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Chapel Hill and Durham Real Estate Blog

Chapel Hill - Durham Real Estate Blog

Jodi Bakst

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Buyers Who Wait Will Pay Thousands More This Spring

by Jodi Bakst

Waiting a few extra days or weeks to purchase a home this spring could cost buyers thousands of extra dollars as the office of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) implements several changes for loans guaranteed by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA).

Coming just weeks before the April 30 deadline for the Home Buyer Tax Credit and just days after the March 31 expiration of the Federal Reserve Board's mortgage backed securities purchase program (which has kept home loan rates artificially low for over a year), these FHA changes make it even more important to act now to save big.

Here are a few reasons why:

On April 5th, the cost of required up-front mortgage insurance for loans guaranteed by the FHA will increase from 1.75% to 2.25%. For a borrower purchasing a $200,000 home with a $7,000 down payment, the up-front mortgage insurance will increase by $965. Up-front mortgage insurance is typically financed in the final loan amount and the impact to a monthly payment will be minimal but overall, the increase is still borne by the borrower both upfront and monthly.

Later this spring, the amount of money that a seller can return to the buyer from their sale proceeds will be reduced from 6% to 3%. The reduction in these "seller concessions" can increase the amount of cash a buyer will be required to pay at closing by $6,000 for a home purchase of $200,000.

There is only one way to avoid being affected by all of these costly changes that lie ahead – submit all FHA mortgage applications by the last week of March.

This article was provided to Team Jodi by Laura Hall, an excellent lender, at Corporate Investors in Chapel Hill.

Click here to learn more about Team Jodi

Click here to see Team Jodi's Chapel Hill Real Estate and Durham Homes for Sale 

Click here to Search homes for sale in Chapel Hill and Durham and the surrounding Triangle NC area

30-Year Mortgage Rates Fall Below 5%

by Jodi Bakst

I just heard that 30-year home mortgage rates fell below to below 5%.  They were at or below 5% last year and then they started to inch back up.  Rates below 5% are incredible! 

Rates on 15-year fixed loans also are lower.  They are averaging 4.40%, compared to 4.45% last week.  Adjustable-rate mortgages also fell this week. 

Let me know if you want more detail on rates.  I am happy to connect you with an excellent lender.

New Policies from FHA and What it Means for You

by Jodi Bakst

Most people don’t spend their time tracking FHA policy changes, unless of course you’re in the real estate industry like me. I received this information regarding some changes in the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) this week, and wanted to share it for the benefit of those in the Chapel Hill and Durham area.

The bottom line is this:  FHA is tightening up its policies and instituting stricter requirements for providing mortgages. Their rationale is simple.  FHA is no longer a cash-flushed organization, quickly handing out loans to all who ask.  After the mortgage crisis, it seemed like nearly everyone wanted an FHA loan. Understandable. But, like any financial institution, the Federal Housing Administration needs to find out how it can serve the underserved while at the same time managing risk, all the while trying to assist the nation’s economic recovery.

Here is a quick snapshot of some of the major changes.

 

  • Up-front mortgage insurance premiums will increase to 2.25% (formerly it was 1.75%). This will help increase the agency’s reserve fund, which is in dire need of replenishing.
  • Successful loan applicants will have a minimum credit score of 580 to be eligible for the 3.5% down payment. Borrowers who have lower credit scores will need to find a way to provide a heftier down payment (10%).
  • In addition, sellers get a shorter leash, too. Now, sellers are required to cap at 3% the amount they offer for closing costs. They used to be able to pay closing costs up to 6% of the home’s price. This requirement brings FHA loans in line with typical industry standards, while preventing the practice of inflating appraisals.
  • Any lenders offering FHA mortgages much assume liability for the loans.  FHA is serious about this new requirement, and will occasionally publish lender performance reports for the general public.

Why all the changes? As I mentioned above, FHA needs to protect its assets (and thus its mortgages) as best it can. Everyone is adapting to the new economic climate—individuals, big business, and government alike.  As an indicator of their tenuous status, nearly 15% of all FHA loans were delinquent at the time of last year’s third quarter reports.  Don’t worry, FHA will probably not lose its stature as the biggest lending agency.  Almost half of all first time homebuyers use FHA loans, and last year, 30% of all loans came through the FHA.

Cash for Appliances Program - Scheduled to Launch This Spring

by Jodi Bakst

A while back, I told you about the proposed “cash for appliances” program that was percolating in the minds of lawmakers. The program was originally inspired by President Obama in the summer of last year, when he announced the American Recover and Reinvestment Act. The program will slash energy costs statewide by motivating people to upgrade their energy-hog appliances for smarter Energy Star appliances. In addition to giving the retail economy a shot in the arm, it’s also going to help homeowners save some cash—another great means of injecting more money into the economy. Most importantly, it will help the state conserve energy costs.

Now, it looks like North Carolina is close to getting the official green light for its version of the program.  The program will have two distinct phases that begin at different times, one in the spring and one in the summer. 

Starting in April, we should expect to see Phase I of the Cash for Appliances program. It covers refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, and washing machines. The rebate is instantly applied at the time of purchase, but only if the buyer simultaneously turns in the old appliance. It’s going to mean that the retailers will have to provide some means of recycling clunker appliances. 

The second phase of the program begins in July. This phase is specifically designed to cover furnaces and air conditioning units. Some have wondered why not launch the program in the winter, when people may have more motivation to purchase furnaces, or a bit later to allow purchase of a new air conditioning unit? Still, the program should get some traction. 

The program only covers Energy Star-rated appliances, and according to the Office of the Secretary of Commerce, North Carolina has a budget of $8.8 million for the program. When the money runs out, the program is over. If you’re thinking about a kitchen makeover, new appliances for your new home, or just some fresh energy efficient appliances, you may want to wait a few months to see what kind of rebates might be effective.

 

Did You Know You Can Rent Solar Panels?

by Jodi Bakst

Solar energy is one of the best green energy sources available, and unlike some forms of alternative energy, is perfect for most homeowners. You probably won’t be setting up wind turbines in your backyard any day soon, but most people can put solar panels on top of or near their house, assuming they get direct sunlight. 

The biggest barrier, however, has been cost—the whole process of buying and installing the panels can cost as much as $30,000, meaning you won’t recover the cost for quite a few years. There are some great government incentives that help, but it doesn’t completely eliminate the high cost. As a result, most people felt like getting solar energy was more trouble than it was worth—until now.

 The good news is that a few companies allow you to rent solar panels, meaning you get the benefits without the high starting cost, the headache of applying for permits and rebates, or even the maintenance. One company (Citizenre REnU) takes care of all the details. You simply pay a rental fee and watch your electric bill drop—often as much as 20%. The best part is that your electric rate will lock in at the present rate for the next 25 years. Since energy rates have been increasing by 6% or more every year, this could be the biggest long-term savings decision you make. If you decide to move, you are free to cancel your rental.

 One thing to check—your area must have net metering available. North Carolina is one of many states that allow it, including the cities of Chapel Hill and Durham. Simply contact the power company to discuss your installation. Or you may schedule a free consultation with one of the companies that leases solar panels; often, they will handle any arrangements that need to be made with power companies. Try renu.citizenre.com or solarcity.com. Overall, North Carolina has been slow in making the solar energy option easier for consumers, but things are changing. Now, solar energy is far easier to implement. Since our area of North Carolina is located in an optimal sunlight region, you can expect to get plenty of solar energy, especially during the summer months when energy consumption goes up. You can also enjoy some great tax breaks for using green energy. 

Most American consumers are concerned about the dangers of global warming and other environmental problems we face as a nation. Others of us wonder how we can do anything about it. Like me, you probably want to do something that actually makes a difference. Thankfully, there are some things you can do that actually help the environment.   I just learned that you can rent solar panels so this is why I wanted to write about it.  Renting solar panels is a simple decision that makes environmental sense—and saves you money!  I am definitely going to look into this so I will report back with more information soon.

Will the Home Buyer Tax Credit be Extended Again?

by Jodi Bakst

Will the homebuyer tax credit be extended? Great question—a question that congressional pundits are starting to toss around. When the housing market froze last year, the first-time homebuyer tax credit ($8,000) helped to thaw it out. For a few months it looked like the program would end in November. But not only was it extended, but the homeowner’s move-up credit ($6,500) made it even more successful. This program really helped out lot of Chapel Hill and Durham buyers who purchased during this time.

And now the question is whether it will be extended again. The homebuyer tax credit is scheduled to expire April 30, 2010. (Binding contracts made before April 30th can be completed by June 30.) Analysts such as Jaret Seiberg of Concept Capital, expect Congress to phase out the credit gradually over 6 to 12 months following the April deadline.

One idea could make the transition smoother—if Congress does want to extend the credit again, that fact should be made clear ahead of time.  Last October, sales surged because buyers wanted to be within the November deadline, but contracts that would be completed after November slowed, resulting in a drop off in Durham real estate and Chapel Hill Real Estate sales around and after the November, 30 deadline.  Had buyers known about the extension, this slow down could have been avoided.  Hopefully, Congress’ intentions can be clearer this time around.

It’s hard to argue against the success of this program.  It certainly made a difference in the number of number of homes that sold in Chapel Hill and Durham.  Between 2007-2008, the area experienced a 30% decline in overall sales.  In 2009, sales were still down but only by 12%.  There is no doubt that the first time home buyer tax credit helped spur sales.  Sure, it took some time to iron out the kinks.  But why pull the rug out from under it just when the details have become better known and the program has performed so well? Still, it’s quite possible that another extension might decrease the credit rather than expanding it to more buyers like the last extension.

I mentioned one other important dynamic in a previous post—assuming that Congress doesn’t make clear their intentions ahead of time, there might be a rush to get homes under contract to meet the deadline.  Sellers know about the deadline too.   As the deadline approaches, they may be less willing to negotiate because they know buyers will need to close within a certain time frame to get the credit.   I strongly recommend that buyers find a home they want to purchase sooner rather than later. Don’t assume that the credit will still be there after April 30th and it could be decreased or disappear altogether.   Take advantage of the opportunity while it’s here and do it before the deadline is looking you in the face!

Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill Real Estate Market Update

by Jodi Bakst

The Triangle Area (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) Real Estate market is doing well.  As of the end of November:

  • Closed sales are down 13%.  This is actually a great number since this time last year sales were down close to 27%.
  • Median prices are down 4.5%.
  • Average prices are down 6.7%
  • Days on market increased from 90 to 101 days.

I am happy to report that sales are down less than they were last year.  Overally, on average prices are down some and it is taking longer to get homes sold but the great news is that they are selling.  I only expect things to get better in the coming months.

Don't forget to make www.realestateexperts.net a favorite so that you can see monthly updates on the Triangle Area real estate market.

Durham Real Estate Market Update

by Jodi Bakst

The Durham real estate market is doing well.  As of the end of November:

  • Closed sales are down 15.6%.  This is actually a great number since this time last year sales were down close to 25%.
  • Median prices are up .3%.
  • Average prices are down .5%
  • Days on market increased from 85 to 87.

I am happy to report that sales are down less and that prices are holding their own.  Yes, it is talking a little longer to get homes sold but the great news is that they are selling.  I only expect things to get better in the coming months.

Don't forget to make www.realestateexperts.net a favorite so that you can see monthly updates on the Durham Real Estate market.

Chapel Hill Real Estate Market Update

by Jodi Bakst

The Chapel Hill Real Estate market is doing well.  As of the end of November:

  • Closed sales are down 12%.  This is actually a great number since this time last year sales were down close to 25%.
  • Median prices are up 3%.
  • Average prices are down .5%
  • Days on market increased from 81 to 97.

I am happy to report that sales are down less and that prices are holding their own.  Yes, it is talking a little longer to get homes sold but the great news is that they are selling.  I only expect things to get better in the coming months.

Don't forget to make www.realestateexperts.net a favorite so that you can see monthly updates on the Chapel Hill real estate market.

Orange County Real Estate Market Update

by Jodi Bakst

The Orange County North Carolina Real Estate market is doing well.  As of the end of November:

  • Closed sales are down 12%.  This is actually a great number since this time last year sales were down close to 25%.
  • Median prices are up 1.2%.
  • Average prices are down 1.7%
  • Days on market increased from 83 to 91.

I am happy to report that sales are down less and that prices are holding their own.  Yes, it is talking a little longer to get homes sold but the great news is that they are selling.  I only expect things to get better in the coming months.

Don't forget to make www.realestateexperts.net a favorite so that you can see monthly updates on the Orange County Real Estate market.

Displaying blog entries 231-240 of 427

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