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Existing Home Sales Pause | Bedford Real Estate

Existing home sales declined 3.3% in April, despite the fact that almost half of April sales remained on the market less than one month. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported April 2015 total existing home sales at a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.04 million units combined for single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, up from an upwardly revised 5.21 million units in March. April existing sales were up 6.1% from the same period a year ago, and have increased year-over-year for seven consecutive months.

Existing Home Sales April 2015

Existing sales in the Midwest increased 1.7% from the previous month, but fell in the other regions, ranging from 1.7% in the West to 6.8% in the South. Year-over-year, all four regions increased, ranging from 13.0% in the Midwest to 1.6% in the Northeast.

The first-time buyer share remained unchanged at 30% in April, compared to 29% in February and 28% in January. The first-time buyer participation remains well below the historically typical 40% share.

Total housing inventory increased 10.0% in April to 2.21 million existing homes, which was still 0.9% below the 2.23 million level during the same month a year ago. At the current sales rate, the April unsold inventory represents a 5.3-month supply, up from a 4.6-month supply last month. NAR also reported that April homes sold in an average of 39 days compared to 52 days in March, and was the shortest time on the market since July 2013.

The distressed sales share remained unchanged at 10% in April, and was down from 15% during the same month a year ago. Distressed sales are defined as foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts. April all cash sales remained unchanged at 24% of transactions, down from 26% of transactions in February and 27% in January, and were down from 32% in April 2014. Individual investors purchased a 14% share of homes in April, unchanged from March, and down from 18% during the same month a year ago. Some 71% of investors paid in cash in April, compared to 70% in March, and 67% in February and January. The awaited withdrawal of cash investors will create more opportunity for first-time buyers.


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Average New Home Loan Rate Dips Below 4 Percent | Bedford Real Estate

Earlier today, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported a 10 basis point decline in mortgage interest rates for the month of January.  Looking into the data a little further shows that the story was essentially the same for the subset of mortgages used to purchase newly built homes,

On conventional mortgages for new homes, FHFA tables show the average contract interest rate declining from 4.03 to 3.92 percent—the first time it’s dipped below 4 percent since May.

Contr Rate Jan 15

Meanwhile, average initial fees and charges on the loans, increased slightly from 1.16 to 1.18 percent.  The result was a 9 basis point decline in the average effective interest rate (which amortizes initial fees over the estimated life of the loan) on new home loans, from 4.14 to 4.05 percent.

While the average size of the mortgages declined, from $336,500 to $331,700, the average price of the new homes purchased with the loans moved in the opposite direction—recovering from $437,300 to $440,300 after a one month dip.  Although not quite up to the November peak, this is still the second highest average new home price on record.

Avg Price Jan 15

The combination of smaller loans and higher price took the average loan-to-price ratio on new home mortgages down from 78.9 to 77.3, a ratio more typical of recent history (the average for 2014 was 77.6).

LTP Jan 15

This information is based on FHFA’s Monthly Interest Rate Survey (MIRS) of loans closed during the last five working days in January.  For other caveats and details on the MIRS methodology, see the technical note at the end of FHFA’s February 26 news release.


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Court rules ListHub must continue to provide listing data to Trulia | Bedford Real Estate

Realtors, real estate agents and brokers who were worried that their listings were going to disappear from Trulia by the end of the week can breathe a sigh of relief, at least for now.

That’s because the latest round in the contentious battle between Move and the Zillow Group (Z) over Move-ownedListHub’s decision to terminate its listing agreement with Trulia has gone Zillow’s way, with a California judge ruling that ListHub is required to continue to provide listing data to Trulia until at least March 12.

The Zillow Group threatened legal actionagainst Move, which is owned by News Corp (NWS) and operates Realtor.com for the National Association of Realtors, after it informed Trulia last week that it was immediately terminating its listing agreement with Trulia, effective Feb. 26.

But that’s not going to happen now, because Judge Ernest Goldsmith of the San Francisco Superior Court granted Zillow Group’s request for a temporary restraining order and set a court date of March 12, which will keep ListHub listings flowing to Trulia until at least that date.

Trulia was predictably pleased with the court’s decision.

“The court’s order is a win for brokers, agents and the home sellers they represent. Since News Corp announced its decision on Friday to prematurely cut off the listing feed to Trulia, we’ve received an influx of calls from MLSs and brokers who were concerned that they and their clients wouldn’t be able to effectively market their listings ahead of the home shopping season,” Trulia’s president, Paul Levine said in a statement.

“We’re very pleased with this preliminary decision, and hopeful the court will grant us the further time necessary to make this transition in an orderly way,” he continued.

The fight over the ListHub listings is more than a little interesting, considering what Zillow Group CEO Rascoff said last week. “When we announced we were parting ways with News Corp, we were constrained on being reliant on a competitor for listings,” Rascoff said Wednesday morning. He said ListHub sent inferior listings to emphasize that Move’s Realtor.com had “higher quality listings.”

Rascoff also called the separation from Move a “liberating moment.”

Zillow’s previously announced decision to cancel its own listing agreement with ListHub was a surprise to Move, which expected the listing agreement to continue. As it stands now, ListHub listings will disappear from Zillow on April 7.


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Sale on Kennedy Estate | Bedford Real Estate

Auctioneers are selling off a bit of Kennedy history this week in the form of Jacqueline Kennedy’s correspondence and other memorabilia surrounding a Virginia estate where the family spent just three weekends before JFK was assassinated.

“You have done the most fantastic job and everyone agrees that house is really a dream. One could not wish for anything more perfect — if only we could live in it all year long! And Jack loves it,” the First Lady gushed in one hand-written letter to the couple that acted as her building agents.

Jaqueline Kennedy

Jackie saw the estate, which she named Wexford House, as an equestrian retreat to rival her husband and his family’s beloved Hyannis Port, MA compound.

Wexford House has been on the market for more than a year, with a price drop from $11 million in late 2013 to $7.95 million, according to listing agent Patricia Burns of Middleburg Real Estate.

“The house was finished in ’63, and they were there for three weekends, the last of which was the weekend before they went to Dallas,” Burns explains. “What’s very special to me about it is that it’s still almost in original condition.”

The stucco home measures 5,050 square feet and has 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and an abundance of riding trails. Originally situated on 39 acres, the property today has 167 acres amid rolling hills backed by the Blue Ridge Mountains.

There are his and her dressing rooms, multiple fireplaces and built-in cabinets and bookcases. Outside are a pool, tennis court and horse stables with water and electricity, as well as two separate living areas. The detached garage has a bathroom and second-floor studio, and the property includes an underground bomb shelter.

Jacqueline Kennedy’s paper trail reveals the home was paid for by her father-in-law, Joe Kennedy Sr., and that it cost just over $127,000, which was quite a bit more than the $40,000 she’d agreed to. In the book “Last Hundred Days,” author Thurston Clarke says John Kennedy was strongly opposed to building the home but agreed to it because his wife wanted it so much.

The estate has other presidential connections, too. Wexford House was leased by Ronald and Nancy Reagan during the fall 1980 presidential campaign. Reagan rehearsed there for debates with President Jimmy Carter.


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How to Borrow Light | Bedford Real Estate

In 1915 the 38-story Equitable Building in New York City was the largest office building in the world. Containing 1.2 million square feet of office space, it consumed nearly every available square foot of its diminutive lot and cast an equally large shadow on its neighborhood in lower Manhattan. Its construction inspired the enactment of the city’s 1916 Zoning Resolution, which was designed to preserve access to light and air at the street level. The resolution prescribed specific limitations for a building’s envelope — its outer walls — and would go on to shape the stepped forms that you see today on many of the iconic towers in the city.This underscores the importance that access to daylight had in shaping even the largest of cities, the individual buildings that make up those cities and, more broadly, sensible building design. With an increasing focus on sustainable design practices, the smart use of natural daylight in our homes is no longer a luxury — it has become a necessity. At the heart of any good daylighting strategy is a concept of “borrowed” light: the capture of light falling on the exterior of a home and transporting it to the spaces where it’s needed.

30-year fixed-rate mortgage edges up to 3.66% | #Bedford NY Real Estate

Mortgage rates crept higher last week, according to mortgage buyer Freddie Mac. The benchmark 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.66% in the week ending Jan. 29, up from 3.63%. A year ago, the 30-year averaged 4.32%. The 15-year fixed-rate averaged 2.98%, up from 2.93%; the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 2.86%, up from 2.83%; and the 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.38%, up from 2.37%.


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Marketing to the Affluent | Bedford Real Estate

I recently had a sit-down with one of the top real estate agents in Boston, Michael Carucci.

Last year he closed 16 sales in Boston, for a combined total of $71 million in transaction value. He caters to Boston’s elite, people who are in the market for multimillion-dollar properties.

His niche is marketing to the affluent and, in a recent meeting, he shares with me five simple steps to gaining business and trust from the elite.

1. Connect.

The most important skill in sales, Carucci says, is connecting with people — not through mailings, social media or advertising but rather through personal, one-on-one dialogue with everyone you meet.

To do this, Carucci explains, you must always be listening and taking mental notes about what people care about and then step into their shoes to figure out what would make them feel special and cared for.

Recently, some buyers were driving from New York to Boston for a closing on a property and weren’t expected to get home until late at night due to traffic and weather delays. Carucci thought about what he could do to help them in their stressful situation.

Carucci came up with an idea: food shopping. He had a team member do a full food shop for the clients, even taking into account their child’s allergies.

Upon reaching their home, the clients were delighted to find their new kitchen stocked with enough food to feed an army. When you listen to people, you can find out what they need and act upon it,” Carucci says. “That’s how you connect.”

2. Immerse yourself.

You must live the life that your potential clients live. You can’t decide to just market to the affluent unless you live, work and play among them. People do business with people who are like them.

One of Boston’s most elite addresses is The Four Seasons, a hotel and luxury condominium development. Carucci sells units there every year. Why? He lives there, among the people he works with. They are his friends, neighbors and business associates, all rolled into one.

3. Remember it’s quality vs. quantity.

Too many sales professionals pursue huge quantities of prospects, Carucci says. He concentrates on quality, he says. He doesn’t want to sell 100 properties: He wants to sell 10 or 20 to elite Boston clients.

When Carucci hosts an open house for a unit, he prefers to do it during a Patriots football game or a snowstorm. Why? The best prospects are the ones out shopping for a property when nobody else is.

4. Mention you’re never too busy to help.

One of the biggest misconceptions about highly successful salespeople is that they are too busy for more business, Carucci says.

Therefore, Carucci makes it a point to remind people he meets throughout the day that he is always available to them if they need any help with real estate or anything else. He says that he’s doesn’t go over the top asking for business all the time, but rather he regularly reminds potential clients that he’s never too busy if they need him.


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