After reaching a record high in August, pending home sales slid for the third consecutive month, as fast-rising home prices and low inventory started to impede the housing market. Higher interest rates this week will present an additional challenge in future data.
The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI), reported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), is a forward-looking indicator based on signed contracts. The PHSI fell 2.6% from 129.1 in October to 125.7 in November, the highest level for November. However, on a year-over-year basis, sales were still 16.4% higher than a year ago.
All four regions saw a decline in month-over-month contract activity, ranging from 1.1% in the South to 4.7% in the West. On a year-over-year basis, all four regions saw double-digit year-over-year growths, ranging from 10.4% in the West to 21.3% in the South.
Despite the declines in these three months, pending home sales still outperformed this year and housing demand remained strong due to recent, low mortgage rates. However, rising home prices driven by record-low inventory may hurt affordability, especially first-time buyers. More listings and home construction are needed to meet this rising demand.
Freddie Mac (OTCQB: FMCC) today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing that mortgage rates dropped with the beginning of spring homebuying season.Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, says, “Mortgage rates have dipped quite dramatically since the start of the year and house prices continue to moderate, which should help on the homebuyer affordability front. The combination of improving affordability and more inventory than the last few spring selling seasons should lead to improved home sales demand.”
News Facts30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.28 percent with an average 0.4 point for the week ending March 21, 2019, down from last week when it averaged 4.31 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.45 percent. 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.71 percent with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.76 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.91 percent. 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.84 percent with an average 0.3 point, unchanged from last week. A year ago at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.68 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 link for the Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.Freddie Mac makes home possible for millions of families and individuals by providing mortgage capital to lenders. Since our creation by Congress in 1970, we’ve made housing more accessible and affordable for homebuyers and renters in communities nationwide. We are building a better housing finance system for homebuyers, renters, lenders, investors and taxpayers. Learn more at FreddieMac.com, Twitter @FreddieMac and Freddie Mac’s blog FreddieMac.com/blog.
Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, says, “The combination of cooling inflation and slower global economic growth led mortgage rates to drift down to the lowest levels in a year. While housing activity has clearly softened over the last nine months and the lingering effects of higher rates from last year are still being felt, lower mortgage rates and a strong job market should rekindle demand for the spring homebuying season.”
30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.37 percent with an average 0.4 point for the week ending February 14, 2019, down from last week when it averaged 4.41 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.38 percent.
15-year FRM this week averaged 3.81 percent with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.84 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.84 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 link for the Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.
Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, says, “The 30-year fixed fell to 4.63 percent this week – the lowest it has been since mid-September. Mortgage rates have either fallen or remained flat for five consecutive weeks and purchase applicants are responding with an uptick in demand given these lower rates. While the housing market softened in response to higher rates through most of this year, the combination of a low unemployment and recent downdraft in rates should support home sales heading into the early winter months.”
30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.63 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending December 13, 2018, down from last week when it averaged 4.75. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.93 percent.
15-year FRM this week averaged 4.07 percent with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 4.21 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.36 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 link for the Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey
Many athletes have been doing it for a long time without even knowing it is now a fitness trend. It’s called plogging, a combination of jogging and picking up. And what is being picked up is trash. The Swedes are credited with starting the trend and now it’s spreading in the United States.
A sunny and breezy day is perfect for plogging. Jeff Horowitz, a personal trainer at Vida Gym in Washington, is plogging with a couple of his friends. To him, nothing is new about this routine.
“This is just my personal ethics, where I would go for a run and if I happen to see a piece of garbage laying around and it’s within my reach,” he says. “It was a kind of a little test for me to see if I can grab it and throw it in a near trash can without stopping. That way I thought it gave me a little bit of exercise, a little focus for my run and helped clean up the neighborhood.”
Now, he knows he’s one of a growing number of people worldwide who are plogging. He often organizes plogging events.
Rules of Plogging
Getting ready to plog is similar to getting ready to jog. You have to warm up by doing weight squats, some calisthenics, some balance exercises. Then, grab a trash bag and you’re ready to go, but not before wearing a pair of gloves.
“Gloves are important,” Horowitz says. “You want to make sure this is going to be healthy for you. Even if you’ve good intentions, you never know what you’ll find. It might be broken glass, medical waste.”
Like any other fitness routine, plogging has rules. The first of these rules one shouldn’t suddenly bend over in front of someone else, which seems like common sense.
“You can’t do that.” Horowitz explains. “It becomes like a three stooges’ event and you’ll end up falling over.” So, when plogging with a group a runner usually calls it out, stops and bends, so other members of the group become aware of his move.
Ploggers also need to cover all different territory.
“People kind of naturally follow that rule,” Horowitz says. “So, if I’m a little bit more to the curb side, I’ll look toward the gutter and someone else a little bit closer to the hedges they’re going to pick up there. So, you get a rhythm going between people without sometimes agreeing to it.”
Running with Purpose
Sports event organizer Dana Allen finds plogging interesting. Like other runners who consider themselves environment custodians, she likes it when streets are trash-free and clean. That’s why she plogs, but admits she doesn’t do it all the time.
“When I’m running seriously, in training for a marathon, I probably wouldn’t be as inclined to stop regularly because I’m focusing on a certain goal,” she says. “But then there are other days, where I’m out and into sort of a more relaxed running that would be a situation where I might do it.”
On other occasions, a group of runners gets together early on a weekend morning, and goes plogging.
“We go for run, pick up some garbage, then we go for brunch. We kind of make a little bit of event of it.”
Plogger Azell Washington says participating in such events makes him feel better. “It would clear a lot of space for me. And I’m rewarded myself.”
Washington DC: Clean and Fit
Encouraging more people to plog helps raise awareness about Washington’s litter problem, says Julie Lawson, who works with the mayor’s Clean City Office.
“When the street looks bad and it’s dirty, you’re going to feel bad about the neighborhood, about the community. You may even feel less safe because of that,” she says. “So if we’re all doing our part and picking it up, it’s very easy to help beautify it, help build those social connection, you get to know your neighbors, you get to feel some social responsibility and community feel, when you do this.”
Plogging also helps advance a city-wide fitness initiative.
“FitDC is Mayor Muriel Bowser’s initiative to get DC back to number one in the country as the fittest city in the nation,” Lawson adds. “And as part of that our Department of Parks and Recreation put up a couple of plogging events combining fitness activities with beautifying the city. We look to continue to support that.”
Plogger Allen hopes one day there won’t be a need for plogging.
“I would just hope people around would think twice before dropping a garbage on the ground,” she says. “We have receptacles, seems like on every block. So, it’s easy to put your garbage in the trash can. So, I just think people should think about it a little bit more and be cognizant of keeping the city as beautiful as possible.”
PHOTOS COURTESY OF GEORGESOROS.COM; GAGE SKIDMORE | WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Update 10/24 — The U.S. Secret Service released a statement this morning stating that similar packages were intercepted in routine mail screenings en route to the Chappaqua address of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as the Washington, D.C. residence of Former President Barack Obama.
• “Suspicious packages” were identified as “potential explosive devices” during what the Secret Service says in its official statement were routine mail screenings, and “appropriately handled as such.”
• The package sent to Clinton was intercepted late on Tuesday, October 23. A second package addressed to President Obama was intercepted in Washington early Wednesday morning.
• Neither of the Secret Service’s protectees received the packages, “nor were they at risk of receiving them,” according to the statement.
• Also on Wednesday morning, CNN’s offices in Manhattan were evacuated after a similar device was sent there and made its way into their offices, a law enforcement official said.
Jim Sciutto✔@jimsciuttoBreaking: CNN NY office evacuated. Police bomb squad is here. We’re told of explosive device received.
• According to the Secret Service, the agency has “initiated a full scope criminal investigation that will leverage all available federal, state, and local resources to determine the source of the packages and identify those responsible.”
Westchester Magazine will continue coverage of this story as it develops. Original story below:
Monday afternoon, a small explosive device was discovered in the mailbox of billionaire philanthropist George Soros’ Katonah residence.
No one was injured and the investigation is still ongoing. Here’s everything you need to know as the story unfolds:
• Bedford Police received a call around 3:45 p.m. on Monday, October 22, from an employee of the residence.
• The 88-year-old Soros was not home at the time.
• The relatively small device was discovered when an employee opened a package, after which they carefully placed the device outside in a wooded area, according to the Bedford police.
• Federal and state law enforcement agents responded, and the bomb squad proceeded with a controlled detonation of the device.
• There was no clear motive behind the attempted bombing, though Soros has often been demonized by right-wing groups for his support of liberal social policies and campaign contributions to democrats.
• TheNew York Timesreports that the investigation is open, and is now being handled by the New York offices of both the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
To buy a house in the once-elegant Miramar neighborhood of Havana, the average Cuban must have saved all of his salary since British troops captured the city in 1762.
That house would cost about 100,000 Cuban convertible pesos, or CUCs — the equivalent of $1.13 U.S. What isn’t even close to equivalent is the pay scale. The average Cuban earns 370 CUCs per year as a computer programmer, state shop administrator, policeman, postman or teacher.
That disparity alone isn’t startling. Almost every city in the world has elegant homes that only the elite can afford, while average residents live in moderately priced homes. But in Cuba, the price for even a modest home far outstrips local wages.
According to official figures, the 5,000 CUC asking price for a dilapidated residence in less-desirable Havana neighborhoods like Alamar Jesús María, Luyanó and Párraga equals 13.5 years of salary for an average worker. A modest 20,000 CUC apartment in Vedado amounts to 54 years of average earnings.
Successful business owners, medical personnel who have worked abroad, artists and others may be able to afford the high prices. But its people living abroad – some of them Cubans, some not – who are often buyers.
Making the situation more difficult for island-based Cubans is the financial structure. Cubans cannot access mortgages or bank loans. Real estate purchases in Cuba are generally made in cash — although sometimes the buyers throw in a car, another property, television sets, air conditioners, water pumps and even furniture.
The largest transactions are often discreetly sealed outside Cuba, many of them in Miami.
Since the Cuban government legalized the sale of private residences in 2011, thousands of houses and apartments have changed hands each year.
It was a time of change throughout the island, noted Emilio Morales, director of The Havana Consulting Group, a Miami company that monitors the Cuban economy. “The authorization for selling homes arrived at the same time as self-employment and the elimination of the ‘White Card’ permit to travel abroad. People started selling their homes to invest in a business or to finance their move abroad.”
Today more than 8,000 properties are available for sale in Cuba at any one time. Four out of five are in Havana, home to one in four Cubans.
The island’s complex real estate market is plagued by a lack of information, funding shortages and legislative gaps. Sellers don’t trust real estate agents, who are not officially organized. There are no independent inspectors or appraisers, no property insurance or transparent documents.
But perhaps the heaviest cloud over the real estate market is the well-founded fear that the laws allowing the sale of private homes can be recalled at any time.
“The current trend toward limiting the private sector, from restaurants to home rentals that were proving so successful, will soon bring with it a contraction of the real estate market,” said Morales. “That was the real aim, because the private sector was winning the competition against the inefficient state sector at all levels, from shoe manufacturing to hostels in private homes.”
In the first quarter of 2017, refinances fell 45% from the fourth quarter, however the second and third quarters could see a turnaround in refi activity, according to a first look at Black Knight’s soon to be released Mortgage Monitor.
This chart shows refinance activity each week from October through June as refinance candidates fell from 8.6 million to 4.4 million.
Click to Enlarge
(Source: Black Knight)
Since interest rates fell below 4%, the financeable population rose to its highest point for 2017. While the current 4.4 million borrowers is down significantly from October, it is an increase of 56% or 1.6 million borrowers from mid-March’s low.
Borrowers who refinanced in the first quarter of 2017 cut their monthly mortgage payments by an average of $109 per month, or a total aggregate savings of $36.5 million per month. This marks the lowest total monthly savings since 2008 and a decrease from the fourth quarter’s $59 million.
But since the first quarter, savings have increased once again to a total of $1.1 billion or $260 per borrower each month.
This chart shows the total monthly savings borrowers saw each month.
It is cooler than the air in the summer and warmer in the winter. The earth’s subsurface is an enormous heat sink — a solar battery — and it takes a large amount of energy to keep it in equilibrium. This heat energy comes in great part from the sun, a renewable and inexhaustible source of energy. In lesser amounts, it also comes from the center of the earth that we now know is a heat generator. The inner core of the earth is primarily made of a solid sphere of iron within a larger sphere of molten iron. Calculations show that the earth, originating from a molten state many billions of years ago, would have cooled and become completely solid without an energy input. It is now believed that the ultimate source of this energy is radioactive decay within the earth that continues to this day; the decay produces gradually diminishing temperatures from the earth’s center to the surface. This does not mean that dangerous radioactivity is a hazard to us. We can tap into all of this heat energy, transfer it into our home for heating and return that energy back to the earth during cooling: thus we are really borrowing heat from the earth.
Geothermal units use the same 100-year-old technology found in your refrigerator. They are both devices that move heat energy. It is worth noting that the refrigerator is the most reliable, longest-life appliance in your home. As the diagram in the slideshow explains, a refrigerator removes heat energy from food and moves it into your kitchen. A geothermal system removes heat energy from the earth to heat your home and in the summer removes heat energy from inside your home back to the earth.
Heat naturally flows “downhill” from the warmest medium to the coolest medium. A heat pump is a machine that causes heat energy to flow in the direction opposite from its natural tendency, or “uphill” in terms of temperature. Because work must be done (energy must be applied) to accomplish this, the name heat “pump” is used to describe the device.
A refrigerator and a heat pump are about the same physical size, are quiet appliances usually contained within a single enclosure, have similar components (compressor, evaporator, etc.), and both transfer heat energy. And they each require a refrigerant, a material used in a refrigeration cycle which undergoes a phase change from a gas to a liquid, and back again.
NAHB analysis of the most recent Quarterly Sales by Price and Financing published by the Census Bureau reveals that just 4.7% of new home sales in the first quarter of 2017 were purchased with cash—down from the most recent peak of 9.5% in the fourth quarter of 2014. In contrast, the share of new home sales financed with conventional mortgages rose to 72.0%, its second-highest share since the fourth quarter of 2014. Meanwhile, FHA loan market share continued its upward trend, rising from14.4% to 14.7%.
Census data and NAHB calculations show that new home sales backed by VA products rose to 22,000 (+4,000) in the first quarter of 2017, though market share fell from 8.8% to 8.1%. The market share of VA loans averaged just 2.9% between the 2001 recession and the Great Recession, but has averaged 9.3% since the U.S. economy came out of recession in 2009.
It is worth adopting some caution associated with the Census market share estimates. In particular, the statistical error associated with the FHA, cash, and VA sales estimates from this data set are relatively high. This reduces the reliability of measures of short-term market changes.
Mindful of this limitation, over the long run the current FHA share is roughly one-half the 28% share determined for the first quarter of 2010 but still elevated compared to the 2002-2003 average of 10%.
Although cash sales make up a small portion of new home sales, they constitute a considerably larger share of existing home sales. In February 27% of existing home transactions were all-cash sales—the highest share since November 2015—according to estimates from the National Association of Realtors.
It is also worth noting that a different measure from CoreLogic shows a higher market share for cash sales for new construction: 17.7% in January.
FHA-backed loans were responsible for 14.7% of new home sales during the first quarter of 2017. Although the share has increased in two consecutive quarters, it remains more than twice its pre-recession average of 6.4%.
Conventional financing has expanded as the housing recovery has grown. The market share of new home sales with conventional financing was 62.2% in 2009 and 72.0% in the first quarter of 2017. This share has remained between 68% and 75% over the past four years.