This Spring Could Be The Best Home-Buying Season In Years

Great article by Morgan Brennan, Forbes.com

The lion’s share of home sales typically come in the spring and early summer. April, May, June and July account for more than 40% of all housing transactions annually, in large part thanks to weather. Economists, realtors and Wall Streeters have been quick to surmise that 2012 will be the year of the market bottom, and with that prognosis circulating, it begs the question of what sellers and buyers can expect in housing as that high season nears.

“The spring home buying season looks bright because of an elevated level of contract offers so far this year,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist of NAR, said in a statement earlier this week. February home sales, despite a slight dip from January to February, remain well above 2011 numbers. The Pending Home Sales Index, which reflects signed contracts that have yet to close, from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) was 9.2% higher than February of 2011 and existing-homes sales, or closed contracts, were 8.8% higher than last year.

That increased demand from buyers has pushed inventory levels 19% lower than they were this time last year, with an estimated 2.43 million homes available for sale. In fact, housing inventory is at a five-year low nationally right now. It means owners tinkering with the thought of selling have less competition to contend with, compared to the past five years. It also means housing may be inching toward a long-awaited recovery.

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Southland Home Sales Jump in February, Prices Still Down Yr/Yr

Another great article from DQnews.com

La Jolla, CA—The Southland housing market posted the highest number of February home sales in five years as record levels of investor and cash buyers helped spur robust activity under $300,000. The median price paid for homes across the six-county region inched up from January but dropped below the year-earlier level for the 12th consecutive month, a real estate information service reported.

A total of 15,573 new and resale houses and condos sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties last month. That was up 7.2 percent from 14,523 in January, and up 8.4 percent from 14,369 in February 2011, according to San Diego-based DataQuick.

The increase in sales between January and February was larger than usual. On average, sales have risen 1.1 percent between those two months since 1988, when DataQuick’s statistics begin. Southland sales have increased year-over-year for two consecutive months and for six out of the last seven months. However, last month’s sales tally was 12.3 percent below the average for all the months of February since 1988.

Sales did not rise across the price spectrum last month. Transactions below $300,000 rose 9.5 percent from a year earlier, while the number of $300,000-$800,000 deals dipped 0.8 percent year-over-year and sales above $800,000 fell 12.6 percent.

“February sales got a big boost from investors and others paying cash for relatively affordable homes, as well as from an extra day’s worth of sales thanks to the leap year. Without the latter, sales might have been up a bit, but not to a five-year high. It’s just one more reason for us to remind everyone that January and February usually aren’t good months to use for forecasting purposes. The big picture remains one where the bottom of the housing market continues to see much of the action, while move-up activity remains sluggish. Financing is still difficult for many and lots of potential move-up buyers and sellers are stuck because they owe more than their homes are worth,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president.

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BofA to Offer Principal Reductions of More than $100K

As seen in DSNEWS.COM

Some Bank of America borrowers may be in for principal reductions in amounts exceeding $100,000, according to the latest developments in the settlement the bank and four other large servicers made with state and federal regulators.

Of the five servicers participating in the settlement, BofA is set to pay the largest portion of the total $25 billion settlement. The bank will pay $3.24 billion to the government and $8.58 billion to borrowers.

Of BofA’s total, $1 billion is part of a separate settlement regarding loan origination issues for Countrywide, which BofA acquired in 2008.

While the other four servicers in the national settlement are being required to diminish principal so underwater borrowers have loan-to-value ratios of 120 percent or less, BofA will be reducing principal for about 200,000 homeowners to fall in line with current market values.

For some deeply underwater borrowers, this may result in reductions of more than $100,000.

The expanded principal reductions may prevent BofA from paying $850 million in penalties, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Fitch Ratings responded to the news stating that the 200,000 principal reductions will be “neutral to negative for some RMBS bondholders and potentially beneficial for the bank.”

Fitch suggests the loans most likely to qualify for the extended principal reductions will be those originated between 2005 and 2007.

“Because the bank has already reserved for penalties, any reversals could help BAC’s income going forward,” Fitch stated. “While the agreement will help the bank reduce the amount of penalties it owes over time, the aggregate best case benefit is moderate from a financial perspective.”

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