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2009 Westchester End of Year Review

After enduring three years of a declining real estate market, 2009 brought a much needed break for the hard hit real estate sector. Driven largely in part by the economic stimulus that helped the housing market emerge from the recession, it leaves many of us wondering what is next for real estate. Will housing prices rebound? Will the new extended and expanded tax credit be just what the doctor ordered? Will the luxury market recover similarly to the entry level?

How would you say the housing market faired in 2009?
Did it live up to your expectations or falter?
Although it was a challenging year, I believe that it ended up being a year of stability. It was a year of transition in many of our markets. We bounced along a rough bottom but at the same time, we are really prepared for a modest and consistent improvement. The second half of 2009 was when we finally saw a jumpstart. I think that really stems from consumer confidence. At the end of the day, what drives affordability is confidence. Does a buyer feel confident in his/her employment and finances? If so, then buying a home is typically a good option. Another way that the government is reinforcing the viability of buying a home is by offering the tax credit.

Do you feel the tax credit was an important factor in the market turnaround?

Undoubtedly, the tax credit was an important factor in our market's turnaround. We didn't really know this for sure until we started looking at the number of closed escrows in September, October and November. The number of properties that went under contract increased as we grew closer to November 30th, the original expiration date for that tax credit. It was a very clear indication that once potential buyers realized they might miss out on the $8,000, tax credit if they did not move quickly, many buyers got off the fence and began to act. The number of property showings was up. The number of properties that were sold was up. Then, we saw the extension of the tax credit and we saw yet another market adjustment. I wouldn't say that the market has been slowing, but there has been a softening of the frenzy. I think as buyers near the new expiration date of April 30, 2010 that they will once again begin to act.

Do you think the extended and expanded tax credit will solidify our market recovery?

Certainly the increased activity that we've had in the lower end market has been good; but in and of itself it probably will not create a market-wide recovery. To have a market- wide recovery, we have to be able to engage the move-up buyer. We have to remind the move-up buyer that now may be the best time in our history to step up to the higher priced homes. The new tax credit that provides existing home owners with a $6,500 tax credit is certainly helpful but many buyers need more than just a tax credit. They need to have the courage to step up in today's market. Those who do, may reap the best benefits. The fact is, you probably have never gotten as much value, thanks to interest rates and given what you're earning, as you have in today's market. Six months to a year from now, we probably won't be able to say the same. We are certainly recognizing that the tax credit is a great thing. But it isn't compelling enough if a potential buyer isn't confident in his/her finances or future employment. For those who are confident, the tax credit should serve as a clear and convincing message that now may be a great time to move-up.

Why is it such a great time to move-up?

It's all about the power of leverage. The fact is that in most markets, inventory is very low in the low priced home range. So buyers in that market are often competing against other buyers for the same home making it more of a seller's market. However, it is a buyer's market in the mid-level and upper end markets so you truly get the best of both worlds when you choose to move-up. There is a lot of talk about the impact of inflation. Do you think people should be concerned about it?

Certainly people need to be aware that inflation is very likely. The government has devoted a great deal of money to stimulate our economy and in order to strengthen our dollar over time, inflation will be likely. With inflation comes higher interest rates and ultimately less buying power for a home buyer. But it all goes back to maximizing your opportunities now, in today's market. For those who have made a fortune in their lifetime, they were always looking at the opportunity, today. In order to do so, you must sell where the market segment is strong and buy where the market segment is weak. Today that opportunity resides with the move-up buyer.

Another important fact to note is how advantageous interest rates are right now. Some buyers are able to qualify for 30-year fixed mortgages at under 5%.

Do you think we've hit bottom?

I think in many communities we probably have hit bottom. We are seeing statistical evidence of it in the average sale price and in the number of homes sold. Interestingly (and I think this may be contrary to what most people believe), the communities that may have hit bottom are not necessarily those that were hardest hit by foreclosures. The communities that are strongest today are those that are clearly most desirable. When the market gets soft, the people who in previous markets couldn't afford their first choice market had to settle for their second or third choices. But thanks to the opportunities in today's market, they are better able to buy into their first choice communities and neighborhoods. It goes back to supply and demand. Those communities that have good schools, good local economies, diverse activities and, overall, are just considered more desirable places to live, are once again driving demand.

What do you recommend to today's home buyer?

"Buyers need to understand right now that the market is a little schizophrenic. You know it is probably the time to buy and you also know that the market has been challenged. But you may see that in certain markets, we've had lower prices and decreasing numbers of available homes for sale. In that type of area, you might expect to get a lower price than a year ago. But you also need to realize that the market is picking up and that in many markets, we've probably hit bottom. For example, if you want to be where the best schools, best hiking trails and best parks are, that will probably be where the best recoveries are likely to occur. To properly ride the wave, you should find the houses where people want to be. The problem is that if you wait a year, you're probably going to run up against a lot of challenges: increased interest rates, increased buyer demand, and lower available housing inventory. The combination of those factors is what is creating more urgency in the more desirable markets today."

What do you anticipate for real estate in 2010?

What we're going to see in 2010 is probably the more desirable neighborhoods seeing a modest increase in sales price and a decrease in the number of homes on the market. I predict that we are going to see an overall stabilization in the marketplace. We are probably going to see on the whole a slight increase of the average sales price of homes. We're probably going to see a stabilization of the market. We probably won't ever return to the sales levels of 2005 and 2006 because so many of those sales were artificially created. Fortunately, I believe that we are now on the right path toward modest, sustainable growth.

When will the market begin its turnaround? What about the luxury market?

We should see a turnaround of the housing market in 2010. I believe the luxury market will be the last market to turnaround. It was the last market to experience a turn down and it will probably be the last market to experience an upturn. As business and the economy strengthen, we'll once again see a more robust luxury market.

The bottom line is there is a lot to be confident about in relation to the housing market: the tax credit; attractive interest rates; buyer demand in the entry level market; opportunities in the move-up buyer market; and sustainable growth. It all adds up to what we anticipate to be a very productive 2010.

If you would like more information about the opportunities that are available in today's housing market, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Mortgage News Daily

  • Mortgage Rates Highest in a Week Ahead of Fed

    Posted To: Mortgage Rate Watch

    Mortgage rates rose to the highest levels in more than a week today, but that's the most dramatic way to put it. In terms of outright movement, today was fairly average. It only earns the "highest in a week" distinction due to the incredibly flat trend that persisted from Tuesday through yesterday afternoon. More simply put, most borrowers would still be quoted the same rate as yesterday with the only difference being slightly higher upfront costs (or lower upfront credit, depending on the scenario). All the recent stability in rates begs the question: what might come along to shake things up again? Enter tomorrow's policy announcement from the Federal Reserve (the Fed) . While the Fed doesn't directly dictate mortgage rates or even longer term rates like US Treasury yields, the Fed Funds Rate...(read more)

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  • Despite Downward GDP Revisions, Fannie Sees Housing Holding Steady

    Posted To: MND NewsWire

    Fannie Mae has lowered its forecast for first quarter 2018 growth from 2.9 to 2.8 percent due to " lackluster consumer spending and nonresidential and residential investment. The second report of 4 th Q GDP downgraded real growth by one-tenth to 2.5 percent annualized. Incoming data has shown weaker domestic demand, with real consumer spending down 0.1 percent in January, the biggest monthly drop in a year. Based on this, Fannie also lowered its real consumer spending growth forecast for the first quarter to 2.2 percent annualized from 2.7 percent in the February forecast. FY 2019 looks brighter, and the company's economists have raised their full-year 2019 GDP forecast to 2.5 percent and lowered their outlook for unemployment to 3.6 percent. They stress that more rapid wage and inflationary...(read more)

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  • MBS Day Ahead: Still In The Range, But Defensive Trend Continues

    Posted To: MBS Commentary

    While there have been a few pockets of decent gains in the past week (Thursday afternoon and yesterday morning), the general trend has been toward weaker levels since last Wednesday. That marked the 2nd time in March that 10yr yields bounced at 2.80% in a clearly-delineated sort of way. Each bounce has given way to fairly linear selling trends (i.e. rates moving higher). Yields are currently riding that trend into tomorrow's FOMC announcement. There are several pivot points (or "technical levels") in 10yr yields that serve as a backdrop for the recent breakout attempts and subsequent trends. Naturally, with the 2 big bounces both happening at 2.80%, that's an obvious choice for the bottom of the recent range. The high end is a bit more subjective, but 2.91% is a good first...(read more)

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  • State Changes Impacting Lenders and Banks; Business Opportunities

    Posted To: Pipeline Press

    The first day of Spring! Converting empty warehouses, grain elevators, under-utilized shopping malls, or Toys-R-Us stores to new housing? Perhaps. There is certainly a lack of buildable land in many areas and builders, recognizing that lots of people want to own their own home, are utilizing land as much as possible. How much cleverness can you put into a “tiny home,” agency approved if there are comps? It turns out, quite a bit . Am I missing the point if I wonder where I would put all my stuff? State News It is expensive to be a multi-state lender , and potentially doing business in different ways and using different policies in various states. And different states have different demographics. Last year IL was the state where the most residents moved out, followed by NJ, NY, CT...(read more)

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  • MBS RECAP: Stock Losses Helped But Bonds Had Their Own Limits

    Posted To: MBS Commentary

    Bonds entered the domestic session feeling a bit down on their luck. There was some general weakness early in the overnight session, but just before 8am, European Central Bank (ECB) sources were quoted (anonymously) as generally approving of the market's consensus for policy tightening. Specifically, the sources didn't push back on the view that the ECB should stop buying bonds later this year or that it should execute its first rate hike of this cycle some time in 2019. Granted, that wasn't huge news (after all, it was the market's "consensus" that the ECB sources were responding to in the first place), but it was enough of a development to leave 10yr yields several bps weaker to begin the day. Relief came from heavy losses in stocks which pulled bond yields lower...(read more)

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  • Mortgage Rates Maintain Flat Trajectory Ahead of Fed

    Posted To: Mortgage Rate Watch

    Mortgage rates have been on a tear recently , moving sideways with reckless abandon. Since the middle of February, the "effective rate" (based on actual rate sheet offerings and upfront costs) has held inside a narrow range of 4.52% and 4.58%. This lies in stark contrast to the persistent move higher during the first month and a half of 2018 which saw the same effective rate rise from roughly 4.0% into the 4.5% range. When rates are as flat as they are on the approach to a key market event like this Wednesday's Fed announcement. We often see a break in that narrow range after the key event. For now, there's no reason to believe Wednesday WON'T be such a day this time around. Even if Wednesday turns out to be a dud in terms of its impact on rates, it's always safest to plan for the risk (or...(read more)

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  • Future Housing Market at Mercy of Young Adults

    Posted To: MND NewsWire

    Freddie Mac's economists headlined their March Outlook economic report "Adulting is Hard." The newest crop of young adults may find this to be truer than others. They have been slow to reach life's milestones like getting married, starting families and living independently, but with some valid reasons. Many came of age in the midst of recession ; wage growth has been weak, and housing, education, and healthcare costs have risen rapidly. Average annual expenditures for adults aged 25 to 34 in 2016 are 36 percent higher than those faced by those the same age in 2000, while costs for health care and education have more than doubled. The U.S. Census Bureau says the 25-to-34-year age group contained 45 million people in 2016, 4 million more than the next older age group (35 to 44). But instead of...(read more)

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  • MBS Week Ahead: Absolutely No Significant Data Ahead of The Fed

    Posted To: MBS Commentary

    If it weren't for the Fed Announcement on Wednesday, this would look like a prime vacation week for market participants as there is a distinct lack of relevant economic data. In fact, there's only one top tier report: Friday's Durable Goods. Making the dearth of data even more striking is the fact that there aren't even any 2nd tier reports on the first 2 days of the week. It's not until Fed day (Wednesday) that we get our first sniff of econ data in the form of February Existing Home Sales, and that's not a report that tends to be much of a market mover. All of the above places an inordinate amount of market movement potential with Wednesday afternoon's Fed festivities. There are 8 Fed meetings/announcements on the schedule every year. 4 of them are limited strictly...(read more)

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  • Tax and Sales Products; Mergers Continue; Fed Meeting This Week

    Posted To: Pipeline Press

    For me the last seven days included California, Texas, Nevada, and Illinois. What am I seeing? Some companies are doing well. Others aren’t, and unfortunately, probably more fall into this latter category due to margins and volumes both dropping. Here’s a note from a warehouse rep in the Southeast. “Rob, everyone knew, at some point, rates were going to head higher, and that refis were going to slow. We’re seeing plenty of independent mortgage bank owners who seem to be eternally optimistic, talk about how technology will change their business, believe their profits will rebound, believe they will outlast their competition. Those same people are lousy at knowing when to sell their company. But we’ll see plenty of that this year, I think, more than in 2017.”...(read more)

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  • MBS RECAP: Typically Boring Consolidation Ahead of The Fed

    Posted To: MBS Commentary

    There were quite a few economic reports on tap today, and that made for some entertaining market watching! Reason being, every time a report came out, bonds were in the middle of one of their periodic sideways plateaus that followed what little market movement we actually witnessed. That actual market movement was almost entirely a byproduct of traders cleaning up their positions for the end of the week. The preceding paragraph is the sort of thing I might have read 15 years ago and incredulously wondered "sure buddy, but how do you know such things and why would I take your word for it?!" Don't take my word for it. Just look at this chart of 10yr yields and the yield curve. It doesn't really matter which line is which (yellow line is 10s) because we're focused on the...(read more)

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Bonnie Koff  |  Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker  |  William Raveis Legends Realty Group  | Tarrytown Office 
914-332-6300  |  37 Main Street, Tarrytown, New York 10591  |  Email