TEAM EMPOWERMENT MORTGAGE CHATTER: March 23; News & Headlines; Real Estate & Japan Relief Efforts; Social Media Alive in GMAIL; NAR Dues Hike; Buyers Ready for Bargains This Spring; Open House Flyer Example

Despite our local weather, I thought I’d bring some color from Spring to our day…

 

 

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” — Joseph Campbell: Was an American Mythologist, writer and lecturer

NEWS & HEADLINES

The markets were relatively tame yesterday following some Treasury-induced volatility Monday. The volume of MBS sales went back down below recent averages, per Tradeweb, the yield on the 10-yr was stuck around 3.33%, and MBS prices ended the day worse by about .125. Overall the $10 billion per month is seen as manageable, helped in part by limited mortgage banker supply that is averaging around $1.5 billion per day.

We learned that, per FHFA’s House Price Index, home prices declined 0.3% in January and December’s number was revised downward. Every week we are reminded of the anemic housing market, and the news continues today with the New Home Sales for February (actually projected to increase slightly). Rates are down slightly today, but unfortunately the market is being moved by more bad news from Japan and the Middle East. The 10-yr is down to 3.29% and MBS prices are better by .125.

Mortgage Applications Increase: The Market Composite Index increased 2.7%, the Refinance Index increased 2.7%, and Purchase Index increased 2.7%. The refinance share remained constant at 66.4% and the ARM share increased to 5.9% from 5.6%. The average 30-year rate increased to 4.80% from 4.79% and the average 15-year rate decreased to 4.02% from 4.03%.

New Home Sales were down 16.9% in February an annual rate of 250,000, a record low, and the third monthly decline in a row and far below the 700,000-a-year pace that economists view as healthy. The median sales price drop 14% to was $202,100 as builders struggled to compete with distressed prices of foreclosures. The average sales price was $246,000. New home prices are now 30% higher than existing home sales, which is twice the markup in healthy housing markets.

Treasuries Gain on Global Turmoil, Unexpected U.S. Drop in New Home Sales, with the 10-year UST note 12/32 higher to yield of3.284% as of 10:40 AM. Treasuries increased as the nuclear disaster in Japan worsened, preparation for an attack of ground forces in Libya, and the possibility that Portugal might need to be bailed out. Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher said the earthquake and nuclear crisis in Japan presented some “short-term inflationary impetus,” though he cautioned that the pressures were conflicting and complicated and didn’t present a medium-term or long-term risk.

Fed to Send $79 Billion to Treasury as higher earnings from securities the central bank bought during the financial crisis. The record transfer marks a 68% increase from the $47.43 billion the Fed sent to the Treasury in 2009.


 REAL ESTATE GROUPS ORGANIZE JAPAN RELIEF EFFORTS

In the wake of a devastating 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan, some real estate groups are organizing relief efforts for the country’s short- and long-term needs.

Allen Okamoto, broker-owner of real estate and insurance agency T. Okamoto & Co. in San Francisco and founding chair of the Asian Real Estate Association of America(AREAA) has set up a relief fund through the association to assist people in the country’s Tohuku region rebuild their homes.

“I am currently involved with several relief efforts by different organizations. All of the other organizations are dealing with the immediate needs of the victims such as food, water and clothing. Since the Asian Real Estate Association of America is a real estate-related organization I felt it only proper that we help with the long-term needs (of) rebuilding homes,” Okamoto said.

The association is accepting donations by mail to: AREAA, 5963 La Place Court, Suite 312, Carlsbad, CA 92008-8823. Checks should be made payable to: AREAA Foundation Earthquake Relief Fund.

The death toll in Japan continues to mount, with the lastest figures exceeding 9,000, and with more than 12,000 people still missing since the quake and subsequent tsunami hit on March 11. Whole coastal towns have been destroyed. Electricity access, roads and rail lines have been damaged, stranding more than 1 million people across the country, according to news reports.

Some electronics and auto plants have temporarily shut down due to breaks in their supply chains. A breakdown of reactor cooling systems at the country’s Fukushima nuclear plant triggered a massive evacuation in the area surrounding the plant and is not yet resolved.

The National Association of Realtors has recommended four organizations it believes are “well equipped” to provide disaster relief services. These are AmeriCares, Habitat for Humanity International, UNICEF-USA and World Vision.

NAR reports that some members have received “scam e-mails from organizations, some calling themselves real estate associations, purporting to collect money for Japanese tsunami relief.”

To “make sure their donations reach those in need,” the association recommends potential donors follow tips from Charity Navigator, a nonprofit organization that evaluates charities. These include avoiding newly-formed charities and seeking out a charity’s authorized website.

Major property search site Realtor.com is donating ad space to the Salvation Army to help raise aid funds for Japan and also urges others to donate through text message or through the Salvation Army’s website. To donate by text, donors can type JAPAN to 80888.

“Coupled with higher gas prices already effecting rural real estate, we are likely to see increased pricing pressures on the rural areas surrounding nuclear plants in this country.”

The crisis in Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, will likely have more of an impact on inflation and global stock markets, some experts say.

Much of the cost is expected to fall on the Japanese government, which covers earthquake damage to residential property as well as natural disaster-related damage to nuclear power facilities. That will be a heavy burden to bear for a country with a public debt that is more than twice the size of its $5 trillion economy.

Floods, human misery, loss of life and possessions do not necessarily defeat the will to rebuild. Ecological disasters can only be watched. Nothing is more defeating to the human spirit than the feeling of helplessness.


DISTRESSED SALES: STATE BY STATE

We have often written on the impact foreclosures and short sales have on the value of the house next door. The Center for Responsible Lending has done great reporting on the subject. It seems distressed properties will be a challenge we will need to deal with for some time. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) released their Existing Sales Report. The report said:

Distressed homes – sold at discount – accounted for a 39 percent market share in February, up from 37 percent in January and 35 percent in February 2010.

This week, NAR released an Economic Outlook. In the report, they covered the percentage of overall sales that distressed properties represented in each state. Here is a map that accompanied the report:

Bottom Line

Distressed properties have a major impact on house values in a marketplace. Where there is a large percentage of distressed properties, home prices will continue to soften until we work our way through this inventory.


 RAPPORTIVE BRINGS SOCIAL MEDIA ALIVE IN GMAIL

Rapportive is a free browser add-on developed for Firefox, Chrome and Safari that allows you to view your contacts’ social media profiles and activity right inside Gmail. The add-on works with both Gmail and Google Apps. Give it a try! It’s quick and easy to set up and it truly enhances your traditional mail client.

There are a handful of popular social CRM (customer relationship management) tools available that integrate with your mail client.

Last month, RIM (Research in Motion) announced the acquisition of Gist, one of the more widely used applications that enhance email contacts by displaying profiles that includes blogs, social networks and more. The future of Gist and how BlackBerry users will utilize the product remains to be seen.

The well-established Microsoft Outlook add-on Xobni will finally be releasing the tool for Gmail and are now accepting registration for a private beta preview.

However, since making the transition to Google Apps at Residential Properties Ltd, I have been enjoying Rapportive.

What is Rapportive?

Rapportive was launched in January 2010 by three developers: Rahul Vohra, Martin Kleppman and Sam Stokes. The successful venture capital firm Y Combinator, whose portfolio also includes Dropbox, reddit and Posterous, funds the company. Interestingly enough, it is also funded by Paul Buchheit, the creator of Gmail.

Unlike other similar services, Rapportive streamlines your contacts’ social profiles directly in Gmail without having to leave the mail client and access a separate CRM application. Having one less site or service to log into is always refreshing.

After a quick installation of the extension, connecting social networks is super easy, and all of the major networks including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are supported.

After your networks are added, just open an email and your contacts profile is displayed in the side bar with a wealth of information including a profile picture, Twitter user name with recent tweets, the latest Facebook activity and links to other social networks.

I also found the add-on to be an extremely useful discovery tool as well. You can follow a contact on Twitter or send a Facebook request right from the mail client. Editing your own profile can be accomplished right in Gmail as well. Also, one of my favorite features of Rapportive is the ability to assign a “note” to your contact, which is private and can be viewed only by you.

How does Rapportive obtain its data?

Rapportive states on their site that they “combine information from several sources; at the moment, these are Academia.edu, Bitbucket, CrunchBase, Econsultancy, Facebook, Flickr, GitHub, Google Profiles, Gravatar, LinkedIn, Plancast, Posterous, Rapleaf, Stack Overflow, Tungle.me and Twitter, as well as thousands of organisations’ public websites.” You can learn more about this and their privacy policies here.

Raplets

Another feature that differentiates Rapportive from other services is the ability for vendors to build extensions, which are called Raplets. There are few good extensions that can easily be added, including BatchBook, MailChimp and Klout. Raplets can easily be added or removed right from inside Gmail.

Rapportive is a handy little tool that brings social media right to your inbox. The add-on is lightweight and fast loading — I would love to see a mobile app. Those who spend a fair amount of time in Gmail will appreciate having everything integrated in the mail client without having to access a third-party CRM application.


 NAR FLOATS $40 DUES HIKE FOR POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS

The National Association of Realtors is considering a hike in member dues by $40 a year in 2012 and 2013, with the goal of raising nearly $80 million in “soft money” for political advocacy at the local, state and federal level.

NAR’s board of directors is scheduled to vote on the “Realtor Party Political Survival Initiative” on May 14, at its annual midyear meeting in Washington, D.C.

If the initiative is approved, NAR says it will be spending nearly half of its budget on political advocacy, which the group’s members consistently rate as the most important benefit they receive from NAR, the group said in a “talking points” memo in support of the initiative.

The Political Survival Initiative — prompted in part by last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down restrictions on independent campaign expenditures by corporations — was unveiled at a meeting of Realtor association executives in Dallas this week.

The National Association of Realtors is considering a hike in member dues by $40 a year in 2012 and 2013, with the goal of raising nearly $80 million in “soft money” for political advocacy at the local, state and federal level.

NAR’s board of directors is scheduled to vote on the “Realtor Party Political Survival Initiative” on May 14, at its annual midyear meeting in Washington, D.C.

If the initiative is approved, NAR says it will be spending nearly half of its budget on political advocacy, which the group’s members consistently rate as the most important benefit they receive from NAR, the group said in a “talking points” memo in support of the initiative.

The Political Survival Initiative — prompted in part by last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down restrictions on independent campaign expenditures by corporations — was unveiled at a meeting of Realtor association executives in Dallas this week.

Initial online reaction among some NAR members to what would amount to a 50 percent increase in national level dues, from $80 to $120 a year, was mixed.

The Supreme Court ruling on “soft money” restrictions has opened the floodgates for independent campaign expenditures, and NAR must up its spending in order to maintain its voice, association executives were told.

In its last annual report, NAR said it currently collects $80 in national dues, of which $23 is used for legislative regulatory advocacy, $15 for consumer and member relationship building, $15 for state and local association services and support, $10 for economic and technological research, $7 for code of ethics, legal policy, and enforcement; $5 for publications (Realtor Magazine and Realtor.org), and $5 for commercial and international alliance partnerships.

Of that money, $9.77 million would be earmarked for state and local issue campaigns, and $8.95 million for federal issue campaigns. Another $7.02 million a year would go to supporting state and local candidates, and $3.95 million to federal candidates. The dues increase would provide an extra $5.17 million a year for Realtor mobilization, and $4.32 million for unspecified “campaign services.”

NAR last raised dues in 2008, after the group’s board of directors voted to fund a technology incubator, Second Century Ventures, among a series of other initiatives, with a $16 dues increase. Members also pay a $35-a-year special assessment for NAR’s “Home Ownership Matters” public awareness campaign.


 BUYERS READY TO SNATCH BARGAINS THIS SPRING

Bargain prices on housing combined with low interest rates below 5 percent may bring the real estate market its busiest spring season in years, economists say.

Distressed sales continue to put downward pressure on home prices, which may lure more buyers off the fence and ready to snag a deal during the typical prime-time buying season.

Some builders are ramping up discounts on new homes as well as boosting commissions to brokers to try to spark more transactions.

Sellers of existing-homes also are getting more competitive in pricing their homes.

“After three years of the housing downturn, people are becoming much more realistic in terms of valuing their homes,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of REALTORS®.

An improved job market with better income potential may also motivate more people to buy, says David Berson of the PMI Group.

“Household formations are also very important,” Berson says. “Kids may have moved back in with their parents, or two people may have moved in together, because of job concerns. Now they can move into their own place.”

While interest rates are sitting comfortably below 5 percent for now (30-year fixed rates averaged 4.76 percent last week), economists warn the attractive low rates won’t last long.

“Few think mortgage rates are going lower,” says Mark Zandi, Moody’s Analytics chief economist. “It’s more likely they will be 6 percent than 4 percent next spring. This lights a fire under buyers.”

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