Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How to Become a Top Realtor in Your Area

If you have recently begun a career in real estate, you should know that things are not always what they seem. The top producer in a company may make it look easy, but the fact is a career in real estate is not so simple. The top producers did not get there by luck. They took the necessary steps to put them at the top. These steps are not always easy to figure out, however, the following information will help you to become a top producing real estate professional. Get your systems in place. This means your website, database system, assistant, branding material, promotional material, vendors, follow-up system, marketing strategy, farming area, etc. Let us just talk about a few Farming is a term that is used in real estate that simply means an area that is your territory. Many real estate agencies will allow you to choose the area in which you wish to concentrate on. It might be in your neighborhood or it could be in an affluent section across town. The farming technique will allow you to be known in that neighborhood as the real estate agent to go to. Many wonder how big their farm should be. This is entirely up to you and how well you want to do. If you farm an area of 100 homes, you may get a couple of listings every couple of months. Farm an area of 1000 or more homes and you will probably end up with 3-4 every couple of months. The more homes you farm, the better your chances are. The thing to remember is it takes repetition and time to create you as a household name but it will happen! Another method that top producing real estate agents use is branding. Branding is the process of applying repetition and consistency in your business and leading potential clients to believe you are the best in the business and thereby, the only one to call when it comes time to selling or buying real estate. The key to branding is to invoke this brand in everything you do and make sure you back up your brand by providing excellent service. The fact is branding can and will eliminate your need to the more traditional marketing. It is a slower process, but if done correctly, will last you throughout your career in real estate. The outcome of branding is that when anybody, especially those in your targeted market, thinks about real estate, they will immediately think of you. In their eyes, the only one to call is you. One sign of a successful real estate agent is the assistant. Many top producing agents find themselves to be more effective by hiring a personal assistant to handle the time-consuming aspects of their business. Your assistant should be handling items that take up too much of your time, such as advertising, staying in touch with past clients, mailings, transaction management, etc. It is also wise to make a list of the skills you lack, such as technology skills on the computer, and hire an assistant who has better skills than you do in these areas. If you do not have time to train an assistant or you just do not want the liability you should hire a Certified Virtual Assistant (CVA). These, of course, are only a few of the techniques and methods used by top producing real estate agents. To be successful, you must have a dedication to providing excellent service to your clients and you must enjoy what you are doing. Helping someone to fulfill their dream of home ownership is one reason why many agents become top producers. To become a top producer, you simply have to want it and commit to it by taking the required steps.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Apartment, Condo Market Heats Up

For the sixth consecutive quarter, the apartment and condo housing market continued to show signs of improvement.

The Multifamily Production Index, released by the National Association of Home Builders, measures builder and developer sentiment about current market conditions in the sector. The index reached 48.9 in the fourth quarter — out of a scale up to 100 — and reached its highest reading since the fourth quarter of 2005.

"The apartment and condo sector continues to be a bright spot in the housing market, with the overall index at its highest level in six years," says David Crowe, NAHB’s chief economist. "The rental components have been the driving force behind the increased index level. And although the for-sale component remains weaker, it is still double what it was just six quarters ago."

Still, the improvements are met with caution. Builders warn about the ongoing difficulty developers have faced in obtaining credit to finance development of new apartments as a major roadblock.

What Do Americans Want Most Once Finances Improve?

Fifty-one percent of Americans in a recent poll say that if their financial situation were to improve, they’d buy a home. Coming in second on the list of wishes, they’d make repairs or improvements to the home they already have, according to the poll of more than 1,400 Americans conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling Web site, www.DebtAdvice.org.

Meanwhile, 17 percent of Americans polled said they’d upgrade their car and 9 percent said they’d take a vacation.

"Home ownership has traditionally been a part of sound financial planning," says Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC, a nonprofit credit counseling organization. "With a combined total of 74 percent of respondents selecting a home-oriented option, the poll results strongly suggests that people continue to place value in owning a home, and are anxious to buy a house or improve their existing one."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Home Ownership Matters

Home ownership has a significant impact on net worth, educational achievement, civic participation, health, and overall quality of life. And, home ownership helps create jobs—lots of them—right here at home.

Home Ownership matters…to people, to communities, and to America. Why?

For every two homes sold, one job is created in the U.S.
Each purchase generates as much as $60,000 in economic activity over time.
The home ownership debate

Some who care about creating jobs also argue that home ownership may be overrated, and that we might be better off as a nation of renters.

If that’s of concern to you, follow the debate about federal government incentives to home ownership—the outcome of which will determine whether the average American can still get an affordable mortgage and whether home owners can continue to deduct their mortgage interest as a benefit of home ownership.

Stay in the know on this debate by subscribing to the HouseLogic newsletter and following us on Facebook and Twitter. Sign up in the “Stay Connected” box at the top of this page.
Read about the issues affecting you as a home owner right now:
Home ownership

It Pays to Support Responsible Home Ownership
Protect your home’s value and build stronger communities.

Home Ownership Matters Bus Tour Hits the Road
The Home Ownership Matters bus tour, sponsored by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, is revving up to celebrate the benefits of home ownership with you.

Home Ownership Matters Ad


How Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Save You Money
Home owners who use Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages save thousands of dollars in interest payments each year.

Show Your Support for FHA
FHA supports home values by providing a steady source of mortgage financing for families across the country, but critics worry it has taken on too much risk.

Mortgage deduction

Your Mortgage Deduction: Turn Tax Savings into Home Value
Sock away your mortgage deduction tax savings, and you’ll have a nice cushion for life’s necessities—and a few luxuries. Here’s how a typical household might spend their tax savings at various life stages.

7 Mortgage Interest Deduction Myths
Think losing the mortgage interest deduction would be no big deal? We bust seven myths to show why the cost is bigger than you think.

Mortgage Interest Deduction Vital to Housing Market
The mortgage deduction saves the average home owner thousands of dollars at tax time, supports home values at the community level, and helps American home buyers get into their first house.

Deduct Mortgage Interest and Home Equity Loans
Deducting mortgage interest, as well as interest on home equity loans and HELOCs, can save you money on taxes.

MID app
Estimate your tax savings based on the mortgage interest deduction.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Home Sales on the Rise: Ready for Spring Buying Season?

Existing-home sales rose 4.3 percent in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.57 million, marking the third gain for home sales in the last four months, the National Association of REALTORS® reports.

“The uptrend in home sales is in line with all of the underlying fundamentals – pent-up household formation, record-low mortgage interest rates, bargain home prices, sustained job creation and rising rents,” NAR’s Chief Economist Lawrence Yun says.

While sales ticked up, inventories of for-sale homes also continued to show improvement, NAR reported. At the end of January, total housing inventory fell 0.4 percent to 2.31 million existing homes for sale, which represents a 6.1-month supply at the current sales pace.

“The broad inventory condition can be described as moving into a rough balance, not favoring buyers or sellers,” Yun says. “Foreclosure sales are moving swiftly with ready home buyers and investors competing in nearly all markets. A government proposal to turn bank-owned properties into rentals on a large scale does not appear to be needed at this time.”

Unsold listed inventory has steadily dropped since reaching a peak of 4.04 million in July 2007. It now is 20.6 percent below where it was a year ago, NAR reports.

Housing Affordability Improves
As home prices have fallen and mortgage rates at all-time record lows, housing affordability is at some of its highest levels on record.

“Word has been spreading about the record high housing affordability conditions and our members are reporting an increase in foot traffic compared with a year ago,” says NAR President Moe Veissi. “With other favorable market factors, these are hopeful indicators leading into the spring home-buying season. We’re cautiously optimistic that an uptrend will continue this year.”

The national median existing-home price for all housing types in January was $154,700, which is down 2 percent year-over-year.

Distressed sales, which tend to sell at steep discounts, continue to hamper home prices nationwide. Foreclosures and short sales accounted for 35 percent of all January home sales, which is up slightly from 32 percent in December.

Still, “home buyers over the past three years have had some of the lowest default rates in history,” Yun said. “Entering the market at a low point and buying at discounted prices have greatly helped in that success.”

Breakdown by Housing Type
Here’s a closer look at how home sales fared by housing type in January:

Single-family home sales: increased 3.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.05 million in January from 3.90 million in December. They are 2.3 percent above the 3.96 million-unit pace a year ago. Median price: $154,400 in January, down 2.6 percent from January 2011.

Existing condominium and co-op sales: rose 8.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 520,000 in January from 480,000 in December. They are 10.3 percent lower than the 580,000-unit level in January 2011. Median price: $156,600 in January, up 2 percent from a year ago.

Home Sales by Region
The following is a breakdown of existing-home sales in January by region:

•Northeast: increased3.4 percent to an annual pace of 600,000 in January and are 7.1 percent above a year ago. Median price: $225,700, which is 4.2 percent below January 2011.
•Midwest: increased 1 percent in December to a level of 980,000 and are 3.2 percent higher than January 2011. Median price: $122,000, down 3.9 percent from a year ago.
•South: rose 3.5 percent to an annual level of 1.76 million in January but are unchanged from a year ago. Median price: $134,800, which is 0.3 percent below January 2011.
•West: increased 8.8 percent to an annual pace of 1.23 million in January but are 3.1 percent below a spike in January 2011. Median price: $187,100, down 1.8 percent from a year ago.
Contract Delays, Cancellations Remain High
Twenty-one percent of NAR members in January reported delays in contracts, and 33 percent said contracts fell through, according to NAR. The number of contract cancellations remains mostly unchanged from December.

The increase in the past year of contract cancellations or delays has been blamed on more lenders declining mortgage applications from stricter underwriting standards and low appraisals coming in under the agreed upon contract price.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Is Earnest Money Required in A Short Sale?

Is Earnest Money Required In A Short Sale Situation?

Q: My agent informed me that earnest money for a short sale transaction was required to make a contract binding. Is that true? More importantly, is earnest money refundable if a buyer pulls out of a contract prior to bank approval even though our contract provides for bank approval within 60 days?
–Anonymous, Bartlett, IL

A: The promise of the earnest money deposit is needed, but the money does not have to be placed into escrow until the bank approves the sale. This is a common error.

The contract is not binding because it is still subject to the banks approval. But even if you do place the money into escrow, you still have the right to its return before bank approval. Even after bank approval, you may still have a right to its return, but this is dependent on the terms of the contract.

If the contract cancels and your deposit is in escrow, then you will need both you and the seller to sign documents allowing its release. Without the signatures, you start down the path of legal recourse.

I always recommend that in a short sale, the earnest money deposit be placed into escrow after the banks approval. Since banks do not give you much time to close after their approval, I tell my clients to do their investigation, inspections and prepare their financing documents with the lender’s underwriter before the bank approves the short sale. This way when the approval arrives, the buyer is ready to close quickly.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Costs Associated with a Home Loan

Costs Associated with a Home Loan
Closing costs are the actual expenses that the lender incurs in the origination of a new home loan.

I want to review some of the costs you can expect to pay associated with any new home loan. With any luck, the builder or seller will agree to pay at least some of these expenses for you. But regardless of who pays them, these costs are part of the price of buying your next home, so let's take a look. They are closing costs, loan discount points and prepaid items.
Closing costs are the actual expenses that the lender incurs in the origination of a new home loan. Some of the costs are related to your loan application, such as the expense of newly updated credit reports on all applicants. Other fees are related to the house itself, such as the appraisal of the property. Others are payment to the lender for processing your application, such as the loan origination fee. All these costs are lumped into a broad category called "closing costs." Unless the seller offers to pay them for you, this area of expenses is charged to the buyer, and often runs between 2 and 3 percent of the amount being borrowed. Because different states have different fees and taxes that are a part of these costs, it's impossible to generalize nationwide. So it's important that you talk with a reputable lender ahead of time about what costs you can expect to pay in your part of the country.
Loan discount points are, in essence, a form of prepaid interest. One discount point is exactly equal to one percent of the amount being borrowed. It is paid in cash at closing to the lender as a form of interest. Discount points have the effect of lowering the stated interest rate you will pay on the loan you obtain. For example, a lender might offer you a 30 year fixed rate loan at 8% with zero points or the same loan at 7.5% with 2 discount points. Because the points are considered interest, the yield to the lender is approximately the same. So why, you are asking, would I want to pay points? You probably won't, but sometimes new home builders or employers will offer to pay up to a certain number of points as an incentive, and I want to make sure you get everything that's coming to you.
Last, there is the issue of prepaid items. Most home lenders want you to set up what is called an "escrow" account. This is nothing more than a savings account that the lender holds. Every month you will, in addition to your regular loan payment, deposit a sum for property taxes and for homeowner's insurance into this account. And when the next bill comes due for taxes or insurance, your lender will make the payment for you. The reason that all this matters today is that, on the day of your purchase, you will be required to set up an escrow account with about 9 months worth of taxes and about 2 months worth of insurance payments. In addition, you will have to pay for the first year's insurance policy in full. These costs are called prepaid items, and you must pay for them yourself.
Because regulations and customs vary from state to state, the amount you need at settlement may be more or less than the amounts I have discussed here. Talk to a reputable lender to get an accurate estimate of how much you will need to buy your next home.

A Short Guide to Real Estate Lingo and Acronyms

A Short Guide to Real Estate Lingo and Acronyms
Real estate ads are usually full of acronyms and terms that are unfamiliar to first-time buyers.

Here's a cheat sheet to let you in on the lingo.

4B/2B -- four bedrooms and two bathrooms. "Bedroom" usually means a sleeping area with a window and a closet, but the definition varies in different places. A "full bathroom" is a room with a toilet, a sink and a bathtub. A "three-quarter bathroom" has a toilet, a sink and a shower. A "half bathroom" or powder room has only a toilet and a sink.

assum. fin. -- assumable financing
closing costs -- the entire package of miscellaneous expenses paid by the buyer and the seller when the real estate deal closes. These costs include the brokerage commission, mortgage-related fees, escrow or attorney's settlement charges, transfer taxes, recording fees, title insurance and so on. Closing costs are generally paid through escrow.

CMA -- comparative market analysis or competitive market analysis. A CMA is a report that shows prices of homes that are comparable to a subject home and that were recently sold, are currently on the market or were on the market, but not sold within the listing period.

contingency -- a provision of an agreement that keeps the agreement from being fully legally binding until a certain condition is met. One example is a buyer's contractual right to obtain a professional home inspection before purchasing the home.
dk -- deck
expansion pot'l -- expansion potential mean that there's extra space on the lot or the possibility of adding a room or even an upper level, subject to local zoning restrictions.
fab pentrm -- fabulous pentroom, a room on top (but under the roof) that has great views
FDR -- formal dining room
fixture -- anything of value that is permanently attached to or a part of real property. (Real estate is legally called "real property," while movables are called "personal property.") Examples of fixtures include installed wall-to-wall carpeting, light fixtures, window coverings, landscaping and so on. Fixtures are a frequent subject of buyer and seller disputes. When in doubt, get it in writing.

frplc, fplc, FP -- fireplace
gar -- garage (garden is usually abbrevated as "gard.")
grmet kit -- gourmet kitchen
HDW, HWF, Hdwd -- hardwood floors
hi ceils -- high ceilings
in-law potential -- potential for a separate apartment, subject to local zoning restrictions
large E-2 plan -- this is one of several floorplans available in a specific building

listing -- an agreement between a real estate broker and a home owner that allows the broker to market and arrange for the sale of the owner's home. The word "listing" is also used to refer to the for-sale home itself. A home being sold by the owner without a real estate agent isn't a "listing."

lo dues -- low homeowner's association dues. But find out how "low" the dues are compared to other dues in the area.

lock box -- locked key-holding device affixed to a for-sale home so real estate professionals can gain entry into the home after obtaining permission from the listing agent

lsd pkg. -- leased parking area. May come with additional cost.
MLS -- Multiple Listing Service. An MLS is an organization that collects, compiles and distributes information about homes listed for sale by its members, who are real estate brokers. Membership isn't open to the general public, although selected MLS data may be sold to real estate listings Web sites. MLSs are local or regional. There is no MLS covering the whole country.

nr bst schls -- near the best schools
pot'l -- potential
pvt -- private
pwdr rm -- half bathroom or powder room
REALTOR® -- a real estate broker or sales associate who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®. Not all real estate agents are REALTORS®.

title insurance -- an insurance policy that protects a lender's or owner's interest in real property from assorted types of unexpected or fraudulent claims of ownership. It's customary for the buyer to pay for the lender's title insurance policy.
upr -- upper floor
vw, vu, vws, vus -- view(s

Friday, January 27, 2012

Fed Vows to Keep Rates Low Until 2014

Daily Real Estate News | Thursday, January 26, 2012
The Federal Reserve announced that short-term interest rates will likely stay near zero for nearly three more years, a move that is expected to spillover to long-term mortgage rates for home buyers and home owners.

In August, the Fed had made a rare move to say it would keep rates near zero until at least mid-2013. The Fed said Wednesday that the economy still needs more help and it will now extend that period to 2014.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said in a news conference that the Fed isn’t happy with the modest economic recovery and that the Fed may need to take additional steps to spur recovery. He did not comment further on what those steps might be, though.

While the economy has improved somewhat in recent weeks, Fed officials say it’s worried about “strains in global financial markets” and the still high unemployment rate.

Some critics say that the Fed’s vow to keep mortgage rates longer won’t do enough to help the economy and the housing market. They argue that too many Americans are already unable to take advantage of the record low mortgage rates because of the tightening of lending standards.

Bernanke shared that concern, saying that millions of home owners were unable to refinance because of damaged credit or being from underwater in their homes.

Source: “Fed Sees Low Rates to 2014,” The Wall Street Journal (Jan. 26, 2012) and “Fed Signals That a Full Recovery Is Years Away,” The New York Times (Jan. 25, 2012)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tax Credits for Adding or Replacing Insulation

The 2010 energy tax credit for adding insulation is gone, but a smaller one in 2011 is better than nothing.

Whether it’s summer heat or winter cold, insulation makes your house a lot more livable. And if you added insulation in 2011, you may be eligible to collect a $500 energy tax credit.

Tax credit limits and deadlines:10% of expenditures, up to $500 for the year, for all energy improvements combined.
Insulation must have been installed by Dec. 31, 2011.
Save receipts and labels for Uncle Sam.
Be sure to file IRS Form 5695 with your 2011 return.
The Energy Star site is your safest bet for information on how to get the credit. Energy Star has been pretty flexible on what it allows for this credit:

Blow-in fibers
Rigid boards
Expanding spray
Products that reduce air leaks also qualify:

Weather stripping (such as fabric, foam, or metal to provide a seal)
Spray foam in a can, designed to air seal
Caulk designed to air seal
House wrap
Installation isn’t covered.

Don’t rely solely on contractors who may not know the details or who promise their products will get the credit in order to make a sale.

As of January 2012, the feds haven’t extended the energy tax credits for insulation beyond 2011.

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/tax-credits/tax-credits-adding-or-replacing-insulation/#ixzz1kaE2zHcz

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

2011 Energy Tax Credits: What You Need to Know to Collect

They’re not as much as they used to be, but there are still energy tax credits to be had for upgrades made in 2011.

2011’s federal energy tax credits of up to $500 for various home improvements are a far cry from what they were in 2009 and 2010. But if you upgraded to one or more of the following systems in 2011, you may be eligible to take a tax credit on your 2011 returns. (As of January 2012, the feds haven’t extended the credits beyond 2011.)

Biomass stoves
Heating, ventilation, air conditioning
Home Taxes & Financing
Taxes & Incentives

Tax Credits
They’re not as much as they used to be, but there are still energy tax credits to be had for upgrades made in 2011.Effort: Low 1-2 hrs (Form 5695)
Saves: Low $500 (tax credit).

2011’s federal energy tax credits of up to $500 for various home improvements are a far cry from what they were in 2009 and 2010. But if you upgraded to one or more of the following systems in 2011, you may be eligible to take a tax credit on your 2011 returns. (As of January 2012, the feds haven’t extended the credits beyond 2011.)

Biomass stoves
Heating, ventilation, air conditioning
Roofs (metal and asphalt)
Water heaters (non-solar)
Windows, doors, and skylights
Storm windows and doors
The energy tax credits are small, but at least a credit is better than a deduction:

Deductions just reduce your taxable income.
With a credit, you get a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your tax liability: If you get the $500 credit, you pay $500 less in taxes.
Other limits on IRS energy tax credits besides $500 max

Credit only extends to 10% of the cost (not the 30% of yesteryear), so you have to spend $5,000 to get $500.
$500 is a lifetime limit. If you pocketed $500 or more in 2009 and 2010 combined, you’re not entitled to any more money for energy-efficient improvements in the above seven categories. But if you took $300 in the last two years, for example, you can get up to $200 in 2011.
With some systems, your cap is even lower than $500.
$500 is the max for all qualified improvements combined.
Certain systems capped below $500

No matter how much you spend on some approved items, you’ll never get the $500 credit—though you could combine some of these:

System Cap
New windows $200 max (and no, not per window—overall)
Advanced main air-circulating fan $50 max
Qualified natural gas, propane, or oil furnace or hot water boiler $150 max
Approved electric and geothermal heat pumps; central air-conditioning systems; and natural gas, propane, or oil water heaters $300 max

And not all products are created equal in the feds’ eyes. Improvements have to meet IRS energy-efficiency standards to qualify for the tax credit. In the case of boilers and furnaces, they have to meet the 95 AFUE standard. EnergyStar.gov has the details.

Tax credits cover installation—sometimes

Rule of thumb: If installation is either particularly difficult or critical to safe functioning, the credit will cover labor. Otherwise, not. (Yes, you’d have to be pretty handy to install your own windows and roof, but the feds put these squarely in the “not covered” category.)

Installation covered for:

Biomass stoves
Non-solar water heaters
Installation not covered for:

Windows, doors, and skylights
How to claim the 2011 energy tax credit

Determine if the system you installed is eligible for the credits. Go to Energy Star’s website for detailed descriptions of what’s covered; then talk to your vendor.
Save system receipts and manufacturer certifications. You’ll need them if the IRS asks for proof.
File IRS Form 5695 with the rest of your tax forms in 2012.
This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but isn’t intended to be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice, and remember that tax laws may vary by jurisdiction.

Monday, January 23, 2012

December Existing-Home Sales Show Uptrend

December Existing-Home Sales Show Uptrend
Daily Real Estate News | Friday, January 20, 2012
Existing-home sales continued on an uptrend in December, rising for three consecutive months and remaining above where they were a year ago, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

The latest monthly data shows total existing-home salesrose 5.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.61 million in December from a downwardly revised 4.39 million in November, and are 3.6 percent higher than the 4.45 million-unit level in December 2010. The estimates are based on completed transactions from multiple listing services that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said these are early signs of what may be a sustained recovery. “The pattern of home sales in recent months demonstrates a market in recovery,” he said. “Record low mortgage interest rates, job growth and bargain home prices are giving more consumers the confidence they need to enter the market.”

For all of 2011, existing-home sales rose 1.7 percent to 4.26 million from 4.19 million in 2010.

Affordability Conditions
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to another record low of 3.96 percent in December from 3.99 percent in November; the rate was 4.71 percent in December 2010; recordkeeping began in 1971.

NAR President Moe Veissisaid more buyers are expected to take advantage of market conditions this year. “The American dream of homeownership is alive and well. We have a large pent-up demand, and household formation is likely to return to normal as the job market steadily improves,” he said. “More buyers coming into the market mean additional benefits for the overall economy. When people buy homes, they stimulate a lot of related goods and services.”

Total housing inventory at the end of December dropped 9.2 percent to 2.38 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.2-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 7.2-month supply in November.

Available inventory has trended down since setting a record of 4.04 million in July 2007, and is at the lowest level since March 2005 when there were 2.30 million homes on the market.

“The inventory supply suggests many markets will see prices stabilize or grow moderately in the near future,” Yun said.

Who’s Buying What
Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 22 percent in December, up from 20 percent a year ago, while short sales closed 13 percent below market value compared with a 16 percent discount in December 2010.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $164,500 in December, which is 2.5 percent below December 2010. Distressed homes — foreclosures and short sales — accounted for 32 percent of sales in December (19 percent were foreclosures and 13 percent were short sales), up from 29 percent in November; they were 36 percent in December 2010.

All-cash sales accounted for 31 percent of purchases in December, up from 28 percent in November and 29 percent in December 2010. Investors account for the bulk of cash transactions.

Investors purchased 21 percent of homes in December, up from 19 percent in November and 20 percent in December 2010. First-time buyers fell to 31 percent of transactions in December from 35 percent in November; they were 33 percent in December 2010.

Contract failures were reported by 33 percent of NAR members in December, unchanged from November; they were 9 percent in December 2010. Although closed sales are holding up better than this finding would suggest, contract cancellations are caused largely by declined mortgage applications and failures in loan underwriting from appraised values coming in below the negotiated price.

Single-family home sales increased 4.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.11 million in December from 3.93 million in November, and are 4.3 percent higher than the 3.94 million-unit pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $165,100 in December, which is 2.5 percent below December 2010.

Existing condominium and co-op sales rose 8.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 500,000 in December from 460,000 in November but are 2.0 percent below the 510,000-unit level in December 2010. The median existing condo price was $160,000 inDecember, down 3.0 percent from a year ago.

Around the Country
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast jumped 10.7 percent to an annual pace of 620,000 in December and are 3.3 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $231,300, which is 2.7 percent below December 2010.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 8.3 percent in December to a level of 1.04 million and are 9.5 percent above December 2010. The median price in the Midwest was $129,100, down 7.9 percent from a year ago.

In the South, existing-home sales increased 2.9 percent to an annual level of 1.76 million in Decemberand are 3.5 percent above a year ago. The median price in the South was $146,900, down 1.1 percent from December 2010.

Existing-home sales in the West rose 2.6 percent to an annual pace of 1.19 million in December but are 0.8 percent below December 2010. The median price in the West was $205,200, up 0.3 percent from a year ago.