Saturday, November 27, 2010

Housing Affordability Remains Strong for 7th Consecutive Quarter

Housing affordability remained near its highest level nationwide for the seventh consecutive quarter, as interest rates dipped below 5% for the first time since the series was first compiled nearly two decades ago, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI).

The HOI indicated that 72.1% of all new and existing homes sold in the third quarter of 2010 were affordable to families earning the national median income of $64,400. The index for the third quarter almost equaled the record-high 72.5% set during the first quarter of 2009 and marked the seventh consecutive quarter that the index rose above 70%. Until 2009, the HOI rarely topped 65% and never reached 70%.

“With interest rates remaining at historically low levels, and house prices starting to stabilize, homeownership is within reach of more households than it has been for almost 20 years,” said NAHB Chairman Bob Jones.

To find housing you can afford, in Mercer County, Hamilton, and surrounding counties and townships, search the MLS on my web site or just call or email me.  Let's get started finding you a home while interest rates remain low.

Joe Giancarli, SA
Real Estate Advisor
Short Sale Specialist

Home Resales Drop in October but Improvement Forecast

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, declined 2.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.43 million in October, down from 4.53 million in September.  Sales were 25.9% below the 5.98 million-unit level in October 2009, when the first-time buyer tax credit was available.  Year-to-date, there were 4.149 million existing-home sales, down 2.9% from 4.272 million at this time in 2009.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the recent sales pattern can be expected to continue. "The housing market is experiencing an uneven recovery, and a temporary foreclosure stoppage in some states is likely to have held back a number of completed sales. Still, sales activity is clearly off the bottom and is attempting to settle into normal sustainable levels," he said. "Based on current and improving job market conditions, and from attractive affordability conditions, sales should steadily improve to healthier levels of above 5 million by spring of next year."

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $170,500 in October, down 0.9% from October 2009. Distressed homes accounted for 34% of sales in October, compared with 35% in September and 30% in October 2009.

Total housing inventory at the end of October fell 3.4% to 3.86 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 10.5-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 10.6-month supply in September.

NAR President Ron Phipps echoed Yun's assessment, stating "We'll likely see some impact from the foreclosure moratorium in the months ahead, but overly tight credit is making it difficult for some creditworthy borrowers to qualify for a mortgage.  We are continuing to deal with a notable share of appraisals coming in below a price negotiated between a buyer and seller."  He continued, "A return to common sense loan underwriting standards would go a long way toward achieving responsible, sustainable homeownership."

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast declined 1.3% to an annual pace of 750,000 in October and are 27.2% below the surge in October 2009. The median price in the Northeast was $240,200, which was 1.9% higher than a year ago.

For detailed analysis of sales and activity in your community, call or email me.  I'm familiar with all of our Mercer County neighborhoods, and can advise you on local housing trends and prices.

Joe Giancarli, SA
Real Estate Advisor
Short Sale Specialist

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Princeton Chase - Princeton Junction - Zeloof Dr - Huge Price Reduction - Highly Upgraded Home

6 Zeloof Drive in Princeton Chase is a gorgeous Vernon model by respected builders Toll Brothers, and has been completely remodeled from top to bottom. Enjoy the landscaped back yard of 0.77 acres in all seasons, which has been completed with EP Henry pavers, a spacious patio and BBQ area, breakfast area leading to the home through French doors, and a fenced, private in-ground pool. The gourmet kitchen features granite counters, upgraded cabinetry, and top-of-the line appliances, including a Wolf gas stove and microwave, Bosch dishwasher, and Jenn-Air refrigerator. The entire home has been beautifully painted in warm colors. Hardwood floors have been installed throughout the first floor, except in the kitchen, where there is custom tile. The baths have new vanities, commodes and tile. Even the basement has been upgraded, and finished into recreation rooms with pool table, TV/entertainment center, and an air hockey table. More than $250,000 in upgrades make this 4 bedroom/2.5 bath home, with 2800 SF of interior living space, a model show place.

Princeton Chase offers the amenities of tennis court, basketball court, playground, open space, and beautiful landscaping with mature trees. The only access is Deerfield Drive, and there are no through streets. There is a homeowners’ association to protect the common areas, and the location is very close to the popular Mercer County Park. The West Windsor/Plainsboro School district is among the best in the State of New Jersey. Approximately halfway between New York City and Philadelphia, with easy access to each city, Princeton Chase is about 20 minutes from the New Jersey Turnpike and 5 minutes from Route 1. It is also just minutes from the Princeton Junction Train Station, served by both New Jersey Transit and Amtrak. Express trains to New York take 50 minutes.

Princeton Chase, in Princeton Junction, is a very prestigious address in West Windsor, Mercer County, NJ.

Contact Joe Giancarli, SA, 609-658-2612, for a private showing.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Outlook for Housing Prices in 2011, Hamilton NJ and more

When will New Jersey home prices start rising?  Well, in some areas of the country, like Hawaii, this has already begun.  Pundits expect rates to be more than a percentage point higher by the end of next year, which will put pressure on buyers who are on the edge of qualifying.  We'd all like a crystal ball to predict prices, but here is what Pat Mertz Esswein of Kiplinger wrote in Yahoo Real Estate.

"The lowest mortgage interest rates in almost 60 years, plus affordable homes in cities where buyers had been priced out for years, should be turning the housing market around. But the market also labors under some heavy burdens: a glut of foreclosures that are dragging down home prices, high unemployment and tight credit. Sales fell off a cliff after the home-buyer tax credit expired. And "foreclosure-gate" -- legal squabbling about the process used to repossess many homes -- postponed the sale of many foreclosed properties and struck yet another body blow to confidence in the housing market.  Although this recovery may seem unendurably long, David Stiff, chief economist at Fiserv Case-Shiller, says that five to seven years is historically a "pretty standard time frame" for prices to stabilize after a large correction.

"The home-price plunge has left 23% of mortgage borrowers (out of 53.5 million) underwater -- that is, they owe more on their mortgage than the market value of their home. Unless they can ante up the difference -- an average of $75,000, according to CoreLogic, which analyzes mortgage data -- they can't sell and they can't move. Their choices? Stick it out, ask the lender for permission to sell for less than they owe (a short sale), or default.

"Now, short sales and foreclosures are the driving force behind continued price declines. Throughout 2010, they accounted for about one-third of home sales, with an average price discount of 26%, according to RealtyTrac. Everyone agrees that more such sales are on the way, but estimates vary.

"The worst-case scenario for home prices? Slow economic growth and high unemployment drive up the foreclosure numbers, which push down home prices. Consumers refrain from spending, further dampening economic growth and job creation. Demand for homes decreases because would-be buyers either don't have a job or don't have confidence that they'll still have one in months to come. Confident buyers hold off because they expect further price declines.

"Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi thinks the job market will begin to turn around by mid to late 2011. And the Federal Reserve will ensure that mortgages stay dirt-cheap at least until employment picks up again.  Zandi says that the best reason for a bit of optimism is this: With few exceptions, the market is fairly valued based on the relationship of home prices to income and apartment rents. Some markets have actually become undervalued, which will attract more buyers and investors.

"Fiserv expects the housing market to finally hit bottom in mid 2011, with another 7% decline in the U.S. median home price for the year ending June 30, 2011. The firm's forecasting model says that prices are 90% of the way back to being in line with household incomes. Stiff says that the housing market is now "bouncing along the bottom," with buyers and sellers creating price volatility as they try to match bid and ask prices. The firm predicts that in many cities, prices will begin to tick upward again in 2012."

Every community has its own variation on the price and affordability themes.  I've been in real estate here in Hamilton and Mercer County NJ for more than 20 years.  Call or email me and let's discuss your options.

Joe Giancarli, SA
Real Estate Advisor
Short Sale Specialist

How a Mercer County NJ Home Buyer Find the Best Deal

Today's Hamilton NJ home market demands that buyers look at many homes and do investigative research into community values before they ever get serious about making an offer.  There is a large amount of inventory, not all homes have been well taken care of, and buyers want to make sure they can afford the home and are getting the most for their money.

A lot has changed in the last few years.  While it is natural to feel a fabulous deal is just waiting in the next house a buyer will look at, a distressed property may not be the best buy and that low-priced home may not fit your needs.  Here are some considerations to keep in mind as you look for a home.

1.  Know your local market.  An informed, experienced Realtor is more of an asset here than you can imagine.  There is no way you can spend the hours online sifting through sales in neighborhoods to get a good handle on the shifting prices and downward pressure of short sales and foreclosures.  Each local market has its own character, and buyers must adjust their expectations accordingly.  I'm familiar with all the communities in our six-county area of central New Jersey.  And buyers don't pay for a Realtor's service.  So don't pass up free professional expertise.

2.  Listen to your heart.  Preview homes with an open mind and heart.  Don't look just at price.

3.  Decide before you look at homes if you are willing to put the work and money into a distressed property.  While many short sales are still in good shape, many are not, and foreclosures almost always require time and money to repair, even condos.  These types of properties also can take months to close while rates possibly rise and your patience wears thin.

4.  Be ready to negotiate.  Sellers don’t want a viable buyer to walk away. If a negotiation is initiated, it often ends up in a place that makes the buyers happy, because in this market sellers have to do most of the compromising.

5.  Listen to professional advice.  Talk to friends and family about a potential purchase, but weigh most heavily the advice which comes from your local real estate professionals, lender, agent, inspector or appraiser.  These opinions will be grounded in detailed knowledge of the current market in the community of your choice.

6.  Consider the glass half full, not half empty.  Be positive about the market.  Real estate has always been a long-term investment strategy.  Think of the good side, the historically low rates, the improved home affordability, and the large selection of houses.

Let's talk about your options.  Now is a great time to buy a home in Mercer County.

Joe Giancarli, SA
Real Estate Advisor
Short Sale Specialist

Friday, November 12, 2010

New Buyer Videos from HUD

To help consumers navigate the home buying process, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) have created three how-to videos to help prospective homeowners find a home they can afford, shop for a mortgage they can sustain, and what to expect when they go to closing.  This information provides a beginning, from which the prospective buyer can feel comfortable contacting a Realtor to start looking at homes.

Each video focuses on a critical part of the homebuying process including shopping for your home, shopping for your loan, and closing the deal.  David H. Stevens, HUD’s assistant secretary for Housing and Federal Housing Commissioner said, “The process for buying a home can appear complicated and overwhelming for many consumers. These videos will help answer the fundamental questions most people have—from shopping for their home to signing on the dotted line.”  HUD’s videos are easily accessible from both HUD and NAR’s websites as well as from HUD’s YouTube channel.

Stevens added, “These videos go a long way in identifying key aspects of the homebuying process that a consumer should be aware of. Our goal is to help make the process more transparent through educating consumers who in turn can make informed choices about their home purchase. We partnered with NAR because a real estate agent is often the primary point of contact for home buyers, and we believe real estate agents are in a great position to provide these videos to their clients as they move through key areas in the homebuying process.”  Visit for more information.

You probably will have questions after you watch one or all of the videos.  Just call or email me and let's talk about the process of buying a Hamilton NJ home.

Joe Giancarli, SA

Home Prices in Many Areas Held in 3rd Quarter

According to the latest survey by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), half of metropolitan areas tracked in the third quarter continued to show modest home price increases from a year ago, despite a sharp decline in home sales after the deadline for the home buyer tax credit.  In the third quarter, 77 out of 155 metropolitan statistical areas1 (MSAs) had higher median existing single-family home prices in comparison with the third quarter of 2009, including 11 with double-digit increases; two were unchanged and 76 metros showed price declines. In the third quarter of 2009 only 30 MSAs experienced annual price gains.

The national median existing single-family price was little changed at $177,900 in the third quarter, down 0.2% from $178,200 in the third quarter of 2009.  Distressed homes, typically sold at discount, accounted for 34% of third quarter sales, up from 30% a year ago.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said relatively flat home prices have been the hallmark of the 2010 housing market. "Even with swings in home sales, prices this year have been changing very little from year-ago readings. Areas with some larger swings in home price reflect the degree of distressed sales in those markets," he said.

NAR President Ron Phipps explained, "Given the relationship between mortgage interest rates, home prices and median family income, the buying power in today's market is matching the highest levels we've seen dating all the way back to 1970. 

Yun added that there are additional indicators for home price stabilization. "A recent surge in commodity prices, along with the fact that the cost of constructing a new home exceeds the value of existing homes in many markets, bode well for continuing home price stabilization," he said.

Regionally, the median existing single-family home price in the Northeast rose 2.5 percent to $253,400 in the third quarter from a year earlier. Existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 27.3 percent in the third quarter to a pace of 693,000 and are 24.4 percent below the third quarter of 2009. Year-to-date sales in the Northeast totaled 638,000, essentially unchanged from 637,000 at this time last year.

It is still a buyer's market with a wide variety of choices and motivated sellers.  Call or email me now to set up a personalized MLS search for homes, and to discuss how we can find a home to fit your needs in Hamilton or surrounding New Jersey communities.

Joe Giancarli, SA

Thursday, November 4, 2010

How to Know if You got a Good Deal on your Hamilton NJ Home

This is a tough real estate market, here in Mercer County NJ and nationwide.  Both buyers and sellers - and their Realtors - deal with a lot of uncertainty throughout the process, from lenders, title companies, appraisers, and themselves.  Everyone wants to finish the transaction feeling it was fair to all parties, and without regret.  How best to accomplish this?  Here are some ideas.

1.  Make a wish list of needs and wants and prioritize them.  If you know you got most of the amenities you wanted in a home, at a price you can afford, then you will feel more like you "got a good deal."  If you are a "bottom feeder" - offer low ball prices hoping to find a desparate seller - then you aren't looking for amenities so much as a low price.  With this type of purchase, you know you will have to put in some money and/or work before you resell.  So understand what kind of "deal" will satisfy you.

2.  Do you homework so you will understand the market and sales prices of comparable homes.  A Realtor is your best source of real estate information.  If he or she gives you a competitive market analysis that shows your purchase price is reasonable for other neighborhood sales, then you have another benchmark for feeling you "got a good deal."

3.  Consider the whole market, the season, and affordability.  The winter months are generally slower for sales, so sellers might be more committed to negotiation.  If your low offer is accepted, factor in the costs of repairs.  If the house is in an area of many foreclosures and short sales, then your new home might take longer to appreciate than in other communities.

4.  Good deals come in more than one shape or color.  If the seller offers to pay closing costs, or helps you buy down the rate so your mortgage is less, or will pay for repairs - any or all of these add to the quality of the "deal" you will get in your new home.

The bottom line is to get an experienced, knowledgeable Realtor working for you, one who knows the area and the prices.  As a buyer, this expertise is free - why pass up free professional services?  He or she can help you finish escrow feeling you got a "good deal."

Joe Giancarli, SA
Real Estate Advisor
Short Sale Specialist

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hamilton, NJ - Cape Cod Home for Sale - Affordable - Basement - Yard

Great starter home ready to move in. Very clean and well maintained. All brick exterior, partially-finished basement, newer furnace, and fenced yard. Eat-in kitchen with gas cooking, stove, oven, washer, and dryer included.  Priced to sell for under $150,000.

Contact Joe Giancarli, SA, for a private showing.  609-658-2612.