Real Estate prices across US – Great mapping tool

November 20, 2008

I just got this today and thought it was fascinating, and I think you will too.

You can move your mouse across most cities in the USA and by clicking on the little house you can then see the median price and the drop/gain in prices.  As you check on the median prices and the average increase or decline from the previous year, you will note that the Houston Market is very strong compared to the majority of the nation. Unfortunately, the Katy/West Houston area is not defined on this map but I will be happy to share that we have been in the # 1 and # 2 position for hottest markets in Houston for the majority of 2007 and 2008. Katy is still very strong and a wonderful place to purchase property and to raise a family.

To see the map click HERE.

As reported on my blog and in my newsletter, houses are being gobbled up now in some markets. In fact, many buyers are purchasing properties in depressed areas, sitting on them and waiting until the market conditions improve. This tells us that there is promise, after all we all need a place to live !

If you are sitting on a stagnant or decreasing IRA or 401K, did you know that you can move those funds (without penalty) into a Self-Directed IRA plan with a trustee/custodian and purchase real estate? Sound interesting? This a fabulous way to have more control over your retirement accounts as well as have the liquidity to move into the real estate market. I know, there are nay sayers who feel that the real estate market is too risky.  Well, have you seen your stock holdings lately? Risky is too soft a word for what happened to many of us. The interesting thing is while many stock holdings have lost up to 50% of their value, most real estate markets have held firm – with the exception of the speculative markets of California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona. These are markets that were unrealistically inflated by speculation and needed a correction – much like the dot com stocks several years ago. Of course, these are the only market we hear about in the news so everyone thinks the entire nation is up for a Fire Sale. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

When I speak about real estate investing, I am not speaking about speculation. That is a very risky enterprise and not a place to put your retirement funds. There are many solid real estate investments out there. In fact, the Warren Buffett’s and Donald Trump’s of the world are already adding to their portfolios. 

I am happy to share more information about Self-Directed retirement accounts and how you can take control of your nest egg. Good Luck and Happy Investing…


Houston Real Estate Update – November 18

November 18, 2008

The Houston housing market continued to feel the effects of the troubled national economy in October and residual business interruptions caused by Hurricane Ike. New monthly data released by the Houston Association of REALTORS®  (HAR) reflects improvement from market performance in September, when Ike derailed thousands of real estate transactions. However, the number of property sales across the greater Houston area declined last month when compared to October 2007, with sales of single-family homes down 20.1 percent.

The average price of a single-family home dipped 1.6 percent last month to $194,607 from $197,751 in October 2007. That still marks the second highest average price for an October in Houston. At $142,000, the median price of a single-family home in October fell 2.7 percent. Year-to-date home prices are still up compared to 2007 and national figures show Houston continues to fare better than many other U.S. markets, some of which have experienced deprecations of as much as 40 percent.

Sales of all property types for October 2008 totaled 4,962, down 21.6 percent compared to October 2007. Total dollar volume for properties sold during the month was $943 million versus $1.2 billion one year earlier, a 22.9 percent decline.

“Houston remains the envy of real estate professionals around the country, who discussed their sales and pricing concerns with us at this month’s National Association of REALTORS® conference in Orlando,” said Michael Levitin, HAR chairman and principal of HTownRealty.com. “Month’s inventory in Houston is about half the national average, and on a year-to-date basis, prices here are up about three percent from 2007. Nonetheless, we must watch closely to see what further action the federal government may take to stimulate the economy, particularly on behalf of homeowners.”

October Monthly Market Comparison
The month of October brought Houston’s overall housing market disappointing results when comparing all listing categories to October of 2007. Total property sales and total dollar volume fell, as did average and median single-family home sales prices.

The number of available properties, or active listings, at the end of October fell 8.2 percent from October 2007 to 49,016. That’s 1,139 fewer active listings than September 2008, and is seen as an indication that inventory levels are balanced and that home prices should remain stable.

Month-end pending sales – those listings expected to close within the next 30 days – totaled 3,579, which was 21.5 percent lower than last year and suggests another likely sales decline next month. The month’s inventory of single-family homes for October came in at 6.3 months, the lowest level since March of this year. That compares to the October 2007 single-family homes inventory of 6.2 months.

 
ALL CATEGORIES October 2007 October 2008 PERCENT CHANGE
Total property sales 6,327 4,962 -21.6%
Total dollar volume $1,233,550,946 $943,444,534 -22.9%
Average single-family sales price $197,751 $194,607 -1.6%
Median single-family sales price $146,000 $142,000 -2.7%
Total active listings 53,407 49,016 -8.2%
Total pending sales 4,562 3,579 -21.5%
Months inventory* 6.2 6.3 +1.2%
* Months inventory estimates the number of months it will take to deplete current active inventory based on the prior 12 months sales activity. This figure is representative of the single-family homes market.
 

Single-Family Homes Update

At $194,607, the average sales price for single-family homes reached the second highest level recorded for an October in Houston, down 1.6 percent from October 2007 when it was $197,751. The overall median price of single-family homes in October was $142,000. That compares to the national single-family median price of $190,600 reported by the National Association of REALTORS®. These data continue to demonstrate the higher value and lower cost of living that prevail in the Houston market.

har-graph

Additionally, total October sales of single-family homes in Houston came in at 4,202, down 20.1 percent from October 2007 and the fourteenth straight monthly drop.

har-graph-21

HAR also reports existing home statistics for the single-family home segment of the real estate market. In October 2008, existing single-family home sales totaled 3,526, a 17.3 percent decrease from October 2007. At $175,392, the average sales price for existing homes in the Houston area fell 5.3 percent compared to last year. The median sales price of $130,000 for the month was also down 3.7 percent from one year earlier.

Townhouse/Condo Update

The number of townhouses and condominiums sold in October fell compared to one year earlier. In the greater Houston area, 421 units were sold last month versus 534 properties in October 2007, translating to a 21.2 percent decrease in year-over-year sales.

har-graph-3

The average price of a townhouse/condominium increased to $161,428, up 0.7 percent from one year earlier and the highest figure for the month of October. The median price dipped 1.5 percent to $129,000 from October 2007 to 2008. That figure is the second highest historically for the month of October.

Lease Property Update

Demand for single-family and townhouse/condominium rentals increased in October, continuing an upswing triggered by Hurricane Ike, as many sought short-term housing while engaging in storm-related recovery projects. Single-family home rentals rose 36.0 percent in October compared to a year earlier, while year-over-year townhouse/condominium rentals were up 34.1 percent.

Houston Real Estate Milestones in October

  • Second highest average single-family home sales price for an October ($194,607);

  • Highest average townhouse/condominium sales price for an October ($161,428);

  • Second highest median townhouse/condominium sales price for an October ($129,000);

  • Lowest month’s inventory of single-family homes since March 2008 (6.3 months).

  •  
    The computerized Multiple Listing Service of the Houston Association of Realtors® includes residential properties and new homes listed by 26,000 Realtors throughout Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties, as well as parts of Brazoria, Galveston, Waller and Wharton counties. Residential home sales statistics as well as listing information for more than 53,000 properties may be found on the Internet at http://www.har.com.The information published and disseminated to the HAR Multiple Listing Services is communicated verbatim, without change by Multiple Listing Services, as filed by MLS participants.

    The MLS does not verify the information provided and disclaims any responsibility for its accuracy. All data is preliminary and subject to change. Monthly sales figures reported since November 1998 includes a statistical estimation to account for late entries. Twelve-month totals may vary from actual end-of-year figures. (Single-family detached homes were broken out separately in monthly figures beginning February 1988.)

    Founded in 1918, the Houston Association of Realtors® (HAR) is a 27,000-member organization of real estate professionals engaged in every aspect of the industry, including residential and commercial sales and leasing, appraisal, property management and counseling. It is the largest individual membership trade association in Houston, as well as the second largest local association/board of Realtors® in the United States.


    Understanding the buyer tax credit!

    November 11, 2008

    This credit is very not necessarily a true credit so I went to the source, a lender who specializes in first time home buyers and she sent me the following information:

    1.      Who is eligible to claim the $7,500 tax credit?
    First time home buyers purchasing any kind of home—new or resale—are eligible for the tax credit. To qualify for the tax credit, a home purchase must occur on or after April 9, 2008 and before July 1, 2009. For the purposes of the tax credit, the purchase date is the date when closing occurs.

    2.      What is the definition of a first-time home buyer?
    The law defines “first-time home buyer” as a buyer who has not owned a principal residence during the three-year period prior to the purchase. For married taxpayers, the law tests homeownership history of both the home buyer and his/her spouse. For example, if you have not owned a home in the past three years but your spouse has owned a principal residence, neither you nor your spouse qualifies for the first-time home buyer tax credit.

    3.      What types of homes will qualify for the tax credit?
    Any home purchased by an eligible first-time home buyer will qualify for the credit, provided that the home will be used as a principal residence and the buyer has not owned a home in the previous three years. This includes single-family detached homes, attached homes like townhouses, and condominiums.

    4.      Instead of buying a new home from a home builder, I have hired a contractor to construct a home on a lot that I already own. Do I still qualify for the tax credit?
    Yes. For the purposes of the home buyer tax credit, a principal residence that is constructed by the home owner is treated by the tax code as having been “purchased” on the date the owner first occupies the house. In this situation, the date of first occupancy must be on or after April 9, 2008 and before July 1, 2009.

    In contrast, for newly-constructed homes bought from a home builder, eligibility for the tax credit is determined by the settlement date.

    5.      What is “modified adjusted gross income”?
    Modified adjusted gross income or MAGI is defined by the IRS. To find it, a taxpayer must first determine “adjusted gross income” or AGI. AGI is total income for a year minus certain deductions (known as “adjustments” or “above-the-line deductions”), but before itemized deductions from Schedule A or personal exemptions are subtracted. On Forms 1040 and 1040A, AGI is the last number on page 1 and first number on page 2 of the form. For Form 1040-EZ, AGI appears on line 4 (as of 2007). Note that AGI includes all forms of income including wages, salaries, interest income, dividends and capital gains.

    To determine modified adjusted gross income (MAGI), add to AGI certain amounts such as foreign income, foreign-housing deductions, student-loan deductions, IRA-contribution deductions and deductions for higher-education costs.

    6.      If my modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is above the limit, do I qualify for any tax credit?
    Possibly. It depends on your income. Partial credits of less than $7,500 are available for some taxpayers whose MAGI exceeds the phase-out limits. The credit becomes totally unavailable for individual taxpayers with a modified adjusted gross income of more than $95,000 and for married taxpayers filing joint returns with an AGI of more than $170,000.

    7.      Can you give me an example of how the partial tax credit is determined?
    Just as an example, assume that a married couple has a modified adjusted gross income of $160,000. The applicable phase-out to qualify for the tax credit is $150,000, and the couple is $10,000 over this amount. Dividing $10,000 by $20,000 yields 0.5. When you subtract 0.5 from 1.0, the result is 0.5. To determine the amount of the partial first-time home buyer tax credit that is available to this couple, multiply $7,500 by 0.5. The result is $3,750.

    Here’s another example: assume that an individual home buyer has a modified adjusted gross income of $88,000. The buyer’s income exceeds $75,000 by $13,000. Dividing $13,000 by $20,000 yields 0.65. When you subtract 0.65 from 1.0, the result is 0.35. Multiplying $7,500 by 0.35 shows that the buyer is eligible for a partial tax credit of $2,625.

    Please remember that these examples are intended to provide a general idea of how the tax credit might be applied in different circumstances. You should always consult your tax advisor for information relating to your specific circumstances.

    8.      Does the credit amount differ based on tax filing status?
    No. The credit is in general equal to $7,500 for a qualified home purchase, whether the home buyer files taxes as a single or married taxpayer. However, if a household files their taxes as “married filing separately” (in effect, filing two returns), then the credit of $7,500 is claimed as a $3,750 credit on each of the two returns.

    9.      Are there any circumstances for which buyers whose incomes are at or below the $75,000 limit for singles or the $150,000 limit for married taxpayers might not be able to claim the full $7,500 tax credit?
    In general, the tax credit is equal to 10% of the qualified home purchase price, but the credit amount is capped or limited at $7,500. For most first-time home buyers, this means the credit will equal $7,500. For home buyers purchasing a home priced less than $75,000, the credit will equal 10% of the purchase price.

    10.     I heard that the tax credit is refundable. What does that mean?
    The fact that the credit is refundable means that the home buyer credit can be claimed even if the taxpayer has little or no federal income tax liability to offset. Typically this involves the government sending the taxpayer a check for a portion or even all of the amount of the refundable tax credit.

    For example, if a qualified home buyer expected, notwithstanding the tax credit, federal income tax liability of $5,000 and had tax withholding of $4,000 for the year, then without the tax credit the taxpayer would owe the IRS $1,000 on April 15th. Suppose now that taxpayer qualified for the $7,500 home buyer tax credit. As a result, the taxpayer would receive a check for $6,500 ($7,500 minus the $1,000 owed).

    11.     What is the difference between a tax credit and a tax deduction?
    A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in what the taxpayer owes. That means that a taxpayer who owes $7,500 in income taxes and who receives a $7,500 tax credit would owe nothing to the IRS.

    A tax deduction is subtracted from the amount of income that is taxed. Using the same example, assume the taxpayer is in the 15 percent tax bracket and owes $7,500 in income taxes. If the taxpayer receives a $7,500 deduction, the taxpayer’s tax liability would be reduced by $1,125 (15 percent of $7,500), or lowered from $7,500 to $6,375.

    12.     Can I claim the tax credit if I finance the purchase of my home under a mortgage revenue bond (MRB) program?
    No. The tax credit cannot be combined with the MRB home buyer program.

    13.     I live in the District of Columbia. Can I claim both the DC first-time home buyer credit and this new credit?
    No. You can claim only one.

    14.     I am not a U.S. citizen. Can I claim the tax credit?
    Maybe. Anyone who is not a nonresident alien (as defined by the IRS), who has not owned a principal residence in the previous three years and who meets the income limits test may claim the tax credit for a qualified home purchase. The IRS provides a definition of “nonresident alien” in
    IRS Publication 519.

    15.     Does the credit have to be paid back to the government? If so, what are the payback provisions?
    Yes, the tax credit must be repaid. Home buyers will be required to repay the credit to the government, without interest, over 15 years or when they sell the house, if there is sufficient capital gain from the sale. For example, a home buyer claiming a $7,500 credit would repay the credit at $500 per year. The home owner does not have to begin making repayments on the credit until two years after the credit is claimed. So if the tax credit is claimed on the 2008 tax return, a $500 payment is not due until the 2010 tax return is filed. If the home owner sold the home, then the remaining credit amount would be due from the profit on the home sale. If there was insufficient profit, then the remaining credit payback would be forgiven.

    16.     Why must the money be repaid?
    Congress’s intent was to provide as large a financial resource as possible for home buyers in the year that they purchase a home. In addition to helping first-time home buyers, this will maximize the stimulus for the housing market and the economy, will help stabilize home prices, and will increase home sales. The repayment requirement reduces the effect on the Federal Treasury and assumes that home buyers will benefit from stabilized and, eventually, increasing future housing prices.

    17.     Because the money must be repaid, isn’t the first-time home buyer program really a zero-interest loan rather than a traditional tax credit?
    Yes. Because the tax credit must be repaid, it operates like a zero-interest loan. Assuming an interest rate of 7%, that means the home owner saves up to $4,200 in interest payments over the 15-year repayment period. Compared to $7,500 financed through a 30-year mortgage with a 7% interest rate, the home buyer tax credit saves home buyers over $8,100 in interest payments. The program is called a tax credit because it operates through the tax code and is administered by the IRS. Also like a tax credit, it provides a reduction in tax liability in the year it is claimed.

    18.     If I’m qualified for the tax credit and buy a home in 2009, can I apply the tax credit against my 2008 tax return?
    Yes. The law allows taxpayers to choose (“elect”) to treat qualified home purchases in 2009 as if the purchase occurred on December 31, 2008. This means that the 2008 income limit (MAGI) applies and the election accelerates when the credit can be claimed (tax filing for 2008 returns instead of for 2009 returns). A benefit of this election is that a home buyer in 2009 will know their 2008 MAGI with certainty, thereby helping the buyer know whether the income limit will reduce their credit amount.

    19.     For a home purchase in 2009, can I choose whether to treat the purchase as occurring in 2008 or 2009, depending on in which year my credit amount is the largest?
    Yes. If the applicable income phase-out would reduce your home buyer tax credit amount in 2009 and a larger credit would be available using the 2008 MAGI amounts, then you can choose the year that yields the largest credit amount. Sent by
    Christine A. Boles, Mortgage Consultant, Gibraltar Mortgage Services, LLC

    If you need further clarification, please post here and I will get answers for you.


    First Time Home Buyer Market Heating Up!

    November 11, 2008
    Houston and Katy market update:

    Overall, the October home sale market continued to show softness as the market pivoted away from some of the higher end homes.  Rentals once again were red hot – up 36% from this time last year with increasing rental rates. Inventory continues to decline the fewest homes available on the market for the last 18 months. This is good news, considering the smaller buyer pool we are currently seeing in our area.

    Sales to first-time homebuyers are at their highest in seven years. Over 40 percent of homes recently sold went to first-time buyers, according to a 10,000-person survey by the National Association of Realtors.
     

    Other survey findings include:

    • a record 32 percent of buyers found their houses first on the Internet;
    • almost 90 percent looked for information online during their home search;
    • almost 80 percent were concerned about commuting costs;
    • 43 percent said heating and cooling costs were very important factors when they made their purchase; and
    • more than 40 percent of sellers had to offer incentives to buyers, including assistance with closing costs and home warranty policies.

    What does this mean for Katy, TX? It means that homes in the lower spectrum price ranges: $ 250,000 and under are experiencing the most brisk activity in our area. Our current months of inventory of the South Katy area is 4.6 months. This means if homes sold at last years’ pace, it would take this long to sell all available homes if no more homes were added to the market. Our current average days on the market is running 70 or more days – and this will differ when we break down the various price ranges. Homes on the high end are experiencing over 9 months inventory – and that is a lot of homes to compete with. Custom homes over $ 1 million have over 16 months of inventory and must be very competitive on price and ready to wait for a very special buyer.

    Our market is so diverse and so fast paced, market information changes constantly. If you would like to receive my video newsletter from Realty Times, post your request here or email me at christi@christiborden.com.