The kids are headed back to the classroom and it got me thinking that a lot of adults could use some schooling as well. So much has changed in mortgage and real estate in the last few years and recent numbers from Black Knight Financial Services show evidence of housing market recovery:
- Home prices are up 5.3% year-over-year
- Prices as of June rose for the 50th consecutive month
Interest rates are still low, but a lot of young people grew up during a time of great real estate distress and haven’t experienced the strong markets that propelled the worth and wealth building of their parents. They also haven’t experienced the evolution of interest rates and how high they’ve been to know anything other than the “historic lows” we’ve had for years. They won’t last…it’s time to get schooled up on the current market and what’s involved in buying a home to make an educated decision as to whether homeownership is possible and the right decision for the long run. The GCS Title team and I work with many outstanding, experienced real estate and mortgage professionals who can “teach” you what’s involved in the process and “instruct” you on your options. We’re happy to introduce you! ~Charlie
I’m surprised to hear that a member of the public knows what title insurance IS, so imagine my reaction when I heard someone “got in a fight about title insurance.” A friend is on the Board of Directors of her condominium association and apparently got in quite the dustup with others on the board over whether or not they needed to buy title insurance on parking spaces the association was buying downtown Minneapolis. Luckily, she was in the majority and the association purchased policies for all of the spaces, but some common perceptions and misperceptions about title insurance came up in the “argument.” Dissenting board members argued the following things:
- Title insurance is expensive.
Well, it does cost money – but the price is nothing compared to the expense of defending yourself against a lawsuit, mechanic’s lien or another hostile claim to the ownership of and equity in your property.
- We’re buying five parking spaces, but we only need title insurance on one.
Wrong! These parking spaces are newly-constructed and the chance of mechanic’s liens popping up is higher than on a piece of property that has been built for many years. Also, every owner of each piece of property generally gets named in the types of suits that these new spaces are vulnerable to. If something went wrong, the only space protected would be the one with a policy.
- Title companies only insure things when there is no risk.
Wrong again. I could tell you so many stories….
There’s a reason lenders require title insurance policies – they need to make sure their interests are protected. Home buyers should do the same. Title insurance protects you against things you never imagined would come up. The lady that went to the mat to convince her condo board to buy title insurance was pushing to spend some of the association’s money – but the amount they paid is well worth what they’ll save if there’s a problem. Got questions? The GCS Title team and I are here – call anytime! ~Charlie
A lot of new rules and changes have hit the real estate and mortgage industries in the last few years. Here’s a little background and an update and then we’ll get to what you really need to know.
The intent of a lot of these new regulations – and all the acronyms that go along with them like CFPB and TRID – is to educate and protect consumers. The Dodd Frank Act is responsible for a lot of changes in the way business is done going forward and there are many folks opposed to all or part of the sweeping bill. A congressman from Texas has now introduced what he calls “the Republican plan to replace Dodd-Frank and promote economic growth.” Its name is Financial CHOICE Act— complete with its own acronym that stands for “Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs.” It’s not clear if it will get anywhere – there’s no companion bill in the Senate yet or official reaction from the rest of Washington.
It’s almost impossible to keep track of everything politicians are up to with regard to real estate and mortgage regulation. For now, know this: You need to surround yourself with great professionals who are up to date on the rules, timelines and how to make the transaction go as smooth as possible for everyone involved. At GCS Title, we have an amazing team dedicated to doing just that. Meet our great people here: https://www.gcstitle.com/meet-the-team/
Whether you’re a Realtor, a loan officer, a homeowner or potential buyer, we want you to know “we get it” and we’re here to help. Call us any time! ~Charlie
The summer could be a rollercoaster based on new information from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and online real estate resource Zillow. Sales of existing homes went up 1.7% between March and April and they’re up six-percent year-over-year. Prices are higher too: NAR reports that the median home price has jumped 6.3% from April 2015, making this the 50th consecutive month of annual home price gains. So there’s the highs – the lows have to do with housing inventory. The April Zillow Real Estate Market Report shows there are 3.4% fewer homes on the market today than there were this time last year. There’s an eight-percent drop in the number of homes for sale in the entry level price range, making it even tougher for first-time home buyers than other property categories. So we’ve got a supply and demand situation that’s driving prices up. I’m not bringing this up to scare people, but rather to make them aware. These market conditions mean it’s more important than ever for consumers to make sure they’re working with experience, full-time, qualified real estate and mortgage professionals. When bidding wars are likely, top-notch representation is critical. GCS is here to help home buyers and sellers have a great experience throughout the closing process and we work with outstanding Realtors and loan officers every day. Let us know if you’d like to meet one! ~Charlie
On the House
Charlie Lawson – GCS Title
Different aspects of the housing market are going in different directions. But the latest “ups and downs” are pretty favorable. RE/Max is out with its latest National Housing Report and it shows we’ve got a healthy market that’s really picking up:
- The U.S. housing market has gone 50 months without a drop in the median sales price
- Home sales jumped 33.4% from February to March – that’s also a 3.6% year-over-year increase
- Forty-four of the 53 metro areas included in the report experienced home price increases
More homes have sold, prices are holding steady and rising in most areas; we’re also finding that the time it takes a home to sell is decreasing:
- March marked the 36th consecutive month where time on market was fewer than 80 days
- The average days on market in March was 71 – down four days from February and seven days year-over-year
As we’re seeing a jump in market activity, we’re simultaneously seeing a crash in mortgage interest rates. We’ve got the lowest interest rates since May 2013 according to the Primary Mortgage Market Survey from guarantor Freddie Mac. This “crash” is a good thing for a lot of people! Lower rates will make it possible for more people to qualify for mortgages and can stimulate buying activity, allowing more homeowners to be able to move up, downsize or move on. One thing to be concerned about is low housing inventory in some housing areas and price ranges; however, your professional real estate and lending professionals can help you be prepared to compete for the home of your dreams in a fast-paced marketplace. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage (and talking to a lender even if you’re not quite ready to buy) and discussing your goals and preferences with a Realtor will help you navigate the market conditions and take advantage of interest rates that won’t last forever. ~Charlie
Regular news can be slow this time of year, but making predictions for what will happen in the new year provides a ton of material. I find that pretty much the only thing that’s predictable about predictions is that we shouldn’t put too much stock in them. A lot of us in the real estate, mortgage and related industries shake our heads when we hear or read news stories that are misleading or just plain wrong because the reporter doesn’t understand the material and incorrect information can prevent the public from exploring homeownership or making another move that could personally benefit them.
Here’s a great nugget for all of us to have on hand to combat misinformation: A study of 6,500 predictions made by financial, real estate and other experts in various media forms from the internet to print to TV between 1998 and 2012 found that the “forecasts” had an accuracy rate of just 47-percent! The takeaway from this study by Virginia-based CXO Advisory Group is a good one: The pundits have worse odds with their predictions than you would in flipping a coin. So just because you saw, heard or read it on air or online doesn’t make it accurate.
Real estate and mortgage have become staples in the news due to bursting bubbles and that big meltdown. It would be truly unfortunate for anyone to miss an opportunity to buy, sell, move up, downsize or move on because they didn’t have the real scoop of what their actual, specific options are. As industry professionals, we need to make sure we reach out and keep the public informed of what the real story is in our area. Let’s work on that together!
Happy New Year!
Anyone out there? This is an interesting time of year. Some people have shut down, others are scrambling to get closings done by year-end. Whether you’re on hiatus or in high gear, this particular stretch on the calendar can leave a lot of us feeling a bit out of sorts, wondering what’s next after the holiday season is finally finished and we’re staring down the barrel the 31 very cold days of January and the clean slate of a new calendar year.
If you’re not one of those amazing, uber-organized people who has your business plan and tasks laid out in detail for the first quarter and knows exactly where you’re going and how you’ll get there, don’t worry. There’s still time to start and initiate the momentum you need. You don’t have to do it all by yourself! If you’re one of our industry colleagues, there’s strength in numbers and accountability relationships. In this peculiar “holiday stall zone,” it’s easy to feel isolated. Let’s talk about what you want to do in 2016!
If you’re a renter or homeowner, your next step is easy. We can put you in touch with real estate and lending professionals who specialize in your area and/or phase of life: First-time buyer, move-up, downsize – whatever!
Bottom line: Phones and email still work this time of year. What’s on your mind?
Charlie Lawson, President & Owner
Ever hear anybody say this – “If I knew then, what I know now….” – ? A lot of us can apply that to many situations in our lives (and not all are suitable for business blogging). I’d love to know – how was 2015 for you? Whether you made your goals, exceeded your goals, fell short of or didn’t make any goals, a new year always brings new opportunity. There’s always business opportunity out there, but the flipping of the calendar is an opportunity for us to mentally hit a reset button and put the bad part of the past behind us, learn from mistakes, figure out how to expand what we did well and basically organize our thoughts and plan to do better. And it’s exciting!
I attended a business planning workshop this fall and am working with other MN real estate and MN mortgage industry professionals to hold ourselves accountable for the goals we set and the way we plan to achieve them. Are you teamed up with anyone to get and stay on track? It doesn’t take much time – but it brings a ton of benefit. I can help you get the planning tools, help and accountability pieces together to make 2016 a great one.
Let’s take steps now so we can celebrate the decision to do so at this time next year!
Here’s to a great 2016!
Owner & President
What would have to happen for you to say “I feel the best I have in 10 years!”? That’s basically what the nation’s builders said heading into the third quarter this year. According to the October National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), builder confidence is the highest it’s been in a decade. The number of buyers visiting models and projects hasn’t increased, but all four regions in the U.S. where this gets measured saw an uptick in builder confidence regarding current sales conditions and expectations for the next six months. Oddly, builders are struggling with availability of lots and labor.
So, what does this mean to MN consumers, lenders and Realtors? It’s a good idea for us to find out how our local MN builders are doing – and how they’re feeling now and about the immediate future. C
Coffee meetings? Some tours? Let’s get together and talk about what they have and how we can work together to find the best value and options for our clients with MN builders!
Owner & President
Millennials…we hear this group mentioned so often, I’m starting to feel like Jan from the Brady Bunch – “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” But I can’t deny how important they are to the MN housing market and economy, so I’ll get over myself to share some important news: The use of FHA loans (and other low down payment programs) to purchase homes is up 23-percent from the first quarter of this year according to RealtyTrac and the interpretation is that more MN first time home buyers are getting into the market. That’s great because we need them! Millennials have been lukewarm about MN homeownership for the last few years, so the real estate community really needs to reach out and share the news that FHA made some changes that make payments more affordable. There’s also other low down payment programs – even MN down payment assistance – so we all need to make sure that we promote all the great options to help people buy MN homes – Millennials or not.
If you’re thinking of buying or selling, I can put you in touch with great real estate and mortgage professionals who specialize in your area and situation. Message me!
Owner & President