburbs are close enough to require less than an hour commuting time, but far enough outside the city hub to afford peace and quiet."

To identify the wealthiest towns in each state, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed median household incomes for every town with populations of 25,000 or less in each state.

Locate the richest town your state at 24/7 Wall St.

Source: "The Richest Town in Each State," 24/7 Wall St. (June 17, 2015)

First-Time Buyers Fuel Latest Sales Boost

by Melissa Dierks

Existing-home sales rose in May to their highest pace in nearly six years, largely attributed to a big rise in the number of first-time home buyers, according to the National Association of REALTORS®' latest housing report, released Monday. All major regions saw sales increases in May, with the Northeast seeing the most notable rise.  

Read more2015: Year of the First-Time Home Buyer

Existing-home sales – measured as completed transactions of single-family homes, townhomes, condos, and co-ops – climbed 5.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.35 million in May. Sales are 9.2 percent above last year at this time. 

The market share of first-time home buyers rose to 32 percent of transactions in May, matching the highest share since September 2012. A year ago, first-time buyers represented 27 percent of all buyers, NAR reports. 

"The return of first-time buyers in May is an encouraging sign and is the result of multiple factors, including strong job gains among young adults, less expensive mortgage insurance and lenders offering low downpayment programs," says Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. "More first-time buyers are expected to enter the market in coming months, but the overall share climbing higher will depend on how fast rates and prices rise."

As the supply of homes remain tight, homes are selling fast and price growth in many markets continues to teeter at or near double-digit appreciation, Yun notes. "Without solid gains in new home construction, prices will likely stay elevated – even with higher mortgage rates above 4 percent," Yun says.

5 Stats to Gauge the Market

Here's an overview on key market conditions from NAR's latest existing-home sales report:

1. Inventory: Total housing inventory rose 3.2 percent to 2.29 million existing homes available for sale by the end of May. That is 1.8 percent higher than a year ago. Unsold inventory currently is at a 5.1-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 5.2 months in April.

2. Home prices: The median existing-home price for all housing types was $228,700 in May – nearly 8 percent above May 2014 home prices.

3. Days on the market: Properties typically stayed on the market for 40 days in May, up from 39 days in April. Still, that marks the third shortest time since NAR began tracking days on the market in May 2011. Forty-five percent of homes sold in May were on the market for less than a month.

4. All-cash sales: All-cash sales comprised 24 percent of transactions in May, down considerably from a year ago when they made up 32 percent of transactions. Individual investors, who account for the  bulk of cash sales, purchased 14 percent of homes last month, down from 16 percent a year ago. Sixty-seven percent of investors paid cash in May. 

5. Distressed sales: Foreclosures and short sales remained at 10 percent for the third consecutive month in May. Distressed sales are below the 11 percent share a year ago. Seven percent of May sales were foreclosures and 3 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 15 percent below market value in May while short sales were also discounted 16 percent.

Regional Breakdown

The following is a snapshot of how existing-home sales fared across the country in May:

  • Northeast: existing-home sales rose 11.3 percent to an annual rate of 690,000. Sales are now 11.3 percent above a year ago. Median price: $269,000, up 4.8 percent above May 2014 levels.
  • Midwest: existing-home sales rose 4.1 percent to an annual rate of 1.27 million in May. Sales are 12.4 percent above May 2014. Median price: $181,900, up 9.4 percent from a year ago.
  • South: existing-home sales increased 4.3 percent to an annual rate of 2.18 million in May, and are 6.9 percent above year ago levels. Median price: $198,300, up 8.2 percent from a year ago.
  • West: existing-home sales increased 4.3 percent to an annual rate of 1.21 million in May, and are 9 percent above a year ago. Median price: $324,000, up 10.2 percent above May 2014.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

Developing Affordable Housing for Millennials

by Melissa Dierks

Cities across the country are having to adapt to the needs of the millennial generation, who make up the largest share of home buyers, according to a generational trends report by NAR. Due to the recent economic climate, millennials don't mind making sacrifices, often choosing compact housing and not owning a car, as long as they can live in a vibrant city with a lot of perks.

Read moreThe 8 Fastest-Growing Cities for Millennials 

"They [millennials] seem more willing than other cohorts to trade space for access to transit and a walkable, mixed-use lifestyle," says Stockton Williams, executive director of the Urban Land Institute's Terwilliger Center for Housing in Washington, D.C. "It doesn't necessarily mean they're all saying they want to live in downtown central cities. It can be smaller towns or suburban towns that have these features."

To meet the need for affordable housing options, many cities are being proactive. In Austin, Texas, which is a hotspot for young professionals, builders are catering to millennials by offering homes that are much smaller than the national average and close to public transportation and local attractions.

"The demand for the smaller homes was enormous, and millennials bought them," says REALTOR® Scott Turner, owner of Riverside Homes in Austin, Texas and broker-owner of Turner Residential. "Millennials are much more willing to make the location-over-space trade-off than prior generations. They're happy with less space and less stuff. We found that 850 square feet with two bedrooms and one bath is fine if it’s in a good location."

Housing affordability remains a huge issue in Manhattan, and builders are going a step further by offering up micro housing as a solution. Micro housing is loosely defined as an apartment less than 350 square feet with a functioning and accessibility compliant kitchen and bathroom. Micro housing projects are also cropping up near Washington D.C. and Seattle.

"In places like Seattle, more micro housing units are popping up, and that does seem to be a viable option," says says Matt Kelly, a policy analyst and researcher at Florida State University in Tallahassee. "Smaller and smaller square footage seems to be viable for short-term year apartment leases because there needs to be a low-income housing alternative."

In the past, many cities had zoning regulations that banned small housing. New York City, for example, only recently waived a requirement that housing must be larger than 400 square feet. San Francisco recently allowed housing as small as 220 square feet, and two cities on the forefront of the micro housing trend, Seattle and Portland, have no minimum size requirement.

As housing affordability is outpacing income growth for many across the country, it continues to be important for cities to think out of the box and develop accessible and affordable options, not just for millennials, but for everyone.

Source: "Reducing Everyday Costs for Affordable Neighborhoods," On Common Ground (June, 2015)

Lenders Feel More Upbeat About Housing

by Melissa Dierks

Mortgage lenders are growing increasingly optimistic that demand for mortgages for home purchases will remain strong over the next three months. Fannie Mae's second quarter 2015 Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey showed more lenders are reporting credit loosening and there's a strong demand from borrowers for home purchase loans.

Read moreMortgage Lenders Say Credit Is Easing

The latest results solidify a rosier outlook for housing, Fannie Mae economists note. "We expect a continued housing expansion in 2015, after an uneven and disappointing 2014," says Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's chief economist.

The survey showed that senior mortgage executives are increasingly optimistic, and significantly more optimistic than consumers about future home prices. The share of lenders expecting home prices to rise over the next 12 months reached a survey high of 70 percent in the second quarter.

What's more, the share of lenders reporting an increase in mortgage purchase demand over the prior three months reached a survey high for GSE-eligible and government loans, 77 percent and 65 percent, respectively.

"This quarter’s results showed that the growing optimism of lenders has been rewarded," says Duncan. "The share of lenders reporting increased purchase mortgage demand over the prior three months reached a survey high for both GSE-eligible and government loans. At the same time, the positive gap grows between lenders reporting loosening or maintaining existing credit standards, relative to those reporting tightening. While not matching first quarter 2015 levels, the profit margin and purchase mortgage demand expectations over the next three months remain above the 2014 readings."

Source: Fannie Mae

Here Come 1.5M Boomerang Buyers

by Melissa Dierks

About 1.5 million home owners negatively impacted by the mortgage crisis could be on their way to re-entering the housing market within the next three years. Within five years, that number could swell to 2.2 million, according to a new study released by TransUnion.

NAR studyReturn Buyers Expected to Boost Housing Demand in Coming Years

This year alone, about 700,000 former home owners – also known as "boomerang buyers" -- stand to re-enter the housing market.

During the financial crisis in 2006, 78 million consumers – or 43 percent of credit-active consumers – had a mortgage. More than 8 percent of those consumers were affected by the financial crisis by being 60 days or more past due on their mortgage loan; losing their mortgage through foreclosure, short sale or other non-satisfactory closure; or had a mortgage loan modification. Only about 18 percent of the consumers affected had recovered by December 2014, according to the TransUnion study. Borrowers must often wait four years following a short sale or seven years after a foreclosure to qualify for a mortgage again.

The Return of Former Home Owners

Boomerang Buyers Get Second Chance

Mortgage Giant Opens Doors for Earlier Return of Ex-Owners

Remaking the Dream

FHFA Allows Ex-Owners to Buy Back Homes

But for those who have repaired their credit, many of these former home owners likely will want a second chance at home ownership.

"It's been over seven years since the beginning of the mortgage crisis; this is significant because many derogatory items, such as foreclosures and short sales can prevent consumers from qualifying for a new mortgage for a period of time. As boomerang buyers who experienced foreclosures or other negative impacts become eligible to re-enter the mortgage market, they may not immediately do so if they are not aware they are eligible again, or feel daunted by their prior experience," says Joe Mellman, vice president and head of TransUnion’s mortgage group. "Lenders can help consumers ease this transition with credit education programs addressing consumer eligibility, and help them better understand their borrowing options."

The TransUnion study provided the following breakdown of how many boomerang buyers each year could meet requirements to buy again within the next five years:

  • 2015: 700,000
  • 2016: 300,000
  • 2017: 500,000
  • 2018: 400,000
  • 2019: 300,000

Source: TransUnion

Buyers Overestimate Mortgage Requirements

by Melissa Dierks

Sixty-five percent of recent survey respondents feel home ownership is a dream come true or an accomplishment to be proud of. But when it comes to achieving that dream, many consumers may sit on the sidelines because they’re overestimating what it takes to make it come true.  

Many consumers have misperceptions about the credit score, down payment, and income requirements needed to qualify for a mortgage, according to a survey released by Wells Fargo and Ipsos Public Affairs of more than 2,000 U.S. adults. A high percentage of home owners are still unaware of recent efforts by lenders and the government to enhance the availability of credit through lower down payment programs.

Working With Home Buyers

Calm Your Buyers' Fears

10 Markets Where It's Best to be a Home Buyer 

Two-thirds of consumers surveyed believe they need a very good credit score to purchase a home, with 45 percent believing a “good credit score” is over 780 (many lenders consider scores over 660 to be “good”). Consumers also tend to overemphasize credit scores as a single factor that determines whether they’ll be able to buy a home. But a credit score is not the sole criteria. Many lenders will consider a loan applicant’s entire financial picture, including income, assets, debt-to-income ratio, credit history, credit scores, and the amount of the loan compared to the value of the property.

Also, the survey found that consumers tend to overestimate the down payment funds needed to qualify for a home loan. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they believe a 20 percent down payment is always required, the survey showed. However, down payment options are available as low as 3 percent or 3.5 percent for some loan programs.

“The American aspiration for home ownership is alive and well,” says Franklin Codel, head of mortgage production for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. “Home ownership has traditionally been the vehicle through which many people build wealth and financial stability. Home-buying and its downstream financial benefits strengthen the U.S. economy with strong neighborhoods and vital local businesses. For the millions of consumers who express a desire to own a home, it's essential that lending and housing professionals provide clear, simple information to build consumer confidence about buying a home."

Source: “Consumers’ Misconceptions Temper Desire for Home Ownership,” Business Wire (June 16, 2015)


A Big Pick Up in Homebuilding Is Coming

by Melissa Dierks

Permits for future home construction climbed to a near eight-year high in May, which sets the stage for greater inventories from homebuilders in the months ahead.

Read more: Builders Upbeat from More 'Committed' Buyers

Building permits surged 11.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.28 million units, the highest since August 2007, the Commerce Department reports. This marks the second consecutive month of increases in housing permits, which have been above a 1 million-unit pace since July.

"Residential construction has been the laggard in this [housing] recovery and the moon shot surge in new permits today means the final piece of the recovery puzzle is now falling into place," Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York, told Reuters.

While the future signs look bright, groundbreaking on new homes posted a drop in May, plunging 11.1 percent to a 1.04 million-unit rate. However, that follows a strong April, where housing starts were at a revised rate of 1.17 million, the highest since November 2007, the Commerce Department reports.

Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at realtor.com®, blames the rain for the slowdown last month in homebuilding. May’s record rainfall across the country made it difficult to begin construction on new homes, Smoke notes.

“As Milli Vanilli once crooned: Blame it on the rain,” Smoke says. “You can easily pull a permit in the rain, but it’s a bit harder to break ground and start construction.”

Housing permits are up 25 percent year-over-year, Smoke says. Regionally, housing permits in the Northeast increased to the highest level since March 1987, while in the Midwest, permits neared a one-year high in May. Permits, however, dropped in the South and West.

With job growth increasing and incomes rising, Americans are increasingly finding themselves in a better position to buy a home, Smoke says.

Source: “U.S. Building Permits Near 8-Year High; Starts Pull Back,” Reuters (June 16, 2015) and “Blame it on the Rain: Housing Starts Were Way Down in May – But Permits Hit an 8-Year Record,” Reuters (June 16, 2015)

Report: 90% of Properties Now Have Equity

by Melissa Dierks

As home prices rise, more home owners are regaining equity. During the first quarter of this year, about 254,000 properties regained equity, according to CoreLogic’s latest equity report. That now brings the total number of residential properties with a mortgage that have equity to about 44.9 million – or 90 percent – by the end of the first quarter.

5 States With Highest Negative Equity

Five states alone accounted for 31 percent of negative equity in the U.S., according to the report. Those states with the highest percentage of properties with a mortgage in the negative equity position in the first quarter are:

  1. Nevada: 23.1%
  2. Florida: 21.2%
  3. Illinois: 16.8%
  4. Arizona: 16.8%
  5. Rhode Island: 15.7%

Source: CoreLogic

“About 90 percent of home owners now have housing equity and, as a result, have experienced an increase in wealth, which can spur additional consumption and investment expenditures,” says Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. “The remaining 10 percent of owners with negative equity will find their home value rising while they continue to pay down principal on their amortizing mortgage loan.” 

The still elevated number of home owners who have negative equity remains a concern, however. The number of negative equity households stood at 5.1 million, or 10.2 percent of all properties with a mortgage in the first quarter of this year, according to CoreLogic’s report. That represents a slight drop from 5.4 million homes, or 10.8 percent, that had negative equity in the fourth quarter of 2014.

“Many home owners are emerging from the negative equity trap, which bodes well for a continued recovery in the housing market,” says Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “With the economy improving and home owners building equity, albeit slowly, the potential exists for an increase in housing stock available for sale, which would ease the current imbalance in supply and demand. There are still about 5 million home owners who are underwater and we estimate that a further 5 percent appreciation in home values across the U.S. would reduce the number of owners with negative equity by about one million.”

The following states had the highest percentage of properties in the positive equity territory by the end of the first quarter:

  • Texas: 97.7%
  • Hawaii: 96.9%
  • Alaska: 96.8%
  • Montana: 96.8%
  • North Dakota: 96.2%

In general, the majority of positive equity properties are centered at the high end of the housing market, according to the report. For example, 94 percent of homes valued at greater than $200,000 have equity, compared with 85 percent of homes valued at less than $200,000.

Source: CoreLogic

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Melissa Dierks
Keller Williams Professional Partners
7025 W Bell Road, Suite 10
Glendale AZ 85308
Direct: (623)229-0154
Office: (623)643-1092
Fax: (623)201-7562

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