Total existing-home sales, released by the National Association of Realtors, increased 1.9% from October to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.32 million in November. Despite the monthly rise, sales decreased 7.0% from a year ago in November, the biggest drop since May 2011, indicating the housing market continued to sputter due to the rising mortgage rate and tight inventory. Total existing-home sales include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops.
Meanwhile, the first-time buyer share slightly rose to 33% from 31% last month and 29% a year ago. The November inventory decreased to 1.74 million units from 1.85 million units in October, but was up from 1.67 million units compared to a year ago. At the current sales rate, the November unsold inventory represents a 3.9-month supply, down from a 4.3-month supply last month and up from a 3.5-month supply a year ago.
Homes stayed on the market for 42 days in November, up from 36 days in October and 40 days a year ago. In November, 43% of homes sold were on the market for less than a month.
The November all-cash sales share was 21%, down from 22% a year ago.
The November median sales price of $257,700 was up 4.2% from a year ago, representing the 81th consecutive month of year-over-year increases. The November median condominium/co-op price of $236,400 was down 1.3% from a year ago.
Regionally, while existing-home sales grew 5.5% in the Midwest, 7.2% in the Northeast, 2.3% in the South, sales in the West fell 6.3% in November compared to the previous month. Sales in the West recorded its second lowest reading since December 2010. Year-over-year, sales declined in all four regions, ranging from 2.6% in the Northeast to 15.4% in the West.
The NAR described the two consecutive months of increases is a positive sign for the market. Though builder confidence in December fell to its lowest value since May 2015 due to the rising housing affordabilityconcerns, builder sentiment remains in positive territory.
Hurricane Sandy, possibly the most publicized weather event in memory, has dissipated. But remodelers whose businesses lay in its path are likely to recall it for a long time to come. Their experience may also prove instructive: Sandy, climate scientists point out, likely offers a foretaste of things to come, as severe storms, tornadoes, and other freakish weather events begin to occur more often.
Many remodelers in Sandy’s path responded to the storm rather than just locking their doors and waiting for the maelstrom to pass like other businesses did. “We want to be the only company [homeowners] think of when they need to call a remodeler,” says Matt LeFaivre, president of LeFaivre Construction, in Taneytown, Md.
Here are some lessons passed on by owners of those companies:
1) Secure the jobs you’re currently working on: A crew from LeFaivre Construction spent six hours closing up an open wall adjacent to the location of the stick-built sunroom it was about to build. Some companies postponed jobs about to start. Dutchess Building Specialists, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., postponed removing a roof that was set to come off prior to building a two-story addition, its president Brian Altmann says, and brought in three extra people to get a shingle roofing job wrapped up the Friday before the storm hit.
2) Safeguard buildings and their contents: Obvious measures include covering windows with plywood against glass-shattering debris. But what about rising water? If it’s at all a possibility, clear floors. The foot of seawater that entered Pardini Construction, a mile and a half from the beach in Long Branch, N.J., would have caused far more destruction had electronics and files not been removed, according to sales manager David Brown. And don’t forget data. In addition to regularly backing up computer files, Matt LeFaivre made two separate copies of hard drive contents and stored these at off-site locations.
3) Take care of your own: In the days before Sandy struck and devastated Long Island, Alure Home Improvement held an “emergency response meeting” to, in the words of its president Sal Ferro, determine “how we support clients, family, friends, and employees immediately after.” Make employees your first concern. If their homes are damaged or they are concerned about damage, they probably, in any case, won’t be part of your emergency response effort for clients. Have a plan and make everyone part of it. Episcopo Brothers, in Summit, N.J., “let everyone know they had to be available for the next two weeks,” says co-owner Joe Episcopo.
4) Decide what services to offer and prioritize requests: In areas slammed by Sandy, homeowners contacting remodeling companies were mostly seeking repair of damaged exteriors, especially roofs. That ranged from “a few calls” at Dutchess Building Specialists to hundreds a day at companies in New Jersey and on Long Island. When Hurricane Isabel hit the Virginia coast in 2003, Criner Remodeling owner Robert Criner found himself so swamped with calls that he at first limited commitments to past customers, then past customers within 10 miles of the company’s offices, then to past customers within 5 miles of the company’s offices. Criner says he quickly realized he “can’t solve everybody’s problems.”
5) Reach out before, during, and after the storm: Gehman Custom Remodeling, in Harleysville, Pa., sent an email blast immediately following Hurricane Sandy, alerting its list that the company was available for repair work. Owner Dennis Gehman says that for taking care of its customers, “we gained a few more.” But if he had to do it again, “we’d do an email blast a day or two before” the storm letting people know “that our phones are on and we’ll respond as long as it’s safe to be out.”
6) Set up clear lines of communication: If land lines to your office go down, how will customers reach you? Episcopo & Sons posted owner and employee cell phone numbers on a landing page. But if your phone system and office staff aren’t set up for it and too many calls come in at the same time, you’ll lose some. Joe Percario, owner of Percario General Contractor, in Roselle, N.J., estimates he received at least 350 calls via cell phone during the first day of Sandy. If he was going to do it again, Percario says, he’d hire an answering service to forward all calls as text messages or email, to ensure that all calls are responded to and that contact information is captured.
7) Prepare to be without fuel and power: In New Jersey and parts of New York, gas stations had no power and fuel trucks were delayed. Episcopo & Sons managed the problem by purchasing 300 gallons of gas and 200 gallons of diesel before Sandy hit. Meanwhile, many companies struggled to work around partial or total power failure. Percario says that if he knew he was going to go through a Sandy-type storm again he’d equip his office with an industrial generator similar to the Honda 9,000-watt industrial generator (price $5,400) he used at home.
8) Stock the equipment and material you’ll need for the work you’ll do:Alure’s Ferro says that his ideas about how to manage an emergency situation evolved “from the day before Sandy to the day after to today.” Among other things, he says, his company would have more remediation equipment on hand. List the products you need, including tarps, chain saws, water pumps, fans, and dehumidifiers. You can lease some of these, but it’s good to get your name in at the company where you lease equipment well before the demand really starts.
9) Know the experts to call: A tree hits a roof and the homeowner calls a day later wanting you to replace the shattered rafters and rebuild walls and floors. But you can’t get started before removing the tree. Tree removal specialists do that. (No, they don’t have to be licensed.) Relationships with such local service providers are essential. LeFaivre Construction, for instance, typically refers clients to one of two local tree removal companies. If clients call and get no response, president Matt LeFaivre calls the tree companies personally.
10) Assess whether you’re set up to handle insurance work: Flooded basements, smashed roofs, yards strewn with downed trees … How will you bill for the repair work you do? Criner says that he opted to submit an estimate with a fixed price rather than billing hourly. He advises that homeowners need to be aware that their insurance may not cover the total cost of all work. With major damage repairs, you’ll probably be dealing with insurance adjusters. It’s a good idea to get someone on your staff trained in how to do that — and expect clients for repair or storm damage work to be in a somewhat different frame of mind than clients for a new kitchen.
Home prices are continuing to rise; now mere basis points below the all-time highs for prices, set in 2006.
According to the latest data released Tuesday by S&P Dow Jones Indices and CoreLogic, the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index, which covers all nine U.S. census divisions, reported a 5.3% annual gain in August, up from 5% in July.
Per the report, the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index is currently at 184.42, which is within 0.1% of its record high of 184.62, set in July 2006.
The increase in August represents the 52nd consecutive month of positive gains.
According to the Case-Shiller report, the 10-City Composite posted a 4.3% annual increase, up from 4.1% in July, while the 20-City Composite posted a 5.1% annual increase, up from 5.0% in July.
The report states that Portland, Seattle and Denver turned in the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities for the seventh consecutive month, with year-over-year increases of 11.7%, 11.4% and 8.8%, respectively.
“Supported by continued moderate economic growth, home prices extended recent gains,” said David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.
“All 20 cities saw prices higher than a year earlier with 10 enjoying larger annual gains than last month,” Blitzer continued. “The seasonally adjusted month-over-month data showed that home prices in 14 cities were higher in August than in July.”
Blitzer also noted that other housing data including sales of existing single-family homes, measures of housing affordability, and permits for new construction also point to a “reasonably healthy housing market.”
Additionally, the Case-Shiller report showed that before seasonal adjustment, the National Index posted a month-over-month gain of 0.5% in August.
The report also showed that both the 10-City Composite and the 20-City Composite posted a 0.4% increase in August.
After seasonal adjustment, the National Index recorded a 0.6% month-over-month increase, and both the 10-City Composite and the 20-City Composite reported 0.2% month-over-month increases.
Washington, D.C. – U.S. house prices rose in July, up 0.6 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from the previous month, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) monthly House Price Index (HPI). The previously reported 0.2 percent change in June remains unchanged. The FHFA HPI is calculated using home sales price information from mortgages sold to, or guaranteed by, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. From July 2014 to July 2015, house prices were up 5.8 percent. The U.S. index is 1.1 percent below its March 2007 peak and is roughly the same as the November 2006 index level. For the nine census divisions, seasonally adjusted monthly price changes from June 2015 to July 2015 ranged from -1.2 percent in the New England division to +1.6 percent in the Mountain division. The 12-month changes were all positive, ranging from +2.1 percent in the New England division to +9.4 percent in the Mountain division.
Hailed as the first piece of modern architecture in Litchfield, Connecticut, the 1950 Stillman House by Modernist great Marcel Breuer brought glass, colors, and clean lines to an historic New England town that was until then all about colonials. The 2,359-square-foot masterpiece, which would usher in more modern works in Litchfield by other members of Breuer’s Bauhaus-inspired cohort, the Harvard Five, is set on over two acres of secluded hilltop grounds. When current owners purchased it from the Stillman family in 2009, it was in desperate need of repairs. What followed was a four-year total restoration that introduced contemporary luxuries while maintaining Breuer’s original intentions.
Now on the market for $2.495M, the property includes a main house with four bedrooms, a guesthouse with a large sunken living room, floating staircases on the interior and exterior, and the most covetable pool. As seen in a 1950s black-and-white outdoor shot below, one end of the pool was adorned with a striking geometric mural by American sculptor Alexander Calder. The pool wall has since then been rebuilt after it deteriorated, and today, a facsimile of the artwork stands, continuing a dynamic dialogue with the blue, yellow, red, and grey strips on the front facade. On the interior, one end of a fireplace also sports the original Sound Waves mural by Bauhaus artistXanti Schawinsky.
The housing market could be in for a bumpy ride as mortgage rates climb.
Home buyers and sellers heading into the busy summer season have been eyeing mortgage rates wondering how long the good times can last.
The national housing market has been gaining strength in recent years as prices rose rapidly in many areas. In the first quarter, 51 metro areas posted double-digit percentage price gains, according to the National Association of Realtors. But economists say that momentum may not outlast higher rates, depending a lot on location.
For five years, mortgage rates have hovered around 50-year lows, a situation most economists believe will start to reverse if the Federal Reserve begins to raise interest rates later this year. Rates on 30-year conventional mortgages averaged 4% for the week ended Thursday, according to mortgage giant Freddie Mac. Until a few weeks ago, mortgage rates had been below 4% since November.
The Fed doesn’t have direct control over mortgage rates or any other long-term rates, which fluctuate based on perceptions about the economy and inflation. But when the central bank raises short-term rates, other rates move accordingly over time. Mortgage rates typically track yields on 10-year Treasury notes.
Existing-home sales slightly ticked back up 1.2% in February after last month’s plummet, but tight inventory levels pushed price growth to its fastest pace in a year, theNational Association of Realtors said.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said although February sales showed modest improvement, there’s been some stagnation in the market in recent months.
“Insufficient supply appears to be hampering prospective buyers in several areas of the country and is hiking prices to near unsuitable levels,” he said. “Stronger price growth is a boon for homeowners looking to build additional equity, but it continues to be an obstacle for current buyers looking to close before rates rise.”
Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 1.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.88 million in February from 4.82 million in January. Sales are 4.7% higher than a year ago and above year-over-year totals for the fifth consecutive month.
This is not too far off Zillow’s (Z) forecast that the seasonal adjusted annual rate would rise 1.3% to 4.88 million in February.
The median existing-home price for all housing types in February was $202,600, which is 7.5% above February 2014. This marks the 36th consecutive month of year-over-year price gains and the largest since last February with it was 8.8%.
In addition, total housing inventory at the end of February increased 1.6% to 1.89 million existing homes available for sale, but remains 0.5% below a year ago (1.90 million). For the second straight month, unsold inventory is at a 4.6-month supply at the current sales pace.
The percent share of first-time buyers barely increased, growing to 29% in February from 28% in January, marking the first increase since November 2014. First-time buyers represented 28% of all buyers in February 2014.
All-cash sales were 26% of transactions in February, down from 27% in January and down considerably from a year ago when it was 35%.
Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 14% of homes in February, down from 17% last month and 21% in February 2014. Sixty-seven percent of investors paid cash in February.
Distressed sales, foreclosures and short sales, were 11% of sales in February, unchanged for the third consecutive month and down from 16% a year ago. Eight percent of February sales were foreclosures and 3% were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 17% below market value in February (15% in January), while short sales were discounted 15% (12% in January).
In 2008 these Santa Monica, California, homeowners worked with their architects to build a minimalist, modern home. Several years later they still loved their custom home, but they thought it could be cozier and more touchable. They hired an interior design team to take their rooms to a new, warmer level.
Houzz at a Glance Who lives here: A landscape architect, her husband and their son Location: Santa Monica, California Size: 3,500 square feet (325 square meters);4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms
Interior designers Krista Schrock and David Dick of Disc Interiors picked up the design reins last year. To fully understand why they added earthy, touchable elements and nature-based colors to the pure white spaces, you have to know that the woman in the house is a landscape designer and her husband is an avid surfer who works at a nonprofit dedicated to restoring Santa Monica Bay. “They wanted us to bring in more natural elements, to make the spaces warmer and more approachable,” says Dick.
The living room illustrates the strategy — a metal sunburst hangs over furniture done in watery shades of blue and a nubby Moroccan rug. Rustic elements such as the stone-topped coffee table and pottery accessories on the shelves turn up the visual temperature several degrees.
“We sometimes like to work with opposites,” says Dick. “We were working with something that was new, white and minimal. We added elements that are the opposite: vintage, brass, glass, ceramics and touches of black — we’ve always thought a bit of black sharpens up almost any room.”
Metal sculpture: vintage Curtis Jeré; sofa: custom; coffee table: Lawson-Fenning
The designers created a custom light fixture that is like a large mobile. The black and brass light breaks up the boxiness of the room.
Given the home’s modernist nature, it’s no surprise that it has been the backdrop for several Design Within Reach catalog photo shoots. The armchair is, in fact, a DWR piece the couple owns. “We wanted to avoid the cliché of midcentury furniture in a modern house, so we re-covered the chair in a pinstripe fabric,” says Dick.
Most of the seating is now directed toward the garden, seen through the large glass doors. The sofa was moved to face the garden, and the other armchair is a swivel chair, which allows its occupant to swing around and take in the view. “Because she is a landscape designer, the rooms are all about the gardens,” says Dick. “The colors we chose were a counterbalance to the beautiful greens outside.”
The couple likes to cook, and the kitchen was done to their liking. The designers added a new dimension by installing two large mica globe lights over the island. “They are a big, strong statement,” says Dick. “They are different sizes, which makes them playful and fun, and the mica shades make a beautiful, warm glow in the room.”
The watery look picks up again in the dining room, where the designers used patterned curtains to create a kind of floor-to-ceiling artwork. “They make for a bold moment,” says Dick. “Every room should have one.”
A very small but very well-appointed one-bedroom Greenwich Village apartment is on the market for $865,000. Although the home at 2 East 12 Street is small (is that a twin bed?), it’s been thoughtfully renovated and restored. The apartment first appeared on the market for $995,000 in 2012 and has tried to sell a few times since to no avail. Maybe the new listing pictures—compared with the old—will spur buyers on.