Open House Sunday for Waterfront, updated 3820 sq.ft. Colonial with private dock in park-like setting of nearly an acre

36 Crestwood Road $1,375,000
West Shore Drive to Shorewood Road to Pinecliff Drive to Crestwood Road
Open House tomorrow, April 28, 12:30 to 2:30.
Click here for full details

Where have all the sellers gone?

While median prices in Massachusetts continued to rise in March (Single Family Homes up 7.8%, condos up 8%), a lack of homes for sale contributed to a 3.3% decrease in year over year sales (although last year we really had no winter) for SFH, while condo sales were up 2.5%.

A continuing concern is the shortage of homes for sale, with inventory down 30% from a year ago for SFHs and 34% for condos, translating into 5.1 and 4.3 months’ supply respectively. (more…)

How to refinance to today’s low mortgage rates when you don’t qualify

Many borrowers would like to refinance to take advantage of today’s low rates but for a variety of reasons – from being under water on their loan to owning a condo in a mixed use building – do not qualify.

Now there’s a Do It Yourself solution, which takes just a few minutes.

Intrigued? Read on. (more…)

Boston Strong

As some of you know, I have been close to bombs in the past, while living in London during the IRA’s campaign and also with the World Trade Center.

I am a firm believer in not allowing terrorists to prevent us from living our lives, although necessarily certain changes have to be made. As the British war-time motto, now popular again, said: “Keep Calm and Carry On.” We will NEVER let terrorists win, however long the fight.

I also look forward to the day when Marathon runners who were stopped are invited back to complete their run.

In honor of the victims, and in prayerful thanks to our law enforcement officials – and the residents of Boston – for their steadfast efforts, I shall pause in my real estate writings and today post only the link to Boston Strong t-shirts ($15 of the $20 purchase price is donated to the One Fund) and to the Fund itself.

Please give generously.

Boston Strong T-shirt

The One Fund

Keep Calm and Carry On

Can We Afford Another Housing Boom?

As I read this editorial Can We Afford Another Housing Boom? in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, the refrain of “Oh when will they ever learn, oh when will they ever learn?” from “Where have all the flowers gone?” by Pete Seeger (although I was hearing the Peter, Paul and Mary version), came into my head.

Some people may be surprised that the WSJ should be a critic of policies aimed at driving home prices higher, but I think what the Journal is trying to point out is that government-sponsored social engineering of the housing market is exactly what played such a large role in the last boom and bust cycle.

There are several variations of the following quote but as an Englishman I will use Winston Churchill’s: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

“Oh when will they ever learn, oh when will they ever learn?”

A trillion here, a trillion there…..pretty soon you’re talking real money

I’m old enough that a trillion is still a big number. In fact I’m old enough that I remember wondering what came after a billion. And in England a billion was a million million, not just a thousand million. A bit like pints, which are 20 ounces in England against 16 here. Well actually nothing like, but I still miss pints of bitter.

Back to real estate.

The value of homeowners’ equity in real estate peaked at $13.5 trillion in 2006, before falling to $6.6 trillion in 2011. That’s a loss of almost $7 trillion. Ouch! In the last year there has been an increase of $1.6 trillion to $8.2 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve.

Is there a wealth effect in real estate? I don’t think anybody would argue that as homeowners see the value of their equity increasing – and for most of us that is the main “wealth” item we possess – they feel more inclined to buy the new car to replace the ageing clunker, to take the first proper vacation in years, etc.

This is the consumer spending effect. Before the Great Recession conventional economic wisdom (an oxymoron?) was that rising prices had a wealth effect, but falling prices did not. (more…)

Foreclosure rate hits 5-year low

With foreclosure rates dropping sharply, and the likelihood that rising home prices nationally and other measures will prevent many of those entering the process actually going into foreclosure, this Evansville Courier
article is a good summary of a recent report from Realty Trac.
Here is the RealtyTrac article Foreclosure market report

Marblehead First Quarter Report

The first quarter is usually the slowest of the year for sales and that pattern continued in 2013. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. As the quarter went on, activity accelerated as I have reported in several posts.

Sales were 31 vs 27 (29 vs 24 excluding distressed sales), and the median price $497,000, up 6% from last year’s depressed level, caused by the high percentage of sales under $500,000.

The most significant statistic from Q1 is the Assessed to Sale Ratio, which compares Assessed Values to Sales Prices. When sales take place above AV, the ASR is below 100%. So the lower the number the better the market! In my year rend review Read Review I pointed out that the ASR had declined during the year for SFH sales under $500,000.

Look now at the data for Q1.

Source: MLS, Oliver Reports

Source: MLS, Oliver Reports

We have seen quite a sharp drop in the ASR in all price ranges. Bear in mind this data refers to just 29 sales that closed in Q1, which means sales agreed late last year into early this.

At the end of March there were a further 46 houses with an accepted offer and these, which will be in Q2 numbers, will reflect the stronger market seen in recent weeks.

“Buyers face a dilemma: pay more today, compared with a year ago, or pay even more tomorrow”

Is the Federal Reserve’s success in driving down interest rates giving the housing market a sugar high?

This is the question posed by Nick Timiraos today in the Wall Street Journal online.

Reasons for the strength in home prices include:
– Inventories have fallen to 20 year lows
– Many homeowners aren’t willing – or able – to sell at prices that are, nationally, still down sharply from 2006 highs
– Demand has revved up
– Improving home-price expectations have unleashed pent up demand, as household formation in the last five years was lower than at any period since the 1960s

Result? Prices are rising as buyers say “If I’m going to get in I better get in now”.

Is this the beginning of another bubble? Not according to the experts quoted in Timiraos’ article, as prices are still below long-run averages relative to income.

I covered several of these points in my post on March 17:
How Much Will Home Prices Increase this Year

Here’s Nick’s article in full.
Jump in Housing Prices Stirs New Worry

Déjà vu all over again

Here is a comment from a new listing in Marblehead this week:

First showings @ open house 4/6,7. Offers held until 4/7 5pm.

In recent weeks houses have come on the market and offers have been accepted before the first public open house. Holding offers until the end of the open house allows the seller time to receive more offers. It also encourages buyers to make their best offer, which may well be above the asking price.

Did somebody say 2004?

North Shore Housing Inventory at the beginning of April

The first quarter on the North Shore is the time of the lowest sales and also the lowest number of houses for sale. Thus, the statistics as of April 1, give only a modest indication of what the spring market will be like.

As to that, I will comment in my next post.

Here are the numbers for SFHs for 17 North Shore Cities and Towns: (more…)

Moving up the food chain

The spring market continues to build momentum, as activity is moving up the price brackets.

Let’s look at the sequence of events:
– A February snowy Sunday with the temperature below freezing. 30 people showed up at an Open House for a property listed in the low $400s and multiple offers were received.
– In March another house priced in the low $400s never reached the open market as four offers were received above the asking price.
– Last week a house priced at $600,000 sold in one day.
– Four houses listed in March between $725,000 and $875,000 had offers accepted in 5-20 days.
– This week one house listed in the low $900s and one in the $1,500s had offers accepted in less than a week.

And in the last ten days two condos listed at $389,000 and $425,000 had offers accepted in 1 and 2 days.

Here’s a list of what is available by price. The last column shows the median Days on Market (how long it has been listed for sale) for those properties still available. (more…)