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Welcome to our blog! Check back here often to get the latest in local and national real estate news, statistics, and discussions. Click here to subscribe to our RSS Feed.

Housing continues to make a comeback following the real estate depression of 2007 through 2011.  Job growth (albeit tepid), rising rents and population growth are the trifecta to increased sales and prices.  October 2012 saw a Seasonally-Adjusted Annualized Sales Rate (SAAR) of 4.79 million existing homes, a gain of more than 10 percent from October 2011. Prices also increased year-over-year, with the monthly median rising 11.1 percent to $178,600.  The latest 12-month moving average median sales price of $172,800 (and calculating the 12-month average gets rid of the monthly noise in the data—so it is a superior measure) is 4.4 percent greater than the 12-month moving average of $165,660 in October 2011.  So home prices, on average across the country, are up 4.4 percent in the past year.   And that is a great return in today’s economic environment where the current yield on a 10-year Treasury is 1.61 percent—and you can’t live in that security instrument. 

The number of months of inventory continued its slow fluttering descent, dipping to 5.4 months (we believe that six months of inventory is normal for existing homes, and that inventory less than this rate results in rising home prices—confirmed once again this past month).


  • 12 percent of October sales were foreclosures marketed at an average discount of 20 percent compared to non-distressed properties sales
  • 12 percent of October transactions were short sales closed at a typical discount of 14 percent compared to non-distressed transactions
  • October’s inventory of 2.14 million listings (5.4 months of supply at the current sales rate) was the least since February 2006 and has declined 21.9 percent in past 12 months
  • Homeowner’s equity in housing increased $760 billion in the prior 12 months, with NAR’s Chief Economist Lawrence Yun forecasting a gain of $1 trillion in 2013 (which each month reduces the number of underwater homeowners)
  • One-third of the homes (32 percent) sold in October had been on the market less than one month and one-fifth had been listed for six-months or more
  • First-time homebuyers (a prerequisite for the move-up market) made up 31 percent of all October 2012 sales
  • All-cash purchases, which in normal times represents from 12 to 14 percent of the market, made up 29 percent of all October closings

Once again the story is less-than-normal inventory, as shown in the following graph.  The line indicates the normal six-month inventory level.

The number of home sales continues to rebound, as shown in the next graph, featuring a 12-month moving average of SAAR of sales.  One of the issues now is to define the new normal.  Increased down payment requirements, desiring but credit-unworthy buyers, and a return to more stringent mortgage loan underwriting standards, without question, has reduced the number of sales that had occurred in the past under equal economic conditions.  Perhaps the last normal period we had was 2002, a time after the recession of 2001 and prior to the significant increase in subprime lending.  That said, 5.4 to 5.5 million existing home sales annually may be where we are heading.  All will agree that the seven million home sales observed in 2006 was not sustainable.

The last graph shows the 12-month moving average of median prices.  Despite the 4.4 percent 12-month increase, current price levels are on average 23 percent less than the peak price of $224,350 posted in July 2006.  But they are rising at a strong trajectory.

To read the entire press release from the National Association of Realtors® click

The bottom line is that housing continues to recover with shrinking inventory setting the stage for ongoing price increases.

Is a 3.8% Sales Tax on Investment Income Applicable to Your Clients?

Beginning January 1, 2013 a new 3.8 % tax on some investment income will take effect. This tax was passed by Congress in 2010 with the intent of generating an estimated $210 billion to help fund President Obama’s health care and Medicare overhaul plans. There is a common misconception that this tax will apply to all real estate transactions, therefore the National Association of Realtors has put together an informational guide for REALTORS® to clearly understand the tax and how it could impact their clients. Because of the complex nature of the tax, it is difficult to predict how it will affect every buyer or seller. To view the brochure containing different scenarios in which this tax could be relevant to clients see The 3.8% Tax Real Estate Scenarios & Examples.

Although existing home sales increased in July, the bigger story should be focused on the shrinking inventory of homes available for sale nationwide.   Each month details listing information statistics from 146 markets.   Just two of the 146 markets had a year-over-year increase in the number of listings - with all 144 remaining markets showing a decline.

The July data show that overall, the number of listings is down slightly more than 19 percent in the U.S. as an aggregate.  The total US for-sale inventory of single family homes, condos, townhomes and co-ops remained at historic lows, with 1.866 million units for sale in July 2012.  The largest year-over-year declines in the number of listings saw drops of more than one-third in the total number of listings and eight of the top 10 were located in California. 

In 67 of the markets, the year-over-year decline in listings was more than 20 percent, while 130 had reductions of at least 10 percent. 

How did Austin Rank?

  • 38th highest median price increase out of 146 with $242,500
  • 27th largest year-over-year price increases with 7.82%. The highest YOY increase was Santa Barbara with a 31%.
  • 100th lowest decrease in YOY inventory. There were 99 markets that have seen a greater decrease in their inventory for this year vs. this time last year. Oakland, CA had the largest decrease in inventory with 59%.
  • The median age of Austin’s inventory (roughly similar to Days on Market) was 61 days which ranks us the 21st out of 144 markets for the “youngest” inventory which is a 20% decrease from this time last year. As agents can attest in Austin, many MLS areas had a much smaller average days on market.

Low inventories, combined with rising list prices and lower times on market, are positive signs that the overall market is improving - nationwide.

This is a personal story:

This topic falls into the category of a personal and recent experience. Although I saw the story this week, several months ago we had our dryer serviced for the first time in it’s long life of doing laundry for a two teenage boy family only to have the maintenance employee take apart our dryer and show us how close we were to burning down our house. The pictures below are eerily similar to what our dryer looked like… except ours had singe marks where small amounts of lint had already flamed up several times. It only took a short while to vacuum out all of the offending lint and apparently we were good to go. Someone who reads this is going to have their dryer checked, find the same thing and prevent a fire.

Clothes Dryer Fires Cost $35 Million a Year

August 20, 2012

An estimated 2,900 clothes dryer fires in residential buildings are reported to U.S. fire departments each year and cause an estimated $35 million in property losses, according to a new government report.

The report by the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) said that 84 percent of clothes dryer fires took place in residential buildings.

Also, according to the report:

  • Clothes dryer fire incidence in residential buildings was higher in the fall and winter months, peaking in January at 11 percent.
  • Failure to clean (34 percent) was the leading factor contributing to the ignition of clothes dryer fires in residential buildings.
  • Dust, fiber and lint (28 percent) and clothing not on a person (27 percent) were, by far, the leading items first ignited in clothes dryer fires in residential buildings.
  • Fifty-four percent of clothes dryer fires in residential buildings were confined to the object of origin.

The report, “Clothes Dryer Fires in Residential Buildings,” examines characteristics of clothes dryer fires in residential buildings and was developed by USFA’s National Fire Data Center, based on 2008 to 2010 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS).

Damaging fires can occur if clothes dryers are not properly installed or maintained.

The report notes that lint, a highly combustible material, can accumulate both in the dryer and in the dryer vent. Accumulated lint leads to reduced airflow and poses a fire hazard.  Reduced airflow can also occur when foam-backed rugs or athletic shoes are placed in dryers.

Small birds or other animals nesting in dryer exhaust vents is another hazard. A compromised vent will not exhaust properly, possibly resulting in overheating and/or fire.

Source: USFA

Clothes Dryer

Freddie Mac reported rates are the lowest since the government-sponsored enterprise began keeping records in 1971. Today's average 30-year rate is even lower than the average 20-year or 25-year rate, which was the typical loan in the 1950s. Data from the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that between July 1950 and February 1951, long-term rates averaged 4.08 percent. This week's average 30-year rate was 3.78 percent. Mortgage rates tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which is approximately 1.74 percent and that rate is the lowest level since the Federal Reserve Bank started keeping daily records in 1962. While it’s hard to imagine rates going lower (BUY NOW!  REFINANCE NOW!) a WSJ article points out that "Yes, interest rates can go lower".

The average annual interest rates have dropped each year for the last 5 years and are now again lower for 2012!

  • Average Interest Rate for YTD 2012 is 3.95%.
  • Average Interest Rate for 2011 was 4.45%.
  • Average Interest Rate for 2010 was 4.69%.
  • Average Interest Rate for 2009 was 5.04%.
  • Average Interest Rate for 2008 was 6.03%.
  • Average Interest Rate for 2007 was 6.34%.


About the “Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®)
Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®) surveys lenders each week on the rates and points for their most popular 30-year fixed-rate, 15-year fixed-rate, 5/1 hybrid amortizing adjustable-rate, and 1-year amortizing adjustable-rate mortgage products. The survey is based on first-lien prime conventional conforming mortgages with a loan-to-value of 80 percent. In addition, the adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) products are indexed to U.S. Treasury yields and lenders are asked for the both the initial coupon rate and points as well as the margin on the ARM products. Currently, about 125 lenders are surveyed each week and the mix of lender types – thrifts, credit unions, commercial banks and mortgage lending companies – is roughly proportional to the level of mortgage business that each type commands nationwide. The survey is collected from Monday through Wednesday and the results are posted on Thursdays.

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