Last Week in Review

Last Week in Review  
“Hey big spender. Spend a little time with me.” Shirley Bassey. Consumers spent more time ringing up sales in December.

The Commerce Department reported that Retail Sales rose 0.6 percent in December from November. The increase was due in part to strong sales for autos. The year ended with momentum that could signal sales growth in 2017. From December 2015, sales were up 4.1 percent year over year. Overall, sales were up 3.3 percent for 2016 after a 2.3 percent gain in 2015.

Meanwhile, wholesale inflation ticked up in December, increasing 0.3 percent from November, as reported in the Producer Price Index (PPI) from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. From December 2015 to December 2016, PPI climbed 1.6 percent, which was the largest 12-month gain since 2014. Core PPI, which strips out volatile food and energy prices, also increased 0.2 percent from November to December.

Inflation, at both the wholesale and consumer levels, is an important measure to track because increasing inflation reduces the value of fixed investments like Mortgage Bonds. When Bond prices worsen, the home loan rates tied to them can worsen as well.

Although Bond prices and home loan rates took a hit recently following economic news releases, home loan rates are still near historic lows.

Forecast for the Week  
The Consumer Price Index is a key report to watch in a week that kicks off Tuesday with a full slate of manufacturing, housing and other data. Markets are closed Monday, January 16 in recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
  • Regional manufacturing data will be released in the Empire State Index on Tuesday followed by the Philadelphia Fed Index on Thursday.
  • Wednesday brings the closely watched Consumer Price Index along with the Fed’s Beige Book.
  • Look for housing data via the NAHB Housing Market Index on Wednesday and Housing Starts and Building Permits on Thursday.
  • As usual, weekly Initial Jobless Claims will be reported on Thursday.
Remember: Weak economic news normally causes money to flow out of Stocks and into Bonds, helping Bonds and home loan rates improve. In contrast, strong economic news normally has the opposite result. The chart below shows Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), which are the type of Bond on which home loan rates are based.

When you see these Bond prices moving higher, it means home loan rates are improving. When Bond prices are moving lower, home loan rates are getting worse.

To go one step further, a red “candle” means that MBS worsened during the day, while a green “candle” means MBS improved during the day. Depending on how dramatic the changes are on any given day, this can cause rate changes throughout the day, as well as on the rate sheets we start with each morning.

As you can see in the chart below, Mortgage Bonds recently lost some of the footing gained heading into 2017.

Chart: Fannie Mae 3.5% Mortgage Bond (Friday Jan 13, 2017)
Japanese Candlestick Chart
Economic Calendar for the Week of January 16 – January 20
Date
ET
Economic Report
For
Estimate
Actual
Prior
Impact
Tue. January 17
08:30
Empire State Index
Jan
NA
9.0
Moderate
Wed. January 18
08:30
Consumer Price Index (CPI)
Dec
NA
0.2%
HIGH
Wed. January 18
08:30
Core Consumer Price Index (CPI)
Dec
NA
0.2%
HIGH
Wed. January 18
10:00
Housing Market Index
Jan
NA
70
Moderate
Wed. January 18
02:00
Beige Book
Jan
NA
NA
Moderate
Thu. January 19
08:30
Jobless Claims (Initial)
1/14
NA
247K
Moderate
Thu. January 19
08:30
Housing Starts
Dec
NA
1090K
Moderate
Thu. January 19
08:30
Building Permits
Dec
NA
1201K
Moderate
Thu. January 19
08:30
Philadelphia Fed Index
Jan
NA
21.5
Moderate

 

How to prepare for an emergency.

Do you know what vital information to have on hand in the event of a natural disaster or family emergency? When an unexpected situation arises, there’s no time to sort through paperwork, no matter how essential it may be. Having everything you need in an organized emergency binder can streamline the process and give you peace of mind.

What to Include in an Emergency Binder
While there’s no shortage of important family documents and household records, a true emergency calls for a few must-haves:

  • Vital records like birth certificates, driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, naturalization documents, passports and child custody papers.
  • Insurance policies, including homeowners, renters, auto, life and health.
  • Property records such as real estate deeds, rental agreements, and vehicle titles and registration.
  • Financial documents like wills, trusts, powers-of-attorney and funeral instructions.
  • A family emergency plan with contact information and predetermined meeting places.

Safely Storing Other Important Information
Some items, such as account passwords and a backup of critical computer files, aren’t suited for a portable binder. Instead, house them in a secure location like a safety deposit box or lockbox. You can also include a home inventory list, contracts, business paperwork, tax returns and investment records.

Play it safe and include a recent photograph of every family member, along with fingerprints and dental records. You may also want to store valuable memorabilia, jewelry, and priceless family photos, letters and documents here as well.

There’s no way to predict when misfortune will strike, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared. Set aside an afternoon to create an emergency binder that can help protect your family when time is of the essence.

10 Anti-Burglary Tips for Your Sellers

10 Anti-Burglary Tips for Your Sellers

When your clients are opening their doors to the public for showings, they need to take extra precautions. Share these suggestions to help them keep their belongings safe.
booking photo

After Christmas, many people put the empty boxes their expensive gifts came in out on the curb. What do you think that says to potential burglars? It screams, “I just got a brand-new TV! Come and rob me!”

That’s just one example of some unwise habits homeowners have. If those owners are sellers opening their doors to the public for showings, habits such as these put them in even greater danger. The above example is a good warning to give to your clients now, since we’re in the holiday season. But use it as a jumping-off point to have a deeper conversation about safety — and to show that your safety knowledge is an asset to sellers.

Consider using this checklist (you can request it as a customer handout on my website) during listing appointments to better prepare prospective sellers and show your value as a real estate professional. We spend a lot of time telling sellers how we’ll market their home, and while that is obviously important, we rarely address their true concern: how to keep their home safe while it’s open to the public. Touch on these 10 anti-burglary tips so your clients will know that you have their best interest at heart.

National Snapshot of Burglaries

A burglary is committed every 20 seconds, with nearly 1.6 million such crimes nationwide annually, according to the FBI’s 2015 Crime in the United Statesreport. That’s down 7.8 percent from 2014. Total property crime, which includes arson, larceny theft, and motor vehicle theft, reached nearly 8 million instances in 2015, down 2.6 percent from 2014.

  1. Maintain your property. Especially in the wintertime, many people stay indoors and neglect issues such as peeling trim or an overgrown yard. But if the home looks unkempt, thieves may think it’s abandoned and, therefore, an easy target. Shoveling your walkways to clear them of snow and debris and removing holiday decorations and fallen tree branches in a timely manner will signal that the home is occupied.
  2. Know your neighbors. Many people don’t really know their neighbors; it’s more than just saying hi and being friendly. Invite them over to see your home before it goes on the market, and introduce them to the people they may see regularly stopping by during this time (especially your agent). Then they’ll know who is and isn’t supposed to be at your home and can better assess when there may be a threat while you’re gone.
  3. Assess your home’s vulnerability. Walk to the curb and face your house. Ask yourself, “How would I get in if I were locked out?” The first thing you think of, whether it’s the window with a broken lock or the door that won’t shut all the way, is exactly how a thief will get in. Think like a burglar, and then address the issues that come to mind.
  4. Respect the power of lighting. Criminals are cowards, and they don’t want to be seen. The house that is well-lit at night provides a deterrent because thieves don’t want the attention and the potential to be caught by witnesses. It’s wise to invest in tools that make nighttime light automation easy. That includes dusk-to-dawn adapters that go into existing light fixtures and motion detectors. But beware of leaving your exterior lights on at all times, which signifies the occupant is gone for an extended period of time.
  5. Use technology to make your home look occupied. In addition to lighting, smart-home technology has made it easier to make it appear like people are home, even when they’re not. Systems that remotely control lighting, music, and appliances such as a thermostat can help you achieve this. Though not considered smart-home tech, simple lamp timing devices available at hardware stores are also good for this purpose.
  6. Yes, it has to be said: Lock your doors. It’s amazing how many people think they live in a safe-enough neighborhood not to have to lock their doors when they leave. Some facts sellers should know: In 30 percent of burglaries, the criminals access the home through an unlocked door or window; 34 percent of burglars use the front door to get inside; and 22 percent use the back door, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report.
  7. Reinforce your locks. A good door lock is nothing without a solid frame. Invest in a solid door jam and strike plate first, and then invest in good locks. Know the difference between a single-cylinder and a double-cylinder deadbolt. Double-cylinder deadbolts are recommended because they require a key to get in and out. For safety and emergency escape purposes, you must leave the key in when you are home. But double-cylinder locks are against regulations in some places, so check with your local police department’s crime prevention office.
  8. Blare the sirens. Burglars are usually in and out in less than five minutes, and they know police can’t respond to an alarm that quickly. Their bigger concern is witnesses to their crime. For that reason, an external siren is invaluable, whether as part of a monitored security system or a DIY alarm. Even if you don’t have an alarm, it’s not a bad idea to invest in fake security signs and post them near doors.
  9. Consider surveillance cameras. The Los Angeles Police Department started a program encouraging homeowners to install a device called Ring, a doorbell with video surveillance capability that allows homeowners to view what’s outside their door on their smartphone, in a neighborhood that was a target for burglaries. After Ring was installed in hundreds of homes, the burglary rate dropped by 55 percent, according to reports. Most state and local regulations require posting a warning that people are being recorded. (But again, this can be effective even if you don’t actually have the cameras installed!)
  10. Mark your valuables and record details. Use invisible-ink pens or engravers to mark identifying information (driver’s license or state ID numbers) on items. Log serial numbers and take photos of your belongings. Check to see if your police department participates in the Operation Identification program. They will have stickers for you to place on doors or windows warning would-be thieves that your items are marked. These steps may prevent them from pawning or selling stolen items and can help you reclaim recovered belongings.

BY TRACEY HAWKINS

HOW TO SELL YOUR HOME IN 2017

HOW TO SELL YOUR HOME IN 2017

It’s 2017. Now what? Yes, the new year is typically a time for hope and renewal and for those who are looking to sell – and simultaneously buy – a home, it can represent a fresh start. But this year, political and social realities are giving some would-be home sellers pause.

Thankfully, the real estate market continues to show real strength, with many housing experts projecting home sales prices and inventory to rise in 2017, replacing doubts with consumer confidence.

“Housing prices rose nationally by around 6% in 2016, but the expected increase in 2017 ranges from 3% to 5%,” said 24/7 Wall St. “With inventory of existing homes at historic lows and a rise in interest rates thanks to the Federal Reserve, housing inventory for 2017 is almost certain to rise. For prospective sellers that means that if you were planning to sell your home this year, it’s time to get cracking.”

If you’re thinking about selling this year, these tips will help.

Be patient

Sales have been swift in many parts of the country for several years now. That can make sellers who don’t get offers on day one feel antsy. Despite some ultra-competitive markets where multiple offers and offer-asking-price sales skew the national numbers, across the country, the average days on market of a home for sale is 50.

Price it right

You may be tempted to price your home at the top of the market – or set a new top if you’re in an especially desirable area and if inventory is low. But overpriced homes don’t sell, which is probably why your real estate agent is recommending a lower listing price.

If you’re insistent about your price, don’t be surprised if you get zero bites or the nibbles you do get are far below what you’re asking. Your agent’s pricing strategy will be based on market conditions and designed to get you the most money in the least amount of time. What it won’t be based on: What you owe on the home, what you think it’s worth based on your own estimation, or what you need to get out of it to buy your dream home.

Don’t be afraid to loan shop

If you’re selling your home to buy another, like most people, you might be concerned about rising mortgage rates. Rates are still near historic lows despite The Fed raising interest rates at the end of 2016 and indicating that further increases are in store for this year.

“Because the mortgage rate makes a big difference in how much you’ll pay for your home, it makes financial sense to shop around for the lowest rate you can qualify for,” said Investopedia. But many people don’t look beyond the first offer. According to a mortgage borrowers survey, “Almost half of borrowers seriously consider only a single lender or broker before deciding where to apply,” and “Seventy-seven percent of borrowers only end up applying with a single lender or broker, instead of filling out applications with multiple lenders or brokers to see which can offer the best deal,” said the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Asking your real estate agent for a few different trusted referrals could make a big difference. “Getting an interest rate of 4.0% instead of 4.5% translates into approximately $60 savings per month,” they said. “Over the first five years, you would save about $3,500 in mortgage payments. In addition, the lower interest rate means that you’d pay off an additional $1,400 in principal in the first five years, even while making lower payments.”

Make sure your home is clean and lean

It’s more important than ever to make sure your home is as close to perfect as possible before you put it on the market. Unless your agent is planning to market the home as a “project,” it needs to be spotless. You’d be surprised how much better your home can look just by applying some simple staging secrets.

Listen to your agent’s advice

Staging may only be the beginning of what your home requires to get it sold, and your agent’s advice will be critical to getting it where it needs to be. “Sure, you no doubt know more about your home than anyone else. But your real estate agent knows more about how to sell it,” said Realtor.com. “And your agent may make some suggestions you might not like to hear. It’s tempting to take offense or just ignore this advice, but if you do, you could risk seeing your house sit on the market and grow stale.”

Be careful of over improvements

Getting your home in great shape may mean making some improvements, updates, and upgrades. But be careful not to go too far.

“Dying to install new kitchen cabinets or retile your master bath? Home sellers often assume any upgrades they make to their home will pay them back in full once they sell, but that’s rarely the case,” said Realtor.com. “On average you will recoup just about 64% of the money you spend on renovations once you sell—and certain improvements can actually work against you if they’re unusual or undesirable in your market, Jason Shepherd, co-founder of Atlas Real Estate Group, told them.

Written by Jaymi Naciri