Housing Starts Rise, Builder Confidence Remains Stable

Housing starts rose 14.6 percent in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 596,000 from December when housing starts were an estimated 520,000, but they were 2.6 percent below the January 2010 rate of 612,000, according to the latest figures released by the U.S. Commerce Department. However, permits for new construction fell 10.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 562,000 from the December rate of 627,000 and they were 10.7 percent below the January 2010 estimate of 629,000.

 As the market for new homes continues to stall, builder confidence remained unchanged for the fourth consecutive month, according to the latest NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. Two of the three of the index’s components edged slightly higher in February. The component gauging current sales conditions improved by two points and the component gauging sales expectation over the next six months rose a single point.

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Survey Reveals Consumer Confusion About Mortgage Process

More than two-thirds of Americans (70.6 percent) believe access to affordable mortgages is a serious problem, according to a new survey by MortgageMatch.com. Respondents also say that the most challenging aspect of getting a mortgage is understanding the mortgage process and dealing with the lenders’ requirements, ranking it more challenging (32.3 percent) than getting the mortgage itself (23 percent) and negotiating the sale price on a home (25.3 percent). More than three out of four recent homebuyers (79 percent), especially those earning more than $50,000 a year, report that getting a mortgage was more difficult than they expected.

To add to the confusion, nearly one-fourth (22.9 percent) of buyers say applying for a mortgage was challenging because their lender kept changing the documentation requirements, while 21.6 percent say their lender used too much technical jargon and 20.7 percent say it was difficult to find a lender that was easy to work with. Borrowers considered these problems more challenging than the amount of time it took to fund a loan (19.1 percent) and qualifying for a loan due to their credit rating (6.9 percent).

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First-Time Buyers Prefer Move-in Ready Homes

A new survey by Coldwell Banker finds that 87 percent of first-time homebuyers who purchased their home within the past year preferred a move-in ready home to one that would require some work.

A home’s location to area amenities was also important to first-time buyers. Nearly four out of five buyers (78 percent) say it was important to find a home close to retail shops and services while three-fourths wanted to be close to their jobs and nearly two-thirds wanted to be near highly-rated schools.

Many buyers were surprised by the immediate benefits they received once they purchased their first home. For example, 67 percent said the market conditions provided them the opportunity to buy a home sooner than they expected, half said they found a home in a more desirable location than they expected, and 61 percent got a home for a better price than expected.

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Property Value

For many home buyers, understanding what makes one home more valuable than another seems a bit arbitrary.  But the reality is that various features can add thousands of dollars to the value of a home.  Some of these include:

            Square footage:  How big is the house?

            Design:  Is it a colonial, contemporary, or ranch?

            Floor plan:  How well do the rooms “flow”?

            Quality of the neighborhood:  Is it a highly desirable area?

            Quality of the public school system:  Whether or not you have children who  will attend the schools, and what are the school scores?

            Lot size, view and quality of landscaping.

            How busy the street is:  Houses located on “double-yellow line” streets are less valuable than those on streets less traveled.

I can help you understand why these factors are important and how best to gauge your home’s true value.

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