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Zillow: 30-Year Fixed Mortgage Rates Stay Below 4%

2014-10-21 15:11:00

Filed under: News, Buying, Financing, Refinancing Zillow*The weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest in six-hour intervals. By Lauren Braun Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed mortgages were unchanged this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.81 percent, identical to this same time last week. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate hovered around 3.85 percent for most of the week, dropping to 3.70 percent Wednesday before rising to the current rate. "Last week mortgage rates experienced dramatic inter-day volatility, falling Wednesday to their lowest level since May 2013 fueled by global economic concerns and the potential threat of an Ebola epidemic," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "With little mortgage market-moving data scheduled to be released next week, we expect rates to remain stable." Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate this morning was 2.97 percent, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.80 percent. Purchase Mortgage Application Activity: Zillow predicts tomorrow's seasonally adjusted Mortgage Bankers Association Weekly Application Index will show purchase loan activity increased by 5 percent from the week prior. To learn more about this Zillow analysis, click here. What are the interest rates right now? Check Zillow Mortgages for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state. Permalink | Email this | Comments

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10 Cities Where You're Most Likely to Find a Haunted House

2014-10-21 14:26:00

Filed under: News, Buying, Lifestyle ShutterstockCape May, New Jersey, holds the top spot for places in the U.S. with the most potential for finding a haunted house. By Trulia Staff Are you in the market for a good scare? Looking for a spooky spot? Good news -- or is it bad? -- we have you covered. In 2012, we looked at which U.S. metros have the greatest concentration of old, vacant homes. Using that data, Trulia Chief Economist Jed Kolko was able to determine the cities where you're most likely to find a haunted house. With Halloween just around the corner, we decided to rejigger the numbers and see if ghosts and ghouls are on the move. (And also to prove once and for all -- we ain't afraid of no ghost.) How did we come to our spooky conclusion? We used the same logic, looking at old, vacant homes. As Kolko noted then, "Old homes with creaky bones have a history of previous residents whose spirits might return, or maybe never left. Our other hunch is that ghosts would prefer not to be disturbed, so they haunt vacant homes more than homes occupied by pesky mortals." So did we learn anything new about our otherworldly neighbors? One city floated onto the haunting scene since 2012, but overall it seems like those pesky phantoms like to stay put. Makes sense to us; it's probably tough for even the most seasoned specter start haunting in a new town. Adding to the scare factor, the newcomer has a seriously spine-tingling name: Torrington. (Terrifying!) And remember how we told you that ghosts love capes? Still true. Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Cape May, New Jersey, continue to occupy the top two slots, with the most housing units that are both old and vacant. The No. 3 city for spotting the supernatural? None other than Lebanon, New Hampshire. The rest of the cities are a mix of areas that haven't seen much growth recently, including older cities like Buffalo, New York; Scranton, Pennsylvania; and Detroit that are experiencing hard economic times. Ready to settle down in a city where things go bump in the night? Chances are, ghosts aren't going to show up in Trulia's demographic maps, so you might want to keep this list handy when you're hunting for haunted houses. Permalink | Email this | Comments

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Mortgage Giants Strike Deal to Loosen Credit, Regulator Says

2014-10-21 11:49:00

Filed under: News, Buying, Financing, Credit APFederal Housing Finance Authority Director Mel Watt, in announcing the deal, called it 'a significant step forward.' By Marcy Gordon WASHINGTON -- A federal regulator says government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have reached an agreement with major banks that could expand lending. The head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie and Freddie, announced the deal Monday at a conference of the Mortgage Bankers Association in Las Vegas. FHFA Director Mel Watt said the deal clarifies conditions in which banks could be required to buy back mortgages they sell to Fannie and Freddie for misrepresenting the loans' risks. Watt said the agreement in principle is "a significant step forward" that will help make more mortgage credit available without harming Fannie and Freddie's finances. It's currently hard for banks to know An expansion of mortgage credit could help boost the housing market, which has recovered only gradually since the Great Recession. whether they'll have to buy back loans, Watt said. That can make banks skittish about lending to borrowers with less pristine credit. An expansion of mortgage credit could help boost the housing market, which has recovered only gradually since the Great Recession. Big banks in recent years have paid billions of dollars in settlements to resolve government claims of misleading Fannie and Freddie about risky home loans and mortgage securities that they sold before the housing market collapsed in 2007. Watt also said his agency is working with Fannie and Freddie to develop new guidelines that would allow some creditworthy borrowers to make lower down payments than currently required. Details on the guidelines and the new requirements for banks to buy back mortgages will be issued soon, he said. The FHFA will set a minimum number of loans linked to misrepresentations by the seller banks or inaccurate data that would require them to be repurchased. That means a pattern of problems must be established, Watt said. Fannie and Freddie own or guarantee about half of all U.S. mortgages, worth about $5 trillion. Along with other federal agencies, they back roughly 90 percent of new mortgages. The two companies don't directly make loans to borrowers. They buy mortgages from lenders, package them as securities, guarantee them against default and sell them to investors. That helps make loans available. The government rescued Fannie and Freddie at the height of the financial crisis in September 2008 when both veered toward collapse under the weight of losses on risky mortgages. Together they received taxpayer aid totaling $187 billion. The gradual recovery of the housing market has made the companies profitable again, and they have repaid the government loans. Permalink | Email this | Comments

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Existing Home Sales See Fastest Pace Yet This Year

2014-10-21 10:09:00

Filed under: News, Buying, Economy, Selling Nick Ut/AP By JOSH BOAK WASHINGTON -- U.S. homes sold in September at their fastest clip this year, a sign that the housing market is shaking off a slowdown that began in the middle of 2013. The National Association of Realtors said Tuesday that sales of existing homes rose 2.4 percent from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million. Still, the sales rate has dropped 1.7 percent over the past 12 months. Investors have retreated from the market over the past year. Their departures are being offset by existing homeowners who are upgrading to more expensive properties or downsizing after having raised their children. First-time buyers comprised just 29 percent of sales, well below their historic average of roughly 40 percent. The figures suggest that the sales decline that began last year has ended, although home-buying is unlikely to surge back to their historic averages. "The worst is over, but don't expect a rapid rebound in activity or prices," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. Rising prices through much of 2013, weak income growth and tighter credit standards have priced out many would-be buyers. Median home prices rose 5.6 percent over the past 12 months to $209,700. Many homeowners are still coping with the fallout from the meltdown in home prices that began roughly seven years ago. And prices continue to recover from the depths of that housing bust, although that growth has slowed after climbing at double digit levels in many cities last year. Median household incomes have yet to completely rebound and remain below their 2007 levels after adjusting for inflation. Limited income gains have cut into the cash flow and down payment savings needed to purchase a home. The federal regulator overseeing mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is considering an option for lower down payments, so that more people can qualify for a mortgage. Lower Rates Draw Buyers More buyers may also return the market after the average 30-year fixed rate mortgages dropped below 4 percent last week, down more than half a percentage point from the start of 2014. Still, average rates were as low as 3.34 percent In January 2013, and there are few signs that home sales will surge any time soon. September sales improved in the South and West compared to the prior month, ticked up slightly in the Northeast and fell in the Midwest, according to the Realtors' report. The share of purchases by investors fell to 14 percent from 19 percent a year ago. The Realtors have projected that 4.94 million existing homes will be sold this year, down 3 percent from 5.09 million in 2013. Analysts generally associate sales of roughly 5.5 million existing homes with a healthy market. A separate Realtors index tracking the number of signed contracts to purchase a home slipped in August, falling 1 percent compared with the prior month to 104.7. Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases. A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a contract and a completed sale. Construction data suggests a shift away from home ownership toward renting. The Commerce Department reported last week that housing starts rose 6.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.017 million homes, with almost all of the gains coming from the building of apartments. Apartment construction has surged 30.3 percent over the past 12 months, almost three times the rate of growth for single-family houses.  Permalink | Email this | Comments

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For Sale: Don Johnson's Sprawling Montecito Farmhouse

2014-10-21 05:01:00

Filed under: News, Celebrity Homes Courtesy of The Agency via ZillowThe home Don Johnson and his wife are selling in Santa Barbara County has a reverse-osmosis swimming pool. Getty ImagesDon Johnson, right, and wife Kelley Phleger By Emily Heffter This Montecito view home is about as far as you can get from the vice beat in Miami. Actor Don Johnson bought this sprawling California farmhouse last year for $12.5 million but decided to sell it when he and his wife found another property with space for their horses. The home they are selling -- it comes on the market for $14.9 million today -- is set on 2.5 acres but requires them to board their horses. The property has a pool and meandering trails, all with gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean. Previous owners remodeled and updated the original 1959 property, which had also been expanded by the previous owners before that. Each renovation seemed to come with more amenities. The home has a one-bedroom, one-bath, two-story guesthouse, a reverse-osmosis pool, an organic vegetable garden, a gym, a media room and a glass solarium where Johnson liked to drink his coffee in the morning. "They really love this house," said listing agent Kathrin Nicholson of The Agency. The children's bedrooms open up to view terraces, and the property includes an in-ground trampoline, a music room and an open family room that connects by glass doors to the patio by the pool.  Read | Permalink | Email this | Comments

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As Mortgage Rates Dip Below 4%, Refinancing Looks Good Again

2014-10-20 10:20:00

Filed under: News, Economy, Refinancing ShutterstockA stock market rally on Friday suggested that the moment to refinance at rates below 4 percent might be fleeting. By Josh Boak and Alex Veiga A sudden plunge in mortgage rates last week raised an urgent question for millions of Americans: Should I refinance my mortgage? Across the country, homeowners and would-be homeowners eager for a bargain rate fired off inquiries to lenders. The opportunity emerged from the tumult that seized financial markets and sent stock prices and bond yields tumbling. Rates on long-term mortgages tend to track the 10-year Treasury yield, which fell below 2 percent for the first time since May 2013. Accordingly, the average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage, mortgage "It gets people excited. It gets mortgage bankers excited. It gets prospective buyers excited." giant Freddie Mac reported, dipped below 4 percent to 3.97 percent -- a tantalizing figure. As recently as January, the average was 4.53 percent. Ultra-low rates do carry risks as well as opportunities. Charges and fees can shortchange refinancers who are focused only on the potential savings. And falling rates are often associated with the broader risk of an economic slowdown that could eventually reduce the income that some people have to pay their mortgages. Yet the tempting possibility of locking in a sub-4 percent rate has a way of motivating people. "It gets people excited," said Michelle Meyer, an economist at Bank of America. "It gets mortgage bankers excited. It gets prospective buyers excited." The drop in rates could finally give homeowners like Issi and Amy Romem of Mountain View, California, the chance to refinance. Amy Romem bought the condo at the peak of the housing boom for $400,000, using an adjustable-rate loan with an initial 5.875 percent rate that would reset after 10 years. The reset would amount to an extra $400 a month on the condo, which the couple now rents, Issi Romem said. "Seeing rates go down even more is something I wasn't expecting," he said. "It reminds me that I need to do this now, before interest rates do go up." Before last week, many bankers, lenders and borrowers had assumed that home loan rates would soon start rising closer to a two-decade average of 6 percent. That was based on expectations that the Federal Reserve would start raising its key short-term rate next year -- a move that would likely lead to higher mortgage rates, too. But that assumption fell suddenly into doubt as stocks plunged Monday and Wednesday amid fears about global economic weaknesses, the spread of Ebola and the threat of the Islamic State militia "It's likely to be the last time we see these rates for a generation, if ever again." group in the Middle East. Seeking safety, investors poured money into U.S. Treasurys. Higher demand drives up prices for those government bonds and causes their yields to drop. The yield on the 10-year note traded as low as 1.91 percent Wednesday before ending the day at 2.14 percent. A stock market rally on Friday helped lift the yield to 2.20 percent. That suggested that the moment to refinance might be fleeting. "It's likely to be the last time we see these rates for a generation, if ever again," said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at Realtor.com. Even a slight drop in mortgage rates can translate into significant savings over the long run. For a median-priced home worth $221,000, a 0.5 percentage point decline in a mortgage rate would produce savings of $50 a month, according to a Bank of America analysis. Still, it takes time for the savings to offset the costs of refinancing. "There's no free lunch in this," noted Gary Kalman, executive vice president at the Center for Responsible Lending. Lenders typically charge fees for paperwork on the loan and to pay for a home appraisal and title insurance, among other costs. "You want to make sure the interest rate you're getting is dropping enough that it more than offsets whatever fees you may be paying," Kalman said. Refinancing from a 5.5 percent rate -- which some borrowers still have -- to 4 percent would save $180 a month on a $200,000 mortgage. But the fees - averaging around $2,500 -- mean it would take about 14 months to break even. Research done this year by economists at the University of Chicago and Brigham Young University found that 20 percent of eligible households failed to refinance when rates first made doing so profitable in late 2010. They essentially cost themselves $11,500 in potential savings. Those who missed those late rates last year now have a second chance. "When you get these little boomlets like we see now, most of that is what drives refinancing activity," said Bob Walters, chief economist at Quicken Loans. While applications for refinancing were rising last week at Quicken, Walters added, it's unlikely that many would-be home buyers will be able to benefit. It can take buyers months to mobilize, because they need to first find a suitable house in the right neighborhood. That makes it hard for them to immediately snap into action when rates drop, though it might coax them into looking. "It's a bonus if rates are lower," Walters said, "but it doesn't dictate the decision." Boak reported from Washington, Veiga from Los Angeles. Permalink | Email this | Comments

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Lady Gaga Reportedly Buys a House With a 'Batcave' in Malibu

2014-10-20 06:03:00

Filed under: News, Celebrity Homes Courtesy of The AgencyThis entertainment-friendly house across from Malibu's Zuma Beach reportedly was just purchased by Lady Gaga. APLady Gaga By Catherine Sherman TMZ reports Lady Gaga has made her first California home purchase: a 6-acre estate across from Malibu's Zuma Beach. The home was listed for $24.95 million this summer by The Agency's Santiago Arana. Property records show it was recently purchased under a trust for $22.5 million. "This beautiful estate was inspired by traditional homes in the South of France offering breathtaking views," the listing description stated. In addition to a prime beachfront location, the home has an 800-bottle wine cellar, home theater, bar and a 1960s-era two-lane bowling alley -- all accessible by a "secret door" from the living room. The bowling alley has been called the "batcave" because of the home's seller, Dan Romanelli. As the founder of the consumer products division at Warner Bros., he's behind the toys and apparel linked to the "Batman" movies. In 2010, Gaga leased a home in Bel-Air, but the singer been known to keep quiet about her real estate purchases. The listing agent was unable to comment on this sale. Read | Permalink | Email this | Comments

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A Case for Energy Efficient Housing

2014-10-20 05:25:00

Filed under: Design, News, Home Improvement Photo courtesy of Trent BellThis home cost about $175 a square foot to build and is close to net zero with the addition of more photovoltaic panels. Years ago, it was difficult to build a very energy efficient house because there was a lack of technology and materials -- such as extremely energy efficient insulation and triple-pane windows. The cost for solar panels was also high and subsidies were non-existent. Today this is not the case. We know how to build houses to substantially reduce the use of fossil fuel and energy costs. You might then ask: Why aren't all houses built to a much higher energy standard? There are several answers to this question. People aren't being forced to build more efficiently because the codes are not that stringent. Although they have improved over the years, most municipalities have a long way to go to be encouraging "The up-cost for a very energy efficient house should be $0." people to build low-energy or net-zero houses. Another reason given for not building to higher energy efficiency is the cost. Homeowners wrongfully assume that it will cost a great deal more to build a more energy efficient house. In 2010, Habitat for Humanity built a house in Vermont to Passive House standards, using a tiny bit of energy and at a minimal cost. Many other houses have also been built in this country and around the world that are moderately priced and extremely energy efficient. According to architect Phil Kaplan of Kaplan Thompson Architects, who designs many energy efficient houses in New England, "the up-cost for a very energy efficient house should be $0." He says, "If you increase window quality, increase insulation, reduce air infiltration, you reduce the cost of mechanical systems." When designing a house, Kaplan also designs the mechanical systems to make sure that he gets the right efficiencies in the completed house. John Colucci, vice president of sales and marketing at Westchester Modular Homes, says the up-charge is minimal. He claims that a modular home may cost 3 to 5 percent more for a house that is 50 to 60 percent more efficient than the typical home. A house that is net-zero energy may cost up to 10 percent more. He points out that in the factory they are able to build a very tight house with There is an assumption that very energy efficient houses are not particularly attractive. advanced framing and extra insulation. Tessa Smith of the Artisans Group, a Passive House designer/builder says: "We see a zero upgrade in our custom energy efficient homes in which spending more on insulation gets recouped by less expensive but sophisticated mechanicals, and by buying better windows, which we would anyway in this type of house. "In our production-oriented houses (that are equally as efficient as our custom homes), we see an upgrade of between 5 to 10 percent (compared to a normal tract home) and a payback of around 6 years, depending on the project. The windows and mechanicals on these less-expensive houses are more energy efficient, of higher quality, and more expensive than the cheapest windows and mechanicals than you would normally find in a tract house." The Artisan Group currently has a Passive House under construction that will cost $135 a square foot. Nobody can say exactly what the return on the additional investment will be for all houses -- it varies with the products and systems used, location and the efficiency achieved. Everyone I've interviewed, with a very energy efficient house, however, agrees that their heating and cooling bills are substantially less than those of their neighbors with less-efficient houses. There is an assumption that very energy efficient houses are not particularly attractive. But evidenced by the houses I've seen in this country and around the world -- this is definitely not the case. (Just see some of the beautiful houses that have been built to high standards in my recent book -- Prefabulous World: Energy-Efficient and Sustainable Homes Around the Globe.) Global warming is generally accepted today as a scientific fact. It is caused by the entrapment of gases resulting from the burning of fossil fuel. Forty percent of that fuel in this country comes from the heating and cooling of houses and other buildings. I believe the environmental and financial savings pose a strong case for building a very energy efficient or even zero-energy home. The photos in the following gallery are from Prefabulous World and Prefabulous + Almost Off the Grid.  Permalink | Email this | Comments

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Muhammad Ali's Childhood Home Set for Restoration

2014-10-20 05:01:00

Filed under: News, Celebrity Homes, Home Improvement The Associated PressBoxing great Muhammad Ali's childhood home in Louisville, Kentucky, as it appeared in 2012. APMuhammad Ali LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The owner of Muhammad Ali's boyhood home has partnered with a restoration specialist in a venture to completely restore the Louisville, Kentucky, residence to its original condition. The Courier-Journal reports Nevada-based real estate investor Jared Weiss, who brought the property two years ago, has joined with Lawrence, Kansas-based 19th Century Restorations to restore the home. Dan Reidemann, who is CEO and founder of the restoration company, told the newspaper that the effort would cost about $250,000. The hope is to finish it in enough time to hand over the keys to the boxing great on his 73rd birthday in January. Work is set to begin on the small white house with a sagging front porch overhang in western Louisville by the end of October. Permalink | Email this | Comments

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Sean 'Diddy' Combs Drops Price on Swanky Manhattan Condo

2014-10-18 00:03:00

Filed under: News, Celebrity Homes, Selling ZillowSean 'Diddy' Combs' condo high above Manhattan is in one of New York City's most luxurious buildings. AP{Sean 'Diddy' Combs By Emily Heffter Is no one interested in a see-through piano and amazing views of the park? Sean "Diddy" Combs has dropped the price on his swanky Midtown Manhattan condo. The platinum-selling rapper and music producer is still the King of New York, trying a second time to sell the sky-high apartment. The price is now $7.5 million, down from just under $8 million. Combs, who also has homes in Miami and California, is reportedly looking for a place he can host his famous parties without making too much noise for the neighbors. The condo is on the 66th floor of the Park Imperial, one of New York City's most luxurious buildings (see the slideshow below). It has floor-to-ceiling views of Central Park, and, if you need a break from that, black-out shades. The two-bedroom, two-bath space is built for entertaining, with a piano room, wet bar and a corner living room with a 90-inch flat-screen television. The entry and master bathroom are marble, and the sleek eat-in kitchen offers New York views with breakfast.  Read | Permalink | Email this | Comments

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