Incline Village at Lake Tahoe, Nevada Real Estate and Community News

May 1, 2016

FIXED OR ADJUSTABLE RATE MORTGAGE: WHICH IS BETTER?

If you’re weighing the pros and cons of these two mortgage types, the first step is understanding exactly how they differ

Here’s what you need to know to evaluate your financing options.

Homebuyers have many decisions to weigh: Good school district in Fort Mill, SC, or an extra 2 acres of land 25 miles away? Gray or white paint in the living room? Should you ask the sellers to include the refrigerator or let it go with the sellers? But from a financial perspective, there’s one big decision you need to make first — and unlike an unfortunate paint color, if you make the wrong choice, it’s not a quick fix: You’ll have to decide whether you want a fixed- or adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). If this is your first time buying a house, those may be foreign terms to you. If you’ve purchased a home in the past, the type of loan you got last time may not be the best option for this purchase.

Here’s how to decipher the differences between a fixed-rate mortgage and an ARM. Once you’ve gained a working knowledge of each option, use Trulia’s calculator to dig a little deeper into making a decision.

What is a fixed-rate mortgage?

A fixed-rate mortgage is the one you’re probably most familiar with: This type of mortgage lets you lock in your interest rate, so with a few minor exceptions, your monthly payment will remain the same over the life of the loan. Because of this predictability, if you have trouble budgeting, a fixed-rate mortgage might be your best option. “For some people, stability is important,” says Sylvia Gutierrez, a loan officer and author of Mortgage Matters: Demystifying the Loan Approval Maze.

So what’s the downside? You’ll probably have a higher interest rate on a fixed-rate mortgage than you would with an ARM. “If you want certainty, you are going to pay for it,” says Heather McRae, a senior loan officer at Chicago Financial Services Inc.

But you can save money with a fixed-rate mortgage if you can land a low interest rate. Your credit score and usage influences what interest rate you’re offered: The higher your score, the better your rate. Those with a credit score of 700 or above typically get the best interest rates on their mortgages. Finally, with fixed-rate mortgages, you have two main options: a 15-year term or a 30-year term. In most cases, a shorter term offers a lower interest rate, says Gutierrez. If you want a fixed-rate mortgage and you’ve had credit issues in the past, you might benefit from consulting a credit-counseling agency to help you repair your credit. Granted, it may take time to raise your score.

What’s an adjustable-rate mortgage?

An ARM is a mortgage that offers a lower fixed interest rate and payment for the initial period, but the rate can change over time, depending on market conditions. Since these loans are subject to changes in the market, an ARM borrower is essentially agreeing to unknown factors. “It’s a gamble,” says McRae. If you’re comfortable with payment flexibility and absorbing potentially higher rates, this could be your best option. McRae says ARMs can be ideal for investors who are interested in maximizing their property’s cash flow. “Since [ARMs] can provide a low monthly payment, they can ensure the investor receives the greatest margin between the monthly mortgage payment paid and the rent collected from their tenant,” she says.

An ARM may also be well-suited for buyers who plan to occupy the property as their primary residence only for a short time. A five-year ARM, for example, might be a good option if you’re planning to sell the property before that five-year period is up. The biggest drawback of this type of mortgage is that the rate can (and often does) increase after the fixed-rate period ends. The good news is, there are limits on just how high the rate can go. “The caps are an integral piece to choosing which adjustable-rate mortgage to go with,” says McRae. To see whether an ARM is right for you, ask the loan officer to provide a “worst-case scenario” for interest rate fluctuations, advises Staci Titsworth, regional manager of PNC Mortgage in Pittsburgh, PA. That can give you an idea of the highest amount you could have to write a check for — and then you can decide if your budget could cover it.

How do I choose between an ARM and a fixed-rate mortgage?

Now that you understand the differences, you can crunch some numbers to determine what type of loan is best for you. For example, if you get a 30-year fixed mortgage on a $200,000 loan at 4% interest, you’ll pay $955 per month and $107,804 in interest by the time those 30 years are up. Buy that same home with a seven-year ARM at an initial 3% interest rate, and your monthly payment drops to $843 for the first seven years of the loan. If you opt for the seven-year ARM and sell the home in five years, you would save $6,720 altogether — but if you stay in the home past seven years and the interest rate spikes, you could end up paying more in the long run.

Bottom line: Choosing an ARM over a fixed-rate mortgage can help you score a lower interest rate — and reduce your monthly payment — but only if you’re prepared to sell or refinance if interest rates start to have a negative impact on your finances

Posted in Buying a Home
April 19, 2016

YOU DON’T HAVE TO ACHIEVE CREDIT SCORE PERFECTION, BUT HERE ARE THE BENCHMARKS THAT MATTER WHEN APPLYING FOR A MORTGAGE.

To most of us, a credit score seems like a random trio of numbers determined by a complicated algorithm, but it represents much more to a lender who’s considering whether to approve your mortgage loan. A low credit score can indicate you’re a risky borrower, while a high score can significantly upgrade the mortgage terms you’re offered.

If you’re considering making the leap to homeownership, there’s more to think about than the curb appeal of those Springfield, IL, homes for sale — the health of your credit score tops the list. But even if your score teeters on the edge of dismal, there are steps you can take to speed up the credit repair process and improve your chances of landing a home with manageable loan terms.

What’s the minimum credit score for a mortgage?

The minimum credit score required to receive a loan depends in large part on the type of loan you’re considering. FHA loans have some of the lowest credit score requirements, at 580 with a 3.5% down payment. However, that doesn’t take other applicants out of the running; FHA lenders allow lower scores with a down payment of 10% or more. Veterans Affairs (VA) loans are a bit trickier. While the VA doesn’t have a minimum credit score requirement, VA lenders do — and that number varies by lender. Some lenders require a score of 620, while others might be at 640. The good news? Getting a “no” from one lender doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. For conventional loans, most lenders will look for at least a 620 credit score, according to Chris Hauber, a mortgage loan originator with Hallmark Home Mortgage in Denver, CO. Ideally, however, applicants would need to have a 660 credit score to land a better rate and avoid jumping through additional hoops.

What is a good credit score?

Beyond approval for a mortgage, the range your credit score falls within can drastically change the interest rate you can lock down — and the amount you’ll pay in private mortgage insurance (PMI), if applicable. For instance, the approximate difference in rates for a conventional loan with a 680 credit score versus a 740-plus credit score could be 0.25% to 0.0375%, Hauber says. But the PMI premium in this scenario would double.

“Once you’re over 740, you’re considered to be in the ‘perfect’ range for mortgages,” adds Hauber. “If you put less than 20% down, however, you’ll need PMI. For PMI, the high bracket in terms of credit score is 760-plus — meaning you’ll pay less in monthly premiums with this score or higher.” In simple terms, a credit score below 700 is likely to be considered “fair” in the world of mortgages. The perfect credit score would be 760 or higher, unless you’re able to put down 20% and skip the PMI, in which case a score of 740 or more would suffice.

How to improve your credit score

Whether your score is too low to secure a mortgage or you’d rather use available funds to fix your financial situation (instead of putting it toward a larger down payment), there are steps you can take today to start improving your credit score right away. Many credit score problems are the result of a high credit utilization ratio, according to Hauber. (“Credit utilization ratio” refers to debt that is high in comparison to the credit available.) Many experts use the 30% rule of thumb: Charges to your credit card shouldn’t exceed 30% of your available credit limit. It’s important, because this factor alone comprises 30% of your credit score. One of the easiest ways to improve your score is to pay down credit card debt, keeping this ratio in mind.

Another huge factor in the health of your credit score is your payment history, or your ability to make on-time payments to your creditors. If you see a recent late payment on your report, one solution is to talk to the creditor and ask for a deletion. While this likely won’t work for a serial late-payer, it could be granted for a one-time offender. If the creditor agrees to the deletion, they will send a letter to the credit bureau requesting that the negative information be removed from your report.

While these fixes normally take a month or two to be reflected in your credit score, your lender can speed up the process by doing a rapid rescore. This requires gathering up pertinent documents to show the changes made — like a new credit card statement or letter of deletion — and using the lender’s credit company to request an updated score from the credit bureaus. This could lead to an updated score in days instead of months, which can make all the difference when you’re trying to get preapproved for a home loan in a competitive market.

- See more at: http://www.trulia.com/blog/the-perfect-credit-score-for-buying-a-house/?ecampaign=con_cnews_digest&eurl=www.trulia.com%2Fblog%2Fthe-perfect-credit-score-for-buying-a-house%2F#sthash.DDkRermI.dpuf

Posted in Buying a Home
March 20, 2016

TOP 6 REASONS TO NOT BUY A HOME—DEBUNKED

You? Buy a home? If that prospect sounds as unlikely as your becoming the next U.S. president—well, this campaign season has shown us that anything can happen.

Sure, amassing the funds and slogging through the necessary paperwork for your own piece of the real estate pie can be daunting, especially if you’re a less-than-stellar loan candidate. Still, if you just assume there’s no way you could buy a home, without doing any research, you could be missing out.

Here are some oft-cited reasons people don’t buy a home, and the reality checks showing why they shouldn’t give up hope.

REASON NO. 1: ‘I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY FOR A DOWN PAYMENT’

This is probably the most common justification for not making the leap into homeownership. After all, few people have a huge chunk of cash lying around—and you need 20% down to buy a home, right? Wrong.

“Needing a 20% down payment has lingered as a myth for years and causes many potential home buyers, including those in the millennial generation, to miss out on getting into a home,” says Christina Bartning with National MI, a private mortgage insurer in Emeryville, CA.

AJ Smith, a personal finance expert at SmartAsset, points out that with a loan backed by the Federal Housing Administration or Department of Veterans Affairs, you can usually get by with a down payment of 3% to 5%.

In addition, “grants are an excellent way for young buyers with good credit and stable employment to subsidize their down payment,” says Realtor® Mike Murray of the Murray Home Team at Coldwell Banker in Annapolis, MD. “These can typically be obtained by taking homeownership courses or purchasing in designated community development areas.”

However, if you do put down less, keep in mind you’ll need private mortgage insurance until you pay down the loan to the 20% threshold.

REASON NO. 2: ‘I CAN’T AFFORD A MORTGAGE PAYMENT’

“Some people don’t realize the amount they pay in rent is more than if they had a mortgage,” says Realtor Kenneth Cagan of the Cagan Team in Coral Springs, FL. “Landlords are trying to recoup their taxes, insurance, maintenance fees and still make a profit. When you buy, you’re investing in yourself.”

To find out if renting or buying makes more sense in your neighborhood, try realtor.com‘s Rent vs. Buy Calculator.

For first-time buyers with low to moderate incomes, organizations such as Neighborhood Housing Services of Richmond have plenty of experience in helping.

“Laniesha, a young mother of two, gave us every excuse in the book as to why she couldn’t purchase a home, from ‘I don’t make enough money’ to ‘I am not married,’” says Samuel Robinson, NHSR’s marketing and public relations officer. “After explaining that none of these issues could stop her, we worked with Laniesha to pay off her debts and raise her credit score. She’ll be purchasing her new home in 2016.”

REASON NO. 3: ‘I DON’T HAVE GOOD ENOUGH CREDIT HISTORY TO GET A MORTGAGE’

So you’ve made some late payments, or have other skeletons in your past that have dinged your credit score. That doesn’t put a mortgage out of reach.

“If you’ve paid down your credit cards and kept a steady job, your application may be approved,” says SmartAsset’s Smith. “Potential home buyers with bad credit can also explore options like lease-to-buy programs, financing through the seller, and loans from private lenders.”

Get this: Some private mortgage insurance programs allow for credit scores as low as 620, Smith says.

Meanwhile, you can slowly improve your credit score by paying your bills on time and keeping your balances and inquiries low, says Murray. A licensed loan officer should be able to set up a one-year outline to get your credit on track.

But there’s one substantial caveat: Typically, mortgages for people with a lower credit score do come with a higher mortgage rate. And a very low score may require a higher down payment.

REASON NO. 4: ‘I DON’T HAVE ANY CREDIT HISTORY AT ALL’

Even without a credit card, there are ways to build credit history, says Anne Postic of Mortgages.com.

“If you’re a renter, ask your landlord about reporting your payments to establish a history. Experian makes it easy for your landlord to report your payments, or for you to do it yourself.”

REASON NO. 5: ‘I HAVEN’T BEEN AT MY JOB LONG ENOUGH’

“Work history is important,” says Jeremy David Schachter with Pinnacle Capital Mortgage in Phoenix AZ. “But even if you recently changed jobs and have only been there for a month, you can get qualified depending on your income and field.” A letter from your boss or place of employment will go a long way, so be sure to ask if you fear your relatively brief employment history might be an issue.

REASON NO. 6: ‘I CAN’T FIND A HOME I LIKE IN MY PRICE RANGE’

“People often think they have to buy their last home first,” says Fort Myers, FL, Realtor Angeline Sackett. But making a dream home a reality takes time. After all, they call first homes “starters” for a reason, right?

Posted in Buying a Home
March 18, 2016

INCLINE VILLAGE AND CRYSTAL BAY, NEVADA LUXURY MARKET UPDATE

In all, the luxury market over $2 Million in Incline Village has remained steady for the past year. There have been three stand-out sales, one mountainside sale last May at $12 Million, and two lakefront sales this winter at $10.7 and $25.25 Million. Of note, sales for the upper end of our Incline Village and Crystal Bay market occurred fairly evenly throughout this past year, with one or two sales in every month since the end of 2014. One reason for this may be new Nevada residents benefiting from tax status for purchasing around the beginning of the year. Inventory tends to rise in the spring and summer, dropping in the winter, so there are fewer homes available on the market in the winter month for buyers actively looking to purchase.

 

Posted in Market Updates
March 14, 2016

WHY HOME BUYERS REALLY NEED TO HURRY

Home buyers are expected to outnumber home sellers this spring, which likely will drive up asking prices, Lawrence Yun, the chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS®, told The Wall Street Journal.

“Given that prices are rising, more people will be pushed on the borderline of conventional mortgage limits and may need a large down payment or a jumbo mortgage,” Yun says.

Nationwide, the median price for an existing single-family home in January was $213,800 – up 8.2 percent just from a year ago, according to NAR’s housing data. Home prices are moving at the highest rate since April 2015.

“There’s a decade of pent-up demand,” Bob Walters, chief economist of Quicken Loans, told The Wall Street Journal.

One piece of good news for home buyers this spring: Mortgage rates are expected to stay low, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage not likely to rise above 4 percent before May, says Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH.com.

As such, lenders are predicting that the spring season will be a busy one. To avoid closing delays, buyers need to get into the market sooner rather than later, says Paul Anastos, president of Mortgage Master in Walpole, Mass., a division of loanDepot.

Like a traffic jam, “every minute later you leave costs you 10 minutes,” he notes. “Every day, the audience looking for houses increases exponentially.”

Anastos also urges home buyers to get preapproved for a loan prior to home-shopping -- a step above pre-qualification. He says that alone could save home shoppers up to 10 days in the closing period.

“If you find a home this weekend, you look highly competitive” too, he says

Posted in Buying a Home
Oct. 25, 2015

THE 10 SINS OF SELLING

Avoid these selling mistakes and you could save thousands, or even tens of thousands, on your home sale. Sellers aren’t immune from paying for their mistakes, and buyers are far from forgiving. On average, home sellers commit up to five of these home-selling “sins” and lose thousands of dollars on their home sale as a result. The good news? All of these mistakes are easily avoidable — if you know how to identify them.

1. Not hiring a professional to sell your house. Trying to sell your home by yourself is sheer madness, and many sellers who try it soon discover this. Even if you’re in a competitive market such as Boston, and you think your home will sell easily, you need the expertise of a real estate professional to score the best deal.

2. Neglecting necessary repairs prior to sale. You will lose money if you don’t take care of repairs before your house goes on the market, because they will most likely be discovered during the home inspection. Do necessary repairs before listing and save yourself the last-minute headache of trying to quickly fix issues such as a leaking roof or botched caulk job.

3. Refusing to remove your clutter and junk prior to the sale. Clutter eats equity and kills deals. With all that extra stuff in the way, homebuyers can’t see the home for its true potential, and the offer will reflect that.

4. Selling your house empty. While clutter is bad, selling an empty house makes buyers feel the same way — empty. They need to be able to visualize how the home looks with furniture and how functional it will be for their own family.

5. Mispricing your home. Overpricing or underpricing your house is a huge money-losing mistake. Work with your agent to list your home at the perfect price to make sure it doesn’t sit on the market for too long, or worse, make you forever wonder if you could have gotten more money.

6. Not setting the stage for sale day.Remember: Buyers purchase with their hearts and not their heads. Create a showplace for your buyers on sale day (but don’t go overboard with music or too much potpourri).

7. Letting your ego get in the way when negotiating. Too many sellers become emotional while negotiating and lose out on creating a win-win deal.

8. Neglecting to complete a full set of disclosures prior to closing. This one’s simple. Be honest and reveal everything (plus, what you don’t reveal will be discovered by the buyer).

9. Mistiming the sale for maximum tax benefits. Even one day can cost you tens of thousands in extra taxes. Don’t be left a day late and many dollars short.

10. Overlooking junk fees and extra expenses at closing. Home sellers throw away thousands by not requesting and confirming a list of fees and expenses long before closing day

. Face it: You can’t afford to lose money through neglect, indifference, or ignorance in the selling process. Keep these 10 “sins” in mind as you sell your own home for a clean home-selling process! -

Posted in Selling Your Home
Oct. 16, 2015

INCLINE VILLAGE REAL ESTATE AND LAKE TAHOE LUXURY REAL ESTATE TAX TIPS

With nearly three months left in 2015, jumbo-mortgage borrowers can make tweaks to cut their tax bill in April!

Autumn chores: raking leaves, weatherproofing, storing the patio furniture and preparing for next year’s tax returns.

With nearly three months left in the year, jumbo-mortgage borrowers still have time to make tweaks that can lessen what they owe in April. Here are some tips from tax experts—but be sure to consult a tax professional for specifics on your return.

First, the tax rules are tricky for home sellers who have claimed a home-office deduction. On the tax return for the year of sale of a primary residence, the seller can exclude as much as $250,000 in capital gains for a single person or $500,000 for a couple. But sellers who claimed a home-office deduction for depreciation have to pay capital gains taxes on the amount deducted, says Janet C. Hagy, president of accounting firm Hagy & Associates in Austin, Texas. This “recaptured depreciation” is taxed at a 25% rate (unless the seller’s income-tax bracket is lower than 25%). To view full article click link below.

Tips for Tax-Savvy Homeowners

Posted in Real Estate News
Sept. 23, 2015

THIS ISN'T A HOUSING BUBBLE: HERE'S WHY

Home prices are rising rapidly, but economists are deflating concerns that another "housing bubble" is brewing.

A recent report from CoreLogic shows that twice as many metro markets are considered "overvalued" – prices are inflated relative to incomes -- in the second quarter of this year compared to the first three months of the year. But economists say it's not a housing bubble because bubbles eventually burst and home prices this time around aren't likely to fall.

"Just because you're overvalued doesn't mean that you're in a bubble or there is an impending crash," says Sam Khater, CoreLogic's deputy chief economist. "Some markets are overvalued because of strong fundamentals."

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that the national median sales price is now above its 2006 peak. The median existing-home price for all housing types reached $236,400 in June – 6.5 percent above year ago levels and surpassing the peak median sales price set in July 2016 at $230,400, according to NAR.

CoreLogic's recent report shows that home prices in 14 of the largest 100 markets have now risen above its long-term fundamental values – with six of these markets in Texas alone. Housing demand is strong and supply has been near record lows, which has paved the way for price increases among the state's strong economy.

About 10 years ago, a housing bubble was being fueled by free and easy mortgage credit – not the case today, CNBC reports. Today, strong demand and weak supply is driving the rise in prices.

"Agents continue to highlight buyers' growing frustration with rising prices, but see current levels largely supported by tight inventory conditions," according to a monthly survey of real estate professionals by Credit Suisse.

Posted in Market Updates
July 28, 2015

BUYING A VACATION HOME TO MAKE SOME CASH? DON’T MAKE THESE 5 MISTAKES

Buying your primary home is like achieving an essential piece of the American dream. And once you’ve experienced the satisfaction of homeownership, you might be tempted to purchase another. Hey, who wouldn’t want a leisurely vacation getaway spot—especially if you can turn it into a cash cow by renting it out?

While vacation homes can be an excellent source of income, managing them isn’t as easy as washing the sheets and posting a listing on VRBO. Avoid these mistakes, and you’ll soon be on the road to vacation home heaven. And, hey, maybe we can come stay once in a while?

1. NOT CHECKING THE LOCAL REGULATIONS ON RENTING

You’d think this would be obvious—but just ask Christine Karpinski, author of “How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner,” how often it gets overlooked.

“It’s a big gotcha for a lot of people,” says Karpinski, who also owns vacation homes in Austin, TX.

Before committing to a purchase, check homeowners association rules and city or municipality regulations. Your real estate agent should be able to help—but make sure you’ve picked a pro who’s familiar with vacation rentals.

You might be tempted to skip this step, because you see other folks renting out their homes nearby. But beware—if you’re caught, you could face hefty fines.

2. NOT BEING PICKY ABOUT YOUR MANAGEMENT COMPANY

Guests are paying their hard-earned money to stay at your place instead of the traditional hotel down the block, says Matt Landau, a vacation rental marketing expert.

That means it’s your responsibility to keep the place clean and manage the arrival and departure of guests—as well as any problems that arise along the way. And while you certainly can manage those details yourself, you might want to consider outsourcing them.

“A lot of people get into and find out it’s way more work than they thought,” Karpinski says. “It’s a pseudo part-time job.”

That’s where a management company comes into play. But don’t choose a company based on which takes the lowest percentage cut, and be wary of the ones that charge a ridiculously low rate, Karpinski says.

They might be absentee, unskilled marketers, or maybe just dirty. When evaluating potential managers, Karpinski recommends asking to see five more of their properties—on the spot, with no warning. That way, you’ll be able to see how clean they keep each home, without giving them a chance to scrub beforehand.

3. BEING THROWN OFF BY A FURNISHED HOME

Many vacation homes are sold furnished, so don’t be turned off by one that needs a makeover.

More than once, Karpinski got an excellent deal on a vacation home because the seller’s decorating taste was iffy.

“I’ve paid a low price just because they were butt-ugly,” Karpinksi says.

Think of that garish wallpaper as a gift: It might throw off other buyers and nudge the price down, while you—the smart buyer—can just peel it off.

4. BUYING TO PLEASE YOURSELF

We know the idea of having your own personal getaway, surrounded by all the things you treasure, is basically living the dream. But we’ve got some bad news: If you’re looking to rent out your property, your tastes simply don’t matter.

You want something that aligns with the market and that renters are likely to be searching for. For instance, one- or three-bedroom homes rent better than two-bedroom ones, Karpinski says.

Pay attention to what works in the vacation rentals nearby: Are buyers gaga for lake views or furnished porches? Spend your money on that, instead of making the home comfy according to your own standards.

5. VIEWING IT AS A HOBBY

Sites such as Airbnb and HomeAway have made renting out vacation homes a relatively painless process—while being fun at the same time. But that doesn’t mean you can treat managing your vacation home as a hobby

Sure, you could post some photos and get up and running right away. But you’ll be better off taking your time and making sure you didn’t miss anything that could throw your would-be vacationers for a loop. Quite simply: You’ll want to go above and beyond—providing amenities, guidebooks, and around-the-clock service.

“If you charge a nightly rate that is competitive with a hotel, you’re responsible to deliver a hotel-like service,” Landau says. You’re “running your vacation rental like a business and not a lemonade stand.”

Posted in Buying a Home
June 22, 2015

“THE HOUSING MARKET, ANY WAY YOU LOOK AT IT, CAN’T LOSE"

About two years ago, It was declared that the U.S. housing market had “officially” recovered.

And now, with some indicators showing that real estate is the healthiest it’s been in a decade, I hope I can now officially declare the previous declaration as spot-on.

I know, I know … all of you who recently bought a home are asking me to find the nearest wooden object and knock vigorously on it. But current and prospective homeowners shouldn’t let the epic pain of the previous housing crisis color their expectations forever. With each passing month, the recovery in housing looks to be not only sustainable, but even gathering steam.

For the record, I do not view any of these encouraging metrics as grounds for irresponsible speculation or reason to attend a house-flipping seminar at the airport Marriott. I also do not think houses should ever be viewed as investments in the traditional sense — and not just for cold logic, such as the fact that real estate is illiquid, but also because of philosophical reasons such as the concept of a home being valued at more than simply what’s on your property assessment.

But all that said, there are good reasons to expect home values to keep rising.

Here’s why:

Prices

Yes, the pace of increases in home prices has cooled, but given past experiences with an overheated housing market, that’s not a bad thing. According to the latest Case-Shiller data from the end of May, home values rose 5% from a year earlier in the 20-city index. Separately, real estate data firm FNC tallied a 5.3% increase in its larger 100-city price survey. So prices still are rising, albeit at a more moderate pace.

Equity

Digging deeper into prices and home values, CoreLogic just released a report that revealed another quarter of a million U.S. homes had equity that topped mortgage debt in the first quarter. The slow but steady trend of homeowners moving back into the black has quietly become an impressive story, with 44.9 million homes now reporting equity, or 90% of all mortgaged properties, according to CoreLogic data. Not only does this kind of environment breed confidence, it also creates stability as homeowners are not struggling to make payments on an underwater home or biting off more than they can chew.

Loans

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported in its latest weekly survey that applications from prospective borrowers were up 8.4% on a seasonally adjusted basis. The American Bankers Association said in its recently released annual survey that loans to first-time homebuyers have ticked up to 14%, the highest level in the history of the 22-year-old survey. More applications and loans are great, but it’s also crucial to note that the quality of those loans is strong, too. Consider the number of loans in foreclosure are at the lowest level since November 2007, with just 1.4% of mortgages in distress.

Construction

While housing starts pulled back a bit in May, it’s important to remember that came after a red-hot April that shows big optimism on the part of homebuilders as they broke ground on new homes at an impressive clip. The latest numbers showed upward revisions to the past two months, too, after impressive numbers previously. Also, permits surged 12% to the highest level since summer 2007 to show strong momentum that should carry this trend of robust construction through the coming months

It’s reductive but fairly true: The health of the housing market is a reflection of the health of American family budgets, with the two waxing and waning together. And as I noted recently in my bullish assessment of the U.S. economy and stock market, consumers are doing very well, thanks to a better job market, and upward movement on wages, as indicated in the May unemployment report. Retail sales have reflected this strength, too, with better numbers lately. And according to the Federal Reserve, American families’ net worth has surged to a new record, owing to a rebound in the economy, stock market and home values. That all adds up to a bright outlook for consumer confidence, and for the housing market as a result.

Posted in Market Updates