Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Interest rates dip, supply up, it's a buyer's market

Home sales are up from a year ago, according to seasonally adjusted numbers, and prices are also up from a year ago, according to Keller Williams Real Estate statistics.
The increased sales prices are a good sign for sellers looking to list their homes. Combined with a recent dip in interest rates to 4.13 percent on a 30-year fixed rate a window of opportunity has opened for buyers who watched interest rates climb since spring.
Currently Freddie Mac reports rates at a fixed 4.13 percent for a 30-year mortgage and a 15-year fixed rate of 3.24 percent.
Although it's still higher than a year ago, the median existing home price dropped to $199,200 from $213,500 in July as the seasonal trend of price reductions continued through the fall months.
Inventory levels held steady this fall, as the dip in buyer activity brought the supply up slightly, which also accounted for a lower price trend over the past 5 months - an increase in supply and lower demand resulting in lower home prices.
Sellers can take heart that their home is worth more than it was last year, and buyers have an opportunity to take advantage of a seasonal stall in price increases as well as a low interest rate to find the home they are looking for.

-Ralph Bartholdt

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cole featured at Studio 107, ArtWalk

Inspiring, contemplative, vibrant.
The words don’t sum up the pieces on display at the dozen downtown art galleries but they are among the many that will tug at the right side of the brain.
This week’s ArtWalk, Friday from 5 to 8, features galleries including Steven A. Scroggins Fine Art, Blackwell, Painter’s Chair, Studio 107 and Art Spirit on Sherman Ave in Coeur d’Alene’s downtown.
Artist Melissa Cole, who studied natural history and zoology before turning her education to art, is featured at Studio 107.
Cole  http://www.melissacole.com/  paints animals, marine and terrestrial and her fish images are classic inland Northwest. Originally from Oregon, her exhibits have appeared in galleries from Alaska to Key West, including a public, outdoor display of salmon and trout that grace the 5th Street pedestrian bridge in Lewiston.
Ralph Bartholdt 

Idaho ranked in the top for retirees

Idaho is a better place to retire than Hawaii, according to a recent survey.
MoneyRates.com ranked Idaho as the best place to retire based on its stable economy and low crime rate. It ranked Iowa as the second best place and Hawaii as number three.
Idaho ranked marginally in just one of the many categories the magazine considered: The state’s winter climate may be unappealing to some retirees, according to the publication. Despite winter temperatures that can dip well below freezing, and the likelihood of snow, the Gem State has one of the fastest growing senior populations.
Idaho garnered a top 10 retiree slot by US News Money in its most recent survey, and was ranked number three by CNN Money.
Post Falls, according to one writer “is surrounded by 55 lakes and 30 golf courses within a 35-mile radius.” 
The city, noted the writer, is 10 minutes from cultural hub Coeur d’Alene – which boasts a vibrant art community, and less than 25 minutes from Spokane.
One theme that rang through the rankings is the state’s low income tax rates and lower than average home prices. Both are important factors for retirees looking for places to live.

Ralph Bartholdt

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Winter driving classes scheduled

As winter approaches many motorists new to North Idaho’s winter driving conditions may want to touch up their driving skills.
To assist in the effort, the Idaho State Police will have two Road Safe Classes for the 2013 winter season.
The classes are scheduled Saturday, November 16, 2013 at 9:00 a.m. and Saturday, December 7, 2013 at noon
.Both classes will be at the Idaho State Police District Office at 615 W. Wilbur Ave. in Coeur d Alene.

In their tenth year these award-winning programs have been offered year round to the public in a classroom setting designed to educate drivers on the typical problems associated with winter road conditions in Idaho.
ISP driving instructors use a power point presentation and video on safe driving tips as well as how to prepare for the winter driving season The free classes last for approximately 3 hours.

To enroll, call Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at (208) 209-8620, Class size is limited to 60 people, 

-Ralph Bartholdt

Fewer homes, higher prices, higher rates

Existing home sales declined in September but low inventory pushed prices up in North Idaho’s urban areas such as Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls, as well as in much of the country, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Mortgage rates also crept up. The national average commitment for a 30-year fixed-rate conventional mortgage rose to 4.49 percent in September from 4.46 percent a month earlier. The rate is the highest since July 2011 when it was 4.55 percent, according to Freddie Mac.
The median existing home price was $199,200 in September nationally, an increase of almost 12 percent from last year.
Fewer than 10 percent of home sales were foreclosures.
The median time on the market for all homes was 50 days in September, up from 43 days in August.

In the Coeur d’Alene Market Center the average price of a sold home increased from $199,000 in May to $245,000 in September, and about 10 percent fewer homes sold in September than August, according to statistics compiled by the local MLS.
Economists think sales may slow further as the previously-enjoyed affordability of homes falls and prices increase, outpacing income growth in many areas. Mortgage rates could also lower the affordability of homes in upcoming months, according to the NAR.

-Ralph Bartholdt

Monday, October 28, 2013

FEMA flood insurance impacting Idaho homeowners

Idaho homeowners who live along some lakes and rivers are finding that changes made to the National Flood Insurance Program are causing their insurance premiums to increase.

Earlier this year part of a new law, called the Biggert-Waters Insurance Reform Act, went into effect phasing out flood insurance subsidies on many older homes. In addition, the federal government has been revising its flood zone maps and reassessing the level of flood risk for various areas.

As a result, many homeowners are being required to buy flood insurance for the first time or pay higher premiums on existing policies.
In some cases premiums of less than $1,000 a year may jump to $8000 over the next five years. FEMA, which monitors the program, said premiums are expected to jump to a level that FEMA estimates to be the property’s true value of coverage.
Because of the re-mapping, an effort that took place over the past 5 years or more, some homes that were not before considered to be in a flood zone are now designated as flood zone properties.
Critics of the program say that the spike of increased rates could have been avoided if FEMA had updated its maps regularly. The previous maps were 20 years old.  Map upgrading every few years would have prompted gradual rate hikes of around 5 percent.
The hikes are meant to shore up the coffers of FEMA’s federal flood insurance program which is $300 billion in debt due in part to disbursements made to property owners who fell victim to the Sandy and Katrina Hurricanes.

-Based on wire reports 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

USDA loans for entrepreneurs, small business owners

Entrepreneurs and business owners who have been turned down for conventional or SBA financing have another option:
Because we’re lucky enough to live in what the federal government calls a rural or underdeveloped area, it offers USDA commercial loans for areas like North Idaho.
USDA commercial loans can finance commercial ventures in areas with populations under 50,000 inhabitants. That means that Coeur d'Alene, with a 2010 census population of 44,137 has a low enough density that USDA will insure qualified loans, freeing up financing options for entrepreneurs, according to Kim Cooper, spokesman for the Coeur d’Alene Association of Realtors.
The USDA Business and Industry Loan program – it’s loans are often called B&I Loans – is designed to create and save rural jobs, and improve the economic and environmental climate of rural communities.
Applicants must qualify and the funding isn't 100 percent, but there is no minimum loan amount so even small operations that need minimal cash may apply. Fees must be negotiated with the lender because USDA does not actually loan the money – they just insure the bank that the money will be repaid.
With a B&I loan you can obtain working capital - not lines of credit - over a seven-year term. Expand or buy equipment and pay the loan back over 15 years, or finance real estate for a 30-year term. This is great news since many commercial loans only amortize over a maximum of 20 years, Cooper said.

A version of this article appeared in the CDA Press

Foreclosure doesn't mean unoccupied

Almost half of the nation's foreclosed homes are still occupied.
In some big housing markets, like Miami and Los Angeles, the percentage jumps to 60 percent or higher, real estate statistics show.

People living in repossessed homes, including renters or former owners, aren’t paying a dime because the mortgage and rent is free, according to RealtyTrac, which used postal records to see if change-of-address forms had been filed, or if mail was still being picked up at foreclosed homes.

A recent article by CNN Money showed that old owners typically took about two months to leave and renters took a year or more according to their rental agreement, which must be honored by banks.

"If someone has a bona fide rental agreement, we have to abide by that," Amy Bonitatibus, a spokeswoman for JP Morgan Chase, told CNN Money.

The eviction process can take months as it winds through the legal process. The timing varies based on local laws and the backlog of cases in individual courts. Some states allow former owners time to secure financing to get back their homes.

In other cases, banks may be in no rush to kick people out, according to CNN Money. Markets with a lot of homes for sale and depressed prices make it hard for banks to sell a home, and recoup losses, so they wait for prices to come up to start the eviction process.

"Many foreclosed homes get vandalized or squatters move in," Pauliana Lara a homeowners activist who fights foreclosures, said.

A home recently lived-in sells better than one that has been left vacant for a long time, she said.

Article based on a report by CNN Money

Monday, October 14, 2013

Lenders process applications without IRS

Lenders are processing mortgage applications despite the government shutdown, which has furloughed the IRS income verification process.

Lenders, such as Wells Fargo the nation’s biggest mortgage lender, are telling underwriters to move ahead with mortgage applications without the completed IRS income verification.

Other banks, still recovering from the flood of defaults resulting from the housing bubble burst are wary of borrowers with less-than-thoroughly documented income sources. In some cases, they are requiring a borrower’s 1040, or asking for copies of bank deposits for the month they collected their 2012 tax refund, or copies of the checks sent to the IRS to pay their taxes.

A small percentage of lenders are waiting out the shutdown – deciding that lending without IRS income verification is too risky.

-From CNN Business Watch

Freddie and Fannie ease lending rules

Some government backed loans won’t be hamstrung by the government shut down.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have relaxed rules requiring lenders to verify a borrower’s income with the IRS before closing on a mortgage, a process that because of the U.S. government shutdown would have kept banks from approving mortgages.

When some lenders reported last week that they could not approve mortgages because the shutdown had severely curtailed the IRS's operations the two government-backed mortgage giants loosened their otherwise stringent requirements.

They allowed lenders to continue to issue new loans without the IRS's confirmation. Borrowers will still need to sign an income verification request with the IRS, but verification will wait until the IRS is back to full work mode and lenders can verify a borrower's income.

-From CNN Business wire

Friday, August 16, 2013

Julyamsh 2013

Dressed in the the regalia of his family or tribe a participant in the Julyamsh pow wow dances at the Post Falls Greyhound Park.- Bartholdt

POST FALLS —Julyamsh is an annual tribal gathering in Post Falls, Idaho comprised of dancing, singing and celebrating. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe plays host to the celebration in which individual tribal members and families from throughout the Northwest participate.

“Pow wow is a contemporary word used to describe what was once called a victory dance. If you can imagine the area where the dancers are dancing, the crowd, the Master of Ceremonies – everyone is gathered together – all of these things symbolize the opening of the first dance, the return of the warriors from the war trail or a raid of neighboring tribes to get horses, or a successful hunting party.
The grand entry can be described as an announcement of the warriors or a part of the tribe's homecoming. The warriors would change into their finest clothing a few miles from the main camp. A serpentine ride in the form of a snake down a hill and onto flat ground would complete the journey into camp. As they made their way to camp, the snake dance song would be presented and a victory song would be sung – thus the grand entry.
It symbolizes the warriors coming home, arriving at the camp and into the area where a social dance would be held to welcome them and celebrate their successful ride. The riders would return displaying their finery and the things they gained on their trail.” – Coeur d’Alene Tribe website

Using home equity to buy income property

As home prices rise nationwide and interest rates remain lower than average it seems like a good time leverage your finances and make a real estate investment.
After all, history tells us that property values will eventually be near the top of a 15-year cycle and interest rates probably won’t stay this low forever.
So, what’s the best way to purchase an investment property with the finances at hand?
Traditional methods include financing the purchase with a mortgage, one that takes advantage of low rates and incentives, or selling stocks and bonds.
Most money gurus will say to stay away from retirement accounts: Don’t take out a loan from a 401K, or cash in a portion of an IRA.
There’s another way to get that money you need to buy an income-making property, and with home values rising, securing a home equity loan may be the safest way to get your hands on the cash you need for a second property.
Equity is the difference in what a homeowner owes and their house say, and the home’s current value. So, if you owe $100,000 and your home is worth $200,000 you have $100,000 in equity.
 A home equity loan, or home equity line of credit can position you to take advantage of low interest rates and low home prices.
Lenders often give better terms to buyers tapping their home's equity to pay for a second home because they have a lot on the line. Buyers using their primary home's equity will work harder to pay off the loan and are less prone to miss payments. In addition borrowing with a home equity loan costs less.
There are risks, however, said Greg McBride, a senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com.
By tapping your home's equity you'll be increasing your monthly mortgage payments and increasing the risk of losing your primary home to foreclosure.
Also, by buying another home you're tying up a lot of your money into one type of asset, McBride told CNN Money.

 "You're putting a lot of eggs in the real estate basket. Wise portfolio management says that's not prudent," he said.

-Ralph Bartholdt

Friday, April 19, 2013

Partridge's prediction

Here's the Coeur d' Alene REAL ESTATE MARKET snapshot of stats that reflect average home prices in Kootenai County since last year:

Homes for sale between $175k - $250k are moving

- Inventory across the board is at 3.1 months now compared with 5.2 months of inventory a year ago 
That means either there are fewer homes on the market, or they are being purchased quickly, which in turn results in a smaller supply.

- Homes are selling 30 percent faster than April 2012

- Even though inventory is moving, there are approximately 55 more homes on the market in this price point at this moment than a year ago.
Partridge's Prediction: Stability in the lending market will cause a continuation of increased activity unless inventory and price increases outpace current volume.

-John Partridge, Sales Associate, Keller Williams Coeur d’Alene