The chart below from Case-Shiller’s release today of its July data says it all. Prices now are shifting a lot on a monthly basis. The range between appreciating and depreciating markets seems to be growing and no longer do the “sand” states, judicial foreclosure states or foreclosure states or cities with the best economies and most jobs.
Rather, with the possible exceptions of Cleveland and Boston, appreciating markets are to be found west of the Mississippi and depreciating ones to the east, as if America were a great raft at sea with too much weight on one end.
These are seasonally adjusted month-over-month increases and they are particularly important because both seasonally adjusted existing sales and pending sales dropped unexpectedly in August, according to NAR. Like Case-Shiller, NAR found annualized prices in the West (7.1%) much higher than the East (2.4%)
Five hundred square feet might not sound like much, but as rents clearly show, in some markets that’s a coveted amount of real estate. In other places, it’s plenty of space to rest your head and grab a bite after a day in the woods or on the water. And in many areas, it’s the right size for a reasonable mortgage.
Here’s how it looks to live in 500 or fewer square feet around the country:
The great wide open beckons to whoever sleeps in this 468-square-foot cabin on the edge of a canyon between Aspen and Telluride. Situated on 40 acres amid mountains and valleys, the home features an aspen tongue-and-groove ceiling, built-in bookcases and electricity from charged batteries. There’s no bathroom, but a quaint outhouse was just built.
Freddie Mac today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates moving higher amid positive housing data and pushing fixed mortgage rates to their highest level of the year.
30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.87 percent with an average 0.6 point for the week ending May 28, 2015, up from last week when it averaged 3.84 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.12 percent.
15-year FRM this week averaged 3.11 percent with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.05 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.21 percent.
1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.50 percent this week with an average 0.3 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.51 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.41 percent.
Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Visit the following links for theRegional and National Mortgage Rate Details and Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.
Quotes Attributed to Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist, Freddie Mac.
“Mortgage rates rose to the highest level in 2015 following positive housing market data. New home sales surged 6.8 percent to an annual pace of 517,000 units in April. Althoughexisting home sales slipped 3.3 percent to a seasonally-adjusted pace of 5.04 million units, sales are up 6.1 percent on a year-over-year basis. The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index also posted a solid gain of 5 percent over the 12-months ending in March 2015.”
Freddie Mac was established by Congress in 1970 to provide liquidity, stability and affordability to the nation’s residential mortgage markets. Freddie Mac supports communities across the nation by providing mortgage capital to lenders. Today Freddie Mac is making home possible for one in four home borrowers and is one of the largest sources of financing for multifamily housing. Additional information is available at FreddieMac.com, Twitter @FreddieMac and Freddie Mac’s blog FreddieMac.com/blog.
NAHB’s Remodeling Market Index (RMI) was 57 in the first quarter of 2015, off the historic high point of 60 at the end of 2014, but still above the key break-even point of 50. The RMI and each of its components lies on a scale of 0 to 100, where a number above 50 indicates that more remodelers report the market has improved than report it has gotten worse.
The overall RMI averages ratings of current remodeling conditions with indicators of future activity. Overall, current market conditions declined two points to 58, although smaller jobs continued to show strength: the maintenance and repair component of the RMI increased four points to 64—an all time high since the inception of the survey in 2001.
The index of future market indicators also declined, from 60 to 55, in the first quarter. All four of its subcomponents—calls for bids, amount of work committed for the next three months, backlog of jobs and appointments for proposals—declined but remained significantly above 50.
The indices above 50 mean that remodelers on balance remain positive about the improving market. The declines off fourth quarter peaks mean the positive outlook is not quite as widespread as it was at the end of last year. A shortage of labor in key trades is one factor restraining remodelers’ optimism. Another may be the harsh weather that struck many parts of the country during the first quarter of 2015, although this would have necessitated repairs and tended to have a positive effect on the RMI’s maintenance and repair component.
The legendary architect and his companion, the curator David Whitney, spent their weekends in the world’s most famous transparent box. Or did they?
WHEN PHILIP JOHNSON’S Glass House in New Canaan, Conn., was featured in Life magazine soon after its completion in 1949, architects and designers downed martinis at the Oyster Bar, pondering the future of the International Style. But that probably wasn’t what most people were thinking about as they looked at the pictures. They likely leaned back in their Barcaloungers and wondered: How could he actually live in a clear box, without walls, without privacy, without any stuff?
The answer was that despite our indelible impression of Johnson, the owlish man in the dapper suit and those spectacles, spending his incredibly long life (he died at age 98 in 2005) in the 1,800-square-foot transparent rectangle, silhouetted against a backdrop of greenery that he called “expensive wallpaper,” he never really did live in the Glass House. At least not in the self-contained sense in which the rest of us occupy our homes.
T’s design editor Tom Delavan tours the 49-acre estate with Henry Urbach, the house’s director.
Instead, the Glass House was merely the focal point of what eventually grew to be a veritable architectural theme park on 49 meticulously tended acres, comprising 14 structures, in which Johnson and David Whitney, the collector and curator who met him in 1960 and became his life partner, and who died just months after Johnson, enjoyed their impossibly glamorous weekend existence.
From the bunkerlike Brick House where Johnson often slept and the tiny, turreted, postmodern Library where he worked surrounded by architecture books, to Calluna Farms, the 1905 shingled farmhouse and the subterranean art gallery, the collection of buildings formed Johnson’s idea of the perfect deconstructed home. When the Glass House compound, a National Trust for Historic Preservation site, reopens for tours in May after its usual winter break, the public will for the first time be able to visit two additional structures of the 14 — Calluna Farms and Grainger, the cozy 18th-century timber-frame house the couple used as a TV room — at last offering a more nuanced picture of what life really was like behind glass.
Philip Johnson’s “Glass House” refers ambiguously both to his iconic residence in New Canaan, Conn., and to the 49-acre property which comprised eight other buildings, including this house, called Grainger, which was used as a sitting room.Dean Kaufman
The world-famous Glass House, completed in 1949, was not the couple’s sole residence on the property. Dean Kaufman
The Sculpture Gallery, built in 1970, holds works from the likes of Frank Stella and Robert Morris. Dean Kaufman
The postmodern one-room Library, built in 1980, where Johnson often worked. Dean Kaufman
The Gehryesque Da Monsta gatehouse, completed in 1995. Dean Kaufman
The interior of Grainger, the 18th-century farmhouse used mostly for watching TV. Dean Kaufman
The entrance to the subterranean Painting Gallery. Dean Kaufman
Calluna Farms, the shingle-style farmhouse purchased by Johnson in 1981 to serve as Whitney’s residence. Dean Kaufman
The interior of Calluna Farms with its lace curtains and chairs designed by Prouvé, Le Corbusier and Thonet. Dean Kaufman
The bedroom in the Brick House, designed by Johnson in 1953, features vaulted ceilings, Fortuny-covered walls and a hand-woven carpet. Dean Kaufman
The Lincoln Kirstein Tower, a 30-foot folly on the property that Johnson used to climb. Dean Kaufman
A window by the artist Michael Heizer at the back of Grainger, facing the peony and iris garden. Dean Kaufman
IN THE BEGINNING, there were two: the Glass House and the Brick House, both about 50 feet long and finished within months of each other in 1949 on a five-acre plot, with a 90-foot-wide grassy court separating them. History has downplayed the Brick House — from the outside it’s plain and it doesn’t fit well with the people-in-glass-houses narrative — but Johnson always knew it would be impossible to live entirely in the open, so he built a place to get some privacy.
The rest of the buildings came naturally, if gradually. The idea of having a slew of small houses for different activities, moods and seasons, complemented by decorative “follies,” was Johnson’s conception for the site from early on. He called it a “diary of an eccentric architect,” but it was also a sketchbook, an homage to architects past and present, and to friends like the dance impresario Lincoln Kirstein, after whom Johnson named one of the follies he built on the property, a 30-foot-high tower made of painted concrete blocks.
In contrast to their whirlwind weekday world in Manhattan, Johnson and Whitney saw life in New Canaan as perpetual camping, albeit of a luxurious, minimalist sort. Neither Grainger nor the 380-square-foot Library has a bathroom, though both are air-conditioned, unlike the Glass House, which relies on cross ventilation. It originally had heating pipes in the ceiling and the floor, but the ceiling pipes reportedly froze early on and were never adequately repaired. To compensate, on particularly cold winter days the temperature of the water flowing through the radiant heated floors was turned up to nearly 200 degrees. “You couldn’t go in there with bare feet,” Port Draper, the contractor who maintained the house for many years, recalled in The Times in 2007. Johnson was unbothered by the house’s leaks, a problem endemic to a flat roof. Frank Lloyd Wright once referred to one of his houses as a “two-bucket house,” according to Robert A. M. Stern, to which Johnson gaily replied, “Oh, that’s nothing, Frank. Mine’s a four-bucket house. One in each corner.”
While the Glass House was designed with areas for dining, living and sleeping, loosely divided by low cabinetry and a brick cylinder holding the chimney and bathroom, it functioned more as a living space, an occasional office for Johnson and a place to throw parties (lots of them, attended in the early years by a coterie of young Yale architecture students, and later by the likes of Richard Meier, Frank Gehry, Fran Lebowitz and Agnes Gund). The house was astonishingly tchotchke-free. “I don’t think clutter was allowed,” the painter Jasper Johns, a friend of both men, once said. “One was always aware of their ruthless elegance.”
Mortgage default rates fell below one percent for the first time in years, providing further evidence that the foreclosure era is all but over.
Data through June 2014, released today by S&P Dow Jones Indices and Experian for the S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices, a comprehensive measure of changes in consumer credit defaults, showed decline in default rates. After eight consecutive months of rate declines, the first mortgage default rate fell to 0.89.
“Consumer credit default rates continue to drift lower and have reached a historical low,” says David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee for S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Recent economic reports are encouraging with the unemployment rate now at a six year low and strong job creation in recent months. The continued declines in consumer default rates confirm other indicators of an improving economy. Credit standards for mortgage loans continue to be somewhat restrictive and may be contributing to low first mortgage default rates.
Despite weak demand and an infusion of new listings over the past two months, listings are selling nearly as fast as a year ago and prices are still rising.
Realtor.com reported this week that in April the total U.S. for-sale inventory of single family homes, condos, townhomes and co-ops rose by 8.56% over March, from 1,841,844 units in March to 1,999,548 units in April. As a result, the median age of the inventory dropped by 15.69% over the month, although it remains 6.17% higher than it was a year ago. Yet the median list price rose significantly over the month, from $199,900 to $207,500 despite soft demand. On a year-over-year basis, the median list price and the size of the for-sale inventory were up by 6.46% and 14.21%, respectively.
NAR reported that, with little inventory relative to demand, in April properties sold faster for the fifth straight month. Listings typically sold in 48 days compared to 55 days in March, falling to nearly the same level as 43 days a year ago. NAR’s monthly survey of Realtors found that short sales were on the market for the longest, at 96 days (112 in March), and foreclosed properties were on market at 56 days (55 days in March). Non-distressed properties were on the market at 45 days (53 days in March). Conditions varied across areas. Approximately 41 percent of respondents reported that properties were on the market for less than a month when sold, and about 6 percent were on the market for more than six months
The supply of existing homes on the market remains low, at 5.2 months in March, according to a report from Freddie Mac.
The total number of homes offered for sale relative to the number of households in the U.S. has been running at the lowest level in more than 30 years.
“The housing recovery is struggling to shift into a higher gear, and obviously there are various imbalances holding this back from happening, but at the heart of the matter it comes down to jobs,” said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist.
But these low inventory challenges are the direct offspring of several features of today’s market.
1. Underwater homeowners
Since the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act expired on Dec. 31, 2013, many underwater homeowners are reluctant to short-sell.
CoreLogic reported that 6.5 million homeowners remained underwater as of year-end 2013.
Meanwhile, there was also a sharp decline in short sales at the beginning of 2014, from 5.2% of sales in December to 2.2% of sales in February.
2. Low rates
Many borrowers were able to refinance into record low rates in the past several years.
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average interest rate on single-family mortgages outstanding was 3.9% during the first quarter of 2014, drastically down from the average 30-year fixed-rate average rate of 4.4% for new loans during the quarter.
As a result, homeowners are reluctant to sell their current home and forego the low rate mortgage loan they currently have.
3. REO sales slow
Despite real-estate owned sales remaining strong in some markets, in aggregate REO sales have slowed considerably over the past couple of years.
The Transylvanian castle erroneously reputed to be the abode of that terrifying abomination Dracula is now technically “for sale.” Bran Castle, an atmospheric pile perched atop a crag, is set to be sold off by its Habsburg owners. The Romanian government has reportedly lodged an $80 million bid.
The fortress dates to the 13th century and has been occupied by various bands of warriors and knights over the years. Images of Bran Castle supposedly reached Bram Stoker, the 19th-century Irish author of “Dracula,” who drew inspiration for his famous work from travelogues and sketches by British diplomats and adventurers in what was then Wallachia (modern-day Romania). He envisioned the scene surrounding the vampire’s lair like so:
The castle is on the very edge of a terrific precipice. A stone falling from the window would fall a thousand feet without touching anything! As far as the eye can reach is a sea of green tree tops, with occasionally a deep rift where there is a chasm. Here and there are silver threads where the rivers wind in deep gorges through the forests.
Bran Castle fits the bill and has since become a popular tourist destination for those seeking their Dracula thrills. The structure was in the possession of the Romanian Habsburg royal line, but it was appropriated by the state with the advent of Communism. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Habsburgs’ descendants were ceded back the fortress and set about restoring it — making it the desired attraction it now is.