Friday, April 29, 2011

Pending Home Sales Rise Again in March

March saw another increase in pending home sales, with contract activity rising unevenly in six of the past nine months, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, rose 5.1 percent to 94.1 in March from a downwardly revised 89.5 in February. The index is 11.4 percent below 106.2 in March 2010; however, activity was at elevated levels in March and April of 2010 to meet the contract deadline for the home buyer tax credit.

The data reflects contracts but not closings, which normally occur with a lag time of one or two months.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said home sales activity has shown an uneven but notable improvement. “Since reaching a cyclical bottom last June, pending home sales have posted an overall gain of 24 percent and demonstrate the market is recovering on its own,” he said. “The index means modest near-term gains in existing-home sales are likely, which would be even stronger if tight mortgage lending criteria returned to normal, safe standards.”

The PHSI in the Northeast fell 3.2 percent to 63.4 in March and is 18.4 percent below March 2010. In the Midwest the index rose 3.0 percent in March to 83.5 but is 16.6 percent below a year ago. Pending home sales in the South jumped 10.3 percent to an index of 110.2 but are 10.5 percent below March 2010. In the West the index increased 3.1 percent to 103.7 but is 4.1 percent below a year ago.

“Based on the current uptrend with very favorable affordability conditions, rising apartment rents and ongoing job creation, existing-home sales should rise around 5 to 10 percent this year with sales growth of lower priced homes likely to outperform high-end homes. That means the price trend will reflect more homes sold in the lower price ranges,” Yun said.

“The good news is that recent home buyers are staying well within budget, leading to exceptionally low loan default rates among home buyers over the past two years,” Yun added.

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker
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St. James Plantation

Monday, April 25, 2011

Home Sales Rise 11%, Moving Off Historic Lows

New U.S. single-family home sales increased more than expected in March and the supply of new houses on the market hit their lowest level since August 1967, but prices fell from a year ago. 

The Commerce Department said on Monday sales rose 11.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted 300,000 unit annual rate, after an upwardly revised 270,000 unit pace in February.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast new home sales climbing to a 280,000-unit pace last month from a previously reported record low 250,000 unit rate. 

Compared to March last year sales were down 21.9 percent. 

The market for new homes is being squeezed by competition from previously owned homes and a deluge of foreclosed properties, even though inventories of new houses are at a 43-1/2 year low. 

A report last week showed there were 3.55 million previously owned homes on the market in March, well above the economy's natural rate of between 2 million and 2.5 million. 

When foreclosed homes and those that are highly delinquent are taken into account, economists say supply is anywhere in the range of 8 million to 9 million. 

The median sales price for a new home rose 2.9 percent last month to $213,800 from February. Compared with March last year, the median price fell 4.9 percent. 

At March's sales pace, the supply of new homes on the market slipped to 7.3 months' worth from 8.2 months' worth in February. There were 183,000 new homes available for sale last month, the lowest since August 1967.

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Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker
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Buy a Home in Five Simple Steps

Okay, they may not be five simple steps, but if you follow them carefully, the process of buying St. James Plantation Real Estate can be much easier. By separating the process into easy-to-manage chunks, you will be able to navigate through it with ease.

Step 1: Organization

In this beginning stage of the home-buying process, you need to make some big decisions. You need to decide what size home you hope to purchase, how much you can afford to spend, and where you plan to start looking. By narrowing down your focus at the beginning of the process, you can save yourself a lot of time once you actually start shopping.

Step 2: Financing

In step two, you can start to assess your financial situation. By getting pre-approved to buy a home before you start shopping you can make the final stages of the process move much more smoothly. This will also help you know how much you can afford to spend on a home.
During this stage you will also want to assess what type of mortgage you can get, how much you can afford as a down payment, and how you plan to pay your closing costs.

Step 3: Shopping

This is the step in the home-buying process where you actually get to start shopping! Whether you choose to search homes on your own or enlist the assistance of a skilled real estate agent, it is completely up to you. An agent can help you find a house that meets your needs as well as assist you during the negotiation process.

Step 4: Negotiations

Once you have found the home of your dreams, you will enter into the negotiation stage. Probably the most difficult step in the entire process, negotiations can last quite some time. During this step you will write an offer for the seller to either accept or counter-offer. In most instances, the negotiations can go back and forth several times before a conclusion is determined.

Step 5: Closing

Once you have finished negotiations with the seller, it is time to sign an agreement. There is usually a set time between when you sign your agreement and when you can actually move into your new home. If you have been pre-approved, this step of the home-buying process should be quick and easy.
Looking for a qualified real estate agent to help you through the home-buying process?Call me today!

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker
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St. James Plantation

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What Buyers and Sellers Have in Common

While home-buyers and -sellers may feel like they are on the opposite side of things, they really have more in common than they realize. Both buyers and sellers rely heavily on their real estate agents to help them through the process. And, both buyers and sellers expect a real estate agent to have their best interests at heart. By understanding both sides of the process, it will be easier for you to sell your St. James Plantation Real Estate or purchase your Jacksonville, NC real estate.

Emotional Stake

Both buyers and sellers have an emotional stake in their property. Sellers are having a hard time parting themselves from the memories their home holds, while buyers can get attached to a property quickly. Just one aspect of a home, such as a wrap-around porch or picket fence can immediately make a buyer want to purchase a home.

Best Value

Both buyers and sellers want to get the most value for their money. Buyers want to get a house for as little money as possible, while sellers want to get the most money they can for a property. Both are relying heavily on their real estate brokers to help them get the best value.

Closing Costs

In negotiations, neither side wants to pay closing costs. However, a home-seller can use this to their advantage by not lowering the price of a home, but offering to pay the closing costs. This way the buyer will think they won the battle, but in reality both sides are winning.
By having a better understanding of both sides of the home buying/selling process, it will help you be a more knowledgeable participant. So, whether you are looking for St. James Plantation new homes or looking to sell your Wilmington, NC home, you know what to expect.

Looking for a real estate agent to help you through the process? Call me today!

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker
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St. James Plantation

Existing-Home Sales Rise in March

Sales of existing-home sales rose in March, continuing an uneven recovery that began after sales bottomed last July, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Existing-home sales1, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 3.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.10 million in March from an upwardly revised 4.92 million in February, but are 6.3 percent below the 5.44 million pace in March 2010. Sales were at elevated levels from March through June of 2010 in response to the home buyer tax credit.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, expects the improving sales pattern to continue. “Existing-home sales have risen in six of the past eight months, so we’re clearly on a recovery path,” he said. “With rising jobs and excellent affordability conditions, we project moderate improvements into 2012, but not every month will show a gain – primarily because some buyers are finding it too difficult to obtain a mortgage. For those fortunate enough to qualify for financing, monthly mortgage payments as a percent of income have been at record lows.”

NAR’s housing affordability index shows the typical monthly mortgage principal and interest payment for the purchase of a median-priced existing home is only 13 percent of gross household income, the lowest since records began in 1970.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 4.84 percent in March, down from 4.95 percent in February; the rate was 4.97 percent in March 2010.

Data from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae show requirements to obtain conventional mortgages have been tightened, with the average credit score rising to about 760 in the current market from nearly 720 in 2007; for FHA loans the average credit score is around 700, up from just over 630 in 2007.

“Although home sales are coming back without a federal stimulus, sales would be notably stronger if mortgage lending would return to the normal, safe standards that were in place a decade ago – before the loose lending practices that created the unprecedented boom and bust cycle,” Yun explained.

“Given that FHA and VA government-backed loan programs turned a modest profit over to the U.S. Treasury last year, and have never required a taxpayer bailout, we believe low-downpayment loans should continue to be available for those consumers who have demonstrated financial responsibility and are willing to stay well within their budget. Raising the downpayment requirement would unnecessarily deny credit to many worthy middle-class families and veterans,” Yun said.

A parallel NAR practitioner survey2 shows first-time buyers purchased 33 percent of homes in March, compared with 34 percent of homes in February; they were 44 percent in March 2010.
All-cash sales were at a record market share of 35 percent in March, up from 33 percent in February; they were 27 percent in March 2010. Investors accounted for 22 percent of sales activity in March, up from 19 percent in February; they were 19 percent in March 2010. The balance of sales were to repeat buyers.

The national median existing-home price3 for all housing types was $159,600 in March, down 5.9 percent from March 2010. Distressed homes – typically sold at discounts in the vicinity of 20 percent – accounted for a 40 percent market share in March, up from 39 percent in February and 35 percent in March 2010.
NAR President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I., said some renters are looking to home ownership as a hedge against inflation. “The typical buyer today plans to stay in a home for 10 years, while rents are projected to rise at faster rates over the next few years,” he said. “As buyers gain more financial security, the advantages of home ownership become more obvious. Rents will continue to trend up, especially in comparison with a fixed-rate loan which provides financial stability and gradual accumulation of equity over time.”

Total housing inventory at the end of March rose 1.5 percent to 3.55 million existing homes available for sale, which represents an 8.4-month supply4 at the current sales pace, compared with a 8.5-month supply in February.

Single-family home sales rose 4.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.45 million in March from 4.28 million in February, but are 6.5 percent below the 4.76 million level in March 2010. The median existing single-family home price was $160,500 in March, down 5.3 percent from a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 1.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 650,000 in March from 640,000 in February, but are 4.1 percent below the 678,000-unit pace one year ago. The median existing condo price5 was $153,100 in March, which is 10.1 percent below March 2010.
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 3.9 percent to an annual level of 800,000 in March but are 12.1 percent below March 2010. The median price in the Northeast was $232,900, down 3.0 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest increased 1.0 percent in March to a pace of 1.06 million but are 13.1 percent lower than a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $126,100, which is 7.1 percent below March 2010.

In the South, existing-home sales rose 8.2 percent to an annual level of 1.99 million in March but are 1.0 percent below March 2010. The median price in the South was $138,200, down 6.6 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West slipped 0.8 percent to an annual pace of 1.25 million in March and are 3.1 percent below a year ago. The median price in the West was $192,100, which is 11.2 percent lower than March 2010.


Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker
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St. James Plantation

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Foreclosure Filings Hit 3-Year Low: Report

U.S. foreclosure filings fell in the first quarter to the lowest level since early 2008 amid an ongoing backlog following last year's halt in activity, according to a RealtyTrac report on Thursday.


Default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions were reported on 681,153 properties, down 14.8 percent from the previous quarter and a drop of 26.9 percent from the first quarter of 2010. 

It was the lowest level of foreclosures since the first quarter of 2008. 

One in every 191 U.S. homes received a foreclosure filing during the quarter. For March, foreclosure filings rose 6.5 percent to 239,795, but were still down 34.7 percent from March the year before. First-time default notices jumped 17 percent in the quarter and 16 percent in March. 

Foreclosures slowed with lenders seizing 215,046 homes in the first quarter, down 6 percent from the previous quarter. But in states that primarily use a non-judicial foreclosure process, bank repossessions increased 9 percent. 

Rick Sharga, senior vice president at RealtyTrac, said this increase might be the beginning of getting back to a more accurate foreclosure rate. 

"Clearly these ongoing processing issues are having a dampening effect on foreclosure activity," said Sharga. "The most likely outcome of this is we see an even more protracted period of high levels of foreclosures weighing down the housing market." 

Investigations into the foreclosure process prompted temporary halts from some servicers late last year, creating a bottleneck as paperwork is refiled. 

Nevada maintained the highest U.S. state foreclosure rate as one in every 35 homes had a foreclosure filing. California alone accounted for nearly a quarter of overall foreclosure activity.

Original Article

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker
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St. James Plantation

Buy With Confidence: A Home Buying Checklist April 12, 2011

Whether it’s your first time buying a home or your third, it’s always a challenge. It is one of the biggest decisions you will make in your life, so you want to make it carefully. By walking into the St. James Plantation Real Estate you’re considering with a checklist of criteria, you will make finding your dream home much easier.
Use our checklist below as a starting point when evaluating a home you might want to buy:
  • Check out the neighborhood including local schools, crime rate, traffic, zoning and work commutes
  • Find out the age of the home and whether it is made of wood or brick
  • Evaluate the overall condition of the exterior including the foundation, roof and garage
  • Consider the source of heat in the home and decide whether  you prefer gas or electric
  • Ask about the age of the heating system, water heater and electrical wiring
  • Find out estimated costs of monthly or annual water, heating and electric bills
  • Evaluate property boundaries, landscaping and backyard fencing
  • Check the number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Decide if there is the potential to expand or enlarge the home
  • Find out if the home is building code compliant
  • Hire a certified home inspector to conduct a home inspection as well as any other inspections that may be necessary
  • Talk to the neighbors to gather any additional information about the neighborhood or house
While this list is just meant to point you in the right direction, by bringing a comprehensive checklist with you to the St. James Plantation Real Estate you visit, you will be able to quickly eliminate the homes that don’t fit your needs. You will also have something concrete to look at once you get home and are discussing your options.
The more information you have about a home, the more confident you will be in making your home-buying decisions.

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker
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Click here for more information on Brunswick, County Real Estate
St. James Plantation

Monday, April 11, 2011

Four Best Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home

Whether you planning to move now or sometime in the future, it is always a good idea make investments in your home that will increase its value. While you may be tempted to make a frivolous hot tub purchase, it may be a more practical investment to update your kitchen. If you have the itch to make a purchase, consider doing one of the five following remodels in your home:
  1. Add space and add lighting

    While it might be a lot of work,  consider knocking down walls and opening your floor plan. Open floor plans are much more inviting than small, closed off rooms. If you don’t have the budget for tearing down walls, widening doorways can also make an impact. Adding square footage and rooms to your home will also increase your home’s value and become a major selling point.
  2. Add a home office

    The number of Americans that work from home increases annually. As a way to cut costs and offer employees more flexibility, working from home has become a desirable option for many. By adding a home office to St. James Plantation Real Estate, your , you can increase its value and make it more desirable to potential home buyers.
  3. Update your exterior

    It is imperative if you ever plan to sell your home, that the outside looks just as appealing as the inside. By adding vinyl siding, landscaping the yard, and implementing an eye-pleasing color scheme, you can give your home a face-lift that will attract attention.
  4. Remodel the kitchen

    The kitchen is often called the heart of the home, and for good reason. The kitchen is where everyone congregates. When cooking, chatting, eating, doing homework or having coffee, people sit in the kitchen. By remodeling your kitchen you can not only add value to your home, but you can add a more inviting space for people to socialize.
When renovating your home, consider options that appeal not only to you, but to potential buyers. You never know when you may decide to relocate or start looking for St. James Plantation Real Estate, so plan for the future and invest in projects that will increase your home’s value.

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker
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Click here for more information on Brunswick, County Real Estate
St. James Plantation

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Battleship to host original WWII crew

Tomorrow the 22 surviving members of the original crew of the Battleship North Carolina will visit the ship in celebration. A ceremony will be held with the Azalea Queen to honor the crew.

“It is an honor to have these gentlemen onboard again," said Captain Terry Bragg, the executive director of the ship.

The crew will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the ship earlier than normal to coincide with the Azalea Festival. The normal reunion weekend for the ship's survivors is in May.

Battleship Marketing Director Heather Loftin expects more than 300 people to attend the free event tomorrow at 2 p.m. The event is open to the public.

“A lot of people like the opportunity to shake the hands of the original crew,” Loftin said.

The Azalea Queen, Heather French Henry, will make a presentation to the original crew to thank them for their service. Robin Cox of Eat Dessert First will serve a replica cake of the Battleship North Carolina at the event.

“It’s huge. She’s gone into some pretty neat detail with it,” Loftin said of the cake that is so large it requires two 8-foot tables for preparation. Loftin said that in the 1940s replica cakes of the ship were a popular tradition to honor the servicemen.

The Azalea Festival begins today at 3 p.m. with the queen’s coronation at Riverfront Park. This year the Battleship is honoring both its 70-year anniversary in operation and its 50-year anniversary docked here in Wilmington.

Original Article

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker
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Click here for more information on Brunswick, County Real Estate
St. James Plantation