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Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Premier, REALTORS is a full-service real estate company that makes it a tradition to extend our hands to our customers in a manner of quality and honesty. We provide a complete and experienced team effort to bring your transaction to your desired outcome when you buy or sell real estate of any kind.  We proudly provide our services to our community, who has trusted us now for for over a quarter of a century.


Real Estate News

Entry-Level Home Prices Continue to Climb

The bottom third of the housing market has grown increasingly competitive, with fewer price cuts on listed homes and faster growing home values than more expensive homes, according to the May Zillow®Real Estate Market Reports.

Home values for the most expensive homes on the market, which at one point in February 2014 were growing at an average of 7 percent annually, have stabilized. Those homes have been gaining value at about 4 percent each year since the beginning of 2015.

Home values at the bottom of the market continue to grow at about 8 percent a year.

The stark differences between the top and bottom of the housing market shed light on the two very different experiences home buyers will face in most markets this summer. Buyers looking for the most expensive homes will find slashed prices, more options and less competition. It’s a much different story for entry-level buyers, who will be up against rising prices, low inventory and tough competition, with homes selling over asking price in many of the nation’s hottest housing markets.

Over the past 18 months, the percent of listings with a price cut among the most expensive third of homes has slightly increased, while the percent of listings with a price cut among entry-level homes have decreased. Since the beginning of 2015, top-tier homes have had the most price cuts – another sign that top-tier buyers are having an easier time shopping for homes in the current market.

The rental market is also stabilizing at the high end. A recent Zillow analysis found that rents aren’t rising as quickly for apartments in more expensive zip codes.

“The top of the market is starting to stabilize, and people are beginning to take notice,” says Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. “Buyers looking for entry-level homes are having bidding wars in many markets, while it’s not uncommon for high priced homes to stay on the market a few months longer. The housing market is much more forgiving for current homeowners looking to move into a bigger, more expensive home. These buyers can be a bit more selective, and may even get a good deal.”

Buyers looking for a home at the top of the market will have more to choose from than those looking for a home in the bottom third of the market, which are often sought after by first-time homebuyers. The number of homes for sale at the top of the market has remained flat over the past year, while inventory in the bottom-third is down almost 9 percent. Some markets are worse than others; in Portland, there are almost 40 percent fewer entry-level homes for sale than a year ago.

For more information, visit www.zillow.com.

Spotlight: Reinventing the Mortgage Process

As many buyers, sellers and agents know, the mortgage process can be a tricky aspect within any real estate transaction. But with Quicken Loans, securing a mortgage is now easier than ever before. Real estate agents around the nation are feeling the relief thanks to Quicken Loans’ VIP Agent Team. There to help every step of the way, the VIP Agent Team—under which the Market Management Team resides—is instrumental when it comes to ensuring a steady, smooth progression for buyers looking to secure financing, offering a down-the-street approach with the power of a national brand.

“Their ad campaign is wild and crazy, and we’re into that!” says Paul Wells. “We like the feel of it, and their response team has been very quick and very professional,” which goes a long way toward putting quality time back in the hands of agents.

While Quicken Loans assists buyers’ needs by quickly and efficiently helping them secure a mortgage, the company’s VIP Agent Team serves as a resource for agents and brokers who have any questions or possible curveballs thrown at their transaction along the way. According to Wells, broker/owner/manager of RE/MAX of Barrington in Barrington, Ill., the company provides an “instant response.”

“Recently, I had a listing that another agent sold to his buyer. I had to talk to Quicken Loans to ask a question. Most companies have you go through 15 prompts in order to talk to someone, but with Quicken Loans, I was able to connect with my dedicated point guard quickly and easily,” says Wells. “Not only was she nice, but she was able to solve the dilemma right away. It was a refreshing experience.”

Having a dedicated team at Quicken Loans helping agents on a consistent basis is one contributing factor to Wells’ success, something he doesn’t take lightly. In fact, the team at Quicken Loans is committed to providing Wells with the resources he needs to stay up-to-date on the status of his clients’ loans anytime, anywhere.

“To be frank, they’re a safety net under a trampoline. Business can be crazy, and you can fall off at any time. It’s nice to have the VIP Agent Team there to catch you and put you back on the trampoline,” says Wells.

While Wells points to regular communication as the main weak point within the mortgage industry, he can’t say enough about Quicken Loans’ understanding of the importance of keeping the lines of communication open between agents and brokers and their clients’ mortgage company.

“It’s a really refreshing feeling to talk to someone at Quicken Loans and have someone cordial and kind to speak to, who can answer my questions right away,” concludes Wells, who can’t say enough about the Market Management Team.

With the stellar communication and noteworthy dedication from the team at Quicken Loans, the company is laying the foundation in order to reinvent and redefine the mortgage industry.

For more information, please visit www.realestateagent.quickenloans.com.

Is this the New Normal for Real Estate Financing?

Housing may be back to pre-crisis levels, but mortgage lending can’t claim the same.

There are many indicators that the housing market has at last returned to “normal.” Foreclosure filings are down to 2006 levels, according to RealtyTrac data, and home prices are showing consistent appreciation. In fact, according to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), the median existing-home price for all housing types was $232,500 this past April, a 6.3 percent year-over-year increase and the 50th consecutive month of year-over-year gains. But can real estate agents and consumers expect these positive trends to be reflected in terms of financing for homebuyers? Unfortunately, the answer is a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no.

Credit availability has been tight since the market downturn, but many were hoping a return to “normalcy” in the housing market would result in something similar for housing finance, with more accessibility for responsible borrowers with less-than-perfect credit. Although no one is advocating for a return to the fast-and-loose lending that lend to the crash, many in the industry agree that credit requirements should be reevaluated to allow for more buyers to enter the market. According to the Ellie Mae Origination Insight Report, the average FICO credit score for all closed loans was 723 this past April, the third consecutive monthly increase. On the other hand, the closing rate on all loans hit 70.6 percent this past March, the highest rate since Ellie Mae began tracking the data in 2011.

Clearly, the somewhat confusing financial picture is muddying the waters for potential homebuyers. In fact, according to a survey from Bankrate.com, 45 percent of all non-homeowners point to finances as preventing them from buying a home, and nearly 30 percent say they can’t afford a down payment, even though many lenders offer programs that require as little as three percent down. Real estate agents should be aware the credit picture is getting better, however, particularly as more lenders increase their mortgage offerings to encompass a wide variety of loan types and products. Mortgage originations are up across the board, and Equifax reports that the number of 2015 first-mortgage originations increased 31.6 percent from 2014. Included in that jump was a 25.2 percent increase in lending to borrowers with less than perfect credit (consumers with an Equifax Risk Score of 620 or below).

So what can real estate agents do to help consumers both better understand today’s mortgage picture and purchase the home they desire? By identifying and partnering with lenders that offer a wide variety of loan products – from programs for credit-challenged borrowers to government and conventional loans –agents can help the greatest number of consumers get into their dream home. Many lenders today are creating a diverse array of loan products to help a broad range of credit profiles, some with programs for borrowers with credit scores as low as 550. Agents should look for experienced lenders that have lower credit-score requirements, low- or no-down-payment programs and manual underwriting. These lenders, with a full range of loan solutions and experience, and serving a wide variety of credit profiles, can help potential borrowers with challenging or unusual credit. By partnering with lenders with diverse loan types, real estate agents can better help clients across a broad income spectrum get into the home of their dreams.

And although the average FICO score for all closed loans was 723 this past April, at the same time nearly one-third of purchase borrowers had credit scores below 700, according to Ellie Mae. Borrowers with credit scores below 650, however, made up less than 10 percent of closed purchase loans. Lenders will have to do better to serve this often underserved sector of the market, and real estate agents can help consumers by partnering with lenders that provide credit to these borrowers. As housing continues to improve and stabilize, look for the mortgage industry to follow suit with more product offering for a broader range of borrowers, although perhaps at a slower pace than some might like. Identify lenders that are ahead of the industry and ready to embrace the future of mortgage lending with a full range of loan products for all types of borrowers, and you’ll serve your clients and your business well.

For more information, visit www.carringtonhomeloans.com.

U.S. Markets Drop Sharply after ‘Brexit’ Vote, Feds Prepared to Provide Dollar Liquidity

(TNS)—Major U.S. stock indexes plunged Friday morning following a large-scale global selloff overnight in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

The Dow Jones industrial index plummeted 500 points, or about 3 percent, in early trading. The broader Standard & Poors 500 index and the technology heavy Nasdaq composite also were down about 3 percent in early trading.

The U.S. market drop followed a decline of nearly 8 percent in Japan and somewhat smaller but widespread losses throughout Europe as investors awoke to assess the fallout from the “Brexit” vote.

World financial officials were on high alert Friday.

The Federal Reserve said it was “carefully monitoring developments in global financial markets” and was prepared to provide dollars to other foreign central banks to increase liquidity. The Fed said pressures in global markets “could have adverse implications for the U.S. economy.”

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said he also was watching the situation and was consulting closely with British and EU officials. He and other finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of Seven industrial nations, which includes the U.S. and Britain, said Friday they were ready to take steps to stabilize markets because they “recognize that excessive volatility and disorderly movements in exchange rates can have adverse implications for economic and financial stability.”

The hit to stocks means even Americans who have not been monitoring the Brexit vote will feel a pinch in their 401(k) plans. Consumer and business confidence, which was just recovering from sluggish growth last winter due to China’s slowdown and falling oil prices, could also take a hit.

Sung Won Sohn, an economist at Cal State Channel Islands, said an expected interest rate hike this year by the Federal Reserve “is no longer on the table” due to the stronger value of the dollar triggered by the British vote and expectations that reduced demand caused by slower growth in Britain and Europe would hurt the U.S. economy.

“The U.S. central bank might have to cut the interest rate back to zero if economic and financial conditions worsen beyond expectations,” he said.

A closely watched barometer by the CME Group futures exchange said Friday that there now was no chance of a rate hike in July, after putting the odds at about 12 percent before the Brexit results. The odds of a slight rate cut next month increased to 7 percent from zero.

Where things go from here is highly uncertain, but the economic climate is rife with significant risks as a growing backlash against globalization threatens to remake the world economic order.

The latest setback comes at a vulnerable time for the U.S. economy as job growth has weakened and many are concerned about what lies ahead in a presidential election year.

Many economists predict that Britain will slide into recession as its decision to leave raises questions about its future trade and broader relationship with the EU.

By itself, a recession in Britain isn’t likely to have a big direct effect outside of Europe; the British economy is the fifth-largest but still accounts for only about 2.5 percent of world economic output.

Even so, it could do much greater global damage as the referendum results now set in motion what many experts expect will be a long, uncertain and politically tortuous process of Britain unhinging itself from the rules of the EU, especially the free flow of labor that has been a hallmark of the British economy.

Policymakers as well as investors are particularly worried that Britain’s move will be a catalyst for other secession movements in the EU, which could fundamentally alter the political and economic structure that has been in place for decades in the aftermath of World War II.

“With one fell swoop, the world order has been turned upside down overnight and where the chaos stops no one knows,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist for Mitsubishi UFG Financial Group.

For the U.S., one of the biggest risks comes in trade. With the dollar strengthening against the pound and the euro, American manufacturers will face greater challenges in selling goods abroad.

Some U.S. business groups as well as analysts cautioned against overreacting to the situation in Britain.

Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said it was important for investors in U.S. businesses “to avoid precipitous action” until Britain and the EU negotiate the specific terms of the exit.

“American companies’ investments in Britain are worth more than half a trillion dollars, and many of those investments were made to reach not just British consumers but those in the European mainland as well,” he said. “We are committed to working with the U.K. government to ensure that the priorities of these stakeholders are taken into account in the debates that lie ahead.”

©2016 Tribune Co.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

18 Percent of Housing Markets Less Affordable Than Ever

Eighteen percent of U.S. county housing markets were less affordable than their historically normal levels in Q2 2016, up from 5 percent of markets in the previous quarter but down from 20 percent of markets exceeding historically normal home affordability levels a year ago. This data comes from a new RealtyTrac® Q2 2016 Home Affordability Index released this past week.

The affordability index was based on the percentage of average wages needed to make monthly house payments on a median-priced home with a 30-year fixed rate and a 3 percent down payment — including property taxes and insurance.

Out of the 417 counties analyzed in the report, 74 counties (18 percent) had an affordability index below 100 in the second quarter of 2016, meaning buying a median-priced home was less affordable than the historically normal level for that county going back to the first quarter of 2005. That was up from 22 counties (5 percent) exceeding historically normal affordability levels in Q1 2016 but down from 82 counties (20 percent) exceeding historically normal affordability levels in Q2 2015.

“Although nearly one in five U.S. housing markets was not affordable by historic standards in the second quarter, the good news is that affordability is improving compared to a year ago in the majority of markets thanks to a combination of slowing home price appreciation and accelerating wage growth, along with falling interest rates,” says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at RealtyTrac. “The average interest rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage is down 37 basis points from a year ago, while annual wage growth accelerated compared to a year ago in 72 percent of the markets we analyzed and annual home price growth slowed compared to a year ago in 68 percent of the markets, including bellwether markets such as Los Angeles County, Miami-Dade County, Brooklyn, Dallas County, and San Francisco County.

“For example in San Francisco County, annual home price appreciation slowed to 2 percent in the second quarter of 2016 compared to 21 percent in the second quarter of 2015 even while annual wage growth accelerated from 5 percent to 6 percent,” Blomquist adds. “Affordability constraints are beginning to rein in home price appreciation even while wage growth is gaining speed in an increasing number of markets.”

Wage growth outpaced price growth in 55 percent of counties
Annual wage growth outpaced annual home price growth in 228 of the 417 counties analyzed (55 percent), including Miami-Dade County, Fla.; Kings County, N.Y. (Brooklyn); Santa Clara County, Calif. in the San Jose metro area; Wayne County, Mich. in the Detroit metro area; and Bexar County, Texas in the San Antonio metro area.

Prior to Q2 2016, annual home price growth had outpaced annual wage growth in more than half of the 417 counties analyzed for 16 consecutive quarters going back to Q2 2012.

Annual home price growth still outpaced wage growth in 189 of the 417 counties (45 percent), including Los Angeles County, Calif.; Cook County, Ill. in the Chicago metro area; Harris County, Texas in the Houston metro area; Maricopa County, Ariz. in the Phoenix metro area; and San Diego County, Calif.

Markets least affordable by absolute standard led by Brooklyn, San Francisco, Santa Cruz
Buying a median priced home in the second quarter of 2016 required 35.4 percent of average weekly wages on average across all 417 counties analyzed for the report.

Counties least affordable by the absolute standard of percentage of wages needed to buy a median priced home were Kings County (Brooklyn), New York (121.7 percent of average weekly wages to buy a median-priced home); Marin County, Calif. in the San Francisco metro area (118.1 percent); Santa Cruz County, Calif. in the Santa Cruz metro area (113.5 percent); San Francisco County, Calif. (94.6 percent); and Maui County, Hawaii (92.8 percent).

Other counties among the top 25 least affordable by historic standards included counties in Los Angeles, Honolulu, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Jose.

Markets most affordable by absolute standard led by Atlanta, Detroit, Baltimore
Counties most affordable by the absolute standard of percentage of wages needed to buy a median-priced home were Clayton County, Ga. in the Atlanta metro area (10.4 percent of average weekly wages to buy a median-priced home); Wayne County, Mich. in the Detroit metro area (10.9 percent); Baltimore City, Md. (11.6 percent); Bay County, Mich. in the Bay City metro area (12.3 percent); and Rock Island County, Ill. in the Davenport-Moline-Rock Island metro area (12.4 percent).

Other markets among the top 25 most affordable by absolute standards included counties in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Cincinnati and St. Louis.

For more information, visit www.realtytrac.com.

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©2015 BHH Affiliates, LLC. An independently owned and operated franchisee of BHH Affiliates, LLC. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices symbol are registered service marks of HomeServices of America, Inc.®  Equal Housing Opportunity.  Licensed in Virginia.

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